Jonah 2 – Sometimes It Just Takes Being in the Belly of a Big Fish!

Chapter 2 starts with a prayer:

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.

It’s amazing how being terrified will focus the human mind. No more running for Jonah. Instead of trying to get away from the Lord, he knows he has no choice but to seek him. His first words make this apparent: “In my distress I called to the Lord.” Jonah could have called to the Lord in his distress from the boat, like the other sailors called to their gods, but his distress was not great enough. In fact, as we saw in the last chapter instead of praying he went into the bottom of the boat and fell asleep. He was oppressed and depressed, but not in distress. But difference. The former looks inward to self and it’s own desires and wants, while the latter simply looks to God and trusts him for whatever salvation comes from his hand.

It’s interesting too that Jonah is confident God will not turn him away. He says the Lord “answered” him, and “listened” to his cry. Even though he knew he had rightly been “banished” from the Lord’s site, he says confidently, “yet I will look again toward your holy temple.” In verse five he basically says I was a dead man, drowning with no hope of recovery, then:

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.

It took his life ebbing away from him to remember the Lord. It’s best if we don’t let it get to that point, but some are more stubborn than others. Even for the non-stubborn, the Lord must show us our absolute need for him because we are always inclined toward self-sufficiency. Or inclined to think we somehow deserve his favor or good breaks in life.

It’s interesting that twice Jonah says that he looked and prayed toward the Lord’s “holy temple.” To the Hebrew mind, the temple was where God’s presence dwelt. It was where the people’s relationship with a holy God was established established and sustained (through the priestly sacrificial system). Contrast this to what he says next of the contrast to the pagans:

“Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”

My older NIV version puts the second half of verse 8 this way: they “forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” Jonah knows that life is one big either/or. There is no place in between the true God of love and grace, and idols. If you don’t worship the living God, you will “cling to worthless idols.”

And if anyone understands that last phrase it is now Jonah. Who but the God of nature, the creator of all things, could rescue him from the sea by a very large fish. The reason we know our salvation is secure, why we don’t have to live in fear, is because it “comes from the Lord.” That is why we seek him because it is not of us! It does not come from us, or our decision, or our will. It is why finally we now look to where God’s presence was ultimately manifested in judgment and salvation once for all time, in Christ. The temple Jonah refers to points to him, our only and ultimate confidence before God.

And with this repentance, the Lord has the fish puke (vomited in the text) onto dry land. Now for the hard part.

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