Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sign of Jonah - Resurrection

As a kid in Sunday school one of my favorite Bible studies was always The Book of Jonah. Maybe because it was the funnest story to listen to about a bald guy (which is how he was depicted in the accompanying coloring art assignment with the lesson) and this friendly big whale. In Sunday school the whale played the role as God's taxi. Unfortunately, to simplify the story for Sunday school, Jonah took on a fairy tale persona. He didn't seem real when he was taught. Perhaps my teacher didn't believe the story and so it came across as make believe. Jonah is not the Santa Claus of the Bible. Let me make something perfectly clear, the Bible is the infallible word from God. But poor Sunday school lessons can condition us for the rest of our lives. How did I break free of this?

As an adult, I read the book several times too. My head got several readjustments when Jonah was mentioned in the historical book of Kings. Jesus also referred Jonah, which really got my head thinking about this Jonah guy. But it wasn't until I read the book through the eyes of a someone who has prayed for healing and inner healing that the pages of Jonah illuminated a deeper story. It's a small book, about 4 chapters (2 pages in my Bible) and nearly every chapter has a miracle in it. Something I felt my mind was conditioned to overlook because of the Sunday school mishandling of the book. But it was pretty clear to me now. There were miracles going on in the Book of Jonah. For a tiny book it was actually overflowing with miracles!

In the Book of Jonah, God assigns the prophet Jonah to go to Nineveh. Nineveh is the capitol of  Assyria, which is now modern day Iraq. Iraq is a brutal land today, it was more so in the time of Jonah. God sent Jonah to tell the barbarians of Nineveh to repent. Jonah decided he feared the Assyrian barbarians of Nineveh more so than God. So Jonah ran away to Tarshish. The first chapter of Jonah tells us he boarded a boat in Joppa and made his escape from the Lord.

The next thing we're told the ship is caught in a violent storm. Jonah finally divulges to the panicking crew, after drawing lots and loosing, that he is the culprit. His God is angry at him and he should be thrown overboard to spare the crew.

Chapter 2 is where things become interesting. We see Jonah's prayers from the belly of the fish. Was it a whale or was it a fish? Scripture doesn't specify. From chapter 2 verse 2,

“I called out of my distress to the Lord,
And He answered me.
I cried for help from the depth of Sheol;
You heard my voice.

Clue number one is from this verse, Jonah cried from the depth of Sheol. Sheol is death! Verse 5 is also filled with some interesting clues.

5 “Water encompassed me to the point of death.
The great deep engulfed me,
Weeds were wrapped around my head.

Basically, we see a description here of Jonah drowning. The deep engulfed him. What is the significance of the weeds wrapped around his head? Does it mean he was on ocean floor for some time before the fish picked him up?

In verse 6, Jonah descended to the deep. Metal crushing water pressure comes to mind at the depth he is talking about.

6 “I descended to the roots of the mountains.
The earth with its bars was around me forever,
But You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.

I believe in verses 2-6, Jonah is painting a picture of his death. He died. The bars of the earth describe his fate was sealed.

What is difficult to piece together is if the fish snatched Jonah as he was cast overboard, like the Sunday school rendition, or the fish plucked the dead body from the bottom of the ocean. The verses sited paint the picture that Jonah was dead on the ocean floor when the fish plucked him up.

Whatever may have happened, we know from Jonah 1:17, that Jonah was in the belly of the fish for 3 days. Then in verse 10, the fish delivers Jonah.

10 Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.

Now I can't help but feel this is a miracle of Jonah being dead raised. No matter how you paint the picture, Jonah was either dead on the ocean floor, or dead by the digestive acids in the fish's stomach. Jonah was vomited out of the fish!

An interesting correlation is from Jesus in the Book of Matthew (12:40).

40 for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jesus is speaking on his resurrection! And then in Luke 11:29-30, Jesus mentions Jonah as a miraculous sign.

29 As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. 30 For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.

It's possible that the sign being referred to here is the resurrection of Jonah's body and spirit as he was vomited out of the fish. All the pieces are there for this miracle. If you look at all the other miracles in the Book of Jonah, the possibility of Jonah's resurrection is not entirely out of the question.

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