Summary: 2nd Message in a series from the book of Jonah.
Series: Jonah, God’s Runaway
How a Runaway Prays
Dennis the Menace was always one of my favorite cartoon characters. Of course, I was never like him!! One classic cartoon showed him sitting in his little rocker, facing the corner, his usual place of punishment. He says over his shoulder to his mom, "I may be sitting here quietly on the outside, but on the inside I’m standing up and yelling!!"
Most of us can identify with Dennis. The OT prophet Jonah certainly could have. We began last time with this man of God---the one some call God’s "prodigal prophet". "Prodigal", because, in chapter one, the moment he heard God’s word, he ran like a scared rabbit. God told him plainly to go proclaim His coming judgement on the pagan city of Nineveh. And Jonah was out of there. Headed in the opposite direction.
He blatantly disregarded God’s word. And he ran from God’s presence. Or so he thought. Like most of us do, he learned the hard way that trying to get away from God is a frustrating experience. The puzzle of Jonah is that he knew God to be Creator of the land and sea, but still thought he could board a ship and sail to Spain and watch God disappear in his rearview mirror.
Jonah started his reckless run because he rejected God’s heart for people. He was offended at God’s grace. He says in 4:2 God is a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in love and patience--and he suspected his Lord might be gracious to the hard-core pagans in Nineveh. Since they were the enemies of his people, the thought of God showing mercy to them abhorred him. His heart just wasn’t on the same wave length as God’s heart. So he ran. But God pursued him.
We pick up the account with Jonah riding in what has been called, "God’s Salt Water Taxi". Look at chapter 1, verse 17--. . . the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. 2:1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish,
Most people read chapter two and see the words of a broken man. Because after this prayer, he will go and do what God called him to do in the first place. They think this is a man who realizes the error of his ways and says, "okay, God I’m done, I’ll do it your way." But Jonah never says those words. We’ll see Jonah’s behavior change in chapters 3 and 4, but like Dennis the Menace--he will only outwardly do what God wants. He won’t let God change his heart.
Let’s listen as a runaway prays. Notice
What Jonah’s prayer includes
1. He expresses gratitude for being rescued. (2:2, 6, 7)
When Jonah told the sailors to throw him overboard, in chapter one, he assumed his life was over. Verses 3 and 4 Thou cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the current engulfed me. All Thy breakers and billows passed over me. 4 So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Thy sight.
Jonah had heard God’s clear call: go to Nineveh and declare my judgement on that great city. He’s God’s prophet, but he refused God’s assignment in an act of defiant disobedience. So as he went over the side of the boat and started sinking into the churning water he thought God was taking his life. He assumed he was a dead man for his rebellion.
Verses 5 and 6 describe his horrible drift downward. Seaweed wrapped itself around his neck. His feet apparently touched the bottom of the sea. I descended to the roots of the mountains. As he was about to lose consciousness, in his last desperate moment, he does what we do: he shot up a last ditch prayer. And God answered.
What’s called a great fish served not only as God’s answer to save Jonah but also the place where this psalm-like prayer was composed. Imagine Jonah’s thoughts as He prayed for God to help! Suddenly, everything went black. Maybe he saw the dark form of the creature. Then, there was a sense of motion, of being carried along. There was the pressing experience of passing from the fish’s mouth into its stomach, probably through a very small opening. That might have extracted water from his lungs, a little like artificial respiration.
As he regained consciousness, imagine the terror of the first sensations: the feel of the stomach lining of the fish--pressing in around him; the irritation of the stomach acid beginning to bleach his skin; the stench of the place; the passing through of the normal diet of the fish; the absolute darkness. After awhile, Jonah must have realized that the fish belly wasn’t how he was going to die, but how he would be rescued. His prayer for deliverance had been heard. He was going to live.