Lent | Jonah: Day

Mercy in the mouth of a fish


Today's Text: Jonah 1:11-17

Text: Jonah 1:11-17

We say Jonah, you say Fish.
Jonah : Fish! Jonah : Fish!

There isn’t a Sunday School classroom in the world that hasn’t had the giant fish grace the wall of its bulletin board. Yet, there is so much in this passage we miss out on when we focus on that admittedly remarkable portion alone.

“Men have been looking so hard at the great fish that they have failed to see the great God.” ~G. Campbell Morgan

There slept Jonah, somehow, when suddenly someone woke him, confronted him: “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god!”

Lots were cast, Jonah’s true identity revealed, the question asked: “What have you done to bring this upon yourself, upon us?”

Jonah knew. He knew exactly what the issue was, why the storm was beating upon their ship.

And instead of cower, instead of perish and take the crew down with him, Jonah charges head-first into the storm. He may have run from God at the forefront of this book but all that changes.

He owns his sin and disobedient heart, and finds a faith so deep he believes if he hurls himself into the sea his traveling companions will be saved.

His death would be their salvation.

I don’t know about you but I view Jonah with a heavy dose of admiration. He ran once, but when he realized the weight of his mistake, the enormity of his sin, he gave everything to reconcile with God.

Moments like this are not easy: when the tension pulls at our hearts, when the Holy Spirit nudges or even gives us a good shove, saying, “Look behind you, look around you; you caused this storm with your choices.”

In those moments, we stand at a precipice. We can hurl ourselves into the storms we have created in an effort to set things right, or we can continue hiding and bring down the ship.

There is hard, deep pain in owning our storms, but there is freedom in the jump from ship to raging sea. From our pain and shame straight into the arms of the only Grace that can piece our lives back together.

And when we least expect it God sends a fish to swallow us up and provide mercy we never could have seen on deck, as we clung to our choices. It’s not comfortable in the belly of the beast; it’s smelly and it gives us ample time to reflect on just how it was we got there. Plenty of time to wonder if there will ever be life outside of our prison of merciful guts.

But we serve a God of second, seventh and forty-second chances. A God who provides mercy in the strangest and most miraculous of places. He will not leave us storm-tossed and fish-bellied forever. There is new life on the other side of our storms, including those we bring upon ourselves.

May your hearts rest in the truth that you are immeasurably loved by a God who stops at nothing to redeem your story, to bring you back to Himself so that you, too, may contribute a portion in His vast story of prodigal love.


Guest writer Leanne Penny is a mother, wife, writer and wavering hope ambassador. She lives with her pastor-husband and two preschool-age children in West Michigan and loves yarn, wine and watching British telly.

  • thinking about verse 12 and the storms that I have brought on myself…..finances, for example, and many others. I'm reminded of Proverbs 14:1, "the wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands" (sigh)

  • Welcome,Julie!

  • This is my first study with She Reads Truth and I just wanted to say how much I am loving it! Thank you! :)

  • Janee White

    I am a sailor. I worshipped other gods – I sought the answer elsewhere – I discovered the Truth – but decided to do things the old way (my way). Upon deaths door, I gave up and did what I was told, and only then, did I find the calm. Only when I stopped trying – only when I stopped doing – only when I stopped 'figuring it out' did I find the calm that I desired. I was the sailor.

  • In this verses, what spoke to me the most is not Jonah, but the sailors.

    "But no. The men tried rowing back to shore. They made no headway. The storm only got worse and worse, wild and raging. Then they prayed to God…" [v.13 – MSG]

    — Most of the time, this is our initial response in the storms of our lives… to "ROW" [try] harder, instead of surrendering to God…. the sailors then realized that their efforts are going in vain… because no matter how hard they try, God's plan and purpose shall prevail. :)

    The Message versions says this in the last part of their prayer: "You are God. Do what you think is best.” [v.14]

    They obeyed, "…and the storm stopped at once! The sailors were AWESTRUCK by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him." [v.15]

    — I love that just like the sailors, we see God's Power when we surrender, obey and trust Him instead of trying harder! :)

  • jaustin35

    I am reading this post a day late, but the words are exactly what I needed to hear…… As I was reading the last lines of this post, I was in tears…. I serve a Mighty God of second, thirteen, thirty two chances and He will stop at nothing to fight for my love!!!!! That is soooo powerful to me….. Who knew a fish story could be so powerful? But wait, it's not really all about a fish like we learned in this amazing post – it's about God using a fish and God getting all the glory!!!!!

  • Samantha

    Thank you for the wonderful word. So true that because of my disobedience I cause a lot of storms and situations, but thank you Lord that You are a God of 2nd, 40 and more chances.

  • ricea710

    I am in love with the story of Jonah as I feel that I can relate to it a lot more at my age than before.

  • Heather Michell

    "There is new life on the other side of our storms, including those we bring upon ourselves." So good to be reminded that when we run to God he makes all things new.

  • Amazing. May disobedience never be in us from this day forth, may we also desire to remain in Gods presence at all times doing His will without hesitation. Blessings one and all. This group has been a blessing and contributes to my daily growth in life. If any here are on facebook please feel free to like my page Word Up Ministry, it is centered around the Word of God and means Wisdom Obedience and Righteousness Decoded through Understanding and Purity. Thank you.

  • Wht amazes me most ws dt in Jonah’s disobedience;d sailors gv dere lives 2 God(dey offered sacrifices).wht a loving Father..I’ve had a terrible day 2day n while readn ur posts d tears won’t jst stop;I knw God’s bringing me out frm dose difficult situations..bcos he brght d sailors out n dey offered sacrifices.
    D trials jst kip coming;bt I knw God’s wit me…So 2day am makn it a duty 2 pray 4 evry1 ere on SRT 2 night….*SIMLES*

  • Wow. This was so needed. I'm in a few situations right now where God convicted me of something, but instead of waiting on Him like He told me to to make things right and to redeem the situation in His own way, I acted in what I thought was some sort of restitution– trying to save myself– and it dug myself deeper into that hole. He's told me to completely wait on Him in these situations for healing and for Him to redeem it, as I can see no possible way at this time of how I could make anything better.

    I'm in the belly of the fish. As I was driving home in the car a few days ago, weary, sad, but also joyful at how sweet God has been to me, He brought PERFECT lyrics and melody to my head from a song I used to love, and it's exactly how I feel now:
    "Life, is sweet, in the belly of the beast." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFW2ZlyVXEw&fe

    Praise God. In these storms of rebellion, in this messiness that is our lives, sometimes caused by our own sin, those "merciful guts" truly are the best place to be. I may have gotten myself here, but to recognize and take to heart that the Lord is using these things to teach me A LOT is beautiful. Life, in the belly of the beast, is sweet indeed.

    • Janee White

      By your own actions, of taking your place in the belly of the beast, you have saved many. Had you stayed asleep, stayed in the boat, stayed on board helping the men row in their own strength – you would have been part of their demise. But by jumping in, seeking the fish, you have not onl saved the men, but the ones who will hear their testimony. You sacrificed yourself, to the belly of the beast, not just for yourself, but for the others in your midst.

      My friend, my sweet sister, I prayed this morning for the hearts of women who are crying out to God. Hearts that are broken – hearts that are lonely – hearts that are tattered and torn. I pray for you now, my dear AnnaLee, that in the belly of the beast, you find the Lord Your God. That you sit at His feet, washing them with your tears. That you allow Him to wipe away the stain of shame, and that today be the last day, you smell the stench of that place. I pray that when He spits you out, you land not on the sandy beach, but on the Rocks on High, with a view of His Promises.

      He performs wonders that cannot me fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. Job 5:9

  • Stephanie Onguka

    God does not reveal His love for His people by sparing us from the storm, suffering and pain . . . His love is revealed through how He rescues us, redeems us and restores us.

  • leenda324

    All I can say us: amen!

  • Wow!! Truly inspiring. Let’s all push through the storm to the other side!!

  • what stuck out to me most in this passage is the other people on deck. they believed in other gods and through Jonah they came to believe in the ONLY God. (vs 16) –> "then the men feared the Lord exceedingly…". sometimes God uses our mistakes as a way to show others the way. Through our pain, we can be a vessel to bring others to Jesus.

    • Camilla Smith

      That’s what really stood out to me too! Thanks for sharing your thoughts – I hadn’t thought about that way, that God can actually use not just our acts of obedience but even the mistakes to show his glory.

  • Can't get over how there's just so much in these short passage! To me, Jonah was always about the story of a big fish and his poutiness at the end. But now I'm seeing just how much Jonah foreshadows Jesus – one "dying" so the rest may live – and also how he grappled with sin. Jonah's definitely not a 2D character. So so many lessons from this. Loving it!

  • "There is new life on the other side of our storms, including those we bring upon ourselves."

    There is something in my eye. I think it's fish guts.

    • Janee White

      I love(hate) this image – I too have fish guts in my eye. And about that storm… I jumped overboard on Friday to save myself and others, and the very next day, I booked passage on another ship. A New wind has been blown, the seas are about to rage, but instead of allowing the waves to rise, I am jumping headfirst into the deep. I'll find that fish, sit in stink as long I have to so that I grow so tired of it, that when I am tempted to do anything other than His command, the stench of remembrance will rise up to my nose, and I will run away from my will and straight on towards His. Thanks for the imagery – like I said, I love(hate) it.

  • What I find most amazing is how this study has come along at a time, when I feel that I am in the middle of one of the biggest storms I have ever faced, not all at my choosing, but of choices made by family members. The actions of those around us impact our lives in more ways than we imagine sometimes. How many generations did the sin of David affect his family? I am living now in the midst of the consequences of choices made by my parents, my brothers, and sometimes I just want to scream at God and say why do I have to suffer because of what they did? And the men on this ship did cry out to God. I run from God a while, then I run back to God, and it seems like a vicious cycle sometimes. Storms do have a way of drawing you back to the Father, and I am willing to jump out of this boat to draw nearer to the one who saved me. Have a blessed day ladies.

    • AnnaLee

      My heart goes out to you, Shelia. The Lord understands the lives we're born into, and His grace is sufficient for the unfair situations we have to live through. I have many friends born into poverty, extreme family dysfunction, and drug addiction, which is horrible, but it's BEAUTIFUL to see how God has seen them through those things, been their strength, and eventually put their feet in blessed, spacious places. Do not lose heart, Shelia. The Lord is for you, and He sees you here; don't weary of doing good and following the Lord. He will deliver you and bless you and others abundantly– I can see He already is, by how your testimony has moved me. He is working in your life! "Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!" (Psalm 27:14 NKJV). Praying for you here, sister.

  • bippy1120

    Such an on time Word, I feel like I repeat myself with every comment because each and every post blesses my day! It's why I've stayed with SRT for years. Knowing that God is a God of second, seventh and seventy chances should cause me to forgive others quickly just as Christ forgives me but I don't! In my imperfection He still loves and cares for me! And teaches me how to live. I love what Jonah is opening up in my life. Thank you SRT team, and the guest posts have been AWESOME!!!!!!


  • Carolina Little

    This is just what i needed this morning. I created a battle this morning in my house. My three year old didn’t want to get ready for her gymnastic class, throwing a huge tantrum about what to wear and breakfast. After talking to her for 20 minutes, I lost it. I told my husband I was not going to bring her and went upstairs. I cried of frustration and ask God to help me being a good mom for her. She came upstairs and said sorry and have me a hug. I felt guilty for the way I reacted then my husband asked me if I was going with her. I had the option of saying no like I did in the past, but this time I was not letting my action ruining our weekend. I know I didn’t react the best way, but God has mercy and he give me new opportunities to learn from every circumstances!

  • Leanne. Awesome post. Thanks for the fresh insight on this so familiar story.

  • Candacejo

    Jonah is a beautiful study of Oh, How He Loves Us!! Our merciful Savior pursues us, woos us, and loves us back home, time and time again. I love every part of this story: Jonah's stubbornness, his effort to go to the end of the world to escape, his owning up to his sin to save others, and his surrender to Almighty God to (finally) do His will.

    We all run at some point, we all are guilty too. But God!! Thankful today for this lesson and all of the posts yesterday too. Blessings, friends!

  • Yes Joanne I really noticed that today too. That when sea ceased, the sailors feared The Lord. Thankfully the Lords purpose for us is greater and even in our toughest moment accepting our self made sinful storm, God is glorified and made known. It just reminds me that as we live open and honest Christians, not pretending we have it together but are real sinful people too, and show people how we walk these and other storms through Gods mercy we may have a greater breath of reach then just the intended "Ninevah".

  • journeyingwithhim

    The cool thing to me is that God still used Jonah! He went on from this moment to be used. No, he wasn't perfect and he still didn't get it 100% (as evidenced towards the end of the book) but God used his imperfect, prodigal self to help point a whole city to Him.

  • JessicaLoves___

    I imagine that when Jonah offered himself up to be thrown over that he thought this would be the end of him. That he was accepting the punishment for running away from God, so that those around him wouldn't have to suffer anymore. So, I can imagine the shock of opening my eyes again and realizing I'm alive – inside a fish! I think I would just have had to laugh and say, "Lord, you wanted me. You got me. You have my full attention." I'm super thankful to know the God of second, etc., chances and that he'll pursue us however necessary to get our attention.

  • Joanne Sher

    I also had never thought of this as admirable. He saved the sailors – and THEY praised God. And he jumped into the middle of his own storm. And God granted him mercy. Wow.

    • Lbug56

      Agreed! This is a new perspective on this story for me as well. I love the way we can read the same Bible passage over and over again and still see something new and applicable . Only God's gracious Word can do that. Awesome.

  • smallworldtn

    Wow. This is a fantastic post. I wonder how often I have created my own storms and then hid, cowering, as the storm raged above me? This is one of those incredible stories of "trust and obey"— with the very human twist being that Jonah took a long time to trust and kept messing up. This is so powerful: "There is hard, deep pain in owning our storms, but there is freedom in the jump from ship to raging sea. From our pain and shame straight into the arms of the only Grace that can piece our lives back together." Thank you!

  • Samantha B.

    I really appreciated you sharing this. I've honestly not had a very high view of Jonah because of his response in chapter 4 to the Ninevites' repentance, but this IS very admirable of him. You're right – he could have stayed hidden and taken them all down with him but he didn't. He owned his sin and did what he thought would save his shipmates and they were saved. I'm so thankful that the Lord welcomes us back when we repent AND gives us the conviction and ability to do so.

    P.S. Anybody else picturing VeggieTales' Jonah story through this? :)

  • Mrscoop62

    Glory to God for shaknig me up in my storm and preserving me. My regrets are the consequences and people that were hurt along the way. I ask the Lord every day his will for me and why he protected me from being physically. God is good!

    • AnnaLee

      Amen to that Mrscoop62. Your words completely relate to and resonate with my life. May God use these situations to humble us and to further bring about His glory. Praise you, Lord!

  • Justamom

    Love this story of Jonah, and I don’t like when i do bible study and apply it to someone in my life and the focus has become that and not myself. Although my cry to God is “show me” too what I can change. Please pray with me for my teenage daughter who seems to have gotten herself in a “storm” of sorts. It’s been a long and raging sea of disappointments, bitterness and blame, failed relationships with friends and others that are just a struggle everyday. I know God is using circumstances and events to show her things, her life is pretty uncomfortable and joyless at times. My heart breaks at her unhappiness. She has so much to offer others and is gifted to serve The Lord. I pray for her to stop running, for God to reach her, for her to open her eyes and choose to repent and follow Him again. Thank you!

    • Mrscoop62

      Good morning Justamom,
      My Prayers are with you for your daughter and for you for strength and comfort we never stop worring about our babies no matter how old they are. Sometimes I wish my guy's were still at the age where I could just send them to their room for doing wrong or put a bandaid on their hurts and kiss it and it would go away. Blessings to you and your family…

    • GracenJoy

      Praying for all of you Justamom.

    • AnnaLee

      Praying for you. As a young girl myself, reading this makes my heart go out to her, and I know exactly how what you're describing about her feels. The Lord's love and unfailing grace and mercy is in THIS situation, right here. He is near to your daughter. Praying that her heart would be softened, that eyes would be opened, and that healing and reconciliation would begin in her life. Praying that the Lord would show you and give you insight onto how He wants to use you in her life in this situation. Lord, let this woman's daughter be brought to you through this tough time. Show her how you are using this to grow her in your truth. I'll continue praying for her! Be blessed.

    • Kelsi

      I am praying for her. I don't have kids but at one point I may have been in her position. Love redeemed me. I hope that things get better for her and that God is with you. Hang in there, God will reach her.

  • "prison of merciful guts." Love that imagery and how walking through the consequences of our sin and choices can be such a messy process but how God provides mercy…that our God is one of "second, seventh, forty-second chances." Thank you for this challenging and encouraging message this morning. And for your closing blessing…my prayer for the ladies here, too: "May your hearts rest in the truth that you are immeasurably loved by a God who stops at nothing to redeem your story, to bring you back to Himself so that you, too, may contribute a portion in His vast story of prodigal love."

    • AnnaLee

      Yes, amen Morgan. There's so much mess in our lives, and it's even more messy and difficult when we know that some of it is our fault. But God's grace is enough for every situation; His mercy is boundless. Lord, thank you.

  • The faith of both Jonah and the sailors really jumped out at me this morning. They proclaimed God as God of the universe and trusted Him to do as He would …

  • I can’t get over how similar this story is to Jesus’ death and ressurection. It is dissimilar however in that Jonah was guilty and Jesus was innocent. God left clues, provided symbolic instances in the OT. Couldn’t help my smile this morning. :-)

    • Melinda

      Oops, tried to like your comment and accidentally disliked it, couldn't take it back. Know the minus one should be a plus one. Have a blessed day Ibukun!

    • GracenJoy

      It always amazes me to see more and more how Jesus is foreshadowed in the OT. I too had never seen that in the story of Jonah. It is beautiful and gives me a stronger appreciation of this OT Book.

    • AnnaLee

      Agreed! To see Jesus all over this book, symbolized and foretold in so many different ways through many different characters and plot events, makes me so… mindblown. The whole point of everything ever is God's love and grace through Jesus. It's Jesus. Wow.

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