Jonah 2

Title: Jonah 2

Text: Jonah 1:17, 2:1-10

Time:  June 19th, 2011

 

Last week I started talking about Jonah and the whale, an account that almost every Sunday School child knows, only we looked at the story a little closer than kids learn in their class, because we tried to understand the dynamics of what was happening, not just that a man was swallowed by a big fish. You see in the Bible there is usually what the passage says and then what the passage means. As Christians we need to learn to dig deeper and go further than just what the Bible says – we need to go further than just reading the Bible – we need to try to really understand what it means. The Book of Jonah is a perfect example of this. We can look at the story superficially and be entertained by it, but if we really want to hear what God’s Word is saying and what it means to our lives today we need to dig deeper than just reading the story as children would in Sunday School. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for reading the Bible, but I’m advocating that we go further and actually study it as well. Last week we looked at how God revealed his will to Jonah and told him to go preach to the evil city of Nineveh. We saw how Jonah had a mind of his own and decided to disobey God and run away from God’s will for his life by fleeing in a ship away. Then we observed how God sent a storm at sea in order to stop Jonah in his rebellion. I didn’t talk very much about how Jonah’s sin of rebellion not only caused trouble for himself but also brought problems upon the others on board the ship, but it’s true. When we sin and rebel against the Lord in life we not only bring problems upon ourselves but we also cause trouble for other people as well. That’s the way it usually happens. You may think that sin is just an issue between you and God – and you are right that sin is a serious issue between you and God – but it isn’t just a personal problem for yourself when things start going wrong as a result of sin, because your sin will also start causing trouble for people around you. This is especially true in respect to marriages and families. You may think that you can sin against God and keep things together so that it doesn’t affect your marriage, family, career and other areas of life, but you are wrong. Like the Bible says elsewhere, “Beware, your sin will find you out,” Numbers 32:23. Look at the Representative from New York who thought he could get away with flirting with women on the Internet. In his heart he knew as a married man, as a family man, that he shouldn’t be doing such things, but he gave into temptation and did. Now the whole thing has blown up in his face and he was forced to resign from political office. His whole career in public service might be over, all because of some stupid, foolish sin. And it will affect not only him but his wife, family, relatives, friends, co-workers, and on and on. I could go on further, but today I’d like to move on to Jonah’s dealing with the troubles he brought upon himself and examine how he came to repent of his sins and get back on the right path again. Jonah 1:17, 2:1-10 (read).

 

First, God brought Jonah to his lowest point in life. Jonah 1:17, “But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.” If Jonah ever wrote a biography of his life – and maybe he did because after all how do we know what happened to Jonah in the belly of a whale unless Jonah told his story to someone or wrote it down in a book – but if he did write his life story, being inside the belly of the fish must have been his lowest point. What’s your lowest point in life? When I lived in Colorado Springs I drove by an apartment complex where all this furniture and clothes and household and personal items were piled up on the front lawn of the apartment property – and sitting in the middle of it all was a woman. I drove past but then did a u-turn and went back and asked here if she need some help in moving things somewhere. She said, “No,” but thanked me for offering to help. She had been evicted and the apartment manager had cleaned out her apartment and put all her belongings out on the front law. It was pretty bad. I though to myself, “That’s got to be about the lowest thing that I’ve seen in a while. If that woman ever writes her life history, getting evicted might be near the low point of the list, with the humiliation and embarrassment of it all.” I’m sure she lived through it, but it had to be a low point of her life. Jonah was swallowed by a whale because of his rebellion against God’s will for his life. It must have been the low point of Jonah’s life, and the worse thing about it is that Jonah brought it on himself. Now sometimes we suffer problems and troubles in life that are not our own fault. Sometimes we suffer because of the sins of others, and still other times bad things just happen as a result of living in an imperfect and fallen world – we happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But in Jonah’s case, and often in our own lives, bad things have happened to us because we weren’t living and doing what we should have been doing. I think of teenage rebellion and how often young people get themselves into trouble because they are doing things they shouldn’t be doing and bad things happen to them. But it’s not just teenagers; it’s people of all ages. It’s a popular reaction today in our modern, secular society to claim victim status in all circumstances. We tend to react like Curley of the old Three Stooges comedy team, “I’m a victim of circumstances!” But if we trace back our troubles, many times we’ll find we are to blame either fully or partly for the problems we face. But what Jonah had to learn and what we have to learn also is that often times God uses our troubles or problems to teach us things and get us back on the right track. For Jonah, the big fish was actually a good thing, a kind of Noah’s Ark to save him from drowning entirely. If you look back in your life, you might see how God used problems that came into your life to get you pointed in a different direction. God loves us so much that he stays with us even when we are rebelling against him and going through the consequences of our sins. Don’t give up on God; he doesn’t give up on you.

 

Second, Jonah prayed to God in the midst of his lowest point in life. Jonah 2:1-6, “From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: ‘In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight: yet I will look again toward your holy temple. The engulfing waters threatened me; the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.’” You really get the picture of what Jonah was going through by his description. He’s tossed into the sea and it’s churning and moving violently in the storm. He sinks down into the depths where there is the vegetation and seaweeds tangling him up. But then a great sea creature of some kind – and we really still don’t know exactly what kind of creature swallowed him up. Was it a whale? They are certainly big enough to swallow a man. Or was it some prehistoric creature left over from the times of the dinosaurs? Was it like a version of the Lock Ness Monster? Or was it a totally unique and one-of-a-kind creature made to order by God to house Jonah temporarily? We just don’t know. All we know is Jonah must have thought he was a goner in any case. He probably though he’d drown in the water, and then when the creature grabbed him he probably thought he was going to be eaten alive. In other words, he despaired for his life. But then he realized that he wasn’t dead after all but in the terribly uncomfortable position of being inside of the creature. What is it like to be swallowed alive by a sea creature? Honestly, I don’t know, and I don’t think there is anyone else who knows because usually you die if you are eaten by a whale, or shark, or whatever it was. Yes, people get swallowed by sea creatures but they don’t live to tell about it. Jonah was an exception. He lived through it. But what do you do when you are in you lowest point in life? How do you react? Jonah reacted with prayer. Now that was the smartest thing he ever did up to this point. He started praying. Is that how you process problems and troubles in life? I remember watching a silly and stupid movie in the 90s about some young people looking for a witch out in the woods. They camped out in the forest in order to encounter this witch and they did but it didn’t end well because what they encountered wasn’t friendly. But throughout their whole ordeal I kept thinking, “Why doesn’t anybody pray?” I see movies all the time where the characters are in trouble, but nobody prays! It really gets me frustrated because I know that when I find myself in trouble I pray, without a second thought. I remember about five years ago my car started sliding on the expressway going 65 mph sideways and I heard myself praying out loud, “Help me Jesus, help me Jesus.” I ended up on the side of the road, but safe. Praise God! Jonah teaches us how to “pray without ceasing” as the New Testament also teaches in Thessalonians 5:17. Do you pray without ceasing? Do you pray through problems and troubles in life? God’s Word teaches us to do so.

 

Third, God brought Jonah out of his low point and back on the right path. Jonah 2:7-10, “’But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was ebbing away, I remember you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.’ And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” At the lowest point in Jonah’s life he prayed to God and God delivered him and brought him through and out of the trouble. Now if God will do that for someone like Jonah who brought the problems upon himself through sin and rebellion, God will also deliver those who find themselves in trouble not of their own making too. God loves us and wants the best for us. God is for us, not against us. But sometimes we have to go through hard times for a reason, God only knows sometimes. Now the question I ask myself when looking at Jonah is, “Did Jonah really live in the fish or did he die and God raised him back to life?” The reason I ask is because if you notice back in verse 17 it says, “And Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.” Does that ring a bell for anyone? Can you think of anyone else who was inside something for three days and three nights? Of course, Jesus. And he makes reference to the account of Jonah, saying, “Just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days, so shall the Son of Man be in the belly of the earth for three days,” Matthew 12:40. So maybe Jonah actually died and he body was preserved in the fish, but then God raised him back to life and brought him back out of his watery grave, back to the land of the living. But the point here is that no matter how hard a time you are going through, no matter how bad it gets or how low you get, you can always pray to the Lord, you can always turn to God for help. Now when we turn to God in prayer we cry out to him to save us, but we leave the saving to God, to do it in his way in his time. When we pray for physical healing we pray to God for health, but we must always let God work in his way in his time. He knows best. When we pray for God to help us in any way we must always let God operate by bringing about circumstances or doing a miracle in his own way in his own time. We must trust that God knows best how to handle situations. Some people get themselves all worried because God isn’t doing things the way they think things should be done. When you pray to God, can you trust God can bring about the best way to answer the prayer? Let go and let God.

 

I’m sure Jonah didn’t want to go through all the experiences he went through at sea, but it was necessary to break him of his own self-will and rebellion against God. He must have been a pretty strong-willed person for God to have to put him through all that to get him to change his heart. But God will work with us if we invite him to, and sometimes even if we don’t invite him, he’ll work with us. Would you dare pray to God, “Lord, change me to conform to your will by any means?” Can you say to God that you would be willing to go through any changes necessary to be in God’s will? I don’t know exactly what Jonah was thinking other than what is written here in the passage, but he was made willing to do God’s will through the circumstances and experiences he went through. Are you willing to go through whatever circumstances are necessary to arrive at God’s will for your life? Now there’s a much better way – and that’s to simply submit to God at first and don’t rebel and resist against his will. Then, things go so much better. But we all aren’t there yet in that place of surrender to God. Are you there yet? Can you honestly say that you are willing to do God’s will whatever it is? Are you willing to obey whatever the Bible teaches is God’s will? If you resist and rebel against God’s Word the Bible in your life, then you definitely are inviting God to put you through the ringer to get you to the right place in life. Are you sure you want to go through what Jonah went through? I think I’ll pass on that adventure. Reading Jonah’s life story makes me want to be in God’s will at every instant of my life. I don’t want to have to learn life’s lessons the hard way. Now some of you have had to learn God’s will by going through hard times. And some of you have had a tough time in life because you haven’t submitted to God’s perfect will as expressed in God’s Word. You’ve rebelled against God and his Word in big and small ways. But don’t think that just because you rebel and sin in small ways that it’s ok and you can get by without trouble. No. There are big sins and there are small sins. But if you add up a lot of little sins you get the equivalent of a big sin, it adds up. So what you think is a small sin, multiplied many times, actually equals a big sin. You may be inviting God’s discipline in your life. You may be tempting God to cause trouble for you like he did for Jonah. Why not avoid all that and do God’s will from the get go? Sure, God can teach you life lessons by taking you on an adventure like Jonah, but if you can avoid that wouldn’t you want to? Of course. Have you surrendered your life to God through Jesus Christ by faith? That’s where it starts. You admit you are a sinner. You confess your sins and repent or turn away from them. Then you dedicate your life to Jesus, to follow him. When you are tempted to sin, turn to Jesus for help in prayer. If you’ve sinned, quickly confess it and repent of it and turn back to God immediately. Stay on God’s path and avoid the trouble and pain that sin brings. Amen.

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One Response to “Jonah 2”

  1. Resources for Jonah 1:17 - 2:1 Says:

    […] Fish but Missing the Point | Christians Deceived1Kingdom First » Weekly Wrap-Up 10.23.111Jonah 2 « Jeff Short's Weblog […]

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