Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17)
Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, just like our Lord Jesus Christ spent three days and three nights in the grave before his resurrection. While the sailors were praying on the ship to be saved, Jonah refused, and was sleeping. But in the belly of the whale, Jonah had no more excuse but to pray. Sometimes we also run away from prayer until we find ourself with no other solution but prayer. Here, Jonah turned back to faithful prayer, and reclaimed his position as a man of God.
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly. And he said:
“I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, And He answered me. “Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice.“
Jonah prays with hope. When we pray we have to make sure that God is listening, and because our God is very kind and merciful, he will not only listen, but he will hear and respond to our prayers. When Jonah cried and said “you heard my voice,” nothing had happened yet, but he still believed with strong faith that God would help him.
“For You cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the floods surrounded me; All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.”
Jonah says “YOU cast me into the deep,” because he knows and believes that it is God that does all things for our salvation. He could see the hands of God pushing everything for the sake of repentance and forgiveness.
“Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.“
Even though Jonah feels like he has been “cast out” from God’s sight in the belly of the whale, he knows he will see God’s intervention again and asks God to forgive him and restore him.
“The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head. I went down to the moorings of the mountains; The earth with its bars closed behind me forever“
Jonah continues to express the overwhelming anxiety he is feeling in the belly of the whale as the waters are bound to swallow him. He feels as if he is in the lowest pits of the earth. Sometimes we might feel the same way in our life when many troubles surround us and seem to suffocate us like ferocious waves of the sea.
“Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord, my God. When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple.“
Jonah needs God’s power to help him and to bring him up out of the situation he is in. His prayers are at times close to despair, yet always end with remembering that the Lord will not forsake him. When we feel that our “soul is failing,” when we feel hopeless, overwhelmed or useless, we need to remember the Lord. We need not focus on our weakness, on our sins, on our problems, but simply remember the Almighty Lord and all his goodness.
“Those who regard worthless idols, Forsake their own Mercy.“
Jonah realizes that those who follow vanity and lies forsake God’s mercy. He was a man of God, but chose to forsake God and attempt to run away from him. He rejected the voice of God and refused God’s love for others, thereby forsaking God’s mercy on himself. It is a clear message for us not to follow lies, and to constantly remember the word of God in all our doings.
“But I will sacrifice to You, With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.”
Jonah is now sure that he will be saved. His heart was full of the spirit of hope. He was ready to fulfill the calling of God. He was confident that he would regain his mission and he would stand in front of the Lord again and offer thanksgiving. He says “salvation is of the Lord,” because he is now waiting to be delivered, waiting to be saved by God, miraculously.
“So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.“
When in tribulation, humble prayer is what will save us. Accepting the darkness of trials and realizing that we are nothing without God, we should pray like Jonah, crying out from all our hearts to be saved by our Lord’s mercy. When we pray, miracles will happen.
- From Jonah 2:1-10 and Summary of a Sermon by Father Daoud Lamei
Image from Moody Publishers / FreeBibleimages.org
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