Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Jonah 2:5-10

5"Water encompassed me to the point of death
The great deep engulfed me,
Weeds were wrapped around my head.
6"I descended to the roots of the mountains
The earth with its bars was around me forever,
But You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.
7"While I was fainting away,
I remembered the LORD,
And my prayer came to You,
Into Your holy temple.
8"Those who regard vain idols
Forsake their faithfulness,
9But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving
That which I have vowed I will pay
Salvation is from the LORD."

10Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.

How close to death was Jonah? Not sure you could be much closer! As we continue to look at Jonah's prayer to God, we come across a very detailed description of Jonah's plunge. He had fallen into the depths of the sea, for sure. Figuratively, Jonah also fell about as far as one can go. Blinded by his pride (weeds) and left at the roots of the mountains (as opposed to the top of the mountain in a relationship with God), Jonah recounts his plight--and his redemption.

"But you have brought up my life from the pit...." (vs. 6)

Jonah was rescued by being swallowed by a God-appointed fish and kept in safety within this fish for three days and nights. It is this fact and somewhat similar circumstance that Jesus would use in preaching to the Pharisees about signs in Matthew 12.

"Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.' But He answered and said to them, 'An evil and adulterous generations craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.'"
--Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 12: 38-41

It's not that asking for a sign is a sin. If you have faith, then a sign confirms that faith which you already have. The Pharisees did not have that kind of faith, and, thus, their asking for a sign was condemned by Jesus, although the Lord did reveal quite a bit about what was to come in this passage [even going a bit beyond where we are in the study, at the moment!] As truthful as it is that the facts of the three days and nights are the same, that Jonah would move on from that moment to speak to a nation, and to cause a nation to repent are facts not to be missed. Yet, as Jesus says, something greater than Jonah is here. Are we missing something?....

I think this says a lot about hope--believing in the God of creation, being faithful in following the purposes laid out by the God of creation and knowing that, even when we fall to the greatest depths, there is mercy, redemption and another chance waiting to follow and fulfill His will.

"Jonah's deliverance may be considered as an instance of God's power over all the creatures; as an instance of God's mercy to a poor penitent, who in distress prays to him; and as a type and figure of Christ's resurrection. Amidst all our varying experiences, and the changes scenes of life, we should look by faith, fixedly, upon our once suffering and dying, but now risen and ascended Redeemer. Let us confess our sins, consider Christ's resurrection as an earnest of our own, and thankfully receive every temporal and spiritual deliverance, as the pledge of our eternal redemption."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

I love verse 8--the expressed honesty and transparency of Jonah's mistake: "Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness." Truly, this time in the fish has allowed him to fully see the error of his ways. Whether Jonah was after treasure in Joppa or just an escape of his own, he allowed himself to put a "vain idol" before his first call, which was to answer God and to fulfill the mission God had placed before him. As soon as he went down the path of vanity, he forsook his faithfulness in God, and discovered every consequence short of death for his choice.

Jonah finishes his prayer in similar response to the sailors who encountered the mighty God--with thanksgiving for their lives ("Salvation is from the Lord," and only from the Lord!) and with vows to follow through on God's ministry for him. Although Jonah doesn't directly say in the prayer that he is returning to Nineveh, the next chapter confirms his next move.
The chapter closes with God commanding the fish to vomit Jonah back up onto the land. My study Bible says that he ends up on a shore near Joppa. God, obviously, satisfied that Jonah's heart was back in its right place would renew his strength and restore him to the mission field.

"When my soul fainted upon me [crushing me], I earnestly and seriously remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple."

--vs. 7, Amplified Bible

Jonah's second chance to get to Nineveh.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Jonah 3:1-4

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).