Jonah and the Whale
To learn that we should do what God asks us to do
1. Today's assembly is about doing what
God wants us to do.
2. The usual way to sail on the sea is in
But Jonah in the Old Testament found himself travelling inside a great
sea creature. This is how it happened.
Once upon a time, God spoke to Jonah:
GOD: Get up and go to that great city
called Nineveh. Tell the people there that I am going to destroy their
city. I have been told that the people are wicked and I am going to
punish them. There are 120 thousand people there - and they will all
NARRATOR: Jonah didn't want to go. He
JONAH: I don't want to do it. I'm a busy
man. I haven't got time to make that long journey. It will take several
days. Also, I am a Jew. Why should I help the people in Nineveh -
they're not Jews?
Anyway, you are a merciful God; you will forgive those people and I
will have wasted my time.
NARRATOR: But God told Jonah to go. Jonah
thought God couldn't see him anymore, so he went in the opposite
direction. He went to the port of Joppa. There he got on a boat that
was going to Tarhesh. It was a cargo boat. He paid his fare and the
ship set sail.
Out at sea, they ran into a storm. The wind was so strong and the waves
so high, that the ship seemed about to break up.
The sailors were in a panic. Each one shouted to his own god for help.
They even threw some cargo overboard, to lighten the ship.
Jonah had gone down below deck and was fast asleep. The captain went to
him and said:
CAPTAIN: What do you mean by sleeping
like this? Get up and pray to your god. He might listen to you - and
NARRATOR: Meanwhile, the sailors were
talking to each other:
SAILOR 1: Let's throw a coin and see who
is to blame for bringing us this bad luck.
NARRATOR: They threw the coin. It was
SAILOR 2: It's you!
You are a stranger. You have brought us bad luck. Who are you? Why are
JONAH: I am a Hebrew. I'm running away
from God - the God of heaven who made the land and sea. I'm going to go
where he can't find me.
SAILOR 1: What a strange thing to do!
What shall we do with you to quieten the storm? It's getting even worse.
JONAH: Throw me overboard. That will calm
the sea. The storm is God's way of punishing me for disobeying him.
NARRATOR: But the sailors did not throw
Jonah overboard. They did not want him to drown. Instead, they rowed as
hard as they could, to get the ship back into harbour. But all in vain
- the storm grew stronger, so they prayed to Jonah's God.
SAILORS 1 AND 2: 0 God, don't punish us
if we throw this man overboard.
The storm is your doing.
NARRATOR: They threw Jonah into the sea -
and the storm died down. The sailors thanked God for saving them - and
they promised to serve him always.
God was pleased with this. However, he did not want Jonah to die, he
just wanted to frighten him. So he sent a great whale. It swallowed
Jonah. Jonah was inside the whale's stomach for three days.
Then God told the whale to put Jonah back on shore. The whale coughed
Jonah up onto dry land.
Jonah was so relieved that he went straight to Nineveh and gave the
people God's warning. They listened and started to behave themselves.
God was pleased.
Some people say that this story was made up to teach a lesson - that
is, we cannot run away from God. He will always find us - and we should
always do what God wants us to, even if we find it difficult.
After all, God only asks us to do what he knows we can do. If he gives
us a task, he also gives us the strength to carry it out.
4. Dear God, storms are frightening. When
the thunder claps we block our ears. Birds are silent. Creatures hide
away. Drops of rain fall, one by one. Hailstones fall, pounding on the
pavement and rattling against the window. Lightning streaks across the
sky. We wonder at the storm, but we also feel afraid.
Lord, help us to feel your presence when we are afraid. Help us to know
that storms are part of your world. Amen.
5. Father, you calmed the storm, when the
sailors were afraid. The wind blew. The waves crashed. But you said,
"Peace, be still."
Please calm the storms in our lives - when we get angry or upset, when
we want to fight, when we feel like kicking and shouting and screaming.
Say to us, "Peace, be still." Amen.
6. Lord, like Jonah, we often fail you,
yet you always give us another chance. Please help us to know what to
do to follow you. Amen.
Now we will sing "Follow Me" by Michael Cockett. (Celebration Hymnal
for Everyone number 175)