One of the reasons that people say that the book of Jonah is fiction is because of the miracles that take place in the book. Because miracles go against the natural order of our lives people sometimes dismiss them as fantasy. Some pastors and Christian teachers try to eliminate miracles from the Bible to make the Bible more believable to a world that does not believe in God. Our culture, which claims they are about facts and truth, discredit miracles because they are not scientific which means reproducible because science is about things that occur consistently, repeatedly and can be studied and explained. By the definition of science the creation of the world, by God or by evolution, does not fit science because it was a onetime event which is why there are only theories about how creation began. Of course a miracle is called a miracle because it is not reproducible and is a onetime event that can be studied. Christians fall into the trap of trying to get people who do not believe in God to make the Bible sound more realistic in the hope of getting the people they love to come to know Jesus Christ or because they allow some in academia to bully them into questioning miracles.
Atheist Richard Dawkins says “The virgin birth, the Resurrection the raising of Lazarus even the Old Testament miracles, all are freely used for religious propaganda, and they are very effective with an audience of unsophisticates and children. (The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel, Pg 57)
Notice that Richard Dawkins thinks the beginning of the world was started by Aliens, which is apparently an acceptable explanation, but makes fun of those who believe that God began the universe and therefore can step into that creation whenever He chooses. Our story of Jonah has in it several miracles but one that sticks out the most, and is a point of controversy, is about a man surviving for three days in a large fish. Should we as Christ followers believe such a story? Should we believe in miracles? If we believe in miracles does that mean we are just not as smart as those who don’t?
Miracles are part of Christianity from the Creation of the world and to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. To be a Christian means you have to believe in miracles because to not believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose again means that Christianity is a false religion. As we look at the story of Jonah we will look at what miracles are and if we can believe in them even if they go against the natural order of things.
Jonah 1:17 And the Lord appointed[d] a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
1) Miracles are not Natural events
“The Lord Appointed
Appointed: God using His power to accomplish what He desires to do.
If you believe God is the creator of the universe then believing He has power over His creation is not something that is difficult to believe. Some believe that for God to step into creation and do miracles would break the laws that are in place. The reality is God is not breaking the laws He established for His creation but He is only overpowering them for a time. Airplanes fly every day even though we believe in the law of gravity. Are they breaking the law of gravity? No. They are just overpowering the law of gravity for a time to fulfill a purpose. If we can do that as God’s creation then certainly God can overpower and overcome any laws He Himself has established.
A miracle is God using His power to override the natural course of things for His purpose.
So God appointed “A great fish” to be in the right place at the right time for His runaway prophet. The King James Version interpreted the story to say it was a whale in Matthew 12:40 so many people picture Jonah being swallowed by a whale. We are told it is a large fish either that already existed or one that God specifically designed for this occasion. The problem most people have is that they want the story to be validated or repeated by someone else experiencing the same thing as Jonah. There have been other reports of people swallowed by large fish or whales that have survived and people turn to those stories to validate the truth of the story of Jonah. This is not necessary because to believe in God means you believe in miracles and to take away all the miracles in the Bible would mean you do not believe in the greatest miracle which was Jesus rising from the dead. We have to remember that a miracle by definition is not something that occurs naturally or that is repeated consistently. If someone wins the lottery, which is something like 76 million to one odds, we would still believe them if that person never won the lottery again. Rare occurrences of something happening do not mean they did not happen and the universe is the greatest example of that.
“A miracle is a divine act beyond human replication or explanation.” D. Stuart
Many so called “Faith Healers” are not performing miracles but are using Psychosomatic which means it is in your head. If someone believes they have an allergic reaction to something, it does not mean they really do it can just be in their mind. Magic or illusions is about misleading the mind to make you believe something occurred when it really did not. Providence, which many Christians get confused with miracles, is when God uses natural means to provide for you.
If God exist then miracles are possible and the reason Atheist have a hard time with miracles is because they do not believe in God. Atheists do not believe in God so they will only accept what they can study scientifically while at the same time saying there is no God which they cannot disprove.
“To say that a scientist can disprove God is like saying a mechanic can disprove the existence of Henry Ford.” (Reasons for God, Frank Turek Pg. 145)
Science does not speak scientist do and they are only telling you their world view with the evidence they see while a creationist looks at the same evidence and tells you something different. Science is just an explanation of what already exist and how it works not how it came into existence. Evolution is a theory and has to be accepted by faith because it does not explain how we came into being only what some believe how we came into being.
Laws of nature are what Christians look at to say that there is a God because we know that things do not go from chaos to order scientifically. Looking at the scientific evidence that things go from order to chaos and not chaos to order proves that believing in God is more believable than believing in evolution. The fact that we have laws of nature is because there is a law maker who set those laws in motion because they could not happen randomly.
The reason miracles get our attention is because they are rare events. To have a miracle be repeated many times for it to be legitimate is to make it not a miracle but a natural phenomenon. The story of Jonah has not been repeated because it was a miracle that took place because God chose to do so. We do not have to normalize the story because we do not need to prove to them that it is true they need to prove it is not true. DO NOT downplay what is in the Bible just because people laugh at you for believing it because how the universe began and what happens to us when we die are all a matters of faith.
The author of the book of Jonah describes the event as fact so there is no reason as a Christian to not believe the story happened.
“Trying to marshal evidence to confirm this Scripture may in fact result in denigration of the miracle. Searching for historical incidents when people and large animals were swallowed and later recovered from sea creatures shows a posture of defensiveness that is unnecessary, counterproductive, and violates the nature of the biblical account. “(The New American Commentary, Billy K. Smith and Frank S. Page, PG. 240)
Matthew 12:39-40 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Jesus used the story of Jonah as a sign to those who were asking for a miracle to show them that He would be in the tomb three days and then rise again. They were asking for a miracle and Jesus told them about Jonah which means they obviously believed the story of Jonah was a true story and a miracle.
Which miracle do you have a bigger problem with, Jonah in a fish or Jesus dead in a tomb?
If Jesus did not die and rise from the dead then we are wasting our time believing that Christianity is true.
1 Corinthians 15:12-18 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
“Jonah was in the fish three days and three nights
There are many thoughts about the three days and three nights and what it actually meant. Some believed that three days of a body with no movement was proof they had passed away. (John 11:6-14)
Some believe that Jonah was dead in the fish which does not take away from the miracle but it does seem to contradict the passages that follow. Some believe there was a three day trip for our spirits to travel from the earth to the sheol or place of the dead. Whatever the case the story tells us he was in there long enough for this to be a miracle of God.
2) The Miracle was God’s Pursuit of Jonah
“The Great Fish Swallowed Jonah”
Miracles were always used to confirm that the messenger was delivering a message from God. The Bible is filled with about 250 miracles but most of them happened with Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Jesus and the apostles. Every time a miracle was performed it was to confirm that what was being said was from God and could be trusted and that there was one true God.
“We are not saying that God cannot do miracles today, or that he never does. As the sovereign Creator and sustainer of the universe, he can do a miracle anytime he wants. It’s just that he may not have a reason to publicly display his power the way he did during biblical times because all of the truths he wanted to reveal have already been revealed and confirmed. “ (I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist, Frank Turek, PG. 216)
Although Jonah may have ignored God and His command to go to Nineveh, God was still in pursuit of His rebellious prophet. God has proven Himself with miracles and the main miracle being that Christ rose from the dead, the miracle that Jesus told the religious leaders was the only sign they would receive from Him. Everyone has to do something with Jesus and what you believe about Jesus determines your eternity.
The word “swallow” was always in reference to judgment in the Old Testament.
Numbers 16:31-32 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods.
The giant fish would not only act as a savior for Jonah, as we will see in future verses, but it was also God punishing his prophet to teach him a lesson. Judgement and salvation in our mind are always separate things but in the Hebrew mind it was never disconnected because the judgment led to salvation. God uses judgment to separate His children from their sin and so they turn back to Him. (Deuteronomy 4:26-30) God wants us to participate in what He is doing and when we don’t, because of selfishness or insecurity, He then allows us to go through trials to turn us back to Him.
The judgment and salvation that Jonah experiences should soften his heart toward the very people he hates but as we will see he still will hate the very people God saves. We should never want divine judgment even on our worst enemy but God will use judgement in order for people to see that He is the true God. It is easy for us to judge Jonah but the reality is we all have a tendency to run away from the call of God on our lives and suffer consequences because of our rebelliousness.
John 15:10-11 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
God’s pursuit of us was for us to be able to be in a right relationship with Him. We are always better off staying in the intimate relationship with God by obeying His commandments no matter how difficult a task it may seem to be. To ignore God’s command is to ignore God and when you do you invite judgment upon your life from God Himself.
Jonah 2:1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish,
The book of Jonah wants us to remember that God was still Jonah’s God even after all that Jonah had done. In the Old Testament death is understood to be a process more than an event so Jonah is describing a period of time where he is beginning to die. Jonah , no matter how deep he was in the ocean, was not too far to cry out to God.
3) Miracles can be counterfeited
Although this may not have to do with our story there is a warning that all Christians must be aware of and that is that Satan can counterfeit the things of God to fool people. God never does a miracle to show off but Satan will do whatever it takes to keep people from knowing the one true God who sent Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for our sins.
2 Thessalonians 2:9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders,
Matthew 24:24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
Exodus 8:5-7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the canals and over the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt!’” 6 So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. 7 But the magicians did the same by their secret arts and made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.
In Exodus chapter eight the magicians were copying what Moses did and made the situation worse but it was enough to convince Pharaoh that there was not a true God. In Exodus 8:19 they could not copy what God had done through Moses and Aaron and they said this is the finger of God which showed there was someone more powerful than all the powers they called upon. We need to be careful as Christ followers to not be looking for signs because the sign of Jonah was already given to us in Jesus Christ when He rose from the dead.
Believing in Miracles does not make you less scientific or smart but it accepts the reality that we all have to walk by faith with knowing how we came into existence and where we are going when we die.
God has revealed Himself to us so that we can know Him on a personal level and Jesus (God in the flesh) died for our sins so that we can be back in a right relationship with Him. The greatest miracle that has ever taken place is the miracle of Jesus Christ who died for our sins and raised again defeating death so if you have a problem with miracles then you have a problem with Christianity.
1 Corinthians 15:20-23 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.