Devotional: Jonah 2:1-10
From Holly: Let’s stop a minute and “set the stage” for this prayer of Jonah’s. First, I have to wonder what was going through his head when he so seemingly casually told the sailors (chapter 1, verse 12) to “Pick me up and throw me into the sea, then the sea will become calm for you. For I know it is because of me that this great storm is upon you.” Did he at that point have any inkling that God would rescue him? Or was he figuring that God’s grace would prevail in his death, thus “getting away with his disobedience”? I am sure that he had no idea that God was going to send a humongous fish to “devour” him (“swallow, engulf”)! Whatever was going through his head, I think that he must have had a “near death” experience, from what he says in this prayer.
I wonder if God purposely left out previous prayers to this one. If Jonah was conscious for three days and three nights before this prayer was uttered, I would think that he would have spent at least a few words on asking forgiveness for his disobedience. In any case, we are told that at this point, sitting in the stomach of a fish, Jonah’s attention is once again riveted on the LORD.
Verse 2 first states that he called out to God from his distress and that God answered him. This was such an encouraging event that Jonah repeats this statement, only this time we get a glimpse of his surprise and joy over the fact that God was [still] speaking to him: “I cried out to the LORD in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and LORD, you heard me!” Remember, he had run away from God’s Presence, so to find out that God was still within hearing range must have both surprised Jonah and encouraged him. I find it interesting that Jonah’s prayer so far seems to reflect David’s prayer in Psalm 34, specifically verses 4-7. We, too, can use the prayers of David and others recorded in the Bible as templates for our own prayers. This is another reason that memorizing Scripture is important, so the Holy Spirit can bring it to our minds at the time that we need them.
Verse 3 is interesting in that Jonah acknowledges that God is in complete control of his situation. He doesn’t blame the sailors for throwing him overboard (or even himself for telling them to do so); instead he says that “You threw me into the ocean depths”. This was not the time for blame, but to look to the Only person Who could bring good out of this situation—God Almighty.
I wonder how Jonah could say in verse 4 that God “drove him from [His] Presence”, when it was Jonah who ran away from the task God had given him. My interlinear Hebrew to English Bible puts s verses 3 and 4 this way, “For You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas; and the current surrounded me; all Your breakers and waves passed over me. And I said I am cast off from Your eyes; yet I will again look to Your holy temple.” This has a different connotation, I think, from most English versions. I think that Jonah is saying that he feels as if God has effectively removed him from His sight by “dumping” him in the depths of the sea. And yet, he has come to the point where he himself has turned back towards God’s temple in his heart and mind. I think that this “turning” is his act of repentance. I think that verses 5-7 describe the process he underwent to come to this act of repentance. In Jonah’s case, it took almost dying by drowning before he stopped rebelliously running from God’s purpose for him and turned back to cry out to Him for rescue.
Verses 8 and 9 are a declaration of not only the hope that we have because of God’s mercies and grace, but the hopelessness left for those who reject His loving gift of salvation. This hope that Jonah has in God’s ability to deliver him (as well as His desire to do so) leads Jonah (still in the fish’s belly) to praise the LORD as a living sacrifice, willing to “die to self” and fulfill his commitment(s) to obey God’s directions—even if those directions were still not what he wanted to do. The word “salvation” here means “deliverance”, in this case, deliverance from death and the grave. It wasn’t until Jesus Christ was crucified, died, spent three days and three nights in the grave, and was resurrected that “salvation” took on the meaning of salvation from sin. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for salvation used here is “Yeshuw’ah”. Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Yeshua”, which means “he will save” (Ezra 2:2). Truly, there is no other name by which we must be saved (Acts 4:2).
Verse 10 reminds me of what Pastor said last week regarding how the ship “thought” to break itself up, rather than disobey Almighty God, and how Jesus said that if his people didn’t praise him (“if these people keep silent”), the rocks would cry out in praise (Luke 19:39-40). Here, we have the great fish being obedient to God when He commanded it to vomit up Jonah. Again, this is in stark contrast to what Jonah, God’s prophet, had been trying to do! Wrapping it all up: Have you ever felt like you were in a situation where God wasn’t in it with you? I have! But here, Jonah’s experience reminds me/us of what God has promised in both Psalm 139:7-12 and Romans 8:35-37. There is no place, no circumstance, no action we can take that will separate us from our LORD. He always has His ear inclined towards His children (Psalm 34:15). This is important to remember as we head towards times of suffering and persecution.
Devotional reading to be shared on September 2nd: Jonah 3:1-10