Monday, July 18, 2011

Jonah 2:1-10

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly. 2 And he said:

     “I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction,
     And He answered me.
     “Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
     And You heard my voice.
3     For You cast me into the deep,
     Into the heart of the seas,
     And the floods surrounded me;
     All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.
4     Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight;
     Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’
5     The waters surrounded me, even to my soul;
     The deep closed around me;
     Weeds were wrapped around my head.
6     I went down to the moorings of the mountains;
     The earth with its bars closed behind me forever;
     Yet You have brought up my life from the pit,
     O Lord, my God.
7     “When my soul fainted within me,
     I remembered the Lord;
     And my prayer went up to You,
     Into Your holy temple.
8     “Those who regard worthless idols
     Forsake their own Mercy.

9     But I will sacrifice to You
     With the voice of thanksgiving;
     I will pay what I have vowed.
     Salvation is of the Lord.”
10 So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Vs. 1 From the time of His receiving God’s command to go up to Nineveh to the time Jonah went down to Joppa, bordered a ship, and headed west across the Mediterranean Sea in the opposite direction, Jonah never prayed once. Not even when the captain requested his supplications, when he thought all was lost, did Jonah pray. But here in the belly of this great fish, in the midst of the sea, in what was literally a type of death, Jonah prays. Now Jonah is again personally identifying Yahweh as his God.

Vs. 2 Verses two through eight then are Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the great fish that God commanded to swallow him up.

“I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction,
             And He answered me.
            “Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
            And You heard my voice.

Now Jonah cried out to the Lord because of his affliction. No other reason is given. Yet it was while Jonah was being afflicted for his disobedience that God heard him. Indeed the passage says God not only heard him, God answered him. If you search the Psalms this theme of being afflicted for ones transgressions, and then being heard by God when one cries out to Him, is an essential part of how God deals with us (Psalm 22:24-25; 25:15-18; 32:1-6; 38:1-22; 66:10-12; 69:1-36; 85:1-13; 107:1-43 etc.). For God does not chastise or discipline anyone without opportunity for reconciliation. Indeed the whole point of a believers chastisement is that God might keep us in a right relationship with Himself (Consider Heb. 12:3-11). Only when people or nations continually refuse to heed Him does God give them over to judgment (Hosea 7:12; Jer. 30:14; Luke 13:5; Rom. 1:18-36). So when Jonah hardened himself and refused to do the Lord’s will as he was commanded to do. Instead choosing to flee from the presence of the Lord. (Since Jonah did not want to preach repentance to Israel's enemies in Nineveh for then God would spare them if they did indeed repent). And thus Jonah though a prophet, instead of obeying the Will of the Lord, though he clearly knew it. Chose to shut out the Lord's voice and  literally travel as far away from the Lord and Nineveh as he could go. Therefore the Lord as a last resort (to turn Jonah away from the error of his ways) gave Jonah over to what an existence would be like apart from Him. Now Jonah likened being in the belly of the great fish to death. The word Sheol he uses is the Hebrew word for that, where one has conscience existence after being physically dead. Not that Jonah had actually died, but that he likened himself as being as those who are dead. Indeed Jonah’s being in the belly of the great fish is about as close as a living man can get to death without actually experiencing it. Now Jesus likened Jonah’s experience to what His own death would be like when He would taste death for everyone (Matt. 12:40). And spend three days and nights in the heart of the earth, after being crucified for our sins. And thus having purchased our redemption from sin and death (John 3:16). The Lord Jesus Christ now restores each and every believing individual back to life, and union with God, when we repent and believe in Him through the gospel (Mark 1:15). Therefore God had not given Jonah over to the grave, as Jesus would be given over to it. Though Jonah’s experience foretells Christ’s death, as Jesus says it does, it in no way mirror’s it. For Jonah’s taste of “death” is from this side of living; that is the place of utter despair and hopelessness that sadly some men and women experience in this life so that God might mercifully redeem then and restore them to Himself when they repent and cry out to Him (Consider Job 33:12-30). While Jesus’ taste of death was from death itself, which no one who goes to, without having first come to a personal faith in His Person before dying, ever returns.

Vs. 3 Jonah then acknowledges in his prayer and supplications to the Lord, that it is the Lord who has brought him to this grave place:

 “For You cast me into the deep,
              Into the heart of the seas,
              And the floods surrounded me;
             All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.” Vs. 3

Jonah then was literally shut up on all sides, as Jonah describes his alienation from God. Not a spiritual alienation, Jonah knew God, but a literally one . Now it should be mentioned the Tenor of Jonah’s words is also the tenor of Temple prayer, as recited in psalms (Psalm 42:7; 88:6-8). And thus Jonah returns to Lord according to God’s Word, not his own. Verses two and three then open Jonah’s declaration of the saving mercies of Almighty God. For though He afflicts, He heals and restores people when they repent and return to Him. While Jonah’s declaration of looking towards the Temple in Jerusalem (vs.4) was in the Old covenant economy where God was to be sought. Where sacrifice for the sin was to take place; both for the nation of Israel and God’s people individually. As well where the Gentiles could seek God (1 Kings 8:41-43). Now in the New Covenant we do not look to a Temple when we sin, since God has provided something far better and far more enduring for us. God has commanded that we all look to Jesus Christ’s cross, whether Jew or Gentile, for that is where God has made the finial and everlasting sacrifice for all our sins (Heb. 10:14). God’s mercies are found freely there for all who trust In Jesus Christ and His crucifixion death for the atonement of their sins (John 3:15-16).
Now returning to Jonah's state verse five to seven presents Jonah trapped in the belly of the great fish; a literal watery grave; for the word-translated pit in verse six is being used as a metaphor for Sheol. Thus it presents to the reader a word picture of being literally trapped in the pit of death. Something no one can escape from, for man universally having sinned is destined to it; to never return from it; unless they repent and believe in this life (Mark 1:15). For there is no ressurection life apart from repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ. Now Jonah’s prayer closes with an strong exhortation against idolatry by saying:
"Those who regard worthless idols
Forsake their own Mercy" vs. 8
For God will not give His glory to another (); nor will He be worshiped alongside of any other (). Therefore if you remember no other verse from the Book of Jonah remember that one, for it will take you far with God, and far away from those who worship Him in error. And thus in contrast to the multiplicity of "gods" of this world, Jonah's declaration is singly directed to the One True God who alone is Sovereign over all of His creation, and thus who alone is able to save anyone, from any circumstance of life.

"But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord." vs. 9

"So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land" vs. 10

Therefore Jonah's prayer/song closes with the bold declaration that salvation is of the Lord. For there is no other God who can deliver us from the grave and the eternal judgment found there (See Rev. 1:18).

Scripture Quotations
The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

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