Summary: Like the prodigal son, Jonah came to himself in his moment of despair. He cried out unto the Lord, desiring renewed fellowship with Him. Seeking to flee the Lord's presence cannot delay the inevitable.
Prayers from the Deep (Part 2)
Jonah 1:17 – 2:10
In our last study we began the most familiar portion within the book of Jonah – his being swallowed by the great fish. Again, I want to emphasize the dominant theme conveyed throughout the book – the absolute sovereignty of God in all His dealings, particularly with mankind. His sovereignty is affirmed in Jonah 1:17 – Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah had not fallen on a bad situation, being thrown over-board by the mariners on the boat. It was not a mere coincidence that he was swallowed by a great fish. All of this was divinely orchestrated by the sovereign God. He had a plan and purpose for Jonah regarding Nineveh, and God fully intended for Jonah to preach a message of repentance there.
Disobedience doesn’t provide a means of escape from God’s plans for our lives, but it often makes the inevitable much more difficult than it should have been. When God speaks, and we are certain of His desire for our lives, submission is always the best course of action.
Coming to himself within the belly of the whale, Jonah uttered a heart-felt prayer unto the Lord. We began to consider that prayer in our last study, and I hope to conclude it today. We have begun to discuss the aspects of Jonah’s prayer, as we considered: Prayers from the Deep. In our last study, we considered:
I. The Necessity for Prayer (1:17-2:1)
A. The Situation – This was a most difficult situation.
B. The Duration – Jonah was confined in the whale for three days and nights.
II. The Sincerity in Prayer (2-4)
A. The Affliction (2) – Affliction in sheol, “the world of the dead, the grave.”
B. The Confirmation (2) – Twice Jonah declared God heard his cries.
C. The Desperation (3) – He was in an inhospitable environment, in need of help.
D. The Conviction (4) – The turning point; he decided to seek the Lord.
III. The Reliability of Prayer (5-7) – When Jonah reached the end of himself, he realized prayer unto the Lord was his only hope. Jonah was a man of faith, having known the power of prayer through previous experiences. In his time of need, he knew God would hear. Consider:
A. The Desperation (5-6a) – The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. [6a] I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever. Jonah again realized and repeated the desperate situation in which he found himself. He cried out unto the Lord with a graphic description of his feelings. The waters had compassed him about. In fact, he felt as if they had penetrated the flesh and had reached his soul. Jonah had been soaked to the bone and beyond. He found himself covered in seaweed, trapped by the bars of the deep. Jonah even sensed the depths to which the great fish had descended. Clearly, Jonah realized he was in desperate need of the Lord’s help if he were to survive this frightful and uncertain encounter.
These are difficult situations to find ourselves. We have never been to the depths of the sea, in the belly of a whale, covered in seaweed; but we have faced desperate situations. We too have dealt with despair and grief that literally gripped our soul. We were unable to do anything about the situation, and unable to escape. We too felt trapped by the situation, literally at the mercy of the Lord to provide when we were unable.
B. The Restoration (6b) – yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. Can you imagine how Jonah must have felt as time continued to pass within the belly of the beast? There would have been no light within, and surely the hours seemed like days. At some point in his horrific ordeal, Jonah became aware that God had spared his life. He was in a very desperate situation, but he knew he had not been forsaken. Jonah praised the Lord for delivering him from corruption. Here the word translated corruption is again the Hebrew word sheol, speaking of the place of the dead, the grave, the under-world. Jonah had stood at the gates of death, and yet God in His mercy had spared his life.
There is so much that we can glean from this truth. While were yet in our sin, separated from God and dead spiritually, He delivered us from condemnation and eternal death through salvation in Christ. Psalm 40:1-2 – I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.  He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. Aren’t you thankful for mercy and grace, that which delivers from death and eternal suffering? He would have been just to have left us in our sin, but His great love compelled Him to provide a means of reconciliation through the sacrifice of His Son!