Jonah Prays

Jonah 2:1-9

Debate over historicity / plausibility of this chapter in particular. To disbelieve its authenticity is to impugn Jesus’ integrity/honesty… as well as his resurrection accounts.

Matthew 12:40“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

Plain sense of what Jesus said – speaker comparing Jonah’s experience in past with Jesus experience in future. Either Jonah endured and survived trip in whale of a lifeboat or Jesus is still dead. Spiritualizing text does not eliminate problem, only changes one for another. Make Jonah’s experience some kind of legend or metaphor or parable, same must be true about Jesus. Then what does that mean about Jesus death and resurrection? If Jonah not literally inside the fish, then Jesus not literally in the grave. Thus, no death, burial and resurrection… iow, no atonement / redemption.

Heb. 9:22And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

And that’s just for starters! If truthfulness of Jesus is questionable, so is accuracy of NT writers… both with regard to facts, also interpretation of those facts. They believed what is written about Jesus is accurate and true – what he said, what he did – and wrote accordingly. Further, believed what was written strongly enough to write doctrinal conclusions based on their belief. Entrusted eternal destiny to those conclusions, encouraged others to do same. Either all true, to be understood as written, or is gigantic hoax. Can easily see how strong position on nature of Scripture – inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility – essential to proper understanding / application.

Jonah’s prayer a good one – doesn’t quote Scripture directly but prays in Bible language, expresses concepts and principles in way consistent with what rest of Bible teaches. Prayer says right things about God, keeping him in rightful place, many of themes touched on here and in Psalms. Are 7 penitential Psalms (Psalms of confession) – 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143. This prayer not one of them – Jonah acknowledges God’s hand in his circumstances but not his own. Jonah shows degree of repentance by some of his actions, appears to still carry chip on shoulder to very end of book. Yet God never abandons him, continues to teach / direct / use somewhat reluctant servant.

A. Jonah acknowledged God (1-3)

prayed to God (1)

have to go to v.10 to find indication of timing – appears that when finished prayer, God spoke to fish and Jonah discharged

would appear Jonah spent time cooling his heels before getting on his knees – takes a while sometimes to overcome stubborn heart, even in follower of God

likely from ch. 1 Jonah had gotten out of habit of praying – wanted to escape from God’s presence, means no interest in communication… unless God had new instructions

required significant attitude adjustment before could pray to God and expect some kind of positive response

cried out to God (2a)

during time on boat, was captain and crew crying out to their gods for deliverance, Jonah noticeable because of his absence

even after captain challenged him to pray for his God to help, no evidence he did so… didn’t want help for himself, didn’t care about others and their fate

Jonah smart enough to know – if prayed with that attitude, at best God would ignore him, at worst make things way more difficult/painful to teach what Jonah didn’t want to learn

did come to point where figured was better to humble at least a little, call for help rather than die stubborn… esp. since didn’t have clue where he was, how long he would be there

unlike Pharaoh, Jonah’s pain and suffering drove him to God for relief and ultimately deliverance – Pharaoh only wanted deliverance

key point: Jonah cried to the Lord “because of …affliction” – not yet praying for mercy, forgiveness, no mention of sinfulness

don’t overlook – Jonah’s plea for deliverance accompanied by commitment to keep his commitment, obey God albeit not with a smile and happy heart

answered by God (2b)

Jonah because of circumstances none the wiser if God had acted w/o speaking – fish swimming in circles, e.g., then heads for land at God’s command

Jonah’s vision / comprehension of what took place leading up to and during confinement clarified by hindsight – could recognize God’s fingerprints, God’s voice

could understand after the fact just how merciful God was to him when he in no way deserved it – was still in rebellion even though compliant

little boy, sit in time-out: may be sitting on the outside but standing up on the inside – Jonah going through motions of what God commanded but heart wasn’t in it

important note: God doesn’t wait til his children come all the way back from disobedience before answering their prayer

disciplined by God (3)

gave God credit for not only masterminding his experience but actually actively carrying it out – “You threw me overboard”; “your billows” “your waves” nearly drowned me

discipline effective in part because Jonah feared God, as in afraid of God esp. when he is angry – not ready to play tough guy given what God had done already

no secret to Jonah what God’s purpose was – had announced his defiance to ship’s crew, could easily connect dots from there

notice, too, God not like earthly fathers – His discipline is always precisely right thing at right time and for right duration

God knows his own strength, never uses more than is necessary to achieve his purpose w/o destroying his child

B. Jonah missed God (4-6)

God gave Jonah what he wanted (4a)

on occasion God gives child what he/she thinks he/she wants, particularly when child is not listening to reason, is determined to rebel

Jonah didn’t want to hear “Go to Nineveh”… his solution – put up wall (if possible) between God and him even if best he could do was lots of distance

acting like little child, hide and seek – hand in front of own eyes, you can’t see me… because I can’t see you; made even more concrete by darkness inside fish

God gave “silent treatment”, waiting for Jonah to make first move – added profoundly to Jonah’s sense of isolation

Jonah had real sense of abandonment, did truly feel that had escaped from God’s presence and watchful eye – his perception was real… but wrong

God not being deceptive, was veiling himself from Jonah’s senses in order to teach powerful lesson – what life for prophet/child of God would be like without any way to see/hear/feel God

Jonah “thought” he died (5-6a)

describes his experience from physical perspective: reciting themes from Psalms, using poetic language to refer to experience that felt like it must be he was going to die

entirely possible God let Jonah flounder a while until fish swallowed him; could also be description of near death experience inside fish… feeling like was falling, total darkness, silent except for fish noise

Jonah’s experience was real, what he described as being like dying wasn’t made up – he simply had no familiar frame of reference while was happening

at time of praying, could look back on previous hours and realize was still alive – obviously God must have some purpose in keeping him alive

Jonah discovered the truth (4b)

God had given Jonah what he was seeking – no sense of God’s presence, watchfulness – reached conclusion quite quickly wasn’t what he expected

even though not inclined to comply joyfully with God’s plan, did know he wanted God in his life – desire for God’s presence far outweighed prospect of final abandonment by God

when God wasn’t available to Jonah’s perception, Jonah missed him, wanted him back… even on terms Jonah didn’t want

God delivered Jonah (6b)

Jonah recognized his life had been in God’s secure hands all along – just as much when Jonah couldn’t “see” him as other times

knew, given what he had been through, only true God could have delivered him – notice, too, Jonah calls him “my God”… are at least on speaking terms again

C. Jonah remembered God (7-9b)

lost nearly all hope (7a)

describes his experience now from spiritual perspective: felt like very near point of death – “when my life was fainting / ebbing away” – basically running out of time to do something

not so much an “if you’re out there, if anyone out there, please help” kind of prayer, rather a “since you have answered my need before, I’m back needing again”

has pretty clear grasp of God’s faithfulness, could have benefited from recognizing his own lack of it and dire need for it

cried for mercy (7b)

“remembered the Lord” – not just bare remembrance of person, calling to mind character and situations and experience, iow to remember favorably and with intention to do something

in this case, since was God who threw him overboard, greatest need is for God to show mercy and preserve his life

Jonah could pray with some confidence because God had heard and answered prayer before… in some pretty dire circumstances

declared futility of idols (8)

from his vantage point, to pray and worship like sailors a futile exercise since gods of wood and stone can’t do anything

of greater significance, Jonah does give lip service to idea that idol-worshipers actively forfeit the hope that could be theirs

he does begin to recognize Nineveh’s problem and solution to it… he just doesn’t want to be part of the solution, thinks they don’t deserve that kind of mercy

committed to obedience (9ab)

true, for Jonah to keep his word God had to deliver him from captivity in the fish… but Jonah did not articulate that – not making deal with God, simply stating his honest intent

truly is what God expects from all his people – single-hearted purpose to do what God commands in total dependence on him

As disobedient as Jonah was, as far from God as thought he was – here’s the beauty of how God treats his children – moment Jonah turned from disobedience and rebellion by turning to God, God was right there! God never leads his people into temptation, may lead them into discipline and correction. God never abandons his children, may withdraw sense of his presence from them. He may veil himself so he cannot be easily detected… to help individual better grasp preciousness of knowing he is here, the importance of staying closely connected with Heavenly Father.

Also good to note: God would not be swayed from his redemptive purpose toward people of Nineveh. At same time, would not change his purpose regarding Jonah. Intended Jonah to be useful servant, also intended countless people of Nineveh delivered from destruction. God not like us, wanting personal space. God wants his personal space overflowing with children, his children as close to him as possible.

 

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