Agonizomai: Jonah 2:2-7 - Descent into the Pit

Monday, January 09, 2006

Jonah 2:2-7 - Descent into the Pit
1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish...

2-7 saying, "I called to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and thou didst hear my voice. 3 For thou didst cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood was round about me; all thy waves and thy billows passed over me. 4 Then I said, ‘I am cast out from thy presence; how shall I again look upon thy holy temple?’ 5 The waters closed in over me, the deep was round about me; weeds were wrapped about my head 6 at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me for ever; yet thou didst bring up my life from the Pit, O LORD my God. 7 When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer came to thee, into thy holy temple."

It was while Jonah was still in the belly of the fish that he called and God answered him. Jonah didn’t consider the answer to be his deliverance from his situation, because the fish did not vomit him up on the beach until the end of three days and nights; but the text here says he called to God from the belly of the fish and God answered.

So how did Jonah deem God to have answered if it was not by delivering him from the situation? We must move ahead to verse 7 where we read...
"When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer came to thee, into thy holy temple."
It was when Jonah remembered the LORD that the peace came. Until then he was fainting – the weeds were entangling his head and he was pressed down to the base of the mountains at the bottom of the deep – into the depths of the pit. Have you been there? Have you sinned so badly that you almost forgot the God of grace and mercy that called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light? God granted Jonah the remembrance of His grace and mercy and gave him repentance.

A friend of mine had a lifelong buddy who was dying. His buddy was an unbeliever. For a year my friend prayed to God that his friend would come to the Lord but never heard anything. Then his friend died and he learned that some months before the man had accepted the Lord and been baptized. My friend was angered that his buddy had not told him. Then he complained to God that all the time he had been praying for the man’s salvation when he had been saved could have been spent praying for the man to be healed. And God said to my friend, "Is my salvation not enough?"

This is Jonah in the belly of the fish. Knowing the God of love and mercy, and that He is the LORD is enough in itself. Knowing that He is, and that He has shown Himself to him is enough. If you have seen Him then nothing else compares. Nothing else matters. To be one of the eternally saved in Christ is to be assured that whether we live, we live unto Christ – or whether we die, we die unto Him. In essence whether we live or die it is God’s will for us and it is therefore perfect.

Jonah remembered God as the psalmist had...
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. {Ps 18:6}
He had considered himself to have been cast out from God’s presence (v.4). This is worth noting. Jonah’s concept of God’s presence was apparently not the best. He had tried fleeing from Him (an impossibility) and now he presumed he was out of God’s presence - another impossibility for we read of God...
If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there! {Ps 139:8}
This is the illogicality of the sinful mind. God is not like we might sometimes think when we see Him as we are. He is not vindictive. We again join the Psalmist who says...
If thou, O LORD, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. {Ps 130:3-4}
God never abandons those who belong to Christ. In fact, Christ has prayed for all those that are His – that the faith they had been given through hearing would not fail, {Joh 17:7-10} and so it can never do so. Elsewhere, Christ thanked the Father that He always heard Him. {Joh 11:41-42}

Yet it serves us well, in a sense, to believe that we have gone too far. Surely it is God Who says to us, "Thy sins are forgiven," and not we ourselves. It is God that says to us, "Friend, come sit a little higher," and not we who presume to take the best seat at the table. It is when we see our utter impotency to perform acts of goodness of ourselves that we know Who it is that alone is truly good. It is when we are emptied of all that we have imagined ourselves to be that we finally discover that all true worth is in Christ Himself.

And why is this so clear? Because Jonah’s consignment to the depths of the sea, where the bars closed upon him forever and where he was in the very depths of the Pit, is a picture of the descent of the Lord into the Pit, which He did on our behalf to unlock the bars of our eternal condemnation for sin. In it is the cry of Christ our Saviour Himself praying to His God (the Father) out of the depths of the sin of his people, and for His people. "Eloi, Eloi - lama sabachthani," was a cry of one abandoned and drowning in the depths of the sea – in the very depths of the Pit. Not overcome by sin, but overcome by the horror and consequences of bearing it.

And those who were in Christ in that watery pit of His death are also in Him on the dry land of His resurrection. Whosoever died with Him and in Him is raised in Him to newness of life. When He cried from the depths it was a cry for all who would believe – for all who are in Him for all eternity, because He purposed it to be that way from all eternity.

My moniker - that's John Hancock to Americans


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