Jonah was a prophet on the run, and he was a prayer-less prophet. He had stopped praying, much like a lot of people who call themselves believers. They claim to believe in God, and yet, have virtually no prayer life, whatsoever.
However he finds himself inside this fish and he starts to pray. What we have here is, we have the runaway prophet, who neglected God, prayed, and was delivered from this fish, looking back and recording in hindsight all of the lessons that he learned. And he wrote a very poetic and beautiful portion of what he prayed after he learned what God was capable of inside the belly of this fish.
Jonah 2:1, let’s dig in. 1From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. 2He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.”
Can you even start to grasp what it means to us that we have the ability to call on the God of the universe, the Creator and the Sustainer, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Supreme Judge, the Holy One, the One who is all knowing and ever present and all powerful – that God? We can call on God, and He will answer us. Jonah called on Him after he basically just said, “Forget You, God,” and God, still in His mercy, answered him. Think about that. Don’t let the power of that pass you by. We can call on God and He’ll answer.
Now, Jonah said, “In my distress.” The word distress is the hebrew word Tsarah [tsa-rah’]. Tsarah, is a picture word. He’s writing a very, very beautiful picture of what’s going on. This word is a word that’s used when someone is giving birth, when a woman is giving birth, and it means the travail of childbirth, or it means the distress of labor. And so, you see, he’s inside the belly of this fish and he’s using a pregnancy word. “In my distress, in the agony, as if I’m being born, I called on God and He answered me.”
And then look at the next part of the verse. He said, “From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” Circle the word dead and write just above it Sheol, [shale]. This word can mean grave. I personally like the way the King James Version translates it, because it was translated as hell. From the depths of hell, “I called on God, and He answered me.” In other words, he’s saying, from the point in which I was furthest from God, from the place where I was helpless and desperate and afraid and hurting, I called on God.
Now, if you look at the verse 1 and 2 together, as you would in the Hebrew language, what you’re going to see is a picture that just excites. Tsarah, the travail of a distressive childbirth, Sheol, Hell, very literally, if you look at this as it’s written, what it’s saying is this. He’s saying, “I was as good as dead, but God in His mercy, could cause me Tsarah, to be born again.” See, this is what it’s saying. “I was as good as dead. I was completely helpless, but I was not hopeless, because God, even though I did not deserve His love and mercy, was still on the throne, still hearing me, and He could Tsarah through the travail and the pain and the agony. He could cause me to rise from the dead so I could be born again.”
Some of you right now, it’s going to speak to you, because you feel like you’re in Sheol, and through the Tsarah of the pain, you could be born again. Now, pause for a minute and think about this. At any point in this story, “Poof,” God could have delivered him. God could have “poof” calmed the storm, everything’s cool. But God didn’t do that. God still did a miracle, but I want you to notice, God was actively working, even though Jonah was still in pain. Watch the different phases of God’s work. “Jonah, go.” Jonah says, “No.” Jonah gets on a ship. Phase one, God sends a storm. It doesn’t work. Phase two, God sends the captain. “You need to pray.” Phase three, the sailors have mercy on him and don’t throw him overboard. Phase four, when they do throw him overboard, God sends a fish. Phase five, the fish gets a tummy ache and throws him up onshore.
All through this miracle, you can see different places where God was working. A lot of times, we will say, “God, I want You to do this,” whatever it is. Fill in the blank. “God, I want You to do this,” and God doesn’t do this, and we get freaked out. Don’t neglect, and don’t overlook all of the little things that God may be doing on the way to this, whatever that is for you. Watch as God works. God may have you on a ten-phased healing process, because if you don’t go through the first nine, you’re not going to learn the things that God wants you to learn. You may be on phase four going, “God, where’s phase ten?” Don’t forget to look back and go, “One, two, three … Ah, look what You did, and look what You did there, God. And, look what You did there. Oh, I can see how You’re working and how You’re moving.” Don’t forget to embrace the phase and celebrate the works of God as He leads you to His ultimate destiny.
Jonah in a fish. God’s got his attention. That kinds of summarizes the events. Verses 3, 4, 5, and 6, he says, “3You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. 4I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ 5The engulfing waters threatened me,
In other words, “There is no physical hope for me. This is game over. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. I am a dead man.” And then he says, But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. You read Jonah 1 and you’ll see over and over again the phrase, “down.” He went down. He went down. , and then all of a sudden in Jonah 2, because of the interaction of God, things shift and we see him starting to go back up. “But you, O God, brought me up from the pit.”
Some of you right now, you feel like your life is spiraling out of control, going downward, and I’m going to remind you. Never to forget the “but, God,” moments. “My life was out of control, but God intervened. My marriage was in trouble and we thought it was over, but God healed our marriage. The doctor said there’s no chance, but God has the final say.” Don’t forget the “but, God” moments. Remember, all things are possible with God. When Jonah was at a point where every physical thing said, “You will never survive this, I was jarred in forever, but God … but God … but the God of the universe. I called on him and he heard my cry and he delivered me up from the pit.”
He goes on to say this. He said, verse 7, ““When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.
We need to remember God. You say, “Well, I didn’t forget Him.” I’m going to say, “Yes, you did.” You know, a lot of times when things are going well, what do we do with God? We say, “Oh, God, thank You,” thinking, “Well, I’m going to put You right over here on a shelf and I’m going to go do my life right now. I’m going to go do … I know You’re over there, God, but You know, I’m doing my thing,” and then one day, you recognize, “I’ve basically been doing life without the power of God. I remember my God.” “When my life was ebbing away,” he says, “I remembered God.” Then in the next verse, he shifts his tone. And he’s saying basically, “Whatever you do, don’t do what I did. Whatever you do, don’t run from God.
Verse 8, here’s how he says it. He says, “8“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.
The word love there is the Hebrew word “Hesed.” it means, very literally, the pursuing love of God. Those who cling to the things of this world that do not matter, they are unable to receive the Hesed, the grace of God. Oh, How much we, as believers, need to surrender the idol of self.
Look in the next verse. Verse 9, the middle of the verse. He says, “9But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’ ”
What did he vow? We don’t know. Probably, what he vowed was, “God, if You tell me to speak, I will speak. If You tell me to go, I’ll go.” He said, “Whatever it was, what I vowed I will make good.”
Then, remember this. As we read this closing verse, remember this. Jonah was in the fish, and there was nothing that he could do to contribute to his salvation. He couldn’t go and sacrifice an innocent animal and make a sacrifice to God. He couldn’t give money at the temple. He couldn’t go and do good works. He couldn’t help feed the poor. He couldn’t do any kind of physical good work to contribute to him getting out of that fish, and I want you to remember that he couldn’t do anything, and read this next verse in that context. The end of verse 9, he said something that I hope you’ll hear in a way that you never have before. Basically, he says. “Therefore, Salvation comes from the Lord.”
Salvation comes from God. It’s not from you. It’s not from your works. It’s not from doing good things or not doing bad things. The New Testament says it this way, “For it is by the grace of God that you are saved.” It’s never, ever by your own works. That way you can’t brag about it. It’s the gift of God through Jesus Christ. Salvation comes from the Lord. When you recognize that, when you recognize that it cost God His Son, Jesus, who shed His blood, and you can be saved because of what Jesus did. That’s why it’s good news. You can’t bring anything to it, and when you recognize that, your only reasonable response is, “Here is my life, now You take it.” “Salvation comes from the Lord,” he says, and he knows it like he has never known it before. Then, verse 10 says, “10And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” It’s kind of disgusting, if you ask me, but it is very powerful and it drives home the thought that I hope that will echo in your heart for the rest of your lives. And that is this. Whether you are on top of the world, or whether you are in the depths of Sheol, Hell, when you call on the Lord, He will answer you. Amen.