Journeying With Jonah
Mr. Mike Hamel of Denver, Colorado, shares with us further insights from this his second brief study on Jonah, God’s runaway prophet.
In our first study we observed that Jonah 1 is the story of two wills in conflict. In that chapter we saw the disobedience of the prophet (vv. 1-3), and the discipline of the Lord (vv. 4-17). The outcome of the struggle is found in chapter 2, where we read in verse 1, “Then Jonah prayed,” and in verse 10, “Then the Lord commanded.”
The important thing to note in Jonah 2 is not what is going on inside the fish, but what is going on inside the prophet. God had allowed Jonah the consequences of his choices which brought His disobedient prophet nothing but disaster. He had told God, “I won’t,” and took off on his own; down into the ship; down into the sea; and down into the stomach of the great fish. When Jonah got down far enough (and what’s lower than the belly of a fish?), he turned to the Lord. He realized that Jehovah was the one who had humbled him and that He must be the one to bring him up again.
In 1:15 we are told that the sailors threw Jonah into the sea, but in 2:3 we read, “For thou hadst cast me into the deep.” He knew the hand behind the hands of the mariners had been God’s. The spiritual eye can see the hand of God in even the most adverse circumstances, and now just such circumstances forced Jonah to do what he should have done earlier — cry out to God.
Jonah’s prayer reflects a knowledge of the book of Psalms. He uses the words of several of them to describe his own experience, as well as to express his faith that he would be delivered from the great fish as he had been delivered from drowning. By the time we come to the end of the prayer, the “I won’t” of chapter 1 has changed to “I will.” Notice the word of 2:9: “But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.” It is then that we read in verse 10: “And the Lord spoke unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.”
Jonah had started out in first class on a ship bound for Tarshish. The Lord, however, had brought him back in fourth class; a piece of fish vomit, belched up onto the beach like so much garbage. Why did the Lord treat Jonah this way? The answer to this is multifaceted.
First, Jonah needed to learn experientially what it was like to be lost and to receive unmerited favor and pardon. His sin brought judgment, but God intervened with mercy on his behalf when he repented
Second, Jonah himself was to be a sign to the Ninevites. This isn’t apparent from the book of Jonah, but the Lord gives us this added insight in Luke 11:30. The Ninevites must have learned of Jonah’s ordeal and hence listened the more intently to his words. Incidentally, one of the gods worshipped in Assyria was Dagon, the fish god. Imagine the weight Jonah’s then recent underwater experience lent to his message!
Finally, Jonah was to be a prophetic sign of our Lord’s death, burial and resurrection. How God purposed Jonah’s disobedience to be a foreshadowing of the work of Christ from all eternity, while not inspiring that disobedience but allowing it to come about by His prophet’s “free will,” is a mystery answered somewhere in the unsearchable depths of divine sovereignty, beyond the reach of the finite mind.
To have a good friend is one of the highest delights of life; To be a good friend is one of the noblest and most difficult undertakings.