Jonah – Part 3

This week, we’re looking at the OT book of Jonah. On Monday, we saw how Jonah was a prophet who was given a simple message of judgement to deliver to a hostile people – but ran away in the opposite direction. Unwittingly, he himself becomes an object lesson as he embodies Israel’s failure to live out her calling to be a light to the nations. (You probably want to read Monday’s first, if you missed it.) Yesterday, we saw God send a violent storm to get Jonah’s attention. To stop the storm and save the others onboard, Jonah has himself thrown overboard. And immediately the storm stops.

Scene 3: God’s rescue

Last we left Jonah he was upside down heading to the bottom of the Mediterranean. But not for long, because he’s swallowed by a giant fish. Again, if you’re following the picture books, a fish with a big smiley face. (Looking just enough not like a whale to upset the Bible trivia pedants.)

So from deep within the belly of the fish, Jonah goes all Rogers and Hammerstein, and busts out a showtune. Seems a strange thing to do, doesn’t it? Sing a song of praise while stuck inside a giant fish!!

Ah, you glass half-empty people. Look on the bright side: he’s not dead! He’s been saved from drowning. And he recognises God’s hand in this, so gives him praise for such a miraculous rescue.

2:2 “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.”

He realises that he’d been rescued from death itself, as we see in the next few verses:

2:3 You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.
2:5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.
2:6a To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.

He acknowledges this was God’s judgement on him for his rebellion, and throws himself on God’s mercy, despite not deserving it (a crucial admission, when we get to chapter four):

2:4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’
2:7 When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.

And, crucially, he vows to direct that praise not just to God, but to do it in earshot of everyone around. By the end of the song, Jonah vows to fulfil his mission; to tell others of this great God who rescues:

2:8-9 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.'”

Jonah sings a song of praise to God for this miraculous rescue.

And – apart from the giant fish – this is a pretty normal scene in the Bible. Whenever God does something spectacular, something miraculous to rescue his people – Israel stops for a showtune afterwards. For example, just after being brought out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, they stopped and sang the “Song of Moses”.

Ex 15:2 “The LORD is my strength and my defence; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”

Salvation prompts a song of praise. A song of praise in earshot of all the nations around.

Isn’t that why we sing, too? Most of our songs are about God’s ultimate miraculous, saving act: The death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s salvation that prompts our praise. And it’s a song that we should be singing in earshot of the people around us.

God’s saving acts – his rescue of Jonah, his rescue from Egypt, his rescue from sin through Jesus – God’s saving acts motivate mission. They compel us to tell others about him.

To think about

How does what God has done for you – both big and small things – impact your desire to tell others about him?

Spend some time praising God for what he’s done, and asking him to use that profound sense of gratitude that you can’t help but share his love with others.

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