Read: Jonah 1-4
Jonah stayed in the belly of the fish for three dark days and nights. That gave him a lot of alone time to pray. His prayer can serve as an example of how we, too, can respond when God’s grace interrupts our disobedience. Jonah’s prayer began by affirming that God was near. God answered his cry for help. Then Jonah acknowledged the consequences of his disobedience in light of God’s greatness and power. Finally, he recognized God’s mercy and grace.
“But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” (Jonah 2:6-9)
As soon as Jonah finished his prayer, God commanded the fish to spit Jonah onto dry land.
Jonah could have continued the same defiance and disobedience towards God in that dark, stinky fish belly. But he didn’t. He responded to God’s grace with obedience, even if only for a little while. He remembered God’s character—his greatness, goodness, and mercy (kindness). He changed his mind about what he was doing, and he committed to doing it differently. That is repentance.
Romans 2:4 tells us that the intention of God’s kindness (his grace) is to lead us towards repentance. It’s not his anger that motivates us to come back to him; it’s his kindness. The fish wasn’t punishment, it was grace. Jonah confidently called on what he knew of God’s character within the fish. When we’re in our own version of darkness, Hebrews 4:16 reminds us that because of Jesus, we can approach God with confidence and find the mercy and grace we need. It was true for Jonah, and it’s true for us, too.
Have you ever been in your own metaphorical dark, stinky fish belly? What did God teach you?
What does your prayer of repentance sound like?
How does God’s kindness lead you back to him?