The Biggest Fish Story Ever!

June 26, 2017
by Diane Eaton

Jonah 1:17 – 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. (KJV)

The story of Jonah spending three days and three nights in the belly of the fish is one which many people find hard to swallow. For them, it seems like the biggest fish story ever. Today, I'd like to highlight an element in the story that is even more difficult to swallow — at least it was for Jonah. And, I dare say, it has been the hardest biblical claim to swallow — ever. We see it in Jonah's own words:

Jonah 4:2-3 – Lord, isn't this what I said while I was still in my home country? That's why I fled previously to Tarshish, because I knew you're a compassionate God, slow to anger, overflowing with gracious love, and reluctant to send trouble. Therefore, Lord, please kill me, because it's better for me to die than to live! (ISV)

Jonah couldn't stomach seeing God let bad people off the hook — especially the Assyrian Empire. They were aggressive and formidable, terrorizing Jonah's land, Israel. Yet, God wished to grant mercy to Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, using Jonah, of all people, as His spokesman. Much to Jonah's horror, they repented and were spared from well-deserved punishment. Jonah couldn't cope. What? No fire and brimstone from heaven?! This violated Jonah's sense of justice so severely that he wished that God would strike him dead.

God's mercy is indeed hard to swallow, especially towards those who deliberately inflict horrific suffering on their victims. Yet, lesser offenses are not necessarily easier to deal with. The cry for retribution instinctively surges within us. Blast your horn at that rude driver! Shun the woman who gossiped about you! Dish out what the offender deserves! It feels so right! That's our natural wiring: justice rather than mercy. Yet, God's wiring works oppositely: mercy triumphs over judgment — as Jonah reluctantly admitted. God would far rather see the offender be transformed than punished.

2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (NIV 2011)

God is so passionate about mercy that He'll go to any extent — even as far as sacrificing His own Son. So, wouldn't it be just like God to go as far as arranging a sea creature designed just for Jonah, to get him to preach to those terrible Ninevites?

Likewise, wouldn't it be just like God's followers to go to any extent to "fish for people" in Jesus' name, and see them experience God's forgiveness?

That, I dare say, is the biggest fish story ever! Wouldn't you agree?

Prayer: Merciful God, instill in us Your heart for our modern-day terrorists and those we consider to be offenders. Fill us with a passion to see them know Christ's forgiving grace. Protect those who courageously proclaim God's heart in the presence of danger and terror. Amen.

About the author:

Diane Eaton <>
Paisley, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Thank you for bringing a new perspective to an old story.

    Good word Diane.

    Good stuff. Thanks Diane!

    Your fish story should “net” big audience!

    God’s grace is sometimes hard to swallow but I’m sure glad he gives it.
    Great message.

    Thank you, Diane, for sharing your take on the Bible’s most famous “fish” story with us. It was truly appreciated. Blessings.

    Dear Diane:
    WELL SAID!!!! Thanks for all your inspiring words.
    God bless you always.

    Amen to your prayer. We, who think that converting a terrorist is impossible, is not impossible for God. Just think about the all-powerful God, who created the universe, can certainly change hearts.

    Dianne Eaton, how I appreciate your devotion submissions. What a great God we have. Hopefully He has all of us who can praise Him for all eternity.
    I look forward to seeing you in Heaven so I can thank you face to face.

    Hi Dianne
    I think of friends and neighbours often! I have great difficulty thinking of saving terrorists. My daughter was molested! I tried writing him a letter which was supposed to help my forgiveness but there are times I find it difficult. Part of my problem is forgiving myself for not clueing in that something was wrong at the time!
    Thanks for your devotional.

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