“To Prepare: To make ready beforehand for some purpose, use or activity; to plan in advance, to implement a strategy.” (Merriam-Webster)
We might think of an attorney who prepares a will or legal document, a chef who prepares a gourmet meal, or even a general who prepares for battle. All of us have prepared something for some purpose.
But there is one Preparer Who towers above all. Just how striking are His providential ways God revealed in the short account of the prophet Jonah. Four times God prepared ordinary things to serve Him in unexpected ways to reveal His will and to instruct and humble. We might even call them preparatory miracles.
As you might recall, God had called Jonah to travel to and preach a message of repentance to the wicked people of Nineveh. Jonah refused and set sail in the opposite direction. Having been found guilty of causing a mighty tempest, Jonah was tossed overboard by his fellow mariners. It was then that God prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah (Jonah 1:17), both to save him from destruction, and also to convince him of the necessity of fulfilling his call.
The people having repented, God spared Nineveh. But Jonah became so angry over this merciful outcome that he wished for death. The Lord then prepared a gourd to quickly grow up and provide shade and comfort for His prophet (4:6). And while Jonah was exceedingly thankful and glad for the gourd, he was not thankful and joyful over Nineveh’s repentance.
So God next prepared a worm, which chewed into the gourd so that it withered (4:7). Poor Jonah! But God was not through, for when the sun arose, He prepared a scorching wind (4:8). With this and the sun beating on his head, Jonah fainted and again wished to die. The book closes with God preaching Jonah a short sermon on the great scope of His mercy and compassion for all lost sinners. We can only assume Jonah learned this lesson with gladness and awe.
Cannot God still speak to us through common things to teach us a lesson, and also to rebuke and humble us? A sudden storm or hungry worm might cause a loss; a simple plant might bring delight, if not deliverance. Always the intent of the Great Preparer is to lead us into His will and conform our lives to His great love.
A chef prepares a gourmet dessert (as does our Good Shepherd Who prepares a meal of protection, mercy and goodness—Psalm 23). The flour, salt, shortening, and baking powder might taste awful by themselves, but mixed together and baked in the heat of an oven they become a delicious cake. In just this way the Great Preparer works in the lives of His children. It cannot be otherwise, for “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Our God is the Great Preparer—from beginning to end. In eternity He prepared our election in Christ, then prepared and sent His Son to redeem us as the sin-atoning sacrifice. Through the Holy Spirit He prepared our sanctification. Thus, by grace received through faith, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) Finally, on the Last Day we will hear the gracious invitation: “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)
Our Savior-God is never caught unawares, never reacts in panic or ignorance. How could He? In love and in the wisdom of His omniscience He has planned and continually prepares all things for the good of His people. Indeed, He has done all things perfectly. He is the Great Preparer.