Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Jonah 2:1-4

Jonah's Prayer
1Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish,
2and he said, "I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me.
I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice.

3"For You had cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me.
4So I said, 'I have been expelled from Your sight.
Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.'"

Chapter 2 of Jonah opens not with a description of his current "housing" but with his prayer to God. His tone is different than it was on the deck of the ship. Through this prayer, we are finally starting to hear the heart of this servant of God, and it is a heart that has been broken.

Can you even fathom putting yourself into this story...literally? For Jonah to say he was distressed was putting things mildly. I like how the King James Version puts verse 2a: "...out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice." I realize the fish has been called by God to fulfill a saving role here, but I side with Jonah in feeling about as low as one can be, belly of a fish or lower.

But, twice in this same verse, we are encouraged in reading that God heard Jonah and answered Jonah.

"No place is amiss for prayer. Men may shut us from communion with one another, but not from communion with God."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Perhaps this is why God ordained that the chapter open with Jonah's prayer, rather than more third-person narrative. Because when we are facing desperate times, no matter where we are, we need turn only to the Lord. Jonah should have recognized this in chapter 1, thus saving himself this perilous journey on which he put himself. But, isn't it all too true that when we find ourselves in trouble that we might just move instead of be still? Run away instead of pray?

In verse 3, Jonah recounts God's response to his sinfulness. If he hadn't thought about where that storm originated, time in the fish would certainly afford him that now. Jonah is pounded by breakers (heavy waves) and billows (a surge of the sea). My fascination with words and their roots continues to be spurred in this study. Our English word billows comes from an older root word meaning "to anger or provoke"; also "to swell" (as in 'belly'). I would not have thought that 'billows' would tell the story of Jonah, but.... [cool!]

God cast out every storm element possible and then cast all the elements of the sea to completely envelope Jonah. Where the NASB uses 'expelled', the King James uses 'cast out', only this time, it doesn't mean to reel out or throw. It means to drive out, as in "divorce or expatriation." [Strong's] That's a pretty powerful statement--a pretty powerful action. The covering of the waves over Jonah figuratively represented God's separating himself from His servant, and His servant from his place of service.

The gravity of his situation fully weighing upon his head, Jonah continues to pray:

"Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple." (vs 4)

Here is the point where redemption starts. No matter where we have been or what we have done, "nevertheless".... Jonah could have mumbled on about lots of things, but he has sobered up to the reality that even though he has messed up, the One to turn to is God! Even when it would seem that God has totally pulled the plug on us, we need to seek His light for our salvation.

Closing today with a long cross-reference from II Chronicles. But, after you read it, you'll understand why I chose to include it. To quote lyrics from a song on the VeggieTales' soundtrack of the movie Jonah, "God's love goes overboard for you...Mercy goes overboard for you."

"When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to a land far off or near, if they take thought in the land where they are taken captive, and repent and make supplication to You in the land of their captivity, saying, 'We have sinned, we have committed iniquity and have acted wickedly';

if they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, where they have been taken captive, and pray toward their land which You have given to their fathers and the city which You have chosen, and toward the house which I have built for Your name,

then hear from heaven, from Your dwelling place, their prayer and supplications, and maintain their cause and forgive Your people who have sinned against You.

Now, O my God, I pray, let Your eyes be open and Your ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place."

--II Chronicles 6: 36-40

More from Jonah's prayer and what Jesus had to say.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Jonah 2:5-10

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).