Summary: The thing that you think might do you in, may be the thing that saves you. What should have killed Jonah, saved him.
Sometimes what you think might do you in you, will be the one thing that saves you.
Sometimes the worst possible thing that could happen to you – is exactly what you need.
Sometimes the thing you fear, is the thing that will turn your life around.
We see this with the prophet Jonah. He is thrown off the boat, literally to his death – but what should have killed him, through the hand of the Lord God, saves him instead.
Remember, we saw that Jonah is going to Tarshish instead of Nineveh, the opposite way that God has told him to go, not because he is a big dummy, but because he is a patriot at heart. There was the very real possibility of the nation of Assyria destroying the nation of Israel in the future. The city of Nineveh is the capital of Assyria. If, Jonah ignores God and goes to Tarshish, the nation of Assyria may collapse and the threat to Israel would be gone; but if Jonah goes to Nineveh and the Ninevites repent, the nation of Assyria would stand, and eventually destroy Israel and her people.
So if Jonah goes to Nineveh he assures the destruction of Israel, and if he goes to Tarshish, Nineveh parishes and Israel is saved. So Jonah gets out of town. How can he betray his country?
But what Jonah fears the most, is what eventually will save the people of Israel, for the Babylonians will conquer the Assyrians and eventually conquer Israel, exiling its people to Babylon. As it were, the people of Israel were slowly, but surely being assimilated into the surrounding culture. They were losing their identity, specifically by worshiping the gods of other nations. The exile to Babylon brings the Hebrews together as a community and as a religion, and they are saved. So by saving the people of Nineveh, the people of Israel are saved.
It is counterintuitive, but that is how God works. Much of the advice we are given by self help gurus or even business management gurus flies in the face of what is biblical. They tell us: seek power, here’s how to look out for yourself, here’s how to dominate those around you….Now this isn’t anything new, the world has always emphasized dominance, power, climbing to the top, lording over others and self glorification. But God, God is just the opposite; The values of the kingdom of God are the flip side of what we hold as signs of success:
Matt. 23:11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Matt. 18:4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Mark 9:35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
1Cor. 1:27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
Events enter our lives and we say, “this can’t be right”; Circumstances come upon us that, anyway you look at it, can’t be good; This wasn’t the direction I thought I was heading…But God doesn’t necessarily work things out according to what makes sense to us.
So the thing that Jonah fears the most, the salvation of Nineveh, is the thing that will accomplish his greatest mission in his life – the salvation of Israel. And in the same way, as Jonah is thrown off the boat, and swallowed by a great fish – he should be dead, finished, done for, but, what should have done him in – saves him.
I wonder…how many times has God operated in our lives in this way?
So here in Chapter 2 we have the psalm of Jonah. Prophets of Israel were generally people trained in oral composition so writing a psalm wouldn’t be difficult for Jonah. Now Jonah borrows elements we see in other psalms in Scripture, but not exactly, and here we have a very unique psalm which is definitely the work of Jonah. In the psalm he describes his time in the sea and in the fish and his thanksgiving to God.
I want to caution us as we look at this psalm: I think we as Americans skim through this psalm thinking that it is a prayer where Jonah pretty much just turns his life around and God responds by having the fish spit out, whereby he has a second chance. But Jonah doesn’t do that in this psalm. He doesn’t repent. He doesn’t say he is sorry for what he did. He doesn’t change his heart about hating the people of Nineveh, he doesn’t even have respect for the pagan sailors who threw him overboard. In fact he doesn’t promise to go to Nineveh.