(April 28, 2020)

 See Jonah 2…from the depths of Sheol (the grave) I called for help…”

The Hebrew mindset of the creation narrative in Genesis goes something like this:

Imagine everything is dark and lifeless and watery chaos is everywhere. Then, bit by bit, God pushes it all aside in order to make a special place for life. First, the waters are pushed back as a dome in made (“sky;” see Gen 1:1-2, 6, 9). Then dry land, and so forth. So the ancient Hebrews thought above the sky was water, and below the earth was water, and these things had to be held back in order for a special place to be created where human life could flourish in the presence of God.

With this picture of the cosmos in mind, the account of Noah and the flood makes more sense: the floodgates in the heavens that held back all the water were opened and water came up from the ground (Gen 7:11; 8:2).

And this is the same picture that is evoked in Jonah (google “Hebrew Cosmology Picture” it if you can’t imagine it). When Jonah is in the belly of the fish and going down to the depths, he is quite literally moving farther and farther away from the place of life. There is no metaphor here: he is going down to the chaotic watery grave.

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Now, with all of this in my mind, consider this: Going down to the grave in the belly of a “great” fish is what it took for Jonah to finally pray. And Jonah was a prophet. Ponder that.

I do not think that God “sent” this coronavirus or the hardship that you might be facing related to it, despite what some televangelists claim. Yet, while it is hard to articulate precisely, sometimes the life circumstances that we do not want are precisely what we need. Sometimes our circumstances in life have to reach a certain point until we finally seek God. The suffering is good for our souls because these are times that our sincerity and growth reaches new levels. These are times that we never forget; that we never want to go through again; and, that we are thankful for later because it brought us closer to Jesus. These times of learning can also help us love others well. If you have this kind of experience a few times, then you know the power of Romans 8:28; it will never sound cliché.