Jonah 2

Salvation is of the Lord

He was a rebel on the run from the “God of Heaven, who made the sea and the dry land (1:9)”. Jonah’s plight to flee God’s call led him on a literal, downward spiral. In his efforts to flee the presence of God, Jonah headed in the opposite direction of Ninevah. Jonah went “down” to Joppa and found a ship headed to Tarshish (1:3). He went “down” into the ship (1:3). Not only did Jonah go into the ship, he went “down” into the lowest part of the ship and laid “down” as God sent a severe storm to awaken the prophet. We know what happens next…To “quiet the sea down” (1:11), Jonah is willingly thrown overboard by the sailors aboard the ship. He is now drowning in the sea, as far down as one can physically go!

It’s no coincidence that the word “down” is used significantly in Jonah 1. God is not only physically taking Jonah “down”, but he is taking him down spiritually, as well. God is teaching Jonah a serious lesson in humility and His sovereignty! But despite the position that he finds himself in, as he is drowning in deep sea, Jonah cannot flee from the presence of the Sovereign Lord. David clearly states, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence”? (Psalm 139:7). In his rebellion and efforts to run as far as possible from God, it is God who saves Jonah from death and delivers him from his rebellion, what a beautiful picture of God’s grace and mercy!

How can Jonah teach the pagan Ninevites about God’s grace if he hadn’t experienced it? But he did! He got a serious lesson on grace and salvation in the form of a fish! Imagine the smell and nauseation that Jonah must have endured for three days inside a fish in the Mediterranean Sea. We aren’t given much information about what happened while Jonah was inside the fish. Probably, because the focus of this book isn’t about the fish or Jonah…the focus is on God! However, we do know something Jonah did inside the dark belly of the fish…He spoke to his God!

The content of Jonah’s prayer is summarized below:

The helplessness of Jonah
In Jonah’s darkest moments, in the belly of a great fish, Jonah prays. Interestingly, Jonah’s prayer is past tense, showing us that Jonah cried out to God while drowning, after being tossed into the sea. He recalls his inability to do anything to save himself and he also recalls his near death experience as he was felt in the “belly of Sheol”. It’s important to note that Sheol is a Hebrew noun that has several different meanings including hell or the place of the dead. It’s clear that Jonah saw his downward spiral and that his disobedience had placed him as far away from God as one can possibly be. But God demonstrated his grace to Jonah in the form of a fish! Jonah knew he couldn’t save himself. He saw God’s merciful hand reach out and rescue him although he certainly didn’t deserve it.

It is also important to note that Jonah saw the sovereignty of God upon his entire situation. Note in Chapter 1 how the sailors picked Jonah up and tossed him into the sea. However, Jonah’s tune had changed as he saw God’s hand involved. In Jonah 2:3, Jonah now sees that God’s hand “cast [him] into the deep”. There are areas in our life in which we feel helpless and without hope, its important to understand that God is at work. It may not be a fun work for us, but his goal is to refine us and sanctify us. Often times we are put in a helpless situation so that we can stop relying upon our self, we can be humbled, and be stripped of any other hope other than our faith in who God is and what he has done for us.

As you can read from Jonah 2, Jonah’s prayer seems quite like many of the Psalms found in the Old Testament. That is because they are bits and pieces of several Psalms (Ps. 3, 18, 42, 119, etc). In his darkest moments, the word of God poured out from him. Jonah didn’t quote his favorite movie line or the seven steps from a self help book! He cried out God’s word and promises. How engraved is God’s word in you? What about your children? When tough times hit and we find ourselves in valleys that we may or may not feel responsible for, where do we find ourselves turning? Life and truth are found in God’s word, and we know that it is in those Words that lives are transformed and hearts are changed, as we clearly see a change of heart inside Jonah.

The Faith of Jonah
In Jonah’s prayer, we also see his faith despite his helpless situation. He was drowning at the bottom of the ocean, now in the dark caverns of a fish. Despite his situation, he saw the fish as his rescuer and looked forward to when he will “look again upon [God’s] holy temple”. Jonah clearly resolved in his heart he would walk (or be spit!) out of the fish alive! He looked to the day when he could return to temple of God, where he and his people spent hours and days, taught the law, offered prayers, and sacrificed. He understood the rebellion he underwent and the significance of what was done in the temple. He knew that sin required blood to be shed and he the substitute of a bull, goat, or lamb represented his sin. I’m sure Jonah understood, however, that the blood of bulls and goats can’t forgive sins (Heb. 10:4). Only the blood of a man, a sinless man, could do that. Jonah’s faith pointed him forward to our Great High Priest, Jesus, the God Man. He would be his spotless Substitute and die for his sin, and He is the fulfillment of the Temple and all it represents!

Jonah’s declaration and the Gospel
Jonah makes a few declarations that we should take note of at the end of his prayer. The first is the idolatry that he has become well aware of among those he has encountered. Jonah was very familiar with the constant plague of idolatry and his home nation, Israel. Surely he witnessed the vanity of idolatry amongst the pagan sailors on the ship in Chapter 1. Jonah was aware of the idolatry of the Ninevites, as well. Yet amidst the idolatry, in the depths of the seas, he makes a truth declaration, that idols can never save you! The wood carvings and graven images are of no use when your life is on the line! It is clear that Jonah sees the emptiness of idolatry and the impact it has upon God’s grace. Jonah cries out, “if you are counting on idols to save you, you are willingly giving up on God’s mercy (hesed in hebrew)…idols can’t save!”.

Following Jonah’s declaration he makes another declaration, which is linked to the previous. Jonah now rightfully understands that “Salvation belongs to the Lord”! Questions about whether or not Jonah was dead in the fish will always be made. It seems obvious that Jonah was near death. Certainly he was in a situation that felt like death, but he wasn’t physically dead (Jonah summarizes his experience in verse 7). Jonah was on the brink of physical death, however, his spirit was definitely dead. Jonah rightfully understood the wickedness of his heart and his depravity. He understood that he was “dead in his trespasses and sin” as Ephesians 2 states. He knew that his will was enslaved (John 8:34) and hostile towards God. His outright rebellion in Chapter 1 paints the picture of all of us before we come to Christ. WE were all rebels with a heart bent for our own desires and sin. We were on the run from God and numb to his voice. Our destination was hell, which was rightfully deserved by us (and Jonah!). But God is sovereign and merciful. His hand reaches down to rescue us from the pit. He gives us a new heart and makes us a new creation in Christ. Just as Jonah was vomited out of the fish and changed (as we will see in Chapter 3), so we were buried with Christ and made new through his death and resurrection (Colossians 2:11-14). Jonah paints a beautiful picture of the Gospel! Salvation is 100% of the Lord. From the plan of salvation before the foundations of the world, to the executing of the plan through Christ, to the application of the plan to us through faith, to the sustaining of the plan in us through the Holy Spirit…we are saved by Grace Alone! (Ephesians 2:8-9). That is good news, because if salvation were up to us, we’d still be dead in our sin and without hope, because we don’t even seek for God (Romans 3:11). Thank God, that he reached down to the grave and raised us to life!

Jesus in Jonah 2
As Jesus taught the Pharisees and his disciples, scripture is ALL ABOUT HIM! Jonah was in the depths of the deep and on the brink of death. Jonah was hopeless and felt despair in the realm of the dead and driven away from God, yet he escaped death. Someone would come hundreds of years later and feel the despair and separation Jonah felt. He would endure it on a much higher level. Jesus would come and endure the cross! Jonah deserved the trouble and anguish he felt, yet Christ never sinned and accepted the payment for the sins of rebels like Jonah. In Jonah 2:4, Jonah states he was driven from the sight of God. A similar cry was made by Christ on the cross, “My God, My God, Why have you Forsaken Me?”(Mark 15:33-34). Jesus experienced hell, the full wrath of God poured out upon him. Jesus felt the father turn his face as He couldn’t bear to see the full weight of sin laid upon his innocent, only Son. But through that, God’s just anger towards sin has been propitiated by Christ. He bore the sins of his people and defeated sin, death, hell, and the grave so we could be forgiven, made new, and reconciled to God. It is only through faith in Christ and his perfect work for us that we are saved from the grave!

Questions for Thought

  • How did Jonah’s rebellion in Chapter 1, continue in Chapter 2? What does that tell us about our own selves?
  • Have you ever found yourself in a situation in which you felt hopeless? Where did you look to for your salvation in those times? Can you see God’s grace in those moments?
  • Jonah paints the picture of a man dead in his sins. How does he show us that sin leads to death? How does he show us our own depravity before Christ?
  • Many arguments have been made to attempt to validate the will of man, but the Word of God is clear, Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is all of God and none of us (Grace Alone). Why is this important for us? How does this encourage you in God’s grace?
  • Can you clearly see Jesus in Jonah 2? How?