Virtual Gods

Here’s something that might surprise you.  There is a lot of money in imaginary worlds.  I’m speaking of the world of online gaming.  For those of you less familiar – let me enlighten you.

In 2019 game players spent $110 billion dollars on virtual goods ranging from swords to new character outfits.  This is not what they spent to BUY the game, but what gamers spent to improve their function or appearance.

The world of online gaming has exploded and is estimated to reach $396 billion in revenue in 2023. It is now considered to be one of the fastest growing industries on the planet.

An essay from seems prophetic when it states, “‘the development and popularity of virtual reality worlds in videogames and elsewhere is signifying an ‘Exodus’ from reality to the extent that the real world will progressively fade into the background’.” 02, 2011

It is entertainment I don’t claim to fully understand. But it is fascinating to see how integrated the real and the virtual can become. Of course, this idea applies to far more than online games.

Jonah must have felt that he had left the world of reality for something akin to a “virtual world” when he was thrown overboard. Likewise, it is possible that until that time God may have seemed more virtual than real. But as his life was slowly ebbing away, Jonah cried out to a God who had suddenly become very real.

Apparently, Jonah had thought of God as existing in the temple in Jerusalem, but not being everywhere at once. Why else would he think that he could actually run away from God? The whale’s belly was a harsh reminder of God’s omnipresence.

  1. L. Ellison suggests, “[Jonah] was half drowned before he was swallowed. If he was still conscious, sheer dread would have caused him to faint–notice that there is no mention of the fish in his prayer. He can hardly have known what caused the change from wet darkness to an even greater dry darkness. When he did regain consciousness, it would have taken some time to realize that the all-enveloping darkness was not that of Sheol but of a mysterious safety.”

In the mysterious safety of the fish, Jonah surrendered his “virtual God” for the real God who hears. In prayer and darkness, Jonah admitted that the role of salvation is not in his hands. The drowning prophet clung to a truth more hopeful than escapism: “Salvation belongs to the LORD” (2:9).

It is hard to believe that Jonah would have thought of being swallowed alive as a rescue, and yet it was precisely his false thought processes from which he needed to be rescued. He needed to understand the reality of God and His ability to rescue, however He may choose to do so. Though our thoughts be tangled with self and seaweed, and the depths of our imagined autonomy threaten to drown us, rescue is a valid hope. God is far more real than we imagine.

In Faith and Love,