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I. Review of Scene 1 / 2
A. Scene 1 – "God Calls Jonah"
1. God called Jonah to go to Nineveh and speak against it because it's evil had come before God.
2. Jonah fled to Tarshish by way of a ship out of Joppa in order to "flee from the presence of the Lord." Repeated 2 times.
B. Scene 2 – "Onboard Ship"
1. Onboard ship at sea, Jonah realizes that he cannot hide from God. God causes a fierce storm and the ship threatens to break up. God Word comes to him through the pagan ship captain and sailors. The sailors try to appease the angry god by throwing the cargo into the sea. When that doesn't appease him, Jonah says that he's the reason that the LORD (Yahweh) is angry. The only way He'll be appeased is if they throw him overboard. Which they do.
2. As Jonah goes overboard, he doesn't know what we know. He doesn't know about a great fish or being saved from downing. He sees only death by drowning at sea.
II. Scene 3 – Jonah Swallowed Up
A. 2:10 – Jonah on dry land.
1. That brings us to scene 3. Scene 3 concludes with Jonah, safe and sound, on dry land, catching his breath, gasping for fresh air, sitting in fish vomit, surrounded by chunks, and he's one of them.
2. What if there had been people on the beach when Jonah was vomited up onto it? What if they were there vacationing and sunbathe and suddenly, up comes this fish, vomits a human being onto the sand, and then slips back into the sea. "What happened to you?" they ask.
3. Jonah tells them his story. "It was the perfect storm and I was thrown overboard. As I was drowning and the terrors of death surrounded me, from out of nowhere, this dark shadow came over me. I saw fins and a tail and then a mouth open wide. And suddenly, I was inside of the belly of the fish, gasping for air but able to breathe. It was foul, smelly, never enough air, every breath a struggle. Slimy walls closing in on me then releasing me, over and over. For three days. Three of the longest days of my life."
B. We know more than Jonah
1. Keep in mind; even from the belly of this fish, Jonah didn't know what we know. If only he had known that the fish was appointed by the Lord to deliver him safely onto dry land, then Jonah would have enjoyed the ride. But Jonah didn't know this.
2. So, let's not glamorize this and make it sound like a Mediterranean vacation cruise for Jonah. Sometimes I think that we picture Jonah in the belly of the fish, resting on a padded lounge chair that the fish had also swallowed, munching on crab legs and lobster tails as they drifted by him, just waiting for this strange ship to arrive safely on shore.
3. This was absolute chaos and utter panic and near suffocation for Jonah the whole three days. Jonah doesn't say he was in the belly of paradise. He says, "I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, out of the belly of Sheol…" That is, from hell. This is pure hell that Jonah is experiencing.
4. And this is the way Jonah records his experience in the water and in the belly of the fish.
C. 2:3 – "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."
1. As Jonah recalls the experience, notice how he leaves out all of that part about his being disobedient and unfaithful to the call of God. He begins with the splash that his body makes as it hits the water.
2. Remember that Jonah went into the sea with a guilty conscience before God. Like the sailors, He believes that God is angry with him. Unlike the sailors, he knows why God is angry with him. And so, Jonah sees God behind all of this.
3. He says, "YOU cast me into the deep." "All YOUR waves and YOUR billows passed over me."
D. 2:4 – "Then I said, I am driven away from your sight, and I will never again look upon your holy temple." ("Yet I shall look upon your holy temple." – ESV)
1. Jonah realizes that he's getting what he asked for. Jonah wanted to "flee from the presence of the Lord." 1:3 x 2. Now, he's terrified that he's done just that and the Lord can't see him in his distress.
2. How many books and movies have been written about people stranded on the ocean in a raft or in a jungle or forest, and when the plane passes over, their heart is full of hope, maybe they'll be seen. But when it keeps on going and doesn't circle back, they know that they were not seen and they loose all hope. They weren't seen. No chance of being rescued.
3. I know that our ESV bible translates the second part of verse 4 differently than I have it here. I checked six different reliable English translations and half have it like I've got it and the other's have it like the ESV does. The Hebrew can be read either way.
4. I think that Jonah has lost all hope at this point. Like we said in scene 1, Jonah flees from the presence of the Lord, which means that he is fleeing from the Temple, because that's where the presence of the Lord is located – behind the holy of holies over the ark of the covenant. Now Jonah laments that he's getting what he asked for.
E. 2:5-6a – "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."
1. Jonah is describing the sensation of drowning.
2. (Relate rafting experience from this summer.) I think that this is just a bit of what Jonah experienced in the sea.
F. 2:6b. "Yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord, My God."
1. This is the turning point in Jonah's experience. Everything from here to the end of his prayer focus' upon his rescue and deliverance.
2. As Jonah thinks about what happened and how things turned out, He realizes that the very thing that he had thought was sent by God to destroy him, that great fish, was actually sent by God to save him.
3. Notice too how Jonah, who had blamed God for casting him into the sea and for Your waves and billows, now credits God for saving him. "YOU brought my life up from the pit." He sees God at work in his distress – saving him.
G. 2:7 – "When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple."
1. Just when he felt as though this were it for him, his thoughts turned to the Lord. So, just what were those memories that flooded Jonah's mind? And what did he pray? Did Jonah remember the blessings and promises that God had made to him and put his final trust in them? Or did Jonah remember the Lord's call and his flagrant disobedience? And what did Jonah pray? Did he pray for rescue from death? Or, did he assume he was going to die and were his prayers appeal for forgiveness and eternal life in heaven?
2. Whatever they were, Jonah now realizes that they "came to you, into your holy temple." I think that this is an important way for us to understand our thoughts and prayers. Somehow, they come to the Lord.
3. I'm still not at all sure how cell phones work. I can speak to someone who is out of sight and a thousand miles away and its like we were right next to each other. They hear me and I hear them. I know that its all got something to do with satellites in the sky and signals that are sent from my phone to the satellite down to their phone, and then from their phone back to the satellite down to my phone.
4. God doesn't even need a cell phone or satellites to hear us. Our words and even our thoughts come to Him and He hears them. We don't even have to speak the words. He knows our thoughts. The mere remembrance of Him, and He's on the line with us. This is the work of Jesus who is both in us and at the right hand of God the Father, interceding for us.
H. 2:8 – "Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love."
1. Maybe Jonah was remembering those sailors as he prayed these words. They "called out to their gods." But of course, nothing happened because they didn't exist. They were nothing but idols.
2. After awhile of never being heard and never getting an answer, you eventually give up any hope of "steadfast love."
3. But not Jonah. He called to the Lord – Yahweh. "The God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land." The one, true God, who hears and answers all our prayers. As long as you have the real God, there's always hope. He will never forsake you.
I. 2:9 – "But I, with the voice of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. 'Salvation belongs to the Lord.'"
1. "But I," says Jonah. "I'm not like those idolaters." He has the right God, the real God, who hears and answers His people when they are in distress. And so Jonah promises to do what everyone who has benefited by the Lord's steadfast love should do – say thank you. And not just 'say it,' but do something that shows your gratitude and appreciation – "I will sacrifice to you."
2. Evidently, while Jonah was in his distress, he must have made a vow, like, 'if you save me, then I'll sacrifice to you" So for Jonah, the life of faith is a about quid pro quo. 'You do your part God and then I'll do my part.' 'If you help me get out of this jam I'm in, I vow, I'll never do it again.' Or, 'I'll never miss church again.' Or, 'I'll come to all of the Midweek Lent services and volunteer to make the soup one night.' Or something like that.
3. So what "sacrifice" did Jonah vow he would make if God saved him? Seems like Jonah vowed that would preach the gospel, just as God had called him to do. "Salvation belongs to the Lord."
4. Interestingly, Jonah sees this as his "payment." "What I have vowed I will pay." He set the price for rescue, God delivered; now he needs to pay-up.
5. Seems to me, there's several problems with the whole business of making vows to the Lord. Let me name just three.
1) We always tend to set the payment price too low. "Here's what I'll do for you if you do this for me God." But no matter what the price we set might be, it always has the effect of cheapening what God has done for us. "So that's what you think it's worth."
2) As we'll see with Jonah next week, there's always lots of fine print included in our vows to God. Certain terms and conditions apply. Fulfillment of our vow is carried out under certain circumstances and situations but not under others.
3) Maybe the biggest problem I have with making vows to the Lord is that it tends to confuse the whole issue of grace. God saves us because God desires to save us – for Christ's sake, period. His 'steadfast love' doesn't depend on what we promise to do in return.
III. Jonah Spit Out
A. 2:10 – "And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land."
1. So, we're right back to where we started. Jonah is safe and sound, on dry land, catching his breath, gasping for fresh air, sitting in fish vomit, surrounded by chunks; and he's one of them.
2. So what have we learned from Jonah in Scene 3? Three things:
3. First, we've learned something about the grace and "steadfast love" of God. Jonah "flees from the presence of the Lord," but the Lord never gives up on Jonah. He keeps coming after him and saves him 'even while he is still in his sin.' Same is true for us.
4. Second, we learn something about the way God works in our lives. He is willing to let us suffer in order that we might turn, call out to Him and acknowledge His deliverance. He's even able to let us die to show that He can and will raise us up to life. In other words, God is willing to let, even bring, physical pain and suffering to us in order to turn our heart and mind and soul to Him.
5. Third, we learn something about the means that God uses to save us. In Jonah's case, God "appoints a great fish" to save Jonah. He used a 'physical, earthly, tangible,' thing as His means of Grace. In the same way, He continues to "appoint" water, bread and wine, to do for us just what He had the fish do for Jonah.
B. Something troubling
Jonah's focus on me.
1. There are a few things that still trouble us about Jonah in all of this. Two stand out. And we want to point them out just because, as we've said and seen all along, there's a lot of Jonah in each of us.
2. First, why does Jonah think that God saved him from drowning? Using Jonah's own words, "Because I remembered the Lord." "I called out to the Lord." Jonah puts a lot of the focus on himself. I counted up the first person pronouns, "I," "me," or "my," 25 times in the just 7 verses of this prayer. Jonah likes to point to himself.
3. As Jonah sits on the beach drying out, whom is he most pleased with? Whom does He really credit for his rescue?
1. Second, there is something missing from Jonah's prayer that we wish were there. Nowhere do we hear any mention of repentance or regret for fleeing the presence of the Lord and disobeying His Word. There's no indication that Jonah is contrite in heart for his disobedience.
2. Since Jonah was so big on making vows to the Lord, why didn't we hear a vow saying that if God saved him, he would go to "that great city – Nineveh, and cry out against it," as God had called him to do?
3. I think that some of our disappointment in Jonah's prayer from the belly of the great fish will help us to understand what happens next. In the meantime, these are questions that we can certainly apply to our own life of faith.