Summary: This is the second sermon in a series preached on Jonah. In this sermon we discuss Jonah's prayer of repentance and God's answer to that prayer.
Praying Prophets and Puking Fish
Text: Jonah 2
How is everyone this morning? We are happy that you’ve chosen to worship with us today. We’re in the Book of Jonah, and we’re going to be reading chapter two this morning. So if you’ll take your Bibles and follow along with me as I begin in verse 1 (READ TEXT).
Alright… if you remember last time, we went through chapter one and we talked about the 3 things that anyone and everyone who runs from God encounters. We mentioned that they’ll end up in a bad place, that their lives eventually will unravel, and we talked about how people who are running from God will hurt those around them. It’s unintentional; but it happens. And if you remember; I said Jonah is a lot like all of us. There are times in all of our lives when we’ve run from God. You know… it’s not like we are openly declaring to be atheists, but it’s much more subtle. We’ve got this wrong idea that somehow if we give ourselves totally to God and follow Him and His plan then we’re going to be unhappy, or miss out on something. And so we run.
But here’s the thing that we see from the story of Jonah. If you belong to Him, God doesn’t let you keep on running. If you belong to God, eventually at some point you’re going to come face to face with the reality that you can’t run forever. God will relentlessly pursue you.
So we ended last week with Jonah being swallowed by a big fish. And at that time, Jonah still had not repented. He was like, “I’d rather die than do what God has commanded me to do.” And so just throwing him into the sea wasn’t enough. It didn’t do the trick to this hard hearted prophet. So God sends the fish and it swallows him.
Can you imagine this? How wild is this? You’re in the water, and all of a sudden the storm just stops and the next thing you see is a big, giant, fish mouth opening up. And wham! You get gulped down. How horrible would that be? He could probably feel the muscles of this fish squeezing him down. And who knows what else was in that stomach. Seaweed, half digested little fish, sea water, bile, stomach acids.
Well now that you’ve got that picture in your head, what we’re going to do this morning is look at several things... I guess you could say we’re going to be looking at God’s attitude towards those who run but then decide that they want to come back.
This chapter tells us Jonah’s prayer… and it’s a prophetic prayer… and God’s answer to that prayer. And the first thing we notice is that it took extreme measures to get Jonah to a place of repentance. And so, he’s in a fish… been there for 3 days, and he prays and God answers. That’s good news church! God hears the prayer of those who have run, but then repent. When you’ve run and run and you finally hit rock bottom and you start facing the consequences of your running, God is there waiting for you to turn to Him. You say, “Why does God wait?” Well; I’ll tell you what I think. I think it’s because we sometimes have to get to the point where we see the truth of the situation. You see; the reality is that we don’t have any leverage with God. We don’t! We don’t have any leverage when things are going well, and we don’t when things are going bad, but it’s only in those times when things are going bad that we fully realize this truth. And here’s the Biblical truth. God doesn’t owe any of us His blessings. He doesn’t owe any of us salvation. I was talking to a fellow pastor one time and he said to me, “It’s amazing that when you read through Scripture, that so few are saved.” And I said, “No, it’s amazing that any are saved. Because we all like sheep have gone astray, there are none righteous, no not one.”
And so Jonah’s in the fish, he’s suffering the consequences of his running. He realizes that he can’t blame anyone. He can’t blame God. God had made it clear what Jonah was supposed to do, and so he repents and prays. And God shows Jonah grace. Verse 2 says, “God answered”
That’s grace. There’s no other way to put it. Jonah deserves to be digested by this nasty fish. He deserves whatever befalls him. He’s rebelled against God Almighty! But God Almighty is a God of grace!
This is a great lesson for us. This shows us that if we repent, if we turn back to God, God hears us and is quick to show us grace and mercy. The New Testament counterpart to this is the story of the Prodigal Son. I love that story. The Prodigal runs off, wastes his life, and then repents and his father sees him a long ways off and runs to meet him. That’s a picture of God. God was right there for Jonah. Just like Jesus was right next to Peter when Peter started to sink after walking on water. Our God is a God of grace and He is an ever present help in times of trouble.