THE PRAYING PROPHET
By Dean Robinson
In chapter 1 we saw God's patience as He graciously dealt with His disobedient servant who vainly attempted to flee from God's presence. Now in chapter 2 we see a penitent servant fleeing to God's presence in humble prayer. After spending three days and nights in the fish's belly, Jonah was made to realize that the best and safest place for him to be in was in the center of God's perfect will. Submitting to the chastening of the Lord, Jonah confesses his only hope of deliverance is of the Lord. Jonah's life was living proof of the slogan: "Man's extremity is God's opportunity." From this chapter we can learn that anywhere at anytime God's people can pray about anything.
I. PASSIONATE SUPPLICATION vs.1-2
A. Place of Jonah's Praying, v. 1.
1. Jonah poured out his heart to God in prayer while in a fish's belly, which certainly should teach us something about when and where we can pray. We can pray even thought the outward circumstances may be unfavorable and we must not excuse ourselves from prayer just because we do not have what we think is a suitable place to pray. It isn't the place where we pray that matters as much as it is the prayer which we pray.
2. While no doubt this was one of the strangest prayer meetings ever held, we can learn from this that it is God's will for His people to pray always, Luke 18:1, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;” and everywhere, 1 Timothy 2:8, “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” We should note that Jonah prayed to the Lord "his God"-- In spite of the fact that he had disobeyed and rebelled against the Lord, he knew that God had not abandoned him. Jehovah was still his God who could be called upon at anytime, anywhere in prayer.
B. Purpose of Jonah's Praying. v. 2
1. Jonah lifted up his voice and cried out unto the Lord because of his affliction. Jonah recognized that he was being afflicted by God for his own sin of disobedience and rebellion, Psalm 119:67, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.” It's important to acknowledge and accept the chastening hand of God upon our life because of our sin; the worst thing a person can do is become bitter against God. Jonah did not despise God's chastening but humbly submitted to it: Proverbs 3:11, “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:”
2. In chastisement for our sin God sometimes allows His people to experience the deep waters of trouble and afflictions in order that they may cry out unto Him in earnest and fervent prayer, Psalm 18:4-6, “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. 5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. 6 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.” See also Psalms 69:1-2; 120:1; 130:1-2.
3. Notice that God was ready and willing to hear and answer Jonah's cry for help out of the belly of "hell" (sheol)-- also translated grave or pit; OT designation for the abode of the dead; place of departed spirits. Sometimes people have to hit rock bottom before they will ever look up – Psalm 28:1-2, “Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit. 2 Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle.” See also Psalms 30:2-3; 86:13.
II. DIVINE INTERVENTION vs.3-6
A. Presence of God Revealed, vs. 3-4.
1. Believing God to be the source of his chastisement, Jonah attributes the hand of God in the storm and he being cast into the sea, v.3.
a. Jonah admits it was God ("thou hadst"), through the hands of the sailors that had thrown him overboard into the sea; he says it was God's billows and waves that had swept over him.
b. Jonah knew all of this did not happen by accident or chance but was the result of a supreme and sovereign God who was in charge of all things and all events.
2. Sensing his desperate need for restoring fellowship with his God, he expresses a desire for God's favor and blessing to once again be upon his life, v. 4. Looking toward the temple in reverent prayer was to look to God in faith, seeking His forgiveness and favor. The temple was where God's divine presence was manifested. It was the place where sin was pardoned and the repentant sinner restored to God's favor and blessing, based upon the blood of the sacrifices sprinkled upon the mercy seat, Psalm 86:5, “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.”
B. Preservation by God Realized, vs. 5-6.
1. In detailed fashion Jonah graphically describes the horror of his experience, after being thrown overboard and sinking into the depths of the sea, vs.5-6a.
2. After expressing the helplessness of his situation, Jonah acknowledges his sure hope of deliverance through God's infinite power and mercy, v. 6b. Jonah knew that if God had not intervened on his behalf, he would still be lying at the bottom of the ocean. "corruption"-- pit, destruction, grave, Psalm 40:1-2, “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. 2He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.”
a. God's preservation of Jonah from his watery grave goes to prove that there is no depth from which God cannot lift us,
b. No sorrow of which He cannot comfort us,
c. No sin of which He cannot pardon and forgive.
III. STERN PROCLAMATION vs. 7-10
A. Remembrance of God Pronounced, vs. 7-8.
1. What seemed to be the turning point through all of Jonah's troubling circumstances was when he called to mind the God whom he had disobeyed and forsaken and then turned to Him in prayer, v. 7.
a. Jonah's remembrance of God kept him from total despair and led him to victorious praying, Psalm 42:6, “O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.” Psalm 143:4-6, “When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday. 5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. 6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.”
b. There is grave danger in forgetting the Lord with all His blessings and commandments, Deuteronomy 8:11, “Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day:” See also Psalm 103:2; 105:5; Proverbs 3:1; Isaiah 46:9
2. In reference to himself and as a warning to all others, Jonah declares there is great deceit into thinking you can forsake God and get by with it, v. 8. To follow after lying vanities this world has to offer will lead to a disastrous end; to forsake the only source of mercy is akin to committing spiritual suicide. The will of God is ever the way of safety, peace, and comfort; to neglect and disobey His will is to set yourself on a collision course for trouble and problems.
B. Gratitude to God Promised, v. 9.
1. Grateful for God's goodness and mercy bestowed upon his life, Jonah promises the sacrifice of thanksgiving and the performance of his vows. The goodness and mercy of God are always incentives enough for praise and prayer, sacrifice and service: Psalm 50:14-15, “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: 15 And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”See also Psalm 54:6-7; 107:21-22.
2. Jonah's ultimate conclusion to this whole ordeal was: salvation is of the Lord. “Salvation” = deliverance, Psalm 3:8, ”Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.” Psalm 68:2, “As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.”
Jonah came to know as never before that deliverance, whether of the soul or the body, can come only from the Lord Himself. A person trying to run from God, his only hope of salvation is of the Lord; a person facing great trials and difficulties, his only hope of salvation is of the Lord; a person that is spiritually dead and lost in his sins, his only hope of salvation is of the Lord.
C. Deliverance from God Provided, v. 10.
1. Now that Jonah had been brought to the place of repentance and submission, God spoke to the fish and it vomited out Jonah on the dry land. The mighty Creator of all life and the sovereign God of all the universe controls and orders the movements of every living creature, from the tiniest molecule to the mightiest mammal. Jonah's deliverance proved to be true, Psalm 72:12, “For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.”
2. It should be pointed out that while Jonah was disobedient and rebellious, this great fish was obedient and submissive to the commands of God. May it be our prayer to be willing to obey and yield to the will and Word of God in order that we might faithfully and acceptably serve the Lord and bring glory to His name.
In chapter 2 Jonah came to the stark realization of how foolish it was to be apart from the presence of the Lord. Out of sincere contrition and remorse, Jonah cries out to God with a prayer of thanksgiving and praise, acknowledging the mighty and miraculous workings of God upon his life. His prayer was heard in the highest heavens even though it was prayed from the lowest depths. Jonah's prayer and faith should encourage us to never let go of God no matter what our situation may be. We may be so far down that we have to look up to see bottom but if Jonah could be delivered, then so can we if we will confess and turn from our sin and return to the path of complete obedience and dependence upon God. Jonah's prayer gives warning to others to keep close to God. Jonah's experience should encourage us to trust in God as the God of our salvation.
"But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is their strength in the time of trouble." (Psalms 37:39)
by Dean Robinson