Lessons We Can Learn From Jonah and the Whale
Our church has charged all parents of young children to read a Bible story each day to our children so reading from my son Noah's children's Bible has become a part of our regular bedtime routine. Sometimes I try to hit stories that relate to the current holiday in the Christian calendar and other times we simply pick stories that look interesting to him (there are pictures to help with the choice). There are also stories that he considers to be favorites--Noah and the Ark of course, Zacchaeus (because he loves the song), and Jonah. I have been very happy with his eager responsiveness to the stories and to reading them. He will even pull out his children's Bible to share the stories with his stuffed animals--or at least some version that he remembers or can guess from the pictures. One day when he related the story of Jonah to Fred the green rabbit I was struck by how close to home the story strikes--for Noah, for me, for all of us.
Noah's version of Jonah: God told Jonah to go to a special place but Jonah didn't listen. He went on a boat to another city instead. So God sent a storm and threw Jonah into the water and a giant fish swallowed him up. Jonah was in time out in the fish for three days before God told him he could get out of the fish. Then Jonah went where God told him to go.
The End. Noah to Fred: "You have to listen to God or you'll get in time out too!" Noah's story is simplistic but then so is the essence of Jonah's story. The moral of the story is simply that we must listen to God. If only it was as simple as that! Of course we know that. No matter what our religion or creed we know that we must listen to God. We know we must follow the rules and guidelines that God has set down for us. Children, like Noah, know they must follow their parents' rules and dictates or there will be consequences. Often those consequences involve a time-out for Noah so the story of Jonah strikes home with him. Obviously as he grows older the rules that he must follow will come from many different sources and many will be unspoken. This is why his father and I now set down rules and boundaries for him.
Obviously it makes our home life easier if he follows set rules and other rules are necessary for his protection, but even more important we are teaching him to follow the rules that God and society have set down for him. We learned rules as children for the same reasons but as we grow up and learn to abide by the rules of God and society the punishments we receive change and become more subtle. We no longer are put in time out but instead encounter punishments that more often come in a social or monetary form. For many of us it becomes increasingly easy to ignore these punishments without the threat of a big whale to swallow us up. As a Christian, I think God's message to us is simple. He wants us to love him and to show that love by loving and helping others. All of Jesus' lessons and teachings can be tied to that simple theme. It is simple and yet so very hard. What have you done this week to love and honor God? What have you done this week to love and help others? What worries me is that some people get so wrapped up in following other messages they have gleaned from the Bible that they often overlook or directly contradict these essential truths. While the Bible and its teaching are incredibly complex, one can find the truth by simply studying Jesus' teachings and actions.
There is truth in the simple question--What Would Jesus' Do? It is simple and yet so very hard. What have you done this week to love and honor God? What have you done this week to love and help others? Of course the difficult challenge is the fact that by not doing these things we are just as bad as Jonah. We are not doing what God has told us to do. Don't look now, but isn't that a big whale coming up behind you?.
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