Lessons from Jonah: When Consumed by Your Affliction, Cry Out to God Pt. 2
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.
"the Lord had prepared a great fish..."
The rule of the day is to discount the Bible as literal by making it out to be sensationalism. Liberal scholars devote the entirety of their lives to obtaining doctorate degrees in what they call theology, but it is a theology, which discounts the inspiration of scripture; furthermore, they employ a technique known as higher textual criticism. In other words, they come to the text believing the book was written by men and not God; therefore, they expect to find mistakes; furthermore, because the Age of Enlightenment employed the thought of the Scientific Method, any miraculous occurrence is discounted.
Because the miraculous is discounted, the story of Jonah, in their eyes, isn't literal, it's only allegorical. But the real entity on trial in that scenario isn't the miraculous nature of the story; rather, God's existence is being called into question.
The real question isn't whether God can perform a miracle. The real question is whether or not God exists. I can tell you unequivocally that God exists. I know it to be true because He's alive in my heart, whether you choose to believe that or not is up to you, but because I believe He's real, I also believe He still performs miracles.
And God performed a miracle for Jonah. He prepared a great fish. Some have argued that there aren't fish in the Mediterranean big enough to swallow a man. As a matter of fact, regarding whales, only a Sperm Whale would be capable of swallowing a man. If God can call the animals two by two into an arc, then He can prepare a great fish. If God can split the Red Sea and deliver His people Israel through on dry ground, then He can prepare a great fish. If God can take a bound up sinner like me and set him free, then God can prepare a great fish.
As I was walking with the cross Sunday, I prayed and asked God that He would send someone that needed a divine appointment or encounter, I can't remember the exact words I used. As I was walking on Hwy. 70, a woman stopped me, and we began to talk, with tears in her eyes, she said, "I've been going through some things; I was on the phone with my friend and said, "I need a divine appointment." Suddenly, I looked up and there you were with the cross.
If God can lead me to pray a prayer like that, and at the same time cause a person looking for answers to pray a prayer like that and allow their paths to cross at the right time when I didn't even want to carry the cross at that moment because I was tired, then God can prepare a great fish. He can tell a Sperm Whale, if that's what it was to go into the Mediterranean Sea and wait!
God ordained this circumstance and situation. This fish, this affliction, provided a vehicle of transport for God to get the prophet where He needed Him to be. In a similar fashion, God uses trials in our lives to get us to the place He wants us to be. Many times pain is the propulsion that moves us to brokenness and brokenness moves us to cry out to God, so don't give up in the midst of your trial because many times God is using it as a vehicle of transport to move you towards His purposes, to move you and I from a direction of disobedience to obedience (Hebrews 12:3-11).
While the fish ultimately serves the purposes of God and saved Jonah's life, it certainly can't appear that way to Jonah while he's in the midst of this fish's belly, so for Jonah, it's an intensification of the storm while he's there.
From a spiritual perspective, there is no doubt that the three days and three nights Jonah spent in the fish’s belly are, while literal in Jonah’s life, are a spiritual type of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. We know this because Jesus told us so: 39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 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.
What’s interesting about this passage is that Jesus had just delivered and healed a man possessed by demons, after which, the Pharisees accused Him of operating under the power of demon spirits; now, they want a sign, and Jesus lets them know that a wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; furthermore, the only sign they will be given is the sign of Jonah, the sign of His death, burial, and resurrection from the dead. In addition to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection being communicated here, surely, we can see Jonah as the man of God, even the New Testament believer. We have already covered this concept of identification previously where we associate or identify ourselves as also being partakers of His cross. His death is our death; His cross is our cross; His burial is our burial, and certainly His resurrection will be ours also. Nevertheless….
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.
Nevertheless, there is that timeframe in the life of the believer, or at least the one who has acquainted himself with this Jesus of Nazareth, a timeframe where the Jonah Journey undoubtedly will be embarked upon. This journey is a tale rife with failures and disobedience. This is a journey where self has been crucified in God’s eyes; the place where upon faith, God sees the sinner plunged beneath the blood which flowed from Immanuel’s veins, but in this leg of the journey-- self, the “old man,” refuses to die. Instead, he clings to his own will and in disobedience he journeys away from the presence of God. Listen close child of God, chaos is coming; the storm is brewing, because God will not leave those that are His alone flailing in that tempestuous sea. And through the storm and affliction, God will bring that believer to a place where the story goes from the Jonah Journey to the Jesus Journey, where the believer will finally reckon himself to be dead, so that he can now see himself the way that God sees him (Romans 6:11).
As we can see, it was the affliction that caused Jonah to cry out to God. He cried out from what he called the "belly of hell." For Jonah being in the belly of this fish was hell, Sheol, the place of the departed dead.
God has always given progressive revelation regarding the plan for His people that are called by His name. At this point in Israel's history, He had already given a glimpse of the resurrection through the psalmist:
10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
The Psalms were written at least 200 years before Jonah, so he would have been familiar with this passage. For us it's easy to look at this passage and see that it refers to the resurrection of Messiah, and when we review Jesus' words to Mary, we are reminded that because He rose, and we being placed in Him, furthermore, finding our righteousness in that place (our connection with Him), we also will rise again:
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life:he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
But here, no glimmer of hope is heard. Instead, in the midst of this hell, there is only darkness and despair. There is no way out of this darkness. This depression will not subside. Just as there are no exit doors in hell, for Jonah, there is no hope at this point. How many people, even Christians, live in similar hopelessness, feeling as though there is no way out, knowing they've been living lies of disobedience?
I would imagine that at this point of the journey, Jonah believes that he deserves everything he's getting. I would imagine that at this point, he wishes he wouldn't have written a "but" into the script. Nevertheless, for Jonah, there is hope on the horizon. He can’t see it yet, but soon the fish will spit him out and the trial will end. After deliverance takes place, at some point, I don't know when maybe after he's lying in his bed while the burns from the gastric secretions of this fish are healing. But at some point, it seems to me a song of praise and thanksgiving burst forth from Jonah's heart.
...and he heard me!!
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.
It's amazing to me that there are Christians who honestly believe that God would never allow anything bad or challenging to touch their lives. Where does this thinking come from? The storm was sent by God. God's word tells us that. Jonah, at some point realized that the storm was from God and that it wasn’t the mariners who had cast him into the deep; instead, it was the hand of God that allowed the deep to overcome him for a period of time.
Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight;
yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.
Why? Why would God allow such a thing? He allows it, so that we, His children would learn to look towards His holy temple. When I say that, it's being said allegorically or illustratively because the temple of God is where His presence dwelled with Israel. Jonah sets his face towards the temple, towards the presence of God and directs his prayers there. Listen close child of God, God wants you to learn a new process when you find yourself sinking, head wrapped about with sea weed, waters overcoming you, and feeling there is no hope. God wants you to look to Him, cry out to Him in your affliction and turn to His presence. Jesus paid a high price on the cross, so you could enter into the presence of God and receive rescue from your affliction.
The waters compassed me about, even to the soul:
the depth closed me round about,
the weeds were wrapped about my head.
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.
When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord:
and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.
Jonah’s prayer made it to the holy temple. In other words, God heard Jonah’s prayer. I would imagine that right now some of you would say, “But I’ve been praying, and I wish He would hear my prayers, but how often are our prayers expended on our selfish gain? We want Him to hear us, but we’re ignoring Him! Go Jonah! Get up and go to Ninevah!
Many times this is the way that God gets our attention and helps us remember that He is God and without Him we are hopeless. He puts us in circumstances, where if He doesn't show up, we won't make it, or we put ourselves in circumstances where if He doesn't show up we won't make it. Either way, remember this-- while you may have been caught off guard, He knew all along what was coming down the road in your life. Sister Toot used to sing a song, "If His eye is on the little bit of a sparrow, I know He watches over me."
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
Jonah:They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay that that I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord.
In the last part of the song or writing, whatever you want to call it, Jonah makes a distinction between his response and the response of others. I don't think we should think that Jonah is being prideful here and already forgetting his disobedience, which brought the trial on; rather, I believe he's had time to reflect upon this whole scenario. Usually, when a person is in the midst of a storm, they can't see God in it. They can't see His hand maneuvering and preparing circumstances for their deliverance; however, once the trial is over, once the fish has spit you out on dry ground and you've had time to unwrap the sea weed from around your head, then an appreciation can come forth from the trial you endured because you learned so much and you did, at some point cry out to God.
"They," on the other hand won't cry out to God. Instead, "they" represent those that will continue in disobedience by putting their hope in lying vanities. The idea of "lying vanities" is empty un-truth. It’s like the Christian who is living a life of sin and disobedience, finding themselves in the midst of chaos, and looking to false hope through false doctrine, looking at the lies of their storm instead of the answer, looking to psychiatry and Prozac to make their head right. Come on really? Why do we worry about getting our head right when our heart isn’t? Get your heart right with God, and He will do the rest.
And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
God heard Jonah's cry and delivered him from his trial.
I couldn't help but think about how this trial produced what I call a song in Jonah's heart, but it reminded me of another instance, where the trial was trying to steal the song.
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept,
when we remembered Zion (Jerusalem- means peace [its as though its saying, "How can I sing of peace when the enemy has stolen my joy]).
We hanged our harps
upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song;
and they that wasted us required of us mirth (joy),
Their enemy taunted them to remember their home of peace and to sing a song of joy, but there was no song of joy they could sing, so they hung their harps in the trees. It saddens my heart when I think of God's people being held captive by their enemy, and being overwhelmed with despair, they hang their harps in the trees.
Israel’s enemy: saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
How shall we sing the Lord 's song
in a strange land?
But don't let the devil steal your joy child of God. This is a test, an opportunity to trust God in the trial, an opportunity to do things different than ever before. Take the Journey tape, with song Open Arms on it, throw it in the trash, and run into His open arms. He's waiting for your arrival; He's waiting for you to run to Him. He died so you could.
Come on you can do it go put some worship music on, separate yourself with just you and God, and worship Him even though things seem bad right now. Take the harp out of the tree and strum it. He saved you from your sin. And one day you're going to reign with Him! Come on access His presence and be filled with His Spirit.
You see something happens in the midst of the trial when you learn to hold onto Him through it.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also:knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
As we learned a few weeks ago, justification is how God sees you, more specifically what He speaks over your life. Your faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified put you in right standing with God. In right standing with God, you have access to grace, which gives you the needed power to stand in the midst of this sin riddled world.
We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God because one day... I said, "Some glad morning when this life is o'er I'll fly away, to a home on God's celestial shores, I'll fly away. I'll fly away O' glory. I'll fly away.
One day you and I are going to partake of the glory of God when: ....this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 1 Corinthians 15:53-54
But what about in the meantime? What am I supposed to do while I’m in the midst of this trial upon this wicked, evil earth?
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also:knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
You glory in your tribulations? What in the world are you talking about Paul? The word tribulation means to be pressed. If Paul could talk to us he would say, "You think I don't know about pressing? ‘Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.'" 2 Corinthians 11:23-27
So here is a mighty man of God that is well acquainted with tribulation, and he says glory in it because God uses it as a process through which He produces something beautiful
Tribulation- the pressing produces patience.
Patience- hupo- monae/ remain under. God is asking you to trust Him as you remain under the trial. Don't buckle Christian! Don't hang your harp in the trees! Remain under the trial trusting God.
Patience produces experience, some translations use the word character. The word in the Greek is dokime. The idea is a proving or a test. In other words, something is proven to be what it says it is. Just as a fire proves the metal, so the trial proves the Christian.
Experience results in hope-- hope even in the midst of this fallen earth, even in the midst of this horrendous trial because God's going to show up and prove Himself true.
So Cry out Jonah... Cry out Christian! When you're consumed by your affliction, cry out to God and watch His mighty hand deliver you.