Fifty-five years ago, I was a young preacher. I had been speaking for a small Black African church for some months. I got an invitation from a congregation in a small Georgia Town to speak one Sunday… Filled with youth and ‘gusto’ I boarded a Greyhound bus and made the journey. I got there early on Sunday morning and having a couple hours before services, I walked the town. I was 16 years old.
A rather large woman approached me going the opposite way and while she commanded most of the walk, I eased into a hedge to let her by. She saw the huge Bible in my hand and stopped abruptly and asked, “What are you doing in our little city?” I replied in a rather strong voice, “I’m here to preach the gospel of Christ”. Her English background showed when she drew a single lens on a silver chain, and through an enlarged eye exclaimed, “Are you ordained?”
Now that was a word I wasn’t too well acquainted with but I got the drift and said, “Madam, anyone that has so much truth down ’em and they can’t keep it down ’em, is ORDAINED!”
After 20 years of preaching we moved to a large church in eastern Texas. At the end of the first service, a lady called me aside and said, “Please don’t visit in my home, my husband is an agnostic, and he just just crude and loves to make fun of preachers and the Bible record of Genesis and especially that of Jonah”. I thanked her and quickly forgot what she had said.
A few weeks later I knocked at her door. She blushed when she saw me standing there but it was too late. Her husband, a rather full fleshy kind saw me and shouted, “Come in preacher, I’d like to talk to you.” Then I remembered what the lady had told me at the church building, “Please don’t visit at my house!” It was too late.
“Preacher,” he began, anyone who can believe Genesis has an empty head or one filled with sawdust! Don’t tell me about Jonah who swallowed the whale, ha ha”.
“I heard you are an agnostic. You believe in God just not in the God of Genesis.” “That’s true,” he said, “I believe there in a higher power that created man, but the story of Jonah is a joke” (another chuckle). Do you believe that this “Higher Power” created man?” “Sure,” but this Jonah story is just toooo much.” (another laugh).
I approached him from a different view. “So the man that God created is building something. It is nearly the length of a football field, and when he is finished this ‘thing’ can swallow up 40 men and take them three miles below the surface of the sea and keep them there for 3 months, then take them safely back to land. You believe that the God that made a man who made the submarine that can take 40 men, 3 miles down in the ocean for three month, can’t create a whale to take one man down for three days?”
His wife found the courage to yell and dance and clap her hands over and over. It was her day, when her husband sat amongst his beer cans with his mouth wide open but couldn’t say a word. This confrontation and the long discussion we had afterward began a friendship that lasted the entire time we served that congregation.
There are 165 quotations from Genesis in the New Testament. One hundred of these are from the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Jesus said, “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. If you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46-47). Jesus taught that Adam and Eve were real people. (Genesis 1:27; 2:24). He taught that Jonah and the whale was not a fairy tale but an event that actually occurred.
The apostle Paul certainly believed in creation for he wrote, “For since by man came death, by man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Corinthians 15:22-23; 15:45-49). There is no way to pick out certain parts of the Bible while denying other parts without denying inspiration. The part we do not understand, we accept by faith to be true and accurate. Jesus confirms Jonah!
“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” But Jesus answered and said unto them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster (Whale or large fish), so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
“The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and shall condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:38-41).
The nest time you visit Mobile, Alabama and go through the submarine that’s stationed there, stop and moment and think of Jonah. Either God is or isn’t, and Jonah did or didn’t? Now faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).