Have you ever wondered if you have ever sinned too much or ran too far from God that He would no longer listen to your cries? Have you ever wondered if you sinned one too many times that God was no longer listening to your cries for forgiveness? Even though we may understand that we are saved by grace we sometimes believe that we have to work to earn God’s forgiveness. To make up for our sins we put a little extra money in the offering plate or we volunteer some extra hours at the church or local Christian agency to pay for the wrongs we have done. Today in our story we will see that no one can travel too far or sin too much to go past God’s outstretched hand of mercy and forgiveness.
Jonah 2:1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish,
1) The Cry of a Child
Jonah prayed to the Lord his God which meant that Jonah knew that he was a child of God and he had the freedom to cry out to God no matter how far he had drifted from God. Jonah’s cry is not to a stranger but a Heavenly Father who cares for Him who is ready to rescue Him from his certain death. It’s the cry of a child to a parent and so it is similar to any parent who would come to the rescue of their child in their time of need. Every commentator emphasized the way this was written and how Jonah’s prayer begins is significant to how we see ourselves in our relationship with God. Jonah was in full rebellion against God and ignored His command but when he literally got to the rock bottom of his life he knew he could call out to God.
Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Do you see yourself as a servant or as a child of God? In Luke 15 Jesus wanted to demonstrate to us the difference between being a servant of God and a son of God. The Prodigal son saw himself as a servant so it made him hesitate to go home after his rebelliousness led him into a desperate situation. When the son returned home he wanted to be a servant but he was taught by the father that he could never be a servant because he was a son. Jesus was demonstrating our relationship with God and how we are no longer slaves to God but children who have the right to call God Daddy.
Having the wrong view of God is one of the lies that Satan uses to keep you from having a relationship or an intimate relationship with God. When people think they have to earn their relationship with God based on their works they miss out on the grace and mercy that was offered to everyone when Jesus Christ took all our sins away. Anyone who accepts the free grace and mercy offered through Jesus Christ is no longer a slave but a child of God.
John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
2) The Cry of Despair
Jonah 2:2 2 saying, “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.
Meriam Webster Dictionary defines Distress as a state of danger or desperate need. It is a moment in time when you realize that no amount of effort or ingenuity is going to save you and you have to call on someone else for help. When a ship sends out a distress signal it means that the situation is critical and they are saying there is no hope for them to save themselves and they desperately need help.
Jonah who ignored God, who went to sleep when others were fighting for their lives, who shows no sign of praying on the ship finally turns back to God because he realizes that he cannot get himself out of this situation on his own. Unfortunately, most people do not turn to God until they have exhausted all of their physical and financial resources which is something we call “Hitting Rock Bottom” Because we have bought the lie “God helps those who help themselves” or that you can earn your own salvation we tend to get to a point where we only turn to God if we have no other choice. As Christians we need to be careful to not criticize people who have reached that point because it was God who brought Jonah to the end of himself and it is God who brings others to the point where they have to call out to Him for salvation and help. As Christians we should be there to help in God’s restoration process with people that He has brought to the end of themselves and rejoice that they did return to God before it was too late.
Jonah 2:3 For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me.
Jonah knew that he was experiencing punishment from God and we mentioned in previous post that God’s wrath is used to discipline His children. He knew God was the creator of the Heavens and the Earth and everything was orchestrated by God as a punishment for one purpose, to get Jonah to cry out to God. Not all suffering is a result of sin in your life because your suffering might be the result of the sins of others. If you are going through suffering you might want to ask, “What is God trying to tell me or teach me through this?
Psalm 18:6 In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.
Did you notice the similarities between what David prayed in the Psalms and how Jonah prayed? Throughout this prayer in chapter two of the book of Jonah there are prayers from the Psalms that are a direct quote in his time of need. The reason we fill our minds with God’s word (truth) and memorize God’s Word is so in times of despair we are reminded of God’s ways. Jonah prayed scripture in his time of despair. ( Psalm 18:4-6; 28:2; 30:3; 42:7-8; 49:15; 86:13; 116:1-6; 120:1 ) and we must go to scripture in our time of need and call out to God by quoting His words back to Him. When we pray the word of God back to God then we are assured that our prayers honor Him and that our prayers will be heard.
Jonah 2:4-7 Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ 5 The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head6 at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. 7 When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.
3) The Cry of Repentance
The way this passage is written is Jonah is having flashbacks to the time he was in the ocean going down to the bottom of the sea and he recalls himself sinking knowing for sure that this was going to die. Because the way chapter one ends we tend to think that Jonah was swallowed by a giant fish immediately but chapter two shows us that Jonah was drowning and he recalls his experience as a man who has no more hope to save himself. Everything Jonah describes was a man who was going deep into the ocean who could feel not only the pressure of the water but also the weeds that seemed to be pulling him further down.
Jonah says, “I shall look to you again” and “I remembered the Lord” because even with the wrath of God against him he knew there was hope in his God. To pray toward or to look to the Temple meant that is where God would hear your prayer. You did not have to be in the physical temple but it was an expression that God could hear you as you turned back to Him.
Repentance always has to do with a change in thinking that leads to a change in behavior. When Jonah said, “I shall look to you again” Jonah turned back to God which was an act of repentance for the things he had done wrong. It is never too late to call out to God while you are alive no matter how far you have traveled away from Him.
Too many people think that you cannot just be in a right relationship with God apart from your own works of righteousness. One of the beautiful things that happened while Jesus was being crucified is a man who had no way of doing any acts of righteousness was accepted into the Kingdom of God.
Luke 23:39-43 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,[d] saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Although these men being crucified on the cross next to Jesus were sometimes called thieves the reality is they were being crucified for doing something so much worse than stealing. This guy did horrible things in his life and all he had to do was ask Jesus to remember him and he would be saved. When we have guilt because of sin we sometimes think we have to work it off to make it right with God. Jesus died on the cross for our sin because there is no way we can earn our own way. The criminal on the cross knew he was getting what He deserved but he called out to Jesus with only hours to live and Jesus responds with grace and mercy that he would be with Jesus in paradise. Both the criminal on the cross and Jonah realized that they deserved death for their wrongdoing but were pleading to God for mercy and both of them received it as a gift from God.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Jonah 2:8-9 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!”
Only God can provide Salvation and He did that through Jesus Christ. Jonah is saying that they will see how worthless the idols are for salvation when they stand before the Holiness of God and they will see that they missed out on the love of God because they tried to earn their way to Him through their own works. Jonah saw the sailors praying to their idols that did nothing for them but he did not get to see them call out to the true God because he was already cast overboard.
Psalm 31:6-7 I hate[a] those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord.7 I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul,
We have a tendency to turn to other things (idols) instead of turning to God. (Medications, Alcohol, food, video games, music working out) Again, Jonah is praying the Psalms and acknowledges that salvation can only be through God and God alone for salvation and for deliverance from the trials of life. All roads do not lead to God and Jesus death on the cross only covers those who put their faith, hope and trust in Him and Jonah says those who put their faith anywhere else will miss out on steadfast love.
When someone truly repents it means a change of mind but also a change in action. Just saying you are sorry is not repentance but a change in the direction you were going shows true repentance. Verse nine in Jonah chapter two shows repentance because Jonah makes vows of things he will change in his life.
Matthew 21:28-31 What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.
True repentance is changes in actions not just lip service to the Lord. True Repentance is humbling because you have to admit that God’s way is right and you are wrong. Does God have the right to determine how one can be saved and what the limits of it are? We arrogantly want to tell God the conditions of entering into His Kingdom by either saying that by our works we can go in or that all roads are acceptable to enter His kingdom. God has made it clear that there is salvation through no one else or by any other way than through Jesus Christ.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
4) Your Cry is Heard
Jonah says,” Yet You” (6) and “My Prayer Came to You in your Holy Temple “(7) because there is an emphasis that God heard his cry. Verse six can be interpreted “But God’ indicating that no matter how desperate the situation is that God can rescue us. What seems hopeless to us is never hopeless to God.
Romans 5:6-8 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God made the impossible possible. Our sin made it impossible for us to be in a right relationship with God but God made it possible through Jesus Christ. Some people are not sure God is hearing your cries because you do not “FEEL” God. We base our relationship with God on feelings instead of the truth of God’s word. We have to be careful to not allow our feelings to get in the way of truth.
“Feelings are never described as true or false. Feelings may be legitimate or illegitimate, understandable or incomprehensible; but they are not true or false. This is where we often get bogged down longing for feelings when indeed those very feelings could be the most seductive force to take us away from the truth.” (Cries of the Heart, Ravi Zacharias, PG 46)
God is listening even when you do not believe that He is. Remember, The Fish that seemed like was going to be Jonah’s grave turned out to be his salvation. The way things look may seem to be hopeless “BUT GOD” is still on the throne and He can turn things around.
Matthew 6:7-8 And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Not only have you been heard He already knew what you needed before you asked. Do you believe you can Cry out to God like a child? Do you cry out to God in your time of despair or do you seek comfort from other people or other things? Have you cried out in repentance for the things you have done?