Jonah Delivered by His Great God
Jonah Delivered by His Great God
God works in mysterious ways, doesn’t He? While Jonah was rebelling, God used him to draw a ship full of sailors to salvation. He used very difficult circumstances, bringing them near death, showing them how utterly helpless they really were in order to turn them into His worshipers.
We saw in chapter 1 how Yahweh is absolutely sovereign over His creation. By His power He sent a fierce wind which spun up a terrible storm on the Mediterranean Sea. He prevented Jonah from getting very far while he tried to run. Now we will see how God will continue His sovereign work to turn the prophet from disobedient to obedient.
Most people seem to just write off Jonah as unsaved when the evidence doesn’t point to that. Sadly, we probably wouldn’t have given Jonah a chance. But fortunately Yahweh our God isn’t like that. He is full of grace and compassion toward sinners. He is slow to anger and takes great care to turn His children into beautiful trophies of grace. He works in mysterious ways. He turned the prophet into disgusting fish vomit in order to make him into something beautiful—a man who feared God.
Once He has accomplished His work, Yahweh answers prayers of those He brings to repentance. God will sovereignly order circumstances around us in order to accomplish His work in us. To what end was God working in Jonah’s life? Repentance.
This is no surprise. While repentance is a gift from God (2 Tim 2:25), God works to produce it in us. God leads His people to repentance, sometimes using His kindness (Rom 2:4) but He can also use a great fish. God will work to make us sorrowful to bring us to repentance. This can come through strong words from another believer (2 Cor 7:9-10) or he can use a big fish.
So what the prophet did after God had accomplished His work, was to use poetry to describe for us what Yahweh had produced in him. In chapter 2, Jonah describes for us three actions that display what the fear of the Lord looked like after he had repented. Notice what Jonah did first.
!. Jonah gave glory to Yahweh for answering prayer (Jonah 1-2).
There are striking similarities between chapters 1 and 2. The sailors are in trouble on the sea while Jonah finds himself in trouble within the sea. The sailors cry out to Yahweh and Jonah cries out to Yahweh. Yahweh delivered the sailors and He delivered Jonah. Finally, the sailors sacrifice to Yahweh and make vows to Him and Jonah sacrifices to Yahweh and makes vows. What does this tell us? John Hannah points out that one of the lessons we should learn from this book is that God wants us to know that He loves people from all nations (p. 1462).
Jonah doesn’t preserve for us his actual prayer but puts into poetry the thankfulness that resulted from his earlier prayer. Notice the phrase, prayed to Yahweh his God. This is a clear turning point in Jonah’s attitude toward Yahweh. Jonah once again embraces Yahweh as his personal God. He submits to God in a personal relationship of trust, in a tender, loving relationship.
Jonah finally turned to the Lord in prayer from the stomach of the fish. Trials are appropriate occasions for prayer. Call out to God while you are still in the belly of the fish! Don’t wait for the trial to end. Call to God in the midst of your sin and seek His grace and mercy. God wants you as you are so He can remake you into what He wants you to be. Don’t try to clean yourself up first. In the midst of your sin call out to God for help with your fight against that sin!
Jonah begins his psalm in v. 2, similar to the ways some Psalms begin, where the author states up front what he had learned or what God had done for him. And he said. Jonah verbalized what God had done for him when he called out of his distress. That is what it means to give glory to God. Be faithful to testify of what God has done in you. Jonah didn’t call out to just anyone. He cried out to Yahweh. Here again is that stark contrast between Yahweh, the only true God, and the false gods of the sailors and Ninevites. And unlike those false gods, Jonah reports, and He answered me.
Jonah loops back so he can declare God’s praise in another way. He says I cried for help. The initial step back is to stop your running toward sin and away from God. That’s what Jonah did first. He stopped his rebellion and turned to Yahweh. To help us picture his distress, this time he says he cried out from the depth of Sheol, “from the belly of Sheol.” It is important in our recovery from rebellion that we recognize how serious our plight is without God. Sheol (the realm of the dead) was viewed like an even greater monster. Jonah found his life quickly slipping away. It’s like he is slipping into the realm of the dead when God plucked him out (from).
Although Jonah didn’t deserve it, with cheerful astonishment he says in praise back to God, You heard my voice. What mercy! Jonah deserved nothing but chastisement and yet Yahweh heard him just as He always hears His children when they cry for help from a repentant heart. Second,
II. Jonah testified to Yahweh’s gracious method in dealing with his sin (Jonah 3-7).
In this section of his psalm, Jonah will loop through his distress and God’s help, three times. He pictures for us his soul’s journey from rebellion to obedience. In this first loop, vv. 3-4, Yahweh sovereignly overwhelmed Jonah to humble him, gave Jonah what he wanted, then brought him to look heavenward.
Notice Jonah’s description of horror that he went through after being cast into the sea. While it was the sailors who hurled Jonah into the sea, because God had ordained it and controlled the circumstances that moved the sailors to do this, Jonah recognized that it was God’s plan for him. God didn’t force the sailors to do this. He simply orchestrated the circumstances so that they would do what was in their heart. He knew that in great fear, they would resort to extremes.
Jonah also recognized that all of creation belonged to Yahweh. He referred to the churning seas as “all Thy breakers and billows” (Jonah 1:9; Ps 88:7). They are his obedient servants who always do what He commands. Jonah came to a turning point. Look at v. 4.
Jonah wanted to run from the Lord and he got what he wanted. He was expelled from [God’s] sight. Yahweh removed His grace and let Jonah have what was in his heart to do. Yet, as repentance is churning in his heart while the waves are churning around his head, Jonah begins to turn his eyes back to Yahweh. He said, “Nevertheless I will look again toward Thy holy temple.” Jonah looks with hope to God’s heavenly temple (2:7), knowing God’s compassionate character (Jonah 4:2).
Now, in his second loop, Yahweh showed Jonah his powerlessness, brought him to despair of life, then restored his life. Look at vv. 5-6 [read]. Jonah describes what appeared to him was a watery grave. Note how he experienced the slow, unstoppable sinking down, sinking down. And his watery grave seemed also like a prison tomb, shutting fast around him to never let him escape. As he goes down though, his prayer arose and then God brought him up (v. 6b).
O Yahweh my God. As in v. 1, Jonah confesses his personal relationship with Yahweh. It was at this point that he was restored to the intimacy that a believer has with God after they repent of their sin and rebellion.
In his final loop, Yahweh stripped Jonah of his will, caused Jonah to see that his only hope was Yahweh, then received Jonah’s prayer in heaven. Look at v. 7 [read]. Jonah gives us another glimpse into the turning point in his heart. He records, while I was fainting away, I remembered Yahweh. As it seemed that all hope was lost and his death was moments away, Jonah remembered His covenant keeping Lord, the God who is named Yahweh! The prayer of repentance and faith will never fail to make it into God’s holy temple in heaven! And Jonah’s third action…
III. Jonah committed himself to worship and obey Yahweh (Jonah 8-10).
In v. 8, Jonah calls idols empty vapors. Let me give you my paraphrase: “Those who revere empty vapors, abandon their hope for steadfast love”. Why? Because this steadfast love comes only from Yahweh, the God who is faithful to love His children. While we today may not bow before statues, we have just as many idols in our hearts! Serving idols causes us to abandon God’s steadfast love!
Look now at Jonah’s renewed commitment in v. 9 [read]. Grace has taken hold! In contrast to idol worshippers, Jonah has a renewed commitment to the only One who can save us from our distresses and our sins. Jonah is not only committed to worship, but does it cheerfully with the voice of thanksgiving. “Now the prodigal returns, drawn closer to him than ever before by the cords of redemptive love” (Allen, pp. 217-218).
Salvation is from Yahweh. While Jonah was a believer already, God had worked out that salvation a bit further (Phil 2:12-13). Jonah went through spiritual change. Whether we’re talking about justification or sanctification, salvation is from Yahweh and Yahweh alone! Here’s a freebee that is really neat: the word for salvation is yeshua in Hebrew, which is also Hebrew for “Jesus”!
Finally, look at v. 10 [read]. Yahweh commanded the fish. The contrast is between Jonah who disobeyed God’s verbal command and the fish that immediately obeyed. Most likely the fish vomited Jonah up somewhere along the Mediterranean coast of Israel. Becoming fish vomit is a sure cure for rebellion! There seven miracles in these first two chapters. Can you find them?
Jonah was “expelled from [God’s] sight” (Jonah 2:4) because of his sin. Jesus was forsaken by His Father because of Jonah’s sin and our sin (Mt 27:46). Jonah went nearly to death as he sunk into a watery grave. Jesus went all the way to death and into the grave. Let us worship our glorious Savior!