Thanksgiving day! Mouthwatering, delicious food. Appetizing aromas waft in the air, while the chitchat of adults and children compete with one another. Pleasures abound! What about Jonah?
Jonah? What about him? Well, he’s the prophet who runs away from God’s call, winding up in the belly of a great fish. Three days and nights in its feedbag bring him some rather sobering thoughts.
Hear this stinky, slimy prophet–‘But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord’ (Jonah 2:9). Jonah’s thanksgiving prayer accompanies a grateful melody. ‘Joy and rapture unforeseen’! An example for us this Thursday?
No, not getting inside the gut of a big fish! I’m interested in what prompts Jonah to praise God from what appears to be certain death. A rescued outcome seems far less likely with each passing day and night. Does he throw in the towel? Call it a day? Quit cold Thanksgiving turkey? Not Jonah.
Let’s look deeper at chapter 2 with hints from the original language. Jonah 1:17–‘But the Lord provided a great fish…’ ‘Fish’ is a masculine noun in Hebrew. Jonah 2:1–‘From inside the fish Jonah prayed…’ Here’s a feminine noun for ‘fish’. The last verse–‘And the Lord commanded the fish…’ (2:10)– reverts back to the masculine. In Jonah 2:2 he uses this image to describe his location– ‘…from the depths of the grave…’ Literally– ‘the womb of Sheol’. A feminine image.
Note the subtle shade of meaning. The strong fish (masculine) will not eat poor Jonah for its Thanksgiving dinner, but will act like a safe womb (feminine), protecting and nurturing him, allowing him to ponder his life and where thankfulness might yet come from. God surrounds Jonah in every way.
A light goes on in the old noggin. Jonah, focus on the lemonade and not life’s lemons. There’s an idea!
What Jonah’s mostly thankful for is his salvation, his deliverance by the Lord. But remember that his praise comes days BEFORE he finds himself on dry ground (2:10). BEFORE he’s safe and sound. Even BEFORE God answers our prayers, we can have confidence in His strong protection and His womblike love and care.
With Jesus, death loses its grip. His own three day and night ordeal delivers us, by His resurrection, from the consequences of our rebellion and sin. All forgiven. And forgotten. Gone. Is that not something to be thankful for? If not, I have no idea what would be.
That’s what I’ll be thinking about this Thanksgiving week. What Jesus has done for me. And still does. Of course, all the other goodies as well! But mainly Him, who’s both powerful and protective. Happy Thanksgiving!
Thank you, Jesus, for saving us and making us yours forever. Amen.