November 5 I Friday
“Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” —Jonah 1:17
Do we know the difference between discipline and judgment? “Discipline” is God putting us back in line and training us for fruitful living. “Judgment” is when God determines that a person or a people group is beyond redemption and will never repent. Even though Jonah was rebelling against God’s call for him to go to the great city of Nineveh and preach there, God did not bring His judgment upon Jonah, but disciplined Jonah as he was on a ship headed the opposite direction.
When we examine the root word of “discipline,” we get “disciple.” There is no being a disciple of Jesus Christ without going through some discipline. Hebrews 12:11 tells us, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” I can attest to the first part of that verse with enough wooden spoons and bars of soap in my mouth that no discipline seems pleasant at the time. Yet, Scripture expresses that God disciplines us for our good, not to destroy us, but in order to rescue us from our own destructive choices. Jonah knew that God is patient, not sending His wrath until there is no other recourse for people.
This is why God sent discipline through the form of a great storm into the life of Jonah to get him back on track. The discipline was not just to realign God’s call for Jonah to go to Nineveh, but also to rekindle Jonah’s relationship and understanding of God—the two were intertwined.
While God disciplined Jonah for His disobedience, the sailors on board the ship also suffered the consequences of Jonah’s rebellion. Hence, knowing that he was the cause of the great storm, Jonah told the sailors to cast him overboard to calm the sea. As Jonah was thrown overboard, this was not where the tale ended for him. God, who is rich in mercy, provided a giant fish to swallow Jonah.
Even at the height of Jonah’s rebellion and sin, God sent hope into his situation and despair. It is a comfort to know that no matter how far we have run away, no matter how disobedient we have been, our heavenly Father provides a way back into relationship with Him. It may not be a pleasant experience—being in the belly of a fish for three days and three nights—but we can rest assured that God’s discipline is rooted in love and that He remains faithful even when we are not.
Prayer: O Heavenly Father, You are indeed rich in mercy, love and faithfulness. Thank You for Your discipline in drawing me back into a relationship with You, even when I may be far away. Praise You!