The story of Jonah is a whale of a tale. Jonah eschews his charge to call repentance unto the people of Nineveh and subsequently is swallowed by a whale.
I am not a literalist when it comes to interpreting scripture, especially the Old Testament. I’m more literary, believing in symbolism. I see the belly of the whale as symbolic of any condition or circumstance that limits our liberty and freedom—depression, addiction, incarceration, hospitalization, or detention or some sort.
I testify that at some point you and I will all be swallowed by a whale—if it hasn’t happened yet, it will. And the whale may represent any overwhelming condition or massive challenge that seems insurmountable, inescapable, and interminable. We sense that we, on our own, lack the power to extricate ourselves—no matter how intelligent, rich, wise or popular we may be. What puts us in this condition may seem random or the result of sin, crime or rebellion.
Inside the belly of the whale the darkness seems impenetrable. With our natural eyes, we see objects and others dimly, if at all.
I testify that we are incapable of escaping the belly of the whale on our own. We need a savior . . . and not just any savior. Only Jesus Christ, whose compassion enables him to suffer with us, can save us. Thus, when we are in the depths of darkness and despair, hopefully we experience the depths of humility and turn again to Christ and cry, “Oh Lord, save me. Have mercy on my poor soul. Otherwise, I am surely lost forever.”
Nothing makes us dependent on Christ like being in the belly of the whale, as we are trapped by the jaws of justice, as a consequence of sin, incapable of escaping impending spiritual and/or physical death, the greatest whales of all. We are separated from God, and lack the power to rise on our own from this jail or grave and regain light and truth.
I testify that Christ is full of truth and light—a light so bright that it penetrates into darkness with beams so bright that they seem to consume everything around . . . much brighter than the sun, magnified a million times. And because his bowels are full of mercy, only Christ can atone for us and raise us from the deepest and darkest depths to the highest heights, from entrapment and enslavement to emancipation and enlightenment, from death to new life, from darkness and hell to light and heaven, even to celestial kingdoms of glory beyond human imagination, from hopeless hell to immortality and eternal life.