Today: [Jonah 2] Are You in the Whale’s Belly? In chapter 2 we find Jonah in the depths of the sea, having been swallowed alive by a whale. Do you feel like you have been swallowed alive by a bad situation? Jonah resisted the will of God and as a result found himself in a circumstance only God could deliver you from. As we learn from Jonah’s change of heart in this bad situation, we likewise can find instruction for what we must do to see things change in our own suffering.
[Jon 2:1-10 KJV] 1 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, 2 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. 3 For 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. 4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. 5 The waters compassed me about, [even] to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. 6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars [was] about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. 7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. 8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. 9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay [that] that I have vowed. Salvation [is] of the LORD. 10 And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry [land].
In chapter 2 of Jonah we find the reluctant prophet to Nineveh in the belly of the whale. V. 1 says that “out of the fishes belly” Jonah prayed. Jesus used this account to predict his death and resurrection in his teachings in the gospel of
[Mat 12:40 KJV] 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.
This is very compelling for us when we realize that at some point in Jesus’ life, He studied this very passage and it constituted a confirmation within Him of where His life was going. Jesus depended on the scriptures just like you and I do. Luke tells us that He had to grow in wisdom, which means He wasn’t from birth possessed of full knowledge of all that He was and what His life would look like. As He read the scriptures, He saw Himself, and as He read Jonah, perhaps as a very young man, it became very personal to Him as a revelation of the trajectory of His life. Paul read the scriptures in the exact same way in several accounts.
Skeptics reject the Jonah account because they claim no one could survive in the belly of a whale for an hour, let alone three days. Many authorities claim that a whale absolutely could not swallow you, which is not true. A sperm whale could absolutely swallow a person, its esophagus being large enough to actually do so. Jonah’s account likely took place in the Mediterranean and in fact there are sperm whales in the Mediterranean Sea. So the possibility exists, but could Jonah survive three days in this situation? The fact is that it has happened since then. In the late 1800’s a man by the name of James Bartley was swallowed by a sperm whale, that was consequently caught by whalers. Upon carving the animal up, Bartley was delivered alive from within the whale’s body after three days, time.
Jonah in v. 2 cries out to the Lord from the belly of the whale, greatly afflicted and obviously in fear of his life. The gastric juices of the whale were slowly digesting him and would have bleached his skin and burned his eyes as well. Jonah laments that he has been cast from God’s sight (because of his own disobedience) yet he says, “I will look again toward thy holy temple…” In other words, even in this terrible position, Jonah believes he will survive to return to his homeland once again.
Because Jesus used Jonah as a type of His own descent into hell, we get a sense of the cry of His heart as He went down into the grave, to be raised the third day. Though Jonah was in a situation from which there seemed no deliverance yet he expresses in his prayer that he would be brought up from corruption. How do we know he prayed these things? The most likely dating of Jonah is several centuries after this incident is reported to have taken place. This would imply that the anonymous author of the book of Jonah had access to a verbal or written record of Jonah’s experience, or that it was simply supernaturally revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. In v. 7 Jonah soul faints within him, yet he remembers the Lord and prays. What do you do when you are in a horrible situation and there is no way out? You pray. Jonah knew that only God could deliver him. When Jesus went into the grave, only the Father could raise him up. There are going to be times in your life when there is no deliverance other than from God, and his instruction by example is that you like Jonah will cry unto the Lord and you will be saved.
In verse 8 we read “they that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy…” Who is Jonah talking about? He can only be referring to himself. He didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He was resentful that God wanted to spare the city rather than destroy it. He was so filled with hate that he tried to outrun God, and wound up in this awful situation because of it. It is vain to resist the divine will. It is vain to have a viewpoint toward others that does not agree with God. Jonah’s only appropriate response would be to obey God and go and do what God commanded. In resisting the revealed will of God, he forsook his own mercy. How many of us find ourselves in situations where we are not experiencing the mercy of God and we blame it on God? We think God doesn’t not care, or we come up with some convoluted theology that suggests that while we allegedly are godly and righteous, God has chosen in His sovereignty to put us through some difficulty. This is contrary to all the scriptures say about such things. Jonah was not in the whale’s belly because he was so godly. He was in the whale’s belly because he entered into a contest of wills with God and paid the price.
What do you do when you find yourself experiencing the consequences of standing in opposition to God? In v. 9 Jonah admits his failing, and chooses to offer thanksgiving to God with a promise that he will pay his vow of deference to the command of God over his life. Have you paid your vows? The scripture tells us when we vow a vow, defer not to pay lest the angel assigned to us become angry and destroy the works of our hands. Many people declare because of this that they will never take a vow of any kind. However, bear in mind that when you gave your life to Jesus, that constituted the most dread vow you could ever take. You confessed him not only as savior but as Lord. As Jonah concludes at the end of the chapter, salvation is of the Lord, but is it Jonah’s obligation, and our responsibility to live in compliance with God’s command over our lives, whether we like it or not.
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