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Jonah Prays (Part 3 of 3)

Jonah Prays
Part 3 of 3


And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (Jon 2:10).

This may seem like a simple statement but it points us to a number of important truths and implications. Let me highlight a few of them for us.

First, it reminds us that disobedience to God’s will is foolish and futile. If you like, it gets us nowhere. Jonah fled from the presence of the LORD in disobedience, and he did that by leaving dry land on a boat and fleeing by way of the sea. But now, after several dramatic and extraordinary days, Jonah found himself back on dry land once again. The God of the dry land is also the God of the sea, and He did not let Jonah get away. Jonah was sovereignly brought back to dry land by the fish. It was back to square one for him. Most probably, the fish vomited Jonah out at Joppa – the very place where he had gone to catch the ship going to Tarshish.

Disobedience to God never gets us anywhere. We cannot make progress in our Christian lives if we do not walk in God’s way. At best, we return to the point where we first started out in disobedience, which is futile and frustrating. At worst, we never return and perish in the sea. So the first important point of this verse is to remind us of the foolishness and futility of fleeing from God’s presence by disobeying His revealed will. 

But second, this verse points us to the fact that the LORD’s word is powerful. In the beginning, God spoke and all things came into existence. The word of the LORD is powerful indeed and it accomplishes everything that God has ordained.

In Luke 1:37, the angel Gabriel told Mary, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Actually, a better way to translate that verse is, “For no word of God shall be without power” or “Every word of God shall not be powerless.”    

In other words, the angel is not simply saying that nothing is impossible with God, which is certainly true. But he is being more specific there. He is saying that no word or saying or utterance of God or no word that proceeds from the mouth of God shall be without power.

God’s word is very powerful indeed. And here in Jonah 2:10, we see another instance of it. The LORD speaks to the fish and the fish returns Jonah to dry land. The fish obeys the voice of its Creator. It has no power whatsoever to resist His command. It could not hold Jonah for one moment longer than necessary. So the second thing that this verse reminds us of is the great power and efficacy of the word of the LORD. 

The third thing it reminds us of is that the word of the LORD brings deliverance. Not only is it powerful but it brings deliverance. Jonah’s deliverance from the sea was accomplished in two steps. The first step was when he was swallowed by the fish. The second step was when he was vomited out by the fish onto dry land.

It would have done Jonah no good if the fish decided to expel him while it was still a long way from shore. Jonah would still have drowned. Likewise, it would have done Jonah no good if the fish decided to keep him in its belly for good. The fish’s belly was only a temporary holding place. Jonah belonged to the land and that was where he had to be returned. And so the Lord spoke to the fish and instructed it to deposit Jonah at the right time and right place.  

It is wonderful, isn’t it, when the LORD speaks for us? And O how we need Him to do so! Whatever situation we are in, whatever need we have, whatever our dilemma we are faced with, whatever temptation or sin we are struggling with – God must speak for us.

And when He does, then everything will turn for our good. When the LORD spoke to the fish, Jonah was instantly transported to dry land. One moment, he was sitting in the dark and uncomfortable belly of the fish, and the next, he was basking on the pleasant beaches of the Mediterranean. The word of the LORD brings marvellous deliverance and redemption to His people.

 And so Jonah was delivered from the sea by the fish, and then he was delivered by the fish onto dry land, where he belonged. The prophet of the LORD had returned. He had experienced a great deal in those few days. He was a changed man. Not fully sanctified but certainly more sanctified than when he first tried to run away. Chastisement has a sanctifying effect on God’s people. Jonah had returned. He was ready to do the will of the LORD. In the next chapter, we will see the LORD renewing His call and commission to Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach the gospel there, and Jonah responding in obedience.

Conclusion

As we draw our study of Jonah chapter 2 to a close, I’ll like to focus our attention once again on the One who is greater than Jonah.

In Matthew 12:40-41, we read, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.”

We have seen Christ in a number of different ways in this passage. Let me just briefly go over them again.

First we see Him as the true temple – the one whom we are to look to especially in our moments of distress. Jonah looked toward the holy temple even as he was sinking into the depths of the sea. His only hope for help and mercy was found in the temple, the place where God and man are reconciled on the basis of the sacrifices that are offered there, and where our prayers can reach to God.

The temple represents the dwelling of God with man. Without it, there can be no meeting point between the Holy God and unholy sinners like Jonah and the rest of us. But thank God for the temple. Thank God for Jesus Christ, our true tabernacle. As long as we keep our eyes on Him, we will have the assurance that we are safe and that all will be well, even if we are at the bottom of the ocean. So Christ is seen first in the holy temple which Jonah looked towards in his prayer.

But second, we see Christ in the words of Jonah at the end of his prayer – salvation is of the Lord. He whose very name means Jehovah saves, is the only Saviour of mankind. Acts 4:12, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

He is salvation both for the Jews, like Jonah, and for the Gentiles, like the pagan sailors and the people of Nineveh. There is no racial or national or social distinction when it comes to salvation in Christ. He is the saviour of all races and classes of people. 

And His salvation is so complete and so perfect that nothing needs to be added to it by way of our own works or merits. Sinners do not bring anything to Christ for salvation except their sins. And what Christ does is to take their sins, which they bring to Him (every one of them), and wash them away in His precious blood. And then He takes His righteousness and lays it upon them. Yes, salvation is of the LORD. Salvation is found in the blessed person and work of Jesus Christ.

But finally, we see Christ in Jonah’s three days and three nights in the belly of the fish. Just as Jonah was in the fish for that duration of time, so too was our Lord buried in the earth for three days and three nights. But even more than just that period of time in the fish’s belly, Jonah’s emergence from the fish and his return to dry land is truly a marvellous type of our Lord’s own resurrection from the dead.

Just as the Lord spoke to the fish and caused it to surface and return Jonah to land, so too Almighty God raised up the Lord Jesus from the grave and brought Him back to life. The fish could not hold Jonah for even a second more than was necessary. It had to expel Jonah from its belly. Likewise, the Lord Jesus rose from the grave at the appointed time. The grave could not retain Him for even one moment beyond that time. Satan did all he could to retain our Lord in the tomb but to no avail. The Lord emerged victorious over all His enemies, including death itself; and He returned to His disciples to instruct and comfort them. And because our Lord has risen from the dead, all of us who are His have the blessed hope that someday, we too would be raised from the dead unto an eternity of perfect joy and bliss.

May we be encouraged to praise and thank God from the depths of our hearts for His wonderful salvation in Jesus Christ. May we look to Him in prayer in our moments of backsliding or distress and may we find great comfort in how our merciful God dealt with His prodigal prophet. And finally, may our hope in the Lord be further strengthened as we consider how He is using His same resurrection power right now on our behalf and for our everlasting good.

—Linus Chua


 

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