In Jonah 1 we see the God of Scripture call Jonah to extend biblical compassion to the people of Nineveh, and Jonah runs in the opposite direction. Jonah ends up on a ship heading to Tarshish, and the God of Scripture hurls a great wind and a great storm to draw Jonah back to Himself.
But, instead of Jonah responding to the God of Scripture in repentance, awe, and obedience, we actually see the sailors responding in repentance, awe and obedience. What!
At first glance we might find ourselves struggling to connect with the story of Jonah, but I am going to suggest that we have more in common with Jonah than we realize.
We have more in common with Jonah than we realize, because just as the God of Scripture calls Jonah to extend biblical compassion to the people of Nineveh, so has the God of Scripture called the local church to extend biblical compassion to our neighbor. Jonah is called to Nineveh, and every follower of Jesus is called to his neighbor.
Jonah 2:1, “1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish”
- Of course, the natural question is, “Is Jonah really inside a fish?” Are we really supposed to believe that Jonah is playing Marco Polo in a fish?
- Surely, this story is a literary metaphor? Surely Jonah couldn’t survive all those gastric juices of a fish for 3 days? Surely this is an Old Testament trick where all the prophets say, “Lets do the getting swallowed by a fish” bit?
- In Matthew 12 Jesus says, “Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Jonah 2:2, “2 and he said, “I called out of my distress to the Lord, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice.”
- Perhaps you are thinking the surprise of the story is Jonah being swallowed by a fish, but if you are following the life of Jonah we see that the real surprise of the story is that Jonah is praying.
Have you had those kind of moments in life? Young people listen to me. You have probably had such a goodness in your life that you haven’t been brought to a place of desperation, but you need to know those days are coming, and in verse 2 Jonah has exhausted every other option, Jonah has tried every other solution, and Jonah “cries out to the Lord.”
Jonah 2:3, “3 “For You had cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me.”
- I want you to see something very important in verse 3. In verse 3 Jonah is beginning to acknowledge the sovereignty of the Lord over all things. The word, “sovereignty” means the God of Scripture is in control of all things. Do you see it?
- Do you remember in Jonah 1 the sailors ask Jonah, “Who are you?” Jonah responds, “I worship the God of Scripture to the height of the heavens, to the depth of the sea, the creator of all things” and now in verse 3 Jonah is starting to believe that the God of Scripture is actually in control of all things, from the height of the heavens to the depths of the seas.
- It is the God of Scripture who controls the winds and the waves. It is the God of Scripture who hurls storms into our lives. It is the God of Scripture who calms the seas. It is the heart of man who plans his ways, but it is the Lord who establishes his steps.
Jonah 2:4, “4 “So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.’”
- In verse 4 we get to peak into Jonah’s soul as Jonah says, “Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.”
- In this moment Jonah is being confronted with the brokenness of his humanity (vs. 2 distress and desperation) and the holiness of God (vs. 3 Your waves and Your seas, Your in control) so that Jonah prays, “I have been expelled from Your sight, nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.”
Now, we might not be that familiar with the temple in Jerusalem, but you need to know Jonah would have been raised his whole life learning about the meaning and the purpose of the temple in Jerusalem, so that when Jonah is confronted with His brokenness (vs. 2 distress and desperation) and the holiness of God (vs. 3 Your waves and Your seas) Jonah is “looking again to his hope that has been made known in the temple in Jerusalem.”
Listen, Jonah understands the sacrifice of that animal was temporal. It is why the sacrifice had to be done over and over and over, and the hope is that one day a Savior would come who wouldn’t just bring temporal reconciliation, but eternal reconciliation, and His name is Jesus.
It is why John the Baptist sees Jesus, God in the flesh, off in the distance and cries out, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” In that moment, John the Baptist is thinking, “The ultimate sacrifice has come!”
It is Jesus who stands in our place and absorbs our offenses upon Himself at the cross. It is Jesus who becomes our ultimate substitute. It is Jesus who becomes the ultimate temple available to all people at all times.