Jonah 2:1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed.
God provided a fish to preserve the prophet, but Jonah did not know if he would live or die. So Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. It had been a while since Jonah prayed, but now he was praying earnestly. In my distress I called to the Lord (Jonah 2:2), he said.
God was causing the prophet’s distress to help him repent. Some people respond to hardship by hardening their hearts, but the purpose of hardship is to soften our hearts, so we will turn to God in prayer. We often pray best when life is at its worst.
Jonah 2:3 You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas.
Jonah could have blamed the sailors for his trouble, since they were the ones who threw him into the sea. But Jonah knew the sailors were merely God’s instruments to bring about the discipline he deserved. [T]he Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in (Proverbs 3:12), says Proverbs.
Whenever life gets hard, we ought to examine ourselves, and consider whether God is teaching us obedience. God does not want spoiled children, and may enroll us in the school of suffering to help us improve.
Jonah 2:4 I said, I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.
Banishment has always been the dread fear of God’s people, and rightly so. After their rebellion, Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden (Gen.3:23). God’s people were later banished from the Promised Land. And Christ will say to his enemies, Depart from me, you who are cursed (Matthew 25:41).
Jonah was trying to get away from God, and feared that he may have succeeded. God is good, and near him is where we want to be. Come near to God and he will come near to you (James 4:8), wrote James.
Jonah 2:7 When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord.
When Jonah got on the boat, he was trying to forget about God. But when his life was ebbing away, Jonah remembered God. If you attempt to talk with a dying man about sports or business, he is no longer interested. He now sees other things as more important. People who are dying recognize what we often forget, that we are standing on the brink of another world (William Law).
One dear lady followed Christ in her youth, but turned away during college. Years later, she was in a boating accident, and nearly drowned. As she struggled to keep her head above water, she had a vivid recollection of her Sunday school teachers, and the lessons they taught her when she was growing up. In light of her approaching death, she recognized her foolishness, and recommitted her life to Christ.
Jonah 2:8 Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.
Israel was prone to idolatry, and Jonah saw how foolish that was, but he was not any better. He put self-will, self-interest, and self-determination ahead of God. Jonah became his own idol, and turned away from God’s love for him. This is the opposite of Jesus Christ who prayed, not my will, but yours be done (Luke 22:42).
Jonah 2:9 What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, Salvation comes from the Lord.
It is not clear what Jonah vowed, but it likely involved obedience. Perhaps he prayed that if God would save him, he would do whatever God wanted. But if he had simply done what God wanted, he would not have been inside a fish.
Instead of making a vow, and hoping God will answer our prayer, we ought to walk in obedience, which often leads to answered prayer. We receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands (1 John 3:22), wrote John. There is a correlation between obedience and answered prayer.
Jonah 2:10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Jonah spent about three days inside the fish, and Jesus thought this was significant. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40), he said.
Jonah’s ministry paralleled Jesus’ ministry in other ways as well. Jonah was disciplined for his sin, and Jesus was punished for our sins. Jonah recovered from a near death experience, and Jesus was raised from a real death experience. Jonah preached to the Ninevites, and Jesus is preached to the world. We do not want to follow Jonah, but we certainly want to follow Jesus Christ.
Reflection and Review
How did being in a fish help Jonah pray?
How do some Christians practice idolatry?
How does Jonah remind us of Jesus?