Lost in the Fog

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Tonight I sat at the table drinking deliciously flavored coffee from an old cup and saucer from the 1940’s.  I listened to quiet music that was wafting throughout the sanctuary and was trickling through to my side of the church.  I enjoyed every single moment of working at the old maple desk, while Farmer Dean pounded nails into the baseboard of the new bathroom, next to the kitchen. 

boat in rain

I took a moment to open the front doors and was surprised to see that we were completely socked in by a heavy fog.  I couldn’t see out to the highway.  I quickly closed the doors, grabbed my old wool sweater, and settled in to read a good story. 

About a month ago, a very kind woman from a neighboring town, donated lovely navy Bibles for our pews at the church, and I grabbed one off the second pew and plopped myself into the old comfy chair, reached for my glasses, and clicked on the old lamp next to me.  I opened my Bible to the book of Jonah. 

Jonah’s an interesting story, and in case you’ve forgotten, he really pushes his luck.  After all, who has the guts to think they’ll say “no” to God … and then who actually does it? 

Jonah gets a mandate from God to go visit the city of Nineveh and tell them, “You’re in big trouble.”  But Jonah yawns, looks the other way, and makes a mad dash for the nearest boat.  “I’m getting out of here … and fast!”  he thinks … or so he thinks. 

As you follow the story, the book of Jonah delivers some parallels to other scriptural stories that I really enjoy.  I thought we could peruse them together on this very foggy night.   You see, the fog made me think about what it would have been like to be sitting in the depths of a very large fish, in the middle of the water, with no hope in sight … well, actually, nothing in sight … just like tonight! 

Jonah runs from God.  He buys a ticket, boards a ship and heads downstairs to take a little nap.  Wonder how he can sleep?  I know I’m wondering.   Wonder how someone thinks they can “hide” from God?  I know I’m wondering that as well!  

Let’s look at Jonah 1:4 “Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.” 

And there it is …  parallel number one tonight, connecting us to another story later in the life of Jesus (see Mark 4:38) where we see Jesus calmly sleeping on a boat, in the middle of a violent storm.  

Now, with Jonah on the boat, everyone is afraid, and they wake  Jonah up to ask him to pray to “your god.”  Next, they cast lots to see whose fault it is that there is a horrific storm.  Just as we knew it would happen, the lots fall upon our fleeing friend, Jonah, and Jonah says, “…throw me into the sea…and it will become calm.”  Sorry, Jonah.  There just isn’t any getting away from God! 

In the story that Mark tells us about Jesus and the disciples that I mentioned earlier, Jesus, like Jonah, wakes up, only to offer Himself up, ultimately to calm the waves. 

Jonah is swallowed by a great big fish, and there it is … he remains there for 3 days and 3 nights.  Parallel number 2!   How interesting and very familiar!  Jonah is sitting in the depths of the belly of the fish, in darkness, with the gates of death surrounding him.  He is in a tomb-like setting.  It is dark.  It is night.  There is no hope in sight.  It’s a fog. 

And three days later, scripture tells us that after Jonah has rescinded, (Jonah 2:10) God commands the fish to spit him out onto dry land. It is a reminder to us that Jesus Christ died, was buried in the belly of a tomb, and 3 days later, rises again!

Jonah heads to Nineveh, and tells them (Jonah 3:4) “… forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”  And there it is again.  Parallel number 3!  God and His numbers.  I LOVE it!  The creativity of God, in its amazing beauty dances off the pages of our Bible.  We just need to read it and watch for it. The number forty is something God uses over and over.  

Scripture shows us the pattern of God and His numbers, as we see the rains fall for Noah forty days and forty nights (Gen 7:4), Moses was with God in the mount, 40 days and nights (Exodus 24:18), God made Israel wander for 40 years (Numbers 14:33-34), Goliath presented himself to Israel for 40 days (1 Samuel 17:16), Jesus remained on earth 40 days after resurrection (Acts 1:3), Jesus fasted 40 days and nights (Matthew 4:2), Jesus was tempted 40 days (Luke 4:2, Mark 1:13). WOW!  The list actually goes on and on (do an internet search on the number forty in scripture and see many more examples!). 

Jonah is once again paralleled with Jesus Christ in the desert as He withstands being tempted.  But something shocking happens, and Nineveh repents and Jonah says … why did I bother? 

Perhaps we would feel this way.  Maybe after a few nights in the dark fog of the belly of a fish, we might feel hopeless and wonder why God made us do something that we didn’t deem necessary. 

The story ends where Jonah is fussing.  My family likes to tease each other when we fuss about something.  But God didn’t tease Jonah about his fussing, He tried to make Jonah aware of his bad attitude, by teaching him through a vine.  I love that about God … still with the patience and lessons … and He tells Jonah that He cares about a city “… of more than a 120 thousand people …” 

I can’t speak for Jonah, but I can speak for myself, and I felt like the fog lifted at the end of the story.  I see more clearly God’s 1.  Love for Jonah 2.  Desire for our obedience 3.  Love for mankind 4.  Patience  5.  Creativity and 6.  Beautiful lessons through God’s teaching. 

I have closed my Bible now and put it back onto the second pew in the sanctuary.  The warm light of the bathroom snaps off now as Farmer Dean walks out and says it’s time for supper. 

“How long is this fog supposed to last?” I ask him.  “Oh, I don’t know.  Three days, maybe?”  “Ha!” I answer.  “What?”  Deano asks.  “Nothing,” I respond with a smile as I walk out into the fog.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Alexis Iskierka02-26-13

    Great story!