Poseidon simmered hot, enraged at the arrogant bragging of the King of Jaffa’s wife. She crowed vain that their daughter Andromeda’s beauty eclipsed all others, even Poseidon’s lovely Sea Nymphs.
He threatened to rain complete destruction over the King of Jaffa. So advised by the Oracle, in a desperate attempt at salvation, the King offers his daughter as a sacrifice. Chained to the jagged rocks on the coast, she pleads frantic for rescue as she awaits a horrific death in the jaws of Poseidon’s sea monster.
After defeating serpentine Medusa, Perseus happens to be flying by and spies the winsome damsel in distress. Did I mention that she was naked? Rubbernecking, he swooped in to save the day. Becoming her knight in shining armor, he defeats the monster. As if that’s not enough, the smitten hero marries her to boot.
Sparking in the sun, the waters of the Mediterranean sea lap turquoise on the shores of Jaffa. Biblically known as Joppa, Jaffa’s rocky outcropping which makes a natural harbor, is thus called Andromeda’s Rocks.
And it is the locale of one of my favorite childhood stories of bullheaded Jonah who thinks he can outsmart God.
“The word of the Lord came to Jonah… ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” Jonah 1:1-3
As God’s anger brewed the violent storm against him, he tells his terrified shipmates to toss him overboard before they are all lost. In that instant, the sea calmed and Jonah sunk deep, swallowed by a monster fish.
“To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit
When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple…
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.
And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.”
After three days in that stinky, slimy sea belly, full of who knows what, the behemoth upchucks Jonah onto the shores of Nineveh,
A new man
With a renewed purpose
And new respect for God Almighty.
A high dollar mecca, modern Jaffa bustles as a port city, and reigns as the most expensive place to live in Israel. Decked along the ocean’s edge with shops, hotels and restaurants, it has the feel of a swanky resort town.
Street vendors with a lalapalooza of brightly colored umbrellas lined the sidewalk. After seeing the same scarves, bags and gobbledegook over and over, I was captivated by the ingenuity of one woman.
At first glance I thought she was selling snacks. Trays of crackers, candies, pretzels, and cookies splayed colorful and enticing. As I drew near, I saw they were not edible but glued together in a linear pattern of three or more.
Why in the Sam Hill??
So, I flipped one over to discover they were hair barrettes sprayed with a shiny polyurethane. I chuckled at the silliness, yet admired their resourcefulness.
And here Peter stayed for a season with Simon the Tanner “who lived near the sea” in Joppa.
A bold choice.
Simon was not the most popular guy.
Required to live outside the city, his profession fouled the breeze with the stench of his job. The perpetual odor of death permeated his skin as it lay fetid on his clothes and his hair. Leviticus 11 even states, “If the woman he marries can no longer stand it. He can ‘put her away.’”
Peter either had a diminished sense of smell, or chose to grow used to the malodorous air. His willingness to ignore his own discomfort and become a companion of this shunned man, shows a beautiful compassion.
In eventful Joppa, men ushered Peter to an upper room where he is faced with
A. Cold. Dead. Body.
Good thing he is not deterred by the wailing women or a corpse. Regaled with stories of her goodness, kindness and mean wielding of a needle to crafted garments for others, he raised Tabitha/Dorcas from the dead.
And there lived Cornelius, a prayerful man, “devout and God-fearing” who gave to the poor with a generous spirit. An angel of God appeared to him in a vision and told him to send for Peter who was staying with Simon the Tanner. Acts 1-:1-46
Meanwhile, devout Jew Peter prided himself on holding to the law by never associating with Gentiles scum or eating unclean animals. Yet, in irony, he was at the home of a man who handled dead animals thus could be unclean most of the time.
His world rocked unsteady when he knelt to pray peaceful on the roof but instead saw a troubling vision full of unclean animals.
The appalling command was to kill and eat.
Are you KIDDING me?
It took seeing the vision three times, before it sunk in his thick skull that all he thought he knew was just upended forever.
So he girded himself with a whole new way of thinking. And when a knock on the door revealed Cornelius’ men with an invitation to visit, he took a deep breath and said, “YES!”
Later, “He said to them: ‘You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection…“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”
Jonah and Peter questioned God bold.
Surely he didn’t mean it??
Both let rip a resounding NO WAY HOSEA.
Jonah took it a bit farther and headed out of Dodge, like a scared dog with his tail between his legs.
Peter, turned up his nose at the distasteful request.
Eat unclean animals? SERIOUSLY?
But after three visions, he began to see that God wasn’t budging on this one.
God may not send a distasteful vision three times,
or a monster fish to chase us,
But what opportunities do we miss when we say no to God?
When we argue,
“Too burnt out.”
And I pray for all of us…Lord give us the strength to answer you with a resounding YES! Help us to overcome our fears and uncertainty. Help us to find peace in your arms and courage in your words.
In his name always.
“So, friends, confirm God’s invitation to you, his choice of you. Don’t put it off; do it now. Do this, and you’ll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:10
-What hinders you from saying YES!?
-Share a time you were afraid to say YES, but did it anyway, with amazing results.