Anyone who has grown up in the "Christian" western hemisphere will recognize the Story of Jonah and the big fish (not a whale). We all know about Jonah's disobedience as he ran in the opposite direction which God told him to go. We have a tendency to do that at times. Jonah is not the only rebel without a cause, who was ever created. However the most anyone can tell you about Jonah is he ran from God, ended up in the big Fish for three days and then was spit on the beach to go preach Repentance to the hated Ninevites, which he did.
However if this all we know, our spiritual growth is stunted. The actual bio of Jonah along with the amazing prayer of Jonah Chapter 2 are very important in understanding this important man of God. Yes, regardless of his ways, Jonah was a man of God who not only preached as he was supposed to, but spent the rest of his years in discipleship and training of the people in the Nineveh area. He died in that area of what is now Iraq and specifically, Mosul. His tomb became known over a year ago, when amazingly the rampaging hordes of the religion of the sons of Ismael, destroyed it for entire world to see. What they did not realize is that this act confirmed the life and ministry of the prophet whose existence was questioned by non-believers.
Here, we begin an examination of the prayer which this prophet of God, who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel and was a prophet to the pagan king Jereboam II (786-746 BC). This is an amazing prayer which should shows up in Jonah 2, should be very important to Christians. Christ Himself mentioned Jonah in Matthew 12:40 "for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
We begin a closer look at the Prayer of Jonah, thus:
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish, 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....(Jonah 2:1-2)
This prayer is the first time we see the prophet actually operating in accordance with his calling as a man of God. Unfortunately it took the act of being thrown into the drink and being disciplined by God into the depths of the stomach of a large specially prepared sea creature to bring this element of worship out of the man. Sometimes we never know how much we need the Lord until we have gone under and stuck inside something closing in on us.
Jonah said "I called out of my distress to the Lord". As we go further into this incredible prayer, we see why the prophet was in distress in the first place....and it was as a result of his own actions. The good thing about the realization that 1. we are in super trouble and 2. we have the Supreme Ruler of the Universe on whom we can call AND this same Almighty God actually ANSWERS when we, His children, call out, cry out, petition in panic to Him and Him alone!
Now comes the stunner in verse 2 "I cried out for help from the depth of Sheol". No one goes to Sheol unless one has passed from this life unto death. Sheol is the abode of the dead and departed, which we now see, Jonah was. He drowned after being thrown off the ship that was bound for Tarshish (Chapter 1). This is more than interesting news. We have a man who has died crying out for help from the place of the dead, where, well nothing is alive! Yet the Lord heard Jonah's appeal!
NEXT: Jonah's Eyes Open
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