Let God Be God!
Remember, Jonah is not about, the prophet himself, not about the people of Nineveh, not about evangelism, or any other feature found in the book. It is about God; his unexplainable, pursuing, mercy.
Jonahs prayer in v 1-7 is a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s deliverance. While in the fish, he reflects on this deliverance. This prayer is a great statement of grace as well as a demonstration that God does answer prayer.
God does answer prayer in time of trouble; that because God does answer prayer we can embrace the future with confidence in spite of our trouble; and that God does answers prayer in time of trouble even when the distress is our own doing! (vs 2-4)
God does rescue in time of trouble; that he rescues in spite of desperate conditions; that He rescues in his own time; that he rescues by his own power alone; and that he rescues in response to prayer. (vs 5-7)
Now we learn that God must be given His rightful place 8-9
Trusting in other gods is futile 8
Jonah now vividly understands this from his encounter with the pantheistic sailors. None of their gods could help. “Vain” idols is a severe term – means lies, deceit, false”. Even in his fleeing from God, Jonah did not stoop to worshipping these false gods. To do so would have been to “forsake their faithfulness” or as the NIV translates, “forfeit grace.” It is hesed the term for covenant loyalty or love! It is God’s grace and goodness they forfeit. This is a big deal. Consider David’s attitude NAU Psalm 31:6 I hate those who regard vain idols, But I trust in the LORD.
NAU Psalm 16:4 The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied
In what gods do you trust?
Worship belongs to God alone 9a
Jonah now declares his loyalty to God in response to God’s grace to him. He promises to give (“sacrifice”), to praise (“voice of thanksgiving” = singing?), and to serve (he will “pay” his “vows”).
Note the similarity with the sailors; after their astonishing encounter with God including being rescued from the sea, they too responded with worship. The language of 1:16 is comparable to 2:9. This is normal – a genuine experience with God produces worship – real worship that pervades your being.
We also learn another thing about God as well. “A sincere cry to Yahweh is efficacious whether from a pagan…or from one of his own rebellious prophets.” (Landes, KBJ, p 26 as cited by Allen 219)
Jonah now did not worship God vaguely; his worship was tangible. He did not worship God hesitantly; his worship was enthusiastic. He did not worship God opportunely; his worship was inconvenient. Jonah did not worship God cheaply; his worship was lavish.
Jonah is radically different. Something happened to him on the inside! How is it that commitment is a rare commodity in the Christian community these days?
So, we understand that trusting other gods is futile and worship belongs to God alone. Now we learn that…
Only God can save 9b
Jonah sees the big picture clearly – “salvation is from the Lord.”
ישׁוּעָה (sounds like Joshua) and its derivatives are used 353 times. The root meaning in Arabic is "make wide" or "make sufficient'; this root is in contrast to sarar "narrow," which means "be restricted" or "cause distress."
That which is wide connotes freedom from distress and the ability to pursue one's own objectives. To move from distress to safety requires deliverance.
Generally the deliverance must come from somewhere outside the party oppressed... The one who brings deliverance is known as the "savior."
The word may be used, however, in everyday life free of theological overtones; e.g., at a well Moses saved the daughters of Reuel from being driven off by the shepherds (Exo 2:17).
But generally in the OT the word has strong religious meaning, for it was Yahweh who wrought the deliverance. Thus he is known as the "God of our salvation" (Psa 68:19ff [H 20f]). Although salvation could come through a human agent, it was only because God empowered the agent.
In the NT the idea of salvation primarily means forgiveness of sin, deliverance from its power and defeat of Satan. Although the OT begins to point in this direction, the majority of references to salvation speak of Yahweh granting deliverance from real enemies and out of real catastrophes. (TWOT 929b)
Clearly, the context of Jonah is that he is rescued from certain death. However, the application to spiritual deliverance is so obvious. It is the bigger truth – God is ultimately responsible for salvation of all kinds whether or not intermediate means are used or not.
Jonah did not need convincing that self-sufficiency was not an option – in fact, it is laughable
David acknowledges the same truth - NAU Psalm 3:8 Salvation belongs to the LORD;
Now we must come to grips with the fact that Jonah vomited by the fish 2:10
God had absolute control over the fish. He ‘commanded” the fish (“head back to shore”).
All kinds of questions – where exactly did Jonah get deposited on shore? Was it near Joppa for the sailors benefit? Was it really on “dry land” or just on the shoreline so that he had to wade in? What was Jonah’s condition – like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who didn’t even smell of smoke? Or was he wrinkled and pale?
Again, we must not get distracted by these and other questions and issues.
What do you imagine the sailors would have thought when/if they heard about this or perhaps even encountered Jonah? They knew that he had died! Surely this would strengthen their faith if it was wavering!
God used the fish as his instrument of deliverance. Normally vomited conveys the notion of judgment in the OT. Here it is one of deliverance. So, Jonah was delivered both by swallowing and regurgitation.
Illust: The teacher asked, "Can someone tell me the lesson we have learned from the book of Jonah?" A little boy raised his hand and said, "I know what I have learned from the book of Jonah: backsliders make whales sick!" Jimmy Chapman in sermon central accessed 9/2/09
“Was the fact that the "storm/fish-method" (of deliverance) involved no human assistance an important factor in God's thinking? I think this is God's point. God gave Jonah unmistakable evidence that He is behind both the problem and the rescue. Jonah cannot credit any of this to simple chance or human effort. What are the odds of this just happening? God's name is written all over this big adventure.” Cameron Law on Go Bible.com accessed 10/15/09). This is a key concept.
This wonderful psalm of praise uttered by the fleeing prophet is encouraging but it does create a conundrum as well.
Have you noticed how self centered it is? Look at all the “I” or “my” statements in v 2,3,4,6,7,9.
Does Jonah’s almost arrogant comparison of himself to the sailors bother you?
And also, we know the end of the story; in chapter 4, Jonah’s conduct is not exactly stellar as he angrily confronts God.
What are we to make of this? Here are some take-away thoughts:
No God follower is perfect.
God uses imperfect people to accomplish his work - even to produce spiritual life.
We must never rest on our laurels; we can mess up at any time.
We are capable of the most the most grievous and ungrateful conduct.
It is possible to be grateful and defiant simultaneously.
At times, our life in the world does not resemble our religious life.
God can and does make monuments out of our messes.
God’s mercy trumps everything.
Remember, the focus is not on Jonah!
© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2016. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.
Posted on Sun, December 11, 2016
by Joe Flatt filed under