Summary: There is still a storm brewing in chapter 2...in Jonah’s heart. The great fish was Jonah’s means of deliverance, and we see here his prayer of thanksgiving for rescue from a watery grave.
The Psalm of Jonah, ch 2:1-10 Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
There is still a storm brewing in chapter 2...in Jonah’s heart. The great fish was Jonah’s means of deliverance, and we see here his prayer of thanksgiving for rescue from a watery grave.
Verse 1 tells us where Jonah prayed. We might prefer going to a nice, quiet place to pray; Jonah had a very secluded spot. Now God has Jonah’s undivided attention, and the prophet prays. How could Jonah be so profound and calm? It became apparent that God had other plans for him. He wasn’t going to be eaten. When God brings a trial into our lives, He gives us time to contemplate the lessons He is teaching. Jonah had 3 days. We may feel swallowed up by circumstance, but we have the assurance that what God brings to us is always for our good and His glory.
Jonah knew his plight was his fault, yet when he “called to the Lord” (vs 1), God responded. Jonah’s brief psalm is an honest prayer. Often ours are not. We overlook the real issues we should be discussing, or we ignore some sin God wants us to confess, or we ask for things to which He has already clearly denied.
Summarizing his answered prayer—answered in a way he couldn’t possibly have anticipated—Jonah states that he found himself in the “depths of Sheol”, verse 2. This is an OT Hebrew term referring in a very general sense to the grave. Sheol is the condition of death. Jonah is admitting that he was as good as dead, but God reached out and rescued him!
Jonah next acknowledges the Providence of God, in verse 3: “You hurled me into the deep…all Your waves and breakers swept over me.” Underline (at least in your thinking) the words “You” & “Your”. Jonah knows that it wasn’t chance, circumstance, luck, or blind fate that caused his dilemma. Neither does he blame the sailors; they were merely God’s instruments, His means of discipline and restoration. Jonah understands that his deliverance had been directed by the Hand of God, Who rules His creation.
God’s intention is to return Jonah back to a right relationship. How do we respond to correction? A father who loves his children doesn’t turn his back when they go astray. God’s discipline is evidence of His love for us. James Montgomery Boice reflects, “It is better to fall into the hands of God, even in correction, than to be apart from Him.”
Jonah recognizes that he was alienated from God. Everything seemed lost as he sank beneath the deep. No more would the voice of God come to this prophet…or so he thought. Jonah cries in verse 4, “I have been driven from Your sight.” Who did the driving? The word “sight” could be translated “favor”. The door of life appeared to shut with a terrible finality. Each wave howled into his ear: “Jonah, you deserve this.” In verses 5-6 Jonah describes the horror of his plight. The “roots of the mountains” refers to the mountainous ocean depths. Underwater archeology reveals that some of the largest mountains on earth are those beneath the ocean.
Though things couldn’t seem worse, Jonah exercises hope in verse 4: “…yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.” Faith dares to approach God, knowing that we’re sinful people undeserving of mercy. Faith drives us to “look again”. There is life in such a look.
If God had done nothing, Jonah’s fate would have been fitting. Though deep in sin as well as water, Jonah prays in verse 7: “I remembered You, Lord, and my prayer rose to You.” Jonah prayed; he couldn’t help it. He prays to One he knew personally, not some impersonal force. I may know that there’s a bank around the corner, but that doesn’t make me rich. I know God exists, and He wants me to live in a personal relationship to Him. Most of what Jonah prays may sound familiar, because it comes from the Psalms; not much is original, and that’s fine. Our prayers don’t have to be creative; they have to be sincere. It’s been said, “for every sigh there’s a psalm” (Bill Gothard). It is encouraging to pray the Psalms and make them our own.
We may spiritually sink as deep as Jonah, yet God will not abandon us. Jonah was thrown out of a ship, but not out of the sight and grace of God. We have Christ’s added promise: “I will never cast you out”…you “will never perish” (John 6:37, 10:28). In Psalm 94 David affirms, “The Lord will not abandon His people.” How dreadful that some people actually want to have nothing to do with God! To be apart from God is a hell worse than we could imagine.