Have you ever erred greatly and then came to a full remorse-filled recognition of your mistake and foolishness. Did you respond like Jonah? ◊
As noted at the end of Jonah chapter 1, during the violent storm at sea he offered himself to be thrown overboard to avoid God’s wrath against the entire ship and its crew.
“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Jonah 1:12
Jonah, a prophet aware of his outright disobedience to God’s calling him to the city of Nineveh, had fled onboard a ship headed in the opposite direction.
But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. (Jonah 1:3)
We’ll soon learn by the end of this short 4-chapter book, that Jonah did not think the people of wicked Nineveh deserved to hear him preaching about the one true God.
Biblical lessons on disobedience do not come easy, particularly for those that should know better. But God is merciful and full of grace.
And God won’t be thwarted.
Jonah, Chapter 2
Jonah is essentially willing to die as a sacrifice to save others from being punished for his own sin. While not quite a Christ-figure buried and resurrected after 3 days, Jonah is nonetheless a case study in repentance and prayerful remorse.
Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17)
As Chapter 1 ends with his incredible encounter with a big fish, all of Chapter 2 is composed of Jonah’s prayer from the belly of this fish and thus a view into his drowning experience and mindset and then to his grateful and remorseful heart.
And then God’s merciful response.
As Chapter 2 opens, Jonah speaks of his distress upon being thrown into the depths of the sea and literally beginning to drown:
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:
“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. (Jonah 2:1-3)
He equates his dying circumstances as being “banished from your sight” or being separated from God. Yes, as he is dying or blacking out, he claims that he will “look again toward” God. It’s what I suspect runs through the minds of some in their final moments before death overcomes them:
I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, (or waters were at my throat) the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. (Jonah 2:4-6a)
Yet God saves him:
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. (Jonah 6b-7)
Jonah then makes a comment about those who miss the love of God for love of worthless things. He resolves to recommit himself to God, even with “shouts of grateful praise.” He makes good on his original vow to be a prophet of God:
“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.’” (Jonah 2:8-9)
And just as God saved him by delivering a fish who engulfs him, God commands the fish to deposit Jonah once again on dry land.:
And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. (Jonah 2:10)
So Was It A Whale?
A whale is not mentioned, only a huge or big fish or even sea monster (ketos in Greek) as Jesus calls it (Matthew 12:40). If God created the world, can he not present a big fish to swallow up a man at sea and preserve him for 3 days? If you think not, then why not?
Because it’s physically impossible?
What about Jesus? That One born of a virgin and fathered by the Holy Spirit of God Himself, who lived, and turned water to wine, healed the sick and resurrected the dead. The One who Himself was killed and buried for 3 days and then was resurrected alive and well and physically seen and witnessed by hundreds of people over the following 40 days.
The same One who referenced Jonah as a sign or confirming miracle when speaking to the Pharisees who wanted proof that Jesus was the Messiah (see Matthew 12:38-41, Luke 11:29-32).
Jesus uses the word ketos.
I take Jesus at His word, and as Jesus and the story of Jonah is grounded in history, I accept God delivering a huge fish or ketos for the saving deliverance of a sinful and contrite man, Jonah, who himself is used by God to deliver the word of salvation for an entire city, as we’ll see in chapters 3 and 4.
Lessons in Jonah 2
Here are 4 more key lessons:
- God listens to our prayers. – He doesn’t answer as we’d like necessarily, but the God who created the prayer realm listens and hears our prayers. Per Jesus, we should commune with God constantly and “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)
- God knows we are sinful. – God listens despite our sinful ways and disobedience. He is patient and long-suffering with His creation because He has a purposeful plan for His creation. Particularly using those who repent and surrender to Him.
- God loves us nevertheless. – God loves sinning prophets as well as wicked people who have not heard the Word of God’s salvation for mankind. God’s grace and mercy for undeserving humans is unfathomable. But He loves nonetheless.
- God can do anything. – Yes, Creator God can do and create anything at any time, even a ketos at just the right time to preserve an unworthy soul (Jonah) who still teaches us today lessons about the almighty nature and character of God.
Are you repentant to Almighty God?
“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.’” – Jonah 2:9
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