this year, I had the wonderful opportunity to get together with a
well-known, highly-respected songwriter in Nashville – Hal Newman.Hal co-wrote a song – “Baby Your Baby” - that was
recorded and featured in George Strait’s movie “Pure Country”.
Although he has had success in writing Country music, Hal and his
wife, Rachael, came to Nashville in the early 1980s to write Gospel
music.They had some
really good success early in their songwriting careers, getting
songs recorded by several Gospel artists/groups, including the Happy
Goodman Family.However, it soon became apparent to the Newmans that the
money generated by writing Gospel music – while rewarding in the
spiritual realm – did not pay utility bills.So, Hal found a way to stay.
& Teresa Johnson are also known as THE PEARLY GATES, and
are blessing people around the nation and the world with
their vocal and songwriting talents. Daniel was one of
the founders of USAGEM and served as president of that
extraordinary organization for several years. You don't want
to miss hearing this anointed duo whenever you have a chance
to "experience" their amazing music and ministry.
Like me, he became a long-time college
professor, teaching songwriting and helping establish Middle
Tennessee State University’s music business program.So, I admit, when I met Hal at the Nashville Songwriters
Association International writing room, I was a little nervous about
our first co-write.
However, when I entered the room, I was prepared.I had a verse and chorus of lyrics.I gave them to Hal and then excused myself to go to the
returned a short time later, Hal had already banged out a melody and
musical arrangement for the song on the keyboard that was in the
So, all we had to do was write a second verse and make a rough demo
of the song – which we did in about one hour.At times, this is the way it happens in Nashville.You can hear that rough demo we made by clicking on the
The idea for this song came to me while
preparing a sermon – which I preached the following Sunday at a
church in Middle Tennessee.I
have taken that sermon and “converted” it into an article which
you will find below.I
hope it will bless you and make you think about your life and
service for the Lord.
“FISHY” TALE ABOUT TWO SERVANTS
There are many “fishy” stories in the Bible.But, there is one particular account found in the Old
Testament that is a fantastic, bigger-than-life, fish story.It is found in the Book of Jonah.This article will focus on the passage found in Chapter 1,
verse 17 – and then continue on into Chapter 2, verses 1 – 8.
--Now the LORD had
prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the
belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly,
said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he
heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and you heard my
thou had cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the
floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over
I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy
waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed
me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was
about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption,
O LORD my God.
When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer
came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.
that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I
will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the
the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
my life’s work as an Associate Professor of Speech Communication
at Columbia State Community College, I spend the first few weeks of
each new semester, getting to know my new students.One of the ways I do this is by devoting one class to giving
them what I call ‘the wonderful opportunity’ to stand before the
class for two minutes and answer three simple questions:1.Who are you?2.Why are you
here?3.Now that you
are here, what are you going to do?
you finish reading this article, I want you to examine and think
about these three questions in light of this famous “fishy”
story found in the Book of Jonah.
sure you are familiar with this story.The passage begins at the point where Jonah had just been
thrown overboard a ship he was on which was headed to Tarshish.I’m sure you all know the reason he was thrown overboard.Jonah was on this ship which was carrying a lot of cargo,
because he trying to escape from the presence of God because of his
disobedience to God.
Read Jonah 1: verse 2 – 3.God
said to Jonah:
go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their
wickedness is come up before me.
Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD,
and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he
paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto
Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
was trying to escape from the presence of the Lord, because he was a
mean-spirited, prejudice man who hated the people of Nineveh.He knew that if he went to Nineveh and proclaimed the Word of
the Lord to them, they might listen and might turn from their
wickedness and God would save them.And, this was exactly what happened.
Read Jonah 4: 1 – 2.
it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was
not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled
before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious
God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and
repentest thee of the evil.
Jonah did not want
the people of Nineveh to be saved.He wanted them to be destroyed.He wanted them to die.He
didn’t want to give them another chance.He wanted them to receive God’s full wrath.After all, Jonah had his relationship with God.He knew God loved him.He
knew God even trusted him.God
thought enough of him to give him an assignment to share the Good
News with the wicked folks in Nineveh.
Have you ever known any Jonahs in your life – Christian people who
are mean-spirited and prejudice against non-believers; Christian
people who don’t care whether the lost live or die; Christian
people who want to see the heathen burn in hell; Christian people
who really only care about themselves and, maybe, their family
members – but, beyond that, they are willing to say to the world
– “I don’t really care whether you go to hell or not?”Have you ever known any Jonahs?
You know this
story.Jonah was a
mean-spirited, prejudice, rebellious and foolish servant of the
Lord.He was reluctant
to follow the will of the Lord for his life – to fulfill the
mission God had called him to do.
He decided he had a better plan for his life.He chose to strike out on his own and go his own way.His actions led him to look like a foolish, silly servant.You see, he actually thought that he could flee from the
presence of the Lord.How
silly and stupid is that–
that someone actually could and would think that they can get away
from the presence of Almighty God?
Now, in all
fairness to old Jonah, he was still living in Old Testament times
– and he had not an opportunity to read the words of the Apostle
Paul who wrote in Romans 8: 38 – 39:
38. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor
things present, nor things to
height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate
us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You can’t have the love of God unless you have the presence of the
Lord Jesus in your life – and once He has indwelled you with that
presence, there is nothing that can separate you from it.It brands you forever.It
makes you His forever.
Jonah knew the love
of God in his life.He
was branded by God.That’s
why God had given Jonah the mission He had given him – to go to
Nineveh and share God’s love with them.
On top of Jonah’s
rebellion and disobedience,he
was silly and foolish enough to believe that God was going to let
him get away with his wickedness.He didn’t believe God would chase him down and hold him
accountable for his disobedience.
But, again, Jonah had not had the advantage of reading the scripture
that was written by the writer of the Hebrews who wrote in Hebrews
12: 5 – 6:
5.And ye have
forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children,
My son,despise not
thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of
6.For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every
son whom he receiveth.
God was not going
to let Jonah get away with his own wickedness.There he was – Jonah - condemning and judging the people of
Nineveh for their wickedness and rebellion – wanting God to
completely destroy them for their sin – and, yet, he actually
thought God was going to let his wickedness “slide by.”Again, I ask you, have you ever known any Jonahs in your
But, as interesting
and compelling and contradictory as the life of Jonah was and is –
this passage tells us the story of another servant that carried out
– without question - the task and mission it was assigned to do.
Of course, I am referring to that humble servant: the “great
fish.”If we really
think about it, the story of this “great fish” can really
inspire us to be the kind of servants God wants all Christians to
Now, I know you may
be thinking that I’m “getting out there” with this analogy and
this way of thinking; but, no, I am just pointing out what is
written in the Bible to show us how much God loves us and how He is
Lord over all His creation and how is willing to use any willing
vessel within His creation to see that “none should perish and
that all should have eternal life.”
This is not the
only story in the Scriptures in which God uses the animals that were
created by His Hands to carry out His will.Genesis 22:12-13
tells us how an angel of the Lord spoke to Abraham just before he
plunged a knife into his son, Issac, who he was sacrificing to the
Lord and Abraham saw a ram that was caught in a thicket; and he knew
that God had provided a substitute sacrifice for him to use.
Luke 15: 11 – 32
tells us the story of a young man who came unto himself or woke up
in the middle of a swine pen – so hungry he was eating the slop
and garbage the pigs were eating.
Matthew 21: 1 – 5
tells us the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on
the back of a small donkey which He had told the disciples had been
prepared to Him.I could go on and on, example after example of how God has
used animals to fulfill His will.
But, let’s remain focused on the story of this great fish.I want you to think about this – when the sailors threw
Jonah overboard to save themselves, if God had given Jonah the same
grace and mercy that Jonah was wishing for the people of Nineveh, He
would have simply let Jonah drown.
But, Almighty God is not like us – we who are the Jonahs of the
world.He is the
definition of Grace and Mercy.He wants to see all men and women saved.He will even go to extreme measures to see that His will is
At times, God’s actions seem so extreme that we have a hard time
actions do not fall into our limited parameters of who we believe He
is and what He does.
Come on – don’t
sit there and tell me you don’t have questions about how Jonah
survived in the belly of a “great fish.”How is it scientifically possible?If Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and
three nights, how did he breathe?Where did the air come from?Where did he get his oxygen?How did he avoid being digested by the great fish?
Some who are
reading this article may be thinking: Do you really believe this is
a true, factually-accurate story or is it just a fish tale that was
included in the Old Testament because God’s name was mentioned in
it – a fishy allegory – if you will?
Let me say that I
believe in a literal interpretation of this particular story.I believe that God prepared a real “great fish” that
swallowed Jonah and that mean-spirited, prejudice, reluctant,
rebellious, foolish servant spent three days and three nights in its
belly – begging and pleading with God to give him another chance
to do what God had asked him to do in the first place.I don’t know how He “prepared” the “great fish” or
even know what kind of “great fish” He prepared.I just believe He did.
I have no problem
believing it.You see,
if I can look around this world and see all the beautiful mountains;and the vastness of the oceans on our planet; and I can feel
the power of winds; and I can witness the destructive power of
volcanoes; and I can see the beauty of little babies and little
children;and I believe
that God has made all of His creation and still has control over it
all – I have no trouble believing that an infinite, Awesome,
Almighty God chose and prepared a fish from His creation that would
fulfill a simple task of swallowing a man and keeping him protected
from the depths of the seas for three days and three nights.
That great fish’s
belly became a temple of revelation and repentance for Jonah.Among the seaweed, and the stench of dead fish and nauseating
fumes, Jonah came to a profound conclusion – he was the one who
needed to repent.He
was the one who needed to turn from his wicked ways.He was the one who needed to quit running from the Lord.He was the one who – in spite of his human weaknesses and
frailties - he, Jonah, was the one who God had chosen and called to
go the people of Nineveh and proclaim the Gospel.
But, housing Jonah
in its belly for three days and three nights wasn’t a pleasant
task for the great fish – but, it did what it was supposed to do.In fact, it was a mission that sickened the fish.
Read Jonah 2, verse
8. And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomitedout Jonah upon the dry land.
The Lord spoke to
the fish; and the fish listened to the Lord.It heard the voice of God.It had been faithful in its mission.In spite of its obedience, the mission was still hard for the
fish to stomach.But, it kept doing what it was prepared to do until it heard
the voice of the Lord who released it from that nauseating mission.
Here’s the fact
about serving the Lord Jesus.No
one was ever promised that serving Him would be an easy task.The greatest example of being a servant we have is the Lord
Jesus Christ himself – and He showed us what the ultimate price of
being a servant means.He
shed His very life’s blood for us.
Our service for the Lord can lead us down lonely paths.Our service for the Lord can put us in precarious, dangerous
for the Lord can require us to travel thousands of miles – or,
perhaps, just across the street.But, wherever and whenever we go in His name, He has promised
that He will never leave us or forsake us.
So, in the end,
what was the fish’s reward for its service to the Lord?Think about this – how does the writer of the Book of Jonah
– under the leadership of the Holy Spirit – define the fish.God – the ultimate author of His word – called the fish
I don’t know about you – but, one day, I hope to hear the Lord
repeat to me the words He spoke in Matthew 25: 23:
“Well done, good
and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things.I will make thee ruler over many things.Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
For me, to hear
those words, will be the equivalent of the Lord calling that fish
“great.”I will know that I will have been the faithful servant that
God has wanted me to be.
I told you before I
launched into the depths of this article, in the end I was going to
ask you to answer three questions:
1.Who are you?Are you a Jonah – a mean-spirited, prejudice, reluctant,
rebellious, foolish servant of the Lord?A Jonah – who has salvation in your life – and knows it
– but, doesn’t care about the lost and dying world around you.
are you a “great fish” for the Kingdom of God – a willing
servant that God has prepared to carry out His will – to save
all who are willing to accept His love and forgiveness and His
great fish – that faithfully and continuously carries on and
does the task you are asked to do until you hear the voice of the
Lord say:“Okay –
it is time for you to swim on into the even greater depths in the
oceans of lost and dying world and do what I have planned for you
2.Why are you here?What
is your purpose?Have
you understood that God has given all believers a mission?We call it “The Great Commission.”Jesus gave it to us, when He said:
All power is given
unto me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:
and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the
that you are here, what are you going to do?
This is a question
that only you – and you alone – can answer.What kind of servant will you be?Will you be a Jonah – or will we be a great fish for the
kingdom of God?The
choice is yours.
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