The Mercy of the Lord | Part 6: Never Abandoned

Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish … (Jonah 2:1)

Verse 1 stands in sharp contrast to the Jonah on the ship in the previous chapter. 

The Jonah on the ship slept while the pagans prayed. 

The Jonah on the ship ignored the request of those pagans when they begged him to pray. 

There’s not one single mention of Jonah praying on the boat. 

But in the dark, slimy belly of a great fish, Jonah finally prayed.

The man who once sought to flee from God’s presence now sought solace in it.

The one who thought he could escape God now knows for certain he can be with God.

Let’s break it down and see what we can see. 

I called to the LORD in my distress, 
and he answered me. 
I cried out for help from deep inside Sheol; 
you heard my voice. 
3 When you threw me into the depths, 
into the heart of the seas, 
and the current overcame me. 
All your breakers and your billows swept over me.(Jonah 2:2-3)

Jonah has no problem identifying the Lord as sovereign over even the most horrible events in his life. Sailors did the deed, and he encouraged them to do so, but God is the one who cast him in the sea. The cold waves and breakers of the ocean threatening to take Jonah’s were God’s. The great fish was no accident. Jonah knew what we must all know: that we are never abandoned into a world of irrational chance.

I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’ (Jonah 2:4)

This is truly audacious. 

Because of his disobedience, Jonah is completely unworthy to approach a holy God. Shouldn’t the judgment on his life taking place in this moment indicate that he ought to turn inward to himself rather than up to the Lord? 

The biblical answer is always, “Absolutely not.” There is nothing you can do that would lead God to love you any less. Regardless of how we stray or how God may discipline us, there is always hope. Do not despair. Do not give in to a sense of despondency and hopelessness. You may THINK God has cast you off, yet Jonah WAS cast off, and he STILL looked to the Lord … and so must we.

 

Rob Tims

Rob is Teaching Pastor at Blackman Baptist Church.