In the previous study of Jonah (click here) we learned how Jonah attempted to flee from the presence of the LORD after he was told to go and warn the people of Nineveh that the LORD knew of their wickedness. We learned how he got about a ship sailing to Tarshish, and how the LORD brought a great wind and caused the mariners to throw Jonah overboard at Jonah’s request (Jonah 1:12) so that the sea would be calmed. And most of all, we learned how Jonah gave witness to the mariners of (V 1:9) ….the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.” And we learned how the LORD brought this about, not only to let Jonah know that He was in control, but also so that these mariners might believe on Him…
Chapter 2 – swallowed by the whale (great fish), his lesson learned, and his repentance
Now Jonah is in the water, and the great miracle happens. Jonah 1:17 “Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” So much here. The Lord Jesus called this great fish a whale. This great fish was prepared by the LORD, to be in the right place, at the right time, and the right species so that Jonah would be not chewed up, but swallowed alive and able to exist inside its belly. This is not a myth, or a fable, the three days and three nights were for a specific purpose, not only for Jonah’s sake, but so the Lord Jesus would bear witness to this with regards to his own burial and resurrection. Matthew 12:40 “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
We can imagine what Jonah must have felt being inside the blackness of darkness of the belly of the whale. He knew that he was the cause of the storm, he knew he was thrown overboard at his own request, and now he knew that God had preserved his life, though he is helpless inside the belly of the “great fish” Jonah now knows without doubt that he cannot run from the presence of the LORD. Chp 2:1-2″Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, and said I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I and thou heardest my voice.” V3 Jonah acknowledges that “thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.... V6….yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.” Jonah knows that his being in the belly of the great fish is the sovereign will of the LORD. “my God” referring to a personal relationship. Jonah accounts how V7 “when my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple” Jonah was sorely tested before he “remembered the LORD”.
What a good lesson this is for us to “remember the LORD” every moment of every day, to acknowledge that He is always with us, and knows what we are doing: our thoughts, the intentions of our hearts. Let us walk with him in accordance with His word, lest we fall into such a test as Jonah did, not inside a whale’s belly, but sufficient for us to turn our hearts again to our God.
Then a warning and instruction for all who read this book: V8 “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.” How many times have I read the book of Jonah and never noticed this very important verse.
One of the great statements is said by Jonah in V9 “But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that I have vowed.” And that great acknowledgement that some find hard to grasp believing that salvation is in their hands (but I digress) V9 continuing “Salvation is of the LORD.”
And so with this great pronouncement, Jonah has learned his lesson, acknowledged the sovereign will of God, and V10 “the LORD spake to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” God is in control of all things. He prepared the great fish to swallow Jonah and now God speaks to the fish, and it obeys. Another great lesson for us, when the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts, we must obey also.
Jonah is vomited out onto dry land where he is safe. Even this is a miracle, Jonah is on dry land, not still in the ocean. There he is to dwell upon all that has happened to him. There to realize he cannot run from the presence of the LORD, there to realize he must obey the commands of the LORD. There to remember the power of the LORD in bringing about the storm, in providing the fish, in preserving his life.
Truly “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
In the next study we will go with Jonah to Ninevah, where he has other lessons to learn.