And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17 NASB)
Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish, But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD." Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land. (Jonah 2:1, 9-10 NASB)
At last, we come to the sign of Jonah. In his rebellion, Jonah became a prodigal. He ran as far as he could to get away from the call of God on his life, then boarded a ship and went even further. He was determined to avoid obedience, but that determined avoidance came at a terrible price.
God responded to Jonah sin with a powerful storm that engulfed all those around him and threatened to turn deadly at any moment. The sailors, veterans of many storms, were terrified by this one. Desperate for answers, they turned to Jonah. "Save yourselves and throw me overboard," he told them. In desperation, out of options and as a last resort, they did.
What no one could have known was that God had already made a provision for Jonah, and a giant fish was waiting for him. When Jonah was tossed overboard, it appeared that all hope was gone. He sank into the depths and, at just the right time, the great fish swallowed him whole. In that inky darkness, Jonah rediscovered his faith and his Lord.
He repented of his sin and promised to obey what he had vowed to God he would do. For three days and three nights, Jonah was in the belly of the fish before it vomited him onto dry land. When his feet his dry land, Jonah was a changed man.
When Jesus told the people of his day that the only sign they would receive was the sign of Jonah, this is the sign of which He was speaking.
As Jonah was in the fish for three days and three nights, so Jesus would be in the belly of the earth for three days and three nights.
As Jonah was changed by his confinement, so Jesus would be changed.
As Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so Jesus would be a sign to be the people.
As Jonah's confinement in the belly of the fish was God's response to sin and rebellion, so Jesus' confinement in the belly of the earth was God's response to sin and rebellion.
The vital difference in the two situations is that the sin and rebellion in Jonah's situation was his own. The sin and rebellion that led to Jesus' entombment, his death, was ours, yours and mine. His resurrection serves as proof that He has conquered the sin and rebellion we could not.
Jonah served as a sign to the people that there was no sin so great that God could not forgive, no prodigal escape so far away that God could not reach, no situation so hopeless that God could not intervene. Jesus' death served as the once-and-for-all payment for that sin, the once-and-for-all rescue for prodigal escapes, the once-and-for-all intervention for all hopeless situations.
Like Jonah, we are all prodigals. Some of us are running prodigals and some of us are staying prodigals. We all wander from God in our hearts, even when we do not run with our feet. It's a simple problem of rebellion. There is a God and we are not it. We want our own way, but His is best. Rebellion will not change those facts.
Aren't you tired of being a prodigal? Aren't you tired of seeking your own way, rather than God's? Aren't you tired of the storms that result from your rebellion? Consider the sign of Jonah. Resurrection and a fresh start are available, and they can begin right this minute if you are willing.
From the belly of the darkest place on earth, Jonah called out to the Lord and He answered Him. He will do no less for you and me. Jonah found that salvation comes from the Lord. It still does. Call out to Him. He will not fail to respond.