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Jonah 2

Jonah's about to get a crash course in the concept and need to die to self.

We know from the end of chapter one that Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.

AND THEN he prayed to the Lord from the stomach of the fish.

That man was so stubborn that he sat there for three days and three nights. I assume he was waiting to die because he seemed okay with dying while on the ship in the storm and when faced with going overboard.

Meanwhile, God was, presumably, waiting for Jonah to die to self enough to cry out.

In verse 2, Jonah expresses how he cried out from the depths, near death's door. He goes on to say that God answered and heard him.

Next Jonah described what happened when he went into the water. It's worth remembering that a storm was raging when he went into the water. He was surrounded by the billows and it sounds like he sank deep in.

It's interesting that his next thought, while being overcome by the water, was to think that God expelled Jonah from His sight. That was Jonah's original goal-to go far enough to be out of God's sight. And now Jonah felt like he had accomplished that. He wasn't panicking, he was considering his success at getting out of God sight.

Except...

That's probably not his real heart's desire.

I suspect the reason God spared Jonah and kept him on this path can be found in the second half of verse 4.

Nevertheless I will look again toward Thy holy temple

Jonah 2:4b

In I Kings chapter 8 Solomon dedicates the Temple with a prayer and includes the repeated idea that the people will sin and if they look toward His Temple, they will find forgiveness and renewal.

To me, that's what it sounds like Jonah is doing. Even though Jonah was a prophet in the northern tribes of Israel, with false temples and its golden calves, Jonah knew where to look for help and redemption. God's Holy Temple with the southern tribes of Judah in Jerusalem.

In verse 5 Jonah describes his dire circumstances. The great depth engulfed him and he had weeds wrapped around his head. He fell all the way to the "roots of the mountains".

Things finally start to turn around at the end of verse 6 when Jonah proclaims, "But Thou hast brought up my life from the pit, Oh Lord, my God."

He explains that while he was fainting away he remembered the Lord. That's when his prayer arrived to God in His Holy Temple.

Wow. That is just chalked full of theology, isn't it?

Jonah finally was able to get the Lord to expel Jonah from His sight; but Jonah actually wanted the Lord to hear his prayer and Jonah was able to do that by remembering the Lord. The Lord had promised His people that if they were faithful; God would be faithful; but if they forsook God; He would forsake them. Even today, with all of the forgiveness afforded us by Christ's sacrifice; God remains faithful; but warns us that He won't hear our prayers if we have unforgiveness and unconfessed sin in our hearts.

Remembering Who God is seems to be key to Him hearing our prayers. Jonah forgot. He ran away and climbed on that boat thinking God was small and could be escaped. He went into the sea thinking God was small and would let Jonah decide when he could die. But God is big. Bigger than anything we can imagine. And remembering that can help us in our choices.

In verse 8 it seems like Jonah takes a side trail to another subject. He points out that there are some who regard vain idols; and for that, they forsake their faithfulness.

This probably seems fairly obvious to us. If you're choosing small wooden statues to worship; you're not being faithful to God. However, the idol worship in the northern tribes had happened by the kings (starting right away with Jeroboam) who wanted to control the people and water down their faith in God so they would be easier to control. So they introduced supplementary gods and alternate places of worship to include a combined faith. They knew the people would fight to keep Yahweh; but they also knew the people could be persuaded to be "tolerate of" and eventually welcoming of the vain idols.

Jonah was a prophet to one of these kings, who was prospering despite his idol worship of things apart from God. But now Jonah sees that God is not willing to be part of an assemble cast. He is God alone. And Jonah seems to be, at least temporarily, coming back to this truth.

He goes on in verse 9 to proclaim that he will offer thanksgiving as sacrifice to the Lord. He ends the chapter with having learned that,

Salvation is from the Lord.

Jonah 2:9b

He didn't want salvation when the ship was in the storm. He didn't even want it for the other men who would have died. And he didn't want salvation when he went in the water. Much like many today, he didn't think he needed to be saved. He thought he could escape, and even die if he needed to to escape. But then, when he actually felt like he had been expelled by God; he realized how desperate he actually was.

Many people think that hell will be more fun than heaven. And rebels are cooler than saints. The problems is, hell is going to be unbearable, not because of the fire and brimstone; but because of the absence of God. If you are alive, like Jonah, God is sustaining you. There is no life apart from Christ. But if you head into eternity rebelling against the Lord, you will be separate from Him- and that's going to be when you find out, like Jonah, that you really do need His salvation.

In verse 10 the Lord commands the fish to vomit Jonah up on dry land.

From the workbook for Lord, Teach Me to Study the bible in 28 Days, by Kay Arthur

  • This prayer reads like a psalm, which makes sense since Jonah was a prophet and would have know God's word well.
  • God answered Jonah's prayer both physically (dry land) and spiritually (salvation). We can trust God to give us what we need in both physical and spiritual terms. He hears our prayers anywhere we are and is in control of everything.
  • Jonah goes from talking about God (He) to talking to God (You). David does this also in Psalm 23.

From Be Amazed, by Warren Wiersbe (Minor prophets commentary)

  • Both Wiersbe and a footnote in the Ryrie Study Bible point out that there are some who say that Jonah actually died and this is a Lazarus resurrection-type story. But both Wiersbe and Ryrie reject that. Jonah is pulling from at least 15 psalms, none of which include overcoming death. The imagery of the psalms is to be taken to death's door; not death itself.
  • Wiersbe thinks Jonah woke up in the fish and was grateful that God spared him. I'm not so sure. Maybe he had to stay in the whale three days and nights because that's how long the journey took; but I suspect Jonah woke up in the whale and still seemed to think he could outwait God and die. Only after three days and nights did he realize what life would actually be like apart from God in death.
  • Wiersbe points to Jonah's resemblance to the prodigal son.
  • Wiersbe confirms my theory about looking to the Temple as the linchpin in Jonah's turning back to the Lord.
  • Jonah's memorization of scripture helped him and let to his salvation in times of need.
  • Wiersbe points to Jonah's comment about idols as a confession that Jonah had vain idols. We do that sometimes in our confession. We say "people" but we mean "me". It can be hard to spit out the sins we commit, when we knew how dumb they were in the first place.

Fom The MacArthur Bible Commentary, by John MacArthur

  • As far as submitting to God's will, Jonah's prayer was under duress.
  • MacArthur agrees that Jonah probably didn't die; but near death.
  • Wiersbe and MacArthur point out that Jonah acknowledges his circumstances as being a punishment from God.

I really dislike Jonah. Even when we did a deep dive into this book in a study last year, I never grew to like him. Mostly because he is a believer that doesn't behave like one. The non-believers in the book almost all behave better than he. However, I'm sure I have the same attitudes and behaviors, but don't recognize them because I rationalize it when I do it. We're all Jonah sometimes. We all want to ignore God and make our own choices. But, at the heart of it, We all need to come to what Jonah finally did-- we all need a Savior.

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