Today is July 4 … and every year on this day, the citizens of the United States of America celebrate their independence. Generally many will wave their USA flags and do hamburgers and hotdogs on the barbeque. It is a day of thanksgiving for the end of a war and the unification of a nation.
As I was contemplating how to start this Note … I thought about my attitude towards God disciplining me … and realize it ought to be one of thanksgiving. As crazy as that sounds, remember love corrects and love disciplines because love wants the best for the one loved and being disciplined. Do you stop when chastisement arrives because of rebellion and say … “Thank You my God for this discipline? Thank You for Your love. Thank You that You care about my soul.” Crazy? Not at all. “Thank You” is a response to true love, because of being forgiven and saved.
1) Today we come to the second stanza of this poetic prayer (verses 5-6).
Jnh 2:5 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.
It is difficult to determine the length of time Jonah was in the water before the fish swallowed him. We don’t know what his physical condition, was like, but we know he is able to understand his environment for he prays …
Jnh 2:5 The engulfing waters threatened me.
The NIV margin gives an alternative interpretation … “waters were at my throat.” This shows us that he was at the point of drowning and unable to reverse his dilemma. Perhaps the closest most of us could get to his experience is being in a swimming pool or in the sea and we swallowed too much water and because we could not breath we started to panic. Eventually because of panic, fear and body movements we were able to cough and start breathing again. What relief!
(2) The deep surrounded me … shows that he was at the bottom of the sea with masses of water above him with no hope of being able to surface. This description once again shows a hopeless state. There are times we too feel that where we are at that point, is totally hopeless.
(3) Seaweed was wrapped around my head.He is at the seabed, where the seaweed grows. Some of us have been at the coast in the Cape where the seaweed floats on the waters, normally where the rocks are. The last thing a swimmer or a surfer wants is to get entangled with seaweed. It is dangerous. Don’t miss the danger Jonah was in … on the seabed, unable to breath with seaweed literally strangling him … there was literally no escape. That’s the big picture … trapped, doomed, dying … absolutely no possibility of escape. Some of us have been there.
Jnh 2:6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down.
The seabed is not flat … what you see on the land’s surface is part of the seabed, hills and valleys, mountains and gorges, movements and currents, various plant life, fish life … it is a hive of activity down there with spectacular beauty.
(5) One commentator pointed out at this point that this was the third downward movement of Jonah.
(i) Down to Joppa in 1:3.
(ii) Down below deck in 1v5.
(iii) Down to the seabed in 2:6.
(5) the earth beneath barred me in forever. There are two ways this phrase has been opened up. Most say it refers to the underworld … the under the sea world … coupled to the imagery of the city gates that were locked closed. There are two pictures that come to mind from the Word of God. The first comes from:
Isa 38:10 I said, “In the prime of my life must I go through the gates of death and be robbed of the rest of my years?” 11 I said, “I will not again see the LORD, the LORD, in the land of the living; no longer will I look on mankind, or be with those who now dwell in this world.”
Note the going through the “gates of death” and being “robbed of my years”, never to see the LORD in heaven (the land of the living) and never seeing other humans again on the earth. The second comes from:
Mt 16:18 “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
The context relates to the Lord Jesus building His Church and that the devil together with all the occupants of hell will never be able to prevent or destroy the Church of the Lord Jesus. (Church can be seen as another way of saying Kingdom). The “gates of Hades” are locked shut preventing any banished soul from escaping. Putting all this together gives the picture that Jonah felt he was so trapped that he would never escape. He felt he was literally locked in the jail of damnation and death.
2) That three letter word “but” pops up here in verse 6. The reality of his doom was one hundred percent! He got what he at first wanted … so he thought. No way out … the gates of his “death” and “hades” were securely locked … and then … but! The dictionary says …
“In the English language, the word ‘but’ is also used for multiple purposes. It can serve as a conjunction, a preposition, an adverb, or a noun in sentences. This word is commonly categorized under conjunctions because it can connect two clauses together and form a single sentence.”
Look how it is used here … the earth beneath barred me in forever. But … he was in extreme crisis. There was no hope … that is from a human perspective … but …
3) But God! But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God. The God who lives in heaven and who created everything that exits … including the human being and his physical capacity to survive, the seas and the animals within the sea … He is God the LORD … the Lord of the miraculous. In this case the word “but” points to a divine miracle. Remember the downward spiral that brought Jonah into a seabed prison with gates securely locked … but … the LORD, his God, brought him up! God unlocked those gates of death. God reversed the descent to ascent. God changed the downward to the upward. He is the God of the miraculous. For Him who created everything out of nothing, to rescue Jonah from what literally was more than a “near death experience”. For His glory, He is able to rescue you from the mess you are in, especially if you are His.
Thank You LORD that You alone are my hope, my delight and my God. Have Your way with me. Amen.