Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, saying,
“I called out to the LORD, out of my distress,
and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
and you heard my voice.
For you cast me into the deep,
into the heart of the seas,
and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
passed over me.
Then I said, ‘I am driven away
from your sight;
yet I shall again look
upon your holy temple.’
The waters closed in over me to take my life;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head
at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O LORD my God.
When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the LORD,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
Those who pay regard to vain idols
forsake their hope of steadfast love.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the LORD!” – Jonah 2:1-9 (ESV)
While Jonah went to Nineveh, the book of Jonah went to Israel. In light of that fact, there are four key things to observe in this passage. (1) First, this is a prayer of thanksgiving offered after God had delivered Jonah from death in the sea. Because few of us fancy the prospect of spending three days in the belly of a fish, we tend to think of that as punishment. Actually, the fish was God’s gracious way of delivering Jonah from death and transporting Him to the place where He could return to fruitful service to the LORD. (2) Second, we need to realize that Israel was in a state of hard-hearted rebellion against God when Jonah was sent to Ninevah. (3) Jonah is a representative of Israel. His outrageous rebellion in chapter 1 naturally leads the reader to ask “How could he?” But Jonah 1 is given to lead Israel (and us) to ask “How could we?” (4) Fourth, when even God’s appointed prophet rebels against God’s clear commands we might have expected God to simply destroy Him. But God reveals His gracious character by literally and miraculously rescuing Jonah at the last moment – right when “the gates of hell” were about to close around him. The message to rebellious Israel was this: “It’s not too late. If you repent like Jonah, I will not only forgive you – I will restore you to your mission as the light to the nations.” But Israel remained hard hearted and was ultimately judged by being sent into the Babylonian exile. What about you? Many people, even true Christians, have difficulty fully repenting because they don’t believe that God will fully forgive someone who has sinned like they have. But God is like the Father who forgave the prodigal son. God is the gracious LORD who forgave and delivered the crassly rebellious Jonah simply because He cried out to Him for deliverance. Confess your sins to the LORD and He will wash them away and make you whiter than snow.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 78
Q. 78. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbor’s good name.