Summary: Surely our Lord meditated upon Jonah’s fish story. He knew that he was heading into a mighty storm. Unlike Jonah, he was not fleeing from God’s presence. He was heading directly to the storm, and he himself would leap
Jonah 1:17-2:10 Thanking God
11/2/14 D. Marion Clark
We now come to the miracle that makes Jonah famous – his being swallowed by the big fish.
17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, 2 saying,
The prayer is written as Hebrew poetry. The distinctive feature of Hebrew poetry is the repetition of a thought in the next line. See it in the opening verse.
“I called out to the LORD, out of my distress,
and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
and you heard my voice.
Jonah cries out to the Lord, and the Lord hears. He responds. That is the theme of the prayer. In his need he called out to the Lord and the Lord saved him. The rest of the prayer develops this theme.
Verses 3 and 4 present the first stanza. In verse three he describes what happened.
3 For you cast me into the deep,
into the heart of the seas,
and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
passed over me.
Notice that Jonah ascribes to the Lord what happened to him. We know that the mariners actually cast Jonah overboard at his recommendation. But Jonah says that the Lord cast him into the sea. And he ascribes even the elements of the stormy sea as belonging to God: “your” waves; “your” billows. His point is that the Lord is behind all that is taking place.
4 Then I said, ‘I am driven away
from your sight;
yet I shall again look
upon your holy temple.’
Though Jonah is in peril, he nevertheless has hope. Note how he describes it: “yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.” He is going to speak of the temple again and make an inference to it near the end, so the concept of the temple is significant. What is that significance? The temple signifies the presence of the Lord.
Remember how Jonah’s flight was described as fleeing the presence of the Lord. Though Yahweh is everywhere, there is a sense that his unique presence resides in the temple in Jerusalem. Perhaps Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple best explains.
“But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built! 19 Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you, 20 that your eyes may be open day and night toward this house, the place where you have promised to set your name, that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 21 And listen to the pleas of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen from heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive” (2 Chronicles 6:18-21).
Of course, God does not dwell in a building on earth. Nevertheless, he determined that he would choose a nation for himself that would reside in a particular location, and in that location he would have a temple where his people and all true worshipers could present their sacrifices to him. And for those who could not literally be at the temple, they could still turn their faces toward the temple and offer up their prayers as though those prayers were sent to the temple before his presence.
You easily see the irony for Jonah. He was cast into the sea precisely because he was fleeing the presence of the Lord. Now his hope lies in coming back into the presence of the Lord. That is what he means by looking upon God’s holy temple. Now we come to the second stanza in verses 5-7.
5 The waters closed in over me to take my life;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head
6 at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O LORD my God.
7 When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the LORD,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
Again Jonah describes his peril. This time he speaks not of his hope but of his hope fulfilled, namely his rescue. And that rescue occurred because the prayer he had made to the Lord did arrive into the temple and he was heard.
Verses 8-9, the final stanza, teach a lesson and gives Jonah’s resolve.