Ever since January 1st of this year, I've been following Prof. Horner's Bible reading plan. It's a rather unusual way to read the Bible ... in this plan, you read ten chapters a day. But they are not consecutive chapters ... you read one chapter from ten different locations in the Bible. For example, today, on Day 212 of the plan, I read Mark 6, Genesis 25, Ephesians 5, 2 Timothy 3, Job 26, Psalm 62, Proverbs 26, 2 Chronicles 32, Jonah 2, and Acts 16.
It's different, but I like it. For one thing, it seems that no matter what our pastor preaches about on any given Sunday, or whatever the text is for Sunday School ... I've read it recently. I like that familiarity. Another reason I like it is because it forces me to read passages I normally would never read in Bible study, like the 32nd chapter of 2 Chronicles, or the second chapter of Jonah. Unless you're researching to lead a study of the Old Testament, these are generally not books you turn to for your morning devotional. Or maybe that's just me.
Anyway, I found myself reading Jonah 2 this morning, where Jonah prays to the "Lord his God" from the belly of the whale. And I was struck by how similar his plight (being stuck in the belly of a whale) seemed to be to that of a Christian parent who has lost a child. I spent the day Saturday at our While We're Waiting Mini-Retreat for Moms in Wynne, listening to moms make statements very similar to Jonah's in this prayer. Read Jonah's prayer carefully ... and note how despair and hope are intertwined in nearly every phrase.
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, "I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, 'I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall look upon your holy temple.' The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!"
Did you hear it? Jonah was cast into the deep, surrounded by floods, tossed by waves and billows, nearly drowned as the waters closed over his head, fainting away ... he even had weeds wrapped around his head! And yet ... and yet ... he had hope. He knew that God heard his voice, he knew he would again look upon His holy temple, he knew his prayers were heard, he knew God would bring him up out of the pit, and he knew his salvation was assured!
That's what I heard in the stories of these moms on Saturday ... in spite of their pain and suffering, they had hope. And that is simply not possible without Jesus. Jonah knew that, and these moms did too. Note, too, that Jonah made all these statements of assurance before the Lord spoke to the whale, and "it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land." These moms, also, were speaking these words of hope and assurance while still in the belly of the whale. What a blessing and privilege it was to spend the day with these precious ladies!