Jonah 2:2

And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice, etc. This is one of the most striking instances in all Scripture of the benefit of believing prayer.

"Lord, what a change within us one short hour
Spent in thy presence will prevail to make!
What heavy burdens from our bosom take!
What parched lands refresh as with a shower!
We kneel, and all around us seems to lower

We rise, and all, the distant and the near,
Stands forth in sunny outline, brave and clear.
We kneel, how weak; we rise, how full of power!
Why therefore should we do ourselves this wrong,

That we are ever overborne with care?
That we should ever weak or heartless be,
Anxious or troubled, when with us in prayer,
And joy, and strength, and courage, are with thee?"

(Trench.) In the brighter part of Jonah's prayer we notice his -

I. GRATEFUL RECOGNITION OF PRAYER AS ANSWERED. (Vers. 2, 7.) Happy effect of certainty as to this. There are grounds for such certainty:

1. When prayer is offered trustfully, poured as lute the ear of a Father, who has promised to hear such prayer. Answer to be expected, since God is true and never can deceive us.

2. When the evil dreaded is actually averted, or the benefit asked is sent. Unbelief says it would have been so at any rate; faith says, "My prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple."

3. When the heart is filled with a sense of the goodness and love of God and his trustworthiness even before the answer comes, it may be felt that the prayer is heard. Confidence in God as Hearer of prayer is a most valuable Christian grace ever associated with deep humility - infinitely removed from presumption and boasting.

II. HUMBLE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF PAST GUILT AND FOLLY. (Ver. 8.) "They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy." This is what he had done. Human devices contrary to will of God are "lying vanities;" empty, they bring no satisfaction; lying, they promise peace and safety, but bring misery and horrible troubles. So Eve found, so Pharaoh, so Israel when they went after ways of heathen. So Jonah himself. So all who forsake Fountain of living waters and hew out to themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water. Worldly devices to get happiness apart from God are indeed "vanity of vanities." Soul of man cannot be satisfied with husks. For God's servants to follow them is to forsake their own mercy. It is for prodigal son to change father's house for society of rioters and harlots: "Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about" (Psalm 32:10). The way of duty is ever the way of safety, peace, and comfort; neglected duty is a sure forerunner of trouble; an evil conscience can never be the harbinger of sweet content.

III. PUBLIC EXPRESSION OF THANKSGIVING AND CONSECRATION. (Ver. 9.) Sacrifice - thanksgiving - vows. This is to be done openly and publicly at the proper place. No concealment by Jonah of what had taken place. He would at once proclaim his own guilt, and declare himself a monument of God's grace. Genuine repentance carries spirit of self-abasement, conscious indebtedness to God - eagerness to be more consecrated to him. The spring of this feeling - "salvation is of the Lord." God's saving mercy keeps alive in redeemed hearts the sense of infinite obligation, and prompts to every suitable recognition. No other spiritual dynamic like this - all active obedience, all the labour of love, all patient endurance spring from this; whatever our mercies, we have the duty of grateful remembrance of them. and active consecration to God in connection with them. Jonah is disentombed (ver. 10). "And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land." At length the purpose of the chastisement is served, therefore it is removed. The great fish continues under God's control, and having carried Jonah safely through the deep, deposits him on the dry land. "As you see the foamy track the creature leaves behind gradually melting into the quiet green of the sea; as you turn and look at the prophet, washing himself from the filth of his living grave, and then standing upon the shore, inhaling the fresh breeze, rejoicing in heaven's blessed light, and - to prove and feel himself alive, to make sure that all was not a dream - shouting, perhaps, in a loud voice, 'Salvation is of the Lord,' say, 'God helping me, I shall never despair. Never. For! see that the heaviest judgment may ripen into mercy. The darkest night may have a morning. The deepest grave has a resurrection portal. A voyage wrapped in whirling storm, and horrible with engulfing dangers, may yet end in safety on a sunny shore'" (Raleigh). Jonah a sign:

1. To the Ninevites. His history a twofold picture lesson to them.

(1) Of the consequence of spurning the authority of the God of the Hebrews; for he is no local deity, but Lord of earth and sea, of all creatures and all their actions, and has showed he could signally punish and humble Jonah on the very element to which he had betaken himself for safety from this God. It was before this God the iniquities of Nineveh had come. How must he view these?

(2) Of the pardoning, restoring, and preserving mercy of God to the penitent - God not inexorable - if Nineveh should repent, it, like Jonah, would experience God's mercy.

2. To the men of Christ's generation.

(1) In his humiliation. The Jews asked of Christ a sign (Matthew 12:40) - some great display of power in the heavens. He refused; the only sign to be given would be precisely opposite, viz. that of Jonah - a sign not in heaven, but beneath the surface of the earth. As Jonah suffered humiliation for his own sin, so Jesus would suffer humiliation for the sin which he bore. Reality of his Messiahship was to be shown in his death and burial, and continuing for the same period as Jonah under the power of death. Divine, saving power of Jesus is connected with his humiliation as Sin bearer. As if Jesus had said, 'The signs which are to discover themselves in me are to grow darker, and not brighter: they are to be derived, not from the heavens above, but from the depths beneath - from the very chamber of the dead; yet am I not less on that account the Ambassador of Heaven; yea, surpassing Jonah in the depth of my humiliation, I still more surpass him in the dignity of my character; and the inhabitants of the heathen city, which repented at his preaching, will assuredly rise up in judgment to condemn the impenitent of this generation'" (Fairbairn).

(2) In his exaltation. This view is rather implied than expressed by our Lord. Jonah escaping from the fish is a type of Christ rising from the dead. The Ninevites were moved to repentance by means of the type; they must have heard Jonah's history and been greatly impressed by it. The Jews had the antitype - the literal resurrection of Christ from the dead, but were not moved by it. Herein is a great lesson for all - listen to the Divine Messenger, who liveth and was dead, and is alive forever, and hath the keys of hell and of death! "Though our Lord's pointing to the sign of Jonah, with the assurance that no other would be given them, might at first seem to betoken only trouble and disaster to his mission, yet the more thoughtful and discerning minds would not fail to discover, on further reflection, that there was also couched under it a promise of encouragement and success far beyond anything that had hitherto appeared. He was to become to the world the sign that Jonah was to Nineveh only when he entered on the resurrection life, and in his Name repentance and remission of sins were preached to the people. And hence the great stress laid upon the fact of the resurrection by the first heralds of the gospel, and the wonderful effect produced by it upon those who heard them, not simply on account of the proof it afforded of the truth of Christ's pretensions to be the Son of God, but also, and still more, for the impressive attestation, the living witness it gave of the placability of God, and of the holy earnestness of his desire that sinners would repent and live. Precisely as in the case of Jonah, though in a manner unspeakably more solemn and affecting, the things that had befallen Jesus and the condition in which he now presented himself through his ambassadors to the people, were seen to be a singular and most magnificent provision of love on the part of God to reach their consciences, and to avert, ere it might be too late, the doom of condemnation which Divine justice had suspended over their heads" (Fairbairn). - W.G.B.

I cried by reason of mine affliction.
I. THE FACT OF TROUBLE. Jonah is at one with all men in a common experience of trouble. No child of God is born to a heritage of unmitigated grief. Some compensating mercy is sure to throw its mellow light over the angriest storm. Some specimens of trouble. So many hampered lives; so many obstacles to goodness; so many and so powerful temptations; so many apparent contradictions to the truth of an infinite goodness. Jonah's trouble was his being thrust off into a conscious distance from God.

II. DELIVERANCE FROM TROUBLE. The steps toward such deliverance are stated in Our Scripture.

1. Jonah remembered God. Submissive memory of God is the first step.

2. Prayer is the next step.

3. A thankful trust is the next.

(Wayland Hoyt, D. D.)

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