In my mind there are two types of experience. The one is what happens to me as a human being and the other one is a religious or spiritual experience. In this last bracket there are two experiences. The one is what I personally experienced which might not be from God and the other is what I experienced and is from God. I might have both these experiences … one could be because of being “psyched up” in some way or it could be a true heart felt experience of the soul. In verse 2-9 of Jonah 2 we have a true physical experience that is related in a religious or spiritual way for us to understand his experience described briefly in verse 1. Let’s read the passage and then start working through it:
Jnh 2:3 “You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. 4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ 5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. 6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God.
7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.
8 “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. 9 But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”
As you read through this poetic prayer, which phrase would you say is the one that controls the prayer? Would it be verse 9 … “What I have vowed I will make good” … or … “Salvation comes from the LORD?” I want to suggest that the words … “I remembered you, LORD” in verse 7, because it was at that moment that He remembered his God, His call and the mandate God had placed upon him to go to Nineveh. That was a somber as well as a sober moment. Before we continue … Have you drifted away from God? Have you rejected His call upon your life? Have you turned in rebellion from His required duty for you … within His Kingdom’s Cause? Is it possible that you need to stop … and remember the LORD?
1) The first stanza of the prayer (verses 2-4).
(1) The instrument that caused Jonah to be dumped into the sea was the hand of God
Jnh 2:3 You hurled me into the deep
yet God used the sailors to cast him into the sea. The hand of God was “the sailors” hands. Faith understands that God is working in this wayward prophet. In a similar manner, when we have sinned and been disobedient to God, and we experience some form of suffering, hardship or punishment, don’t blame the devil as so many people do. Rather, look at the fact that your God has measured out His chastisement your way … to lead you back to Him. Only the person of faith is able to see God’s hand at work … as Jonah did … and only the person of faith is able to submit to the hand of God at work brining chastisement because the person of faith understands the hand of God is moving for His child’s personal and eternal good.
(2) The reasonable exacting of punishment. God never over disciplines His children for their sin. What Jonah experienced was reasonable. We need to understand this too. God’s love demands justice be done … but as much as love includes justice it includes mercy and grace. God meters out the exact amount of discipline to meet the “crime” … though He tends towards the lesser. That’s love.
(3) The horror of the punishment. Jonah descended … into the very heart of the seas … note the plural “seas”. This gives us a picture of the endless volume and depth of the waters … and he was in the heart of it all … with … the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. One must not think that because the storm ceased … that it ceased immediately. God needed to put the winds away and He needed to calm the resultant effects … even so … with the waters returning to normal and the wind boxed away … the “normal” of the Mediterranean does not mean a flat sea … nor does it mean the currents under the water no longer existed. His experience of being hurled into the deep includes the currents, waves and breakers. Normal life is not plain sailing. There are always “currents, waves and breakers” … yet when we experience the hand of God’s discipline, they are far worse. Jonah thought he was drowning and that is the reality when facing God’s chastisement. Yet as we will see with Jonah, we too get through the period of correction. The light does return. The calm comes back. The waves and breakers … those terrible currents dissipate. It’s then that we realize that love is merciful because God’s predetermined design for each of His children is a return to the image and likeness of Himself. We will be …
Ro 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.
(4) Present feelings do not always correspond to future realities. Firstly, running through his mind because of the experience of verse 3 is …
(a) His present feeling.
Jnh 2:4 “I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight'”
… he felt as though this was the end … never again would he be in God’s presence. You might feel that he was getting what he asked for and deserved … but … as soon as you realize God is nowhere and you are seemingly “banished” from His sight … that itself is hell! At times, depending on the gravity of God’s discipline, you might feel abandoned by God. You might feel that deep, cold, painful black hole you are in is nothing less that been dumped by God. That is where Jonah was … yet …
(b) His future expectation. Within his traumatic experience of being chastised by God for his sin he could say … yet I will look again toward your holy temple.Suddenly he remembers he is loved by God. He remembers God cares. How often in his prophetic ministry did he experience God forgiving wayward Israel? Yes, God can and will forgive me! Yes, I will again … in the flesh … look towards the temple in Jerusalem … look towards God’s house. Our future reality … our future expectation of glory must pull us throughout present discipline.
Thank You Lord for Your loving grace, even in discipline. Amen.