Jesus referred to the prophet Jonah in response to demands by the Pharisees for miraculous signs. Although he wouldn’t perform for them, he did, nevertheless predict his own death and resurrection on the third day by comparing himself with Jonah – “For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” (Matthew 12:40 NLT) The prayer of Jonah, from inside the fish, is something we can all relate to, whether we acknowledge our faith or not. Jonah had tried, and failed, to run from The Lord. So, when he has realised that he must surrender to the will of God, he trusts God even to the very point of death itself. He begs the sailors, whose lives he has endangered, to throw him over board to certain death, which they do. But The Lord rescues him with a big fish. At this point Jonah is in no doubt that God is in control and is all powerful. He had disobeyed God and expected death. Instead, The Lord saved him, accepted Jonah’s humble prayers. Then he delivered him to Nineveh so he could still obey God’s original command, and warn the people of that city to repent.
Jonah 2:1-10 NLT
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. He said, “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and Lord, you heard me! You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves. Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence. Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’ “I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me. Seaweed wrapped itself around my head. I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever. But you, O Lord my God, snatched me from the jaws of death! As my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple. Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies. But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfil all my vows. For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.” Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.
I often talk about how my life before I turned wholeheartedly back to Jesus. The imagery of drowning beneath the waves and being imprisoned in the earth, in today’s passage, are very much the kind of thing I might have said about my own life to a counsellor only a few years ago. I can’t help thinking that the goal, after reading this passage, has to be to re-evaluate what it is The Lord is asking me to do with my life and stop running from it. We know, if we read the rest of the story of Jonah, that he did go and warn the people of Nineveh and that they really did listen to him. They repented and God spared them. I hope that since God took the time to save me from certain death, perhaps if I can humbly complete the task he has set me, it might lead to whole city of people being saved too.
Jonah 1:1-4:11, Revelation 5:1-14, Psalm 133: 1-3, Proverbs 29:26-27