it’s a holy sort of vomit

Let’s be serious: Jonah is one of the greatest books of the Bible.  It’s such a weird, revealing, powerful, and fantastic story, that I love going over it again and again.  We don’t know anything about Jonah, other than the fact that he tries to run from God’s call.  He’s faithful and faithless, wimpy and brave all at the same time.  In other words, Jonah is us.

From the midst of the great fish that God sends to swallow this would-be prophet, Jonah offers one of the most heartfelt and sincere prayers that I have ever encountered.  Even from inside this watery tomb he proclaims: “But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay.  Deliverance belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9)

And Jonah was delivered indeed.  The NRSV translation of the Bible says that the great fish “spewed Jonah out upon the dry land” (2:10).  That’s right, the fish vomited Jonah. 

What I’m getting at is this: when we find ourselves in sticky situations, when it seems that everything we’re doing is going wrong and when we pray for deliverance, God will release us.  But it may not be pretty.  Our deliverance may be covered over with some “holy vomit.”  It may require tears and heartbreak to be spewed out from our watery tombs.  Thanks be to God that, no matter how sticky, messy, and smelly that deliverance may be, we will find ourselves upon a fair shore.

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One thought on “it’s a holy sort of vomit

  1. One of the illuminating points Ellul makes about this is that Jonah was saved FROM the ocean BY the fish. That is, the fish wasn't a tomb so much as the mechanism by which God saves Jonah from drowning.

    That explains why Jonah gives thanks for his deliverance while in the fish rather than afterwards.

    The difference is trivial in the context of the book. But for Ellul, the payoff is brilliant because he reads the book in light of Jesus remark about the “sign of Jonah”, and he sees Jonah as a type of Christ and the fish event as Easter.

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