Summary: A most unusual place to give thanks
A WHALE OF A THANKSGIVING
Within two days, millions of people in this country will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.
However, Thanksgiving has become less and less about gratitude and more and more about gluttony. Thanksgiving has become a day where prayer and praise have been replaced by the uniquely American trinity of food, family, and football.
In spite of what the holiday has become, there is great value in remembering why the holiday began. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day in which we stop and give thanks to our God.
Admittedly, the book of Jonah is not the first book you think of when you think of thankfulness. And yet, in our text, that is exactly what you find. In verse nine of the chapter 2 we find that the rebellious prophet is no longer running from God, and is now reaching up to God with gratitude. Jonah says, “But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”
This is by no means the traditional thanksgiving. In fact, this is a seafood thanksgiving that is offered by Jonah. As we prepare to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, I want us to look at Jonah’s statement in verse 9, and see what we can learn about true thanksgiving.
In order to do so, we must consider The Situation in which Jonah was Thankful. Normally, we equate thankfulness with times of blessing and prosperity. As a result, we are often only thankful when sun is shining, the birds are singing, and life is blooming. That is not the case in the text before us. At the moment Jonah uttered his thanksgiving to God, he was imprisoned somewhere inside a giant fish.
The setting in which Jonah was thankful reminds us of the words of the Apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 5:18. He wrote, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
Notice with me a couple of things about the setting in which Jonah was thankful.
I. It was a Deep Place (3)
This was a deep place he was in.
Probably no section of Scripture has taken more heat from the skeptics and critics like the story of Jonah. The idea of a fish swallowing a man, and that man surviving for three days only to be puked up on shore is simply too much for the liberals to swallow (no pun intended). I still believe the Bible. If my God can create all that is in a matter of six days, then the story of the fish and the wayward preacher is not so peculiar to me. Therefore, when I read Jonah’s words in verse 9, I believe Jonah was literally inside the fish. It was so deep; it was dark and difficult. Though I have never been inside a fish, I imagine, among other things, that it is a dark and difficult place.
While none of us can fully relate to the inside of a fish, we can all relate to the deep, difficult, and dark places of life. Life is often times lived in these places.
A. It was a dark place.
Jonah reminds us that God is to be thanked and praised, not just in the light, but in the dark as well. God is good all the time, and therefore God is worthy to be praised all the time as well.
Thank Him in the darkness, as well as the daylight. Thank Him for the battles, as well as for the blessings.
B. It was a difficult place.
II. It was a Divine Place (3)
Look back with me please to verse 17 at the close of chapter one. There it says, “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah…”
See verse 3, “Thou hadst cast me into the deep”
The reality is that Jonah could be thankful in the deep place, because the deep place was a part of the divine plan of God for his life. As hard as the experience of the fish was for Jonah, the reality is that God was using that fish to work in the life of His wayward prophet.
Some may wonder, “How can I be thankful in the dark times?” It is hard to be thankful standing by the casket of a loved one. It is hard to be thankful facing the horrors of cancer. It is hard to be thankful when you lose your job.
Jonah reminds us that we can be thankful in the dark times, knowing that our God is ultimately in control.
The great Scottish preacher, Alexander Whyte, was known for his uplifting prayers from the pulpit. Each and every Sunday, Whyte would lift his prayer of thanksgiving to God. One particular Sunday, the weather was so gloomy that one church member thought to their self, “Certainly the preacher won’t think of anything for which to thank the Lord on a day like this.” When Whyte came to the pulpit, and began his prayer, he said, “We thank Thee, O God, that it is not always like this.”