July 8

JULY 8
by Pastor Jim
 
Jonah devotional, 2 of 4
We continue following Jonah in his attempt to flee from the LORD after being told to go and preach to Nineveh, to the east of Israel.  His attempt to flee west by sea has come to naught, and we left him yesterday in the belly of a great fish.

Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.
Jonah 2:1-2

So Jonah finally prays “to the LORD his God.”  Note that this is the first time the LORD is described as “his God” … so perhaps there is hope.  Up to this point, it has only been the Gentile mariners who have “cried to the LORD” (Jonah, you will remember, had gone below decks during the storm so that, in 1:6, the captain had come and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call upon your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we do not perish.”)
 
For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood was round about me; all your waves and your billows passed over me.  Then I said, “I am cast out from your presence; how shall I again look upon your holy temple?”  The waters closed in over me, the deep was round about me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me for ever.
Jonah 2:3-6a
 
Yesterday, we saw how Jonah, in trying to flee from God, went down … down to Joppa and down again into the lower deck of the ship.  Here, in his prayer, he acknowledges that he had “gone down for the third time” (verse 6a).  In the belly of the fish, at the bottom of the sea, Jonah is now as low as he can get.
 
However, in spite of his trying to flee from the presence of the LORD, he, fortunately, has failed to do so.
 
 
“My prayer came to you, into your holy temple.”  Even from the belly of a fish at the bottom of the sea.  I think again of my favorite psalm, Psalm 139:
 
 
Jonah concludes his prayer with a promise:
 
Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their true loyalty.  But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the LORD!
Jonah 2:8-9
 
So apparently, Jonah “got religion” down there in the entrails of the great fish and he made a vow to the LORD.  We aren’t told what that vow was — but we know what it should have been and might have been.  Whatever the case, the LORD then speaks not directly to Jonah but to the fish which unceremoniously returns Jonah to shore:
 
And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
Jonah 2:10
 
Apparently even the great fish had had a stomach full of Jonah.
 
Takeaway
  • Clearly, one can’t really “flee from the presence of the LORD.”  And thanks be to God that this is the case!  Thanks be to God for his patient prodding and nudging, his giving us time to come out of our deep funks and come to our senses.  God’s grace is sometimes defined as “his great love that never gives up on us.”
  • Jonah has “gotten religion” and apparently made a vow to the LORD.  Foxhole Judaism?  Will it stick?  Have you ever, in a tight or stressful situation, made a promise to God if only he gets you out of the mess?  Did you follow through?  In 2 Tim 2:13, we read, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.”
So what will Jonah now do … now that he has been returned to dry land … now that he is being given a second chance.  And what will the people of Nineveh do that will cause God to repent?
 
To be continued tomorrow.

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