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    by Gino Geraci

Commentary on Jonah 1:17
Date Posted: November 1, 2007

Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights

Jonah 1:17 is probably the most quoted, debated, and talked about verse in all of the Minor Prophets. Literally hundreds of commentaries and thousands of pages have been written to discuss whether or not this really happened. In fact, even though the Bible is full of miracles from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation, many unbelievers just can’t bring themselves to believe that a great fish really swallowed the Prophet Jonah and thus point to this one miracle as the reason they can’t believe the Bible is true.

Although some people, including scholars have argued that certain whales couldn’t have swallowed Jonah, it is certainly possible that God created a sea creature with the capacity to swallow Jonah and preserve his life. For example, we know that the sperm whale has a chamber that is 20-feet wide and a mouth that is 9-feet long and there are other fish that get up to 70 feet in length.

God could have performed any other miracle for the purpose of saving Jonah. For instance, it would have been a miracle for Jonah to swim to shore, especially considering that the sailors tried hard to row to shore and couldn’t do it. God could have, as with Sampson, given Jonah the supernatural strength of ten Olympic swimmers so he could swim to shore, but He didn’t do that. Instead, by God’s design, a great sea creature was sent to swallow Jonah. In fact, the Bible specifically says that God prepared the sea creature, which indicates that God intentionally prepared and designed that particular great sea creature for the specific purpose of rescuing Jonah.

Although people sometimes have a hard time believing miracles, the Bible is a book about miracles, and the Lord is still in the miracle-working business today. I’m convinced of this particular miracle because of three other miracles in the Bible. The first one is the miracle of the cross. The fact that Jesus could die on the cross for my sins and effect reconciliation with God, is a huge miracle. The second great miracle in the Bible is the resurrection. In that, Satan and death are defeated, and eternal life is promised. The third great miracle is Pentecost, which involved the saving and transformation of an entire group of people who were unsalvageable. When I consider the miracle of the cross, the miracle of the resurrection, and the miracle of Pentecost with salvation, the miracle of God sending a whale to save Jonah is no big deal. If God can save somebody like you, and somebody like me, there is nothing that He can’t do!

Most unbelievers who do not believe this particular miracle, will, when asked, not have an answer to the question, “What brought Jonah to the place where he wound up in that belly?” They also will not know what he did while he was there.

Let’s remind ourselves why Jonah was in the middle of the ocean. Remember, in Jonah chapter one, the word of the Lord came to Jonah, telling him to go to Nineveh to cry out against it. God had asked Jonah to go to unsaved, wicked people and declare to them His mercy, grace, and love. He wanted Jonah to convey to the people of Nineveh that if they would simply turn from their sins and embrace God as their savior, He would relent from His anger and wrath and save them.

When God spoke to Jonah about going to Nineveh, he refused to do it because of his hatred of the Assyrians and instead of obeying God, immediately headed in the opposite direction as he set sail for the end of the earth. God brought the storm, the sailors threw Jonah overboard, he found himself drowning in the middle of the ocean and ended up in the belly of the great fish.

You see, the most important thing about this miracle isn’t simply that it took place, but the fact that when it did take place, it brought Jonah to the place of submission and obedience that we all long for.

I don’t know what you prayed when you asked God to rescue you, but the kind of prayer I prayed was, “Heavenly father, if Jesus is real, I want Him to come into my life. Please forgive me of my sins. If you save me, I’ll love, serve, and obey you.” I meant the prayer at the time, but it didn’t take long for rebellion and disobedience to take root in my own life and I experienced a period of blacksliding, disobedience, and rebellion. Once again, of my own making, I found myself drowning in a sea of my own sin, and I wondered if God would ever take me back. And God, in His grace and mercy took me back.

I know that I’m not alone in this; I’m sure that each and every one of you who are saved can remember a time when you were in desperate circumstances, drowning in your own private sewage and sin, and the Lord Jesus Christ rescued you. You see, God had a greater agenda for me, just like He did for Jonah, and just like He does for you. The greatest miracle was a miracle of intervention, as God prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah, to save him from drowning.

In the same way that God prepared the great fish to swallow Jonah, He will, in times of your own rebellion and disobedience, make preparation, unbeknown to you, to save you. God intervenes in all of our lives by preparing a way for us to abandon our sin, and be moved forward in a direction and way that we would have never thought of on our own.

In addition to the miracle of intervention, there was a miracle of transportation. Think about it – when Jonah was in the belly of the great sea creature, he didn’t have a brake pedal, gas pedal, or steering wheel. He obviously was unable to steer the fish wherever he wanted to go. Jonah was in dire circumstances. He had absolutely no control over the direction the fish was going, but as we’ll find out in the third and forth chapter, he was headed for shore, to the exact place God had always intended him to go.

We have no reason not to believe that Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. But how do you suppose Jonah knew how long he was in the belly of the fish? Do you think he had his Mickey Mouse glow-in-the-dark watch, and stood back in amazement as he saw the time ticking by? Was he able to see the sun rising and setting? The answer to both of those questions, is, of course, no. Jonah would have had no natural reason to know how long he had been in the belly of the fish. God apparently supernaturally revealed it to him.

The period of time Jonah was in the whale – three days and three nights – was significant because it becomes a type, or a picture, of death. When the Bible talks about water, it often refers to death. For example, when the children of Israel left Egypt and came to the promised land, they were in the midst of the water as they walked through the Red Sea. In the New Testament, baptism, for the Christian, becomes a type, or a representation of a death that takes place.

© 2007 by Gino Geraci

(Jonah 1:17 NKJV).

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Biography Information:
Gino Geraci is the founding Pastor of Calvary South Denver.

He has served as a police chaplain for several police departments and currently serves as a Police Chaplain for the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department. Gino has provided emergency service support in many national tragedies. He was a first responder at Columbine High School, Ground Zero in New York, and Platte Canyon High School.

Gino has appeared on scores of national and local radio programs as a guest, including television appearances with Lee Stroebel's Faith Under Fire. He currently hosts a daily radio program with Salem Media in Denver, Colorado area.

Gino is a much sought after conference speaker. He has conducted leadership conferences, Bible conferences, and emergency service support conferences with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Samaritans' Purse, Gospel for Asia in India and Sri Lanka, the Bible League in Africa, Food For The Poor in Jamaica, Mike McIntosh Crusades in Mexico, Somebody Loves You Bible Conferences with Raul Ries in Chile, Columbia and Peru, and pastor's conferences in much of the continental United States.

Gino is currently the pastor of Calvary South Denver where he continues to minister, preach, teach, and serve.
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