Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard.
Jonah 1:14-15
I don’t know how I missed it but I did. Who knows how may times it stared me in the face as I read the story with my hubristic tinted glasses. Even though I knew about the neon flashing sign of Matthew 12:40 saying “Hey idiot, Jonah is alluding to a kind of death!” I still missed it until just the other day.
I think I was so proud of myself for having the depth of intelligence and expertise to know the equivalent of a children’s Bible story. I can almost hear myself pompously clearing my throat so I can drop the pearls of great wisdom, “Ahem, please be silent while I grace you with my knowledge of pre-school Bible stories.” So fascinated with myself that I knew the end of the story, I missed the story itself.
What should have been clear to me long ago is this: when Jonah is being cast into the raging sea (Jonah 1), both Jonah and everyone in the boat think he is being tossed to his death. So intrigued by the big fish, I missed it.
Death pretty much always gives pause and that’s exactly what’s supposed to happen here. Dark, sad, hopeless, depressing, end. That is Jonah’s fate as he is thrown into the raging sea. If we don’t see this, we don’t see the potentially life changing truth. Ready for it? Here it is: Jonah was saved!
OK, I feel like some of you were a bit let down by that like you already knew it or something. So let me tell you why it matters. It matters because it expresses the truth that God delivers from death!!!
That makes a difference because we all experience death in different ways. Maybe not sinking into the depths of an ocean but into the depths of addiction. God can deliver! Maybe not the loss of a life jacket but the loss of a relationship. God can deliver!
And just as the death we experience looks different than Jonah’s, our deliverance probably looks a little different than wallowing in whale vomit. It may look both more beautiful and more difficult than we ever imagined. The hurt of a lost relationship might give rise to the joy of knowing at a heart deep level that Jesus is enough.
I don’t know what your “death” is but the truth remains, God can deliver from death. Amidst your “death,” how is God offering deliverance?
Kyle Bendorf
First Baptist Church