The Dilemma of a Backslidden Missionary (Jonah 2)

Scripture reading – Jonah 2

Returning to our study of the Book of Jonah, we find the prophet where his disobedience had taken him… facing death “in the belly of the fish” (1:17). Jonah had disobeyed the LORD because he feared He would spare Nineveh from judgment if the people repented of their sins (Jonah 4:1-2). Refusing to obey the LORD, he set sail on a ship going in the opposite direction of God’s will. Pursuing His disobedient prophet across the sea, the LORD sent a storm against Jonah’s ship, and when the sailors understood his presence was the cause of the storm, they cast him overboard, saving their lives and the ship (1:11-12). The LORD saved His unfaithful servant from drowning, by sending a great fish to swallow Jonah when he was cast into the deep (1:17).

Jonah’s Appeal (2:1-2)

Now, the heathen sailors had “cried every man unto his god” (1:5), but to no avail. Jonah, however, had not prayed to God until he found himself in the bowels of the great fish (2:1). We read, “Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God” (2:1), not out of sorrow for his sin, but because of his “affliction” (literally, his trouble, adversity, and sorrow, 2:2a). Without the LORD’S help, the prophet knew he was a dead man, for his circumstances were like “the belly of hell,” and the abode of the dead (2:2b). What a blessed hope we are given when we read when Jonah cried for help, the LORD heard his prayer (2:2c).

Jonah’s Agony (2:3-6a)

Humbled, and broken, Jonah acknowledged the LORD had chastened him for his disobedience, and all he had was because of his sin (2:3). He did not blame the sailors who cast him overboard, but accepted that God chastens His children like an earthly father chastens a disobedient child (2:3; Psalm 119:67; Hebrews 12:6). Jonah was troubled, for he realized his disobedience had resulted in his being “cast out of [the Lord’s] sight” (2:4a). He was a prisoner in a watery dungeon, and the belly of the fish had become his grave (2:5-6a).

Take a moment and consider what God revealed to Jonah concerning the ocean and its depths. We read, “I went down [descended] to the bottoms [base] of the mountains [mountain ranges underwater]” (2:6a). Thousands of years before the submarines of our time, God revealed to Jonah there were mountain ranges in the sea!

Jonah’s Affirmation (2:6b-10)

Reflecting on the LORD, and His faithfulness, Jonah declared, “they that observe [keep; guard; watch] lying [deceit]vanities [meaningless; purposeless] forsake [relinquish; refuse] their own mercy [lovingkindness; grace]” (2:8).  Jonah began his journey supposing he might flee from the LORD, but in the belly of the great fish he acknowledged he had forsaken God’s mercy and favor. He acknowledged that death awaits all who reject the LORD’S mercies.

Closing thoughts – From the belly of the great fish, the LORD heard Jonah’s promise to offer sacrifices as an expression of his gratitude, to give God His due, and faith that “salvation is of the LORD” (2:9). Then, “the Lordspake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (2:10).

If you are running from the LORD, and your sins have taken you far from Him, remember He is only one prayer away. God hears and answers the prayer of those who confess their sin, repent, and turn to him.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith