by Dr. Ken Matto

(Jonah 1:17 KJV) Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Well today is August 1, which means that half of the summer is over. There is a commercial on TV by Staples Office Supply Company here in the states which shows a parent happily buying their children all the materials they need to prepare them for their return to school. The two little children are watching their father with very sullen looks on their faces. It is evident that this father knew that the day would come when the little ones would be marched off to school and he wanted to prepare them for that inevitable hour when those yellow stagecoaches, known as buses, will once again grace the landscape and cause us all to go 5 mph in a 45 zone.

Jonah was a prophet of God and I have heard him labeled the reluctant prophet. Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh and proclaim the message of Judgment as God had commanded him too. So Jonah took a boat and went to Tarshish and thought that by going in the opposite direction, he could escape his responsibility. This is what the Apostle Paul meant when he spoke of having a dispensation if he does the work that God assigns him unwillingly. (1 Cor 9:17 KJV) For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. God does not play games with His children. When God assigns us a ministry, it will happen whether we want it to or not. As the father was preparing his children to go back to school, God the Father was also preparing a great fish to go after his wayward prophet and bring him back to the point of obedience.

Well God engineered the circumstances concerning the boat which Jonah was on and his disobedience caused the loss of much cargo and placed the lives of those sailors in jeopardy. So Jonah told them to throw him overboard. Obviously Jonah had enough spiritual sense to realize that God was after him and that this storm was on his account. Well you know the rest of the story, Jonah was then swallowed up by the big fish and the Star-Kist Express was now bringing Jonah back to the place where he was to go.

When I look at the contrasts in both examples, we see the father preparing his children to go back to school. What is God preparing you for at this hour? Maybe you will be entering Bible School in a few weeks or maybe you will be going to the mission field. God prepares the hearts of His children to look forward to service in His kingdom. Sometimes God gives us a ministry that He wants us to accomplish but instead of us preparing for that ministry, we begin to think that we know more concerning our life. Then instead of preparing for that ministry, God has to engineer the big fish in our life to bring us back to the place where He wants to send us.

Either we prepare our hearts in the will of God or God prepares the big fish to bring us in line with the will of God, against our will, which soon will be broken, since God cannot have us serving two wills. Two wills are akin to trying to serve God and mammon. We see that Jonah tried to usurp the will of God by placing his own will but we see that God’s will always triumphs. The idea that Christians can do what they want is not found in Scripture. Although we are free in Christ we are still servants of Christ, which means our will is always subservient to His. Let us then be as the two children waiting for their father to fill the basket with the materials they need to go back to school. God will also fill our basket with what is needed to perform the ministry that He has for us. Let us never force the hand of God to come against us as He had to with Jonah. Remember, obedience is better than fish guts!  (8/1/03)