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Jonah Chapter Two
Commentary by Ron Beckham

 Audio Bible Study - Jonah 2:1-5

Verse 1. "Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish,"

We are not so different from Jonah.  Sometimes we have to be "swallowed" by the circumstances of this life before we will turn to the Lord.  And that's not just true about the "lost" of this world.  It's true of God's people as well.  When Jonah ran away from God, he had no intention of discussing his decision with the Lord.  And when the "lot" fell on him (1:7) and he told the ship's crew, "throw me into the sea" (1:12), he didn't pray about that decision, either.

For those who have difficulty praying, it's important to consider the possibility that you don't WANT to pray, which might be all the time or in certain instances.  If days go by and you do not pray, here's a prayer for you: Ask Him WHY you don't pray!  And then ask Him for His help.  There is a plan, a "call" of God for each one, and it may be that you are afraid He will send you someplace or prompt you to live life differently than you do now.  More than ever, it's time to pray.

Verse 2. "and he said, 'I called out of my distress to the Lord, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice. "

"Why doesn't the Lord answer me?" is the question of many.  Actually, "the word of the Lord" DID discernibly come to Jonah (1:1) and the man did not like what he heard.  His response was to "flee... from the presence of the Lord" (1:3).  At the point of this verse, Jonah was at or near death and in the extreme "distress" of the moment, when he felt like he was in hell ("Sheol"), he FINALLY "called out... to the Lord."

Think back on your life.  Was there a point where you felt drawn to commit your life utterly to the Lord?  Did you do it?  That moment was a great turning point for you, and here's a suggestion: Prayerfully go back to that time and become willing to listen to Him right now.  God has a plan.  Don't wait until you feel like you are in "Sheol" before you listen.  His preference is that you will respond to His call.  He has a good purpose - for you.

Verse 3. "For You had cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me."

Jonah, in this verse and its context, is recalling the time when he finally called out to the Lord in prayer.  He was almost dead at the moment.  Yes, he was literally deep under the Mediterranean Sea and yes, he had been swallowed by a "great fish" (1:17), but the imagery of this verse is not merely about his physical situation, bad though it was.

Here the phrases "You (God) had cast me into the deep," along with "the current engulfed me" and "Your breakers and billows passed over me," refer more to his emotional state than his outward situation.  He was depressed.  Have you felt like that? There was a poem many years ago, called the "Hound of Heaven," in which God was portrayed as a relentless animal who will pursue us until we are finally caught.  That's how Jonah felt at that moment.

Verse 4. "So I said, 'I have been expelled from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.'"

Like so many, Jonah felt that since he had so greatly sinned by running away from God, that God could no longer see his need or answer his prayer.  And there are Scriptures that seem to support such a position.  For instance, Micah the prophet said of a sinful people, "they will cry to the Lord, but He will not hear them..." (Micah 3:4).  But the phrase "He will not hear them," actually meant that God would not give them what they asked for.  We'll see in Verse 10 that God very clearly heard the sinful, but repentant Jonah and would answer by causing the "great fish" he was in at the moment to vomit him up alive onto dry land.

Jonah now did what we all should do - he prayed.  And by the way, the "holy temple" of this verse was not the temple in Jerusalem.  The true temple always was outside of space and time as we know it and it is reflected in places like Revelation 11:19, where it says, "the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen..."  The earthly temple, in the desert and then in Jerusalem, was a copy of something greater; something that never was on this earth at all.  It's the place from which God hears and forgives the "Jonahs" of this world (1 Kings 8:30).

Verse 5. "Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, weeds were wrapped around my head."

Notice that these verses are in the past tense.  He was not somehow writing while he was within the great fish.  Jonah was, at a later time, carefully writing down his memories of these events, which at the moment was the continuance of his prayer to God.  He was dying.  The "weeds" that were wrapped around his head were slimy sea-weeds and they must have added to his certainty, at the moment, that he was going to die.

He knew where he was - within a great fish that had swallowed him whole (Jonah 1:17), and he was beneath the surface of the Mediterranean Sea.  No human effort could help him now.  If it was in today's world, some little submarine might be dispatched to locate Jonah, but there was no technology at the time to do the job.  Even today, helping this man would likely be a human impossibility.  Many must come to a place where human help, even self-help will not be enough.  Like Jonah, we must finally turn to and trust in the Lord.

Lord, we turn to You now.  Like Jonah, we have run away, but not anymore.  We place our trust in You.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

 Audio Bible Study - Jonah 2:6-10

Verse 6. "I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, but You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God."

As far as Jonah knew, he was as deep as it was possible to be within the earth.  That's what he meant by the "roots of the mountains."  Emotionally and physically, he was at the bottom.  It was like being in prison, with "bars" that were far too strong for him to open.  But at this point, it was dawning on him that he was still just barely alive.  He was just as amazed as we are that he still had some life in him.

Do you feel like there are "bars" around your life right now?  Perhaps your finances are out of control.  Maybe you or someone you love has an illness that is impossible for medical science to cure.  It may be that you don't like who you are and are just - depressed.  That was Jonah; and it was at the bottom of his life when he finally began to pray.  If you are at or near the end, it's time to pray.  As we will see, God does hear us, no matter what has happened; no matter what we have done.

Verse 7. "While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple."

Jonah was desperate now.  He was just like everyone else in humanity.  He had done something willful that was leading him to death.  Not long ago, he didn't care - he wanted to die.  But now that he was dying, he was discovering that he really didn't want to after all.  He wanted to live.  From a human perspective, it was too late, but with God it is never too late.  As he was dying, he called out to the Lord in prayer.

The world is filled with people who have rejected and forgotten the Lord.  He is your Creator, your Savior, and you need him now.  Everybody on earth is dying.  We are on a path that will lead us to disease or injury, and even if we manage to escape such things, the aging process will not be avoided.  We are all in the place of Jonah and our only hope is to remember the Lord and trust in Him now.

Verse 8. "Those who regard vain idols, forsake their faithfulness,"

God does not insist that we become rich, famous, good-looking or heroic.  He only asks for us to be faithful to Him.  Jesus told us that the greatest commandments are to "love the Lord your God" and "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-38).  In that regard, FAITH is essential to love, for how could you love God, unless you become willing to believe that He exists?  And it's unlikely you would love your neighbor unless there is a God who fills you with His love.

"Idols" are whatever actions you perform that are substitutes for time that should have been spent with God.  Paul said, "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  How many times have you prayed today?  He also said, "in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  How thankful are you?  There is nothing wrong with radio, television, the internet, or any other means of communication, except to the extent that we "forsake (our) faithfulness," looking to things instead of trusting in God.

Verse 9. "But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the Lord."

Jonah, right from the beginning of this Book of Jonah, had been running from God and the call of God for his life.  He now said, "that which I have vowed I will pay."  Jonah was now willing to place God's will ahead of his own.  He had reached the bottom, not only in the literal place of the Mediterranean Sea, but most important, he had finally reached the end of his objections and would follow the Lord.

Jonah was afraid for his people. He did not want to preach God's message of repentance to the Assyrians of Nineveh because they were the enemies of his people Israel. If the Assyrians were spared, Israel might be destroyed by them. As people tend to do, he took matters into his own hands and went in the opposite direction from the will of God. You also have to wonder if he was not simply prejudiced – he possibly just did not like groups other than his own. But now he had reached his own end and realized that the only hope for Assyrians, Israel, and for you and me, is to recognize that "salvation is from the Lord."

Verse 10. "Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land."

Please note that God is utterly in control of nature.  He has purposes in what He allows and what He does.  That's why Paul could make the astonishing statement, "in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  God sees the future and He knows your needs, better than you do.  The ultimate outcome of Jonah's life and yours will be precisely what it should be.

Note there is no way possible, from a human perspective, that Jonah would be once again on his way to Nineveh, or even be ALIVE at the moment.  That has been the objection of those who criticize this book, and they have a point - it's not humanly possible.  But all things are possible with God.  Remember that Jesus Christ, who is God, authenticated these events in places like Matthew 12:39-40.  And note that just like Jonah was delivered, we can be, too, at just the right time and in the power of God.

Jonah now resumed his journey to Nineveh, which was 500-miles to the east from his present position.  He began to walk, and he had plenty to think about as he went.

Father, when we finally come to the end of our resources, we will recognize our need of You.  Let us trust in You now, BEFORE we are swallowed up by life.  We place our faith in You, Lord.  Thank You for forgiving and receiving - even me.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
The First Church On The Net
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

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