“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; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple” (Jonah 2:5-7).
Inside the fish, surrounded by water with seaweed wrapped around his head, Jonah felt like he had traveled to the bottom of the earth. He hadn’t wanted to go to Nineveh and deliver those cruel and hated people. They were the world power of the day, and were known for executing violent and savage deaths upon many. The god that they worshiped demanded bloodshed to be appeased, so they driven by that need for blood far and wide.
The Lord’s plan didn’t make sense to him, and he didn’t want to follow it. He had tried to run away – but he was learning that he couldn’t run away from God. Now he was stuck in the belly of a fish.
Perhaps he had wanted to be thrown in the sea because he would rather die than do as the Lord commanded. Jonah came to his senses and realised that, despite his disobedience, through it all the Lord was working to deliver his life. It was the Lord who was His redeemer him from a watery grave. It took him a while to recognise the Lord’s hand in it all. Jonah was stubborn, and it took him a full 3 days in the belly of the fish to take hold of the salvation that had been there all along. All he had to do was do what he should have done three days ago, though he hated to do it. He had to go and speak to the people of Nineveh.
He was not easily swayed. It was only when his soul fainted that Jonah’s heart softened and he remembered to pray. It would have been better if he had done so sooner, but it was not too late. It would take a while for him to change his heart, but he did change his mind at this time. He decided to turn to God. He would go and speak to the people of Nineveh like he had been told to do.
In the end, Jonah went to the right place. He went in prayer to the Lord’s holy temple.
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This prayer of Jonah is beautiful in its rawness and realness. Jonah was certainly not the perfect prophet, and we can relate to him. We all have been to the belly of the fish, entangled about by cares. We all have times where we struggle with stubbornness and an unwillingness to change, and sometimes that keeps us in distress for longer than is needed. We all have been tossed by the waves of the sea, feeling like we have no direction or deliverance at hand. Perhaps at times we have not wanted to be delivered. Perhaps sometimes we, like Jonah, have resisted doing the Lord’s will because we didn’t agree with what He says.
In the end, however, we just need to realise that all we need to do is reach out and do what we know we should have all along. It’s never too late.We need to realise that sometimes it is our stubbornness, failure to listen, and resistance to change that keeps us in a dark place, entangled in sin.
When we realise that we are in trouble, the way to have peace and be delivered is to turn in prayer and do what is necessary. The only reason Jonah was still in the belly of the fish was because his stubbornness kept him there. It took him three days to pray, but he could have been delivered any time – just like you and I.
Redemption is always at hand.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7-9).
“Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous” (1 John 3:7).