Scripture: Jonah 1:17-2:10
Key verse: (9) “But I with a voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you”
Reflection: God called Jonah to go to Nineveh and cry out against the city for their wickedness, but he didn’t want to go. So he hopped on a ship to Tarshish to get as far away as he could. But God wouldn’t let him get away so through a storm and a casting of lots that led him to be cast overboard, Jonah found himself in the belly of a whale, (“great fish,” in Hebrew, but I’m no marine biologist!)
Sitting in the belly of that whale, Jonah utters this beautiful prayer of thanksgiving about the deliverance of the Lord. If I were sitting in the digestive system of a great fish, I’m not sure a prayer of thanksgiving would be the first thing to come to my lips, yet that’s what Jonah does. He thanks God for deliverance. He thanks God for hearing his cry. In the midst of the fish, he offers praise and thanksgiving and concludes, “But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay.” In response to all God has done, he professes his thanksgiving and pledges his offering, affirming his faith, “Deliverance belongs to the Lord.”
Sounds like a great stewardship story to me. God calls, but Jonah runs. God refuses to give up, (kind of like the Stewardship follow-up team!) Jonah finally recognizes God’s blessings in his life and makes his pledge, giving thanks and praise, affirming his faith in God’s power for salvation. End of story, right?
But the rest of the story is not an inspirational stewardship devotional. Jonah continues to be a reluctant prophet, hoping for Nineveh’s destruction. His motives are clearly mixed throughout the story. We can’t help but wonder if his prayer in the belly of the whale was simply about self-preservation and not about faithfulness. Yet God’s power for redemption works in ways beyond Jonah’s capacity to understand. God’s vision is always greater than ours. Yet God used Jonah, even in his reluctance, to change the world.
In the midst of the belly of the whale, what is your prayer? What would your pledge be? Though like Jonah, your motives may be muddled, could you imagine God using you and your commitment to change the world? As we near Commitment Sunday, give it a try and see what God can do.
Prayer: “With the voice of thanksgiving I will sacrifice to you, O God. What I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].