Faith and Death
I called to [God] from the land of the dead (2:2).
One of the most powerful scenes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy is the time when the fellowship must go through the mines of Moria, into the dark caverns underneath the mountain. They descend into this subterranean world where many had died from the evil powers lurking beneath the earth. Fearful, Frodo wondered if they must travel into this harrowing place. Gandalf told him and his companions that it was the only way.
In Scripture, we discover the truth that though God intends life for us, death must come first. Jonah encountered this reality. He was running from God, and his running ended with him being tossed overboard into the raging sea. In an ironic twist, however, we’re told that “the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah” (1:17 NIV).
Familiar with this Scripture, we tend to think Jonah felt relief here, relief at being rescued. Jonah, however, didn’t know the conclusion. All he knew was that he was drowning in the raging ocean, only to be swallowed by a massive fish. No matter how dangerous the sea, few of us would consider being gobbled up by a huge creature to be good news.
Yet this was God’s way of providing for Jonah. God sent death to swallow him up, and Jonah prayed to God from his death-riddled space. Jonah prayed from sheol, the Old Testament word for the place where life has been completely snuffed out (2:2 NAS). “From deep in the realm of the dead,” Jonah cried, “I called for help” (v.2 NIV). God heard Jonah and brought him back to life, where he could pray: “My salvation comes from the Lord alone” (v.9).
Our faith doesn’t keep us from death. Rather, our faith leads us into death, conquers death, and then leads us back into life again.
Read Jonah 1:17. What does it mean to know that Jesus went into death for you? How is this like (and unlike) the death we must enter with Jesus, before we emerge alive with Him?
Are there areas of your life where you’re resisting the call to die? What might be keeping you from trusting that God’s intentions are to lead you to life? Why is it true that all work is sacred?