Jonah had to get to the point of death before he would surrender to the LORD’s will. Verse 7 says “As my life was slipping away, I remembered the LORD. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple.” He remembered who God is. He remembered the call of God on his life. He knew that he had failed God. Jonah recognized in one brief lucid moment that his will was not supreme, that he was not sovereign. God is.
Jonah repented. Verse 2 records his prayer “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.” Sheol is the place where dead people go to await the resurrection. Jonah was in the belly of Sheol before he was in the belly of the whale. What Jonah was saying was that he was in the ocean, about to drown. That is when he found time to pray.
The whale was actually God’s answer to Jonah’s prayer. Jonah said that God answered him (2). He rejoiced that God chose to rescue him. He rejoiced that God was giving him the chance to return to the center of God’s will. People do not always get that chance. Sometimes disaster strikes and God does not provide a miracle to rescue us. But when he does, suddenly all those reasons you once had to escape from his will do not seem sound anymore. The correct response to the challenges God has place before you is to rejoice that God has given you life to face those challenges.
Three days in a fish gave Jonah the chance to recommit his life to doing the LORD’s will. He thought about the unbelievers in Nineveh who were trapped in slavery to idol worship. He realized that they did not have hope in God’s steadfast love like he did (8). He decided to go back to God’s temple and rededicate himself to serving the LORD as a prophet (4, 9).
Jonah’s story is real. What happened to him really happened. God allowed it to happen because he loved the people of Nineveh and wanted Jonah to preach to them. God also
allowed it to happened because he loved Jonah, and wanted to call him back to himself. The message also speaks to you and me, when we decide to turn our back on God’s call for our lives.
In times of great distress, God is there with an answer.
LORD. Help us to serve you with unwavering commitment. In times when we are reluctant to follow you, save us from ourselves, and turn us around. Help us to surrender to your will.