17Yahweh prepared a huge fish to swallow up Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
1Then Jonah prayed to Yahweh, his God, out of the fish’s belly. 2He said,
“I called because of my affliction to Yahweh.
He answered me.
Out of the belly of Sheol I cried.
You heard my voice.
3For you threw me into the depths,
in the heart of the seas.
The flood was all around me.
All your waves and your billows passed over me.
4I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight;
yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’
5The waters surrounded me,
even to the soul.
The deep was around me.
The weeds were wrapped around my head.
6I went down to the bottoms of the mountains.
The earth barred me in forever;
yet you have brought my life up from the pit, Yahweh my God.
7“When my soul fainted within me, I remembered Yahweh.
My prayer came in to you, into your holy temple.
8Those who regard vain idols forsake their own mercy.
9But I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving.
I will pay that which I have vowed.
Salvation belongs to Yahweh.”
10Then Yahweh spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah on the dry land.
I am sure you have heard stories of people trusting a friendly face only to find themselves the victim of sinister motives beneath the mask. More than likely, we have been fooled by someone or something claiming to be something it is not. In life, we have the potential to engage in counterfeit repentance, like Jonah in the belly of the great fish.
Despite Jonah’s rebellion, God continues to pursue him, offering him opportunity after opportunity to return to God.
Jonah is an example of how we should not respond when it comes to repentance. Jonah was in the midst of a storm, he knew he had angered God and that he had done wrong. However, Jonah’s prayer is focused on self rather than God. Jonah’s prayer is focused on circumstances rather than eternity and his prayer includes no confession of his disobedience.
One of the ways we can veer toward counterfeit repentance is by focusing on getting out of our difficult circumstances instead of looking for what God desires to teach us in the midst of them.
Counterfeit repentance is self focused whereas true repentance is God focused.
Counterfeit repentance is circumstance focused; true repentance is eternity focused. And counterfeit repentance lacks honest confession of sin.
God is patient and does not abandon His people. Even in their disobedience, He provides numerous and even supernatural opportunities for repentance. When we think of God’s pursuit, we tend to consider it in gentle terms. While God is tender, He is also serious about our rebellion, which we see in the story of Jonah. Often times, He interrupts our lives in ways that are both inconvenient and painful.
We all have blind spots, those areas of our walk with Christ that do not line up completely with God’s Word. Coming to terms with our counterfeit forms of spirituality is a vulnerable and revealing process, but it leads to life.
As the body of Christ, we are called to encourage one another in truth, which means living in honest enough community for that to occur. Remember God’s love for you in Christ and let it encourage you toward confession and repentance wherever it is needed.