Jonah 2 records a prayer, the style is in that of a psalm. Compared to the book of Psalms, Jonah’s psalm is pretty standard. Jonah offers up a thanksgiving psalm, complete with a desperate plea, confession, and thanksgiving for God’s deliverance. The big difference is that this psalm was constructed in the belly of a fish. I mean, David had it pretty bad out in the caves, but by the time he got to En Gedi, that’s a pretty nice oasis. When Jonah says, “…yet you brought my life from the pit,” that “pit” was pretty low.
Did Jonah really get swallowed by a giant fish? I believe he did. I don’t think this story is just made up or that we can dismiss these events. I think Jonah is an incredible story of God’s love for people and Israel’s utter shame.
Jonah was a prophet in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. As you know the land was divided in between north (Israel) and south (Judah) not long after the death of David’s son, Solomon. The Northern Kingdom was established in idolatry and never recovered. Eventually, it was destroyed by Assyria. Before that happened, however, God sent several prophets to show Israel the error of her ways. One such prophet was Jonah.
Jonah represented the best and brightest the Northern Kingdom, Israel, had to offer. What happened yesterday in chapter 1 when God called him to do the job of a prophet to the people of Nineveh? He ran. Not only did he run, but the pagan sailors showed more righteousness than Israel’s representative. Finally, in chapter 2, Jonah doesn’t so much repent as relent. He finally acts like the pagan sailors—which is bad that it took this long and these circumstances.
|Chapter 1: The Sailors||Chapter 2: The Prophet|
|1:4 Crisis on the sea||2:3-6a Crisis in the sea|
|1:14 Prayer to Yahweh||2:2, 7 Prayer to Yahweh|
|1:15b Deliverance from the storm||2:6b Deliverance from drowning|
|1:16 Sacrifice and vows offered to God||2:9 Sacrifice and vows offered to God|
It’s easy to pick on Jonah. Ultimately, we see Jonah’s complete lack of concern for the people of Nineveh in that he cares much more for the shade of a plant than the thousands that would be condemned outside of a relationship with the Lord (Jonah 4:10). Why should he care, though, they were terrible people? Nineveh was a great city of the Assyrian Empire and they were brutal. In ancient warfare, a way to prevent wars and skirmishes was to become so feared that people did not stand up against you. Basically, to do this you committed the most heinous war-crimes you can think of, and most of your enemies just backed off. String up the tortured bodies of your enemies, put their heads on pikes, brutalize their women before selling them into slavery, and you won’t have too many enemies left—they’ll join your team really quick. This is the reputation of the Assyrians and possibly part of the reason Jonah had rather see them judged than saved.
However, it’s not his, nor our, place to withhold God’s message of salvation. Jonah was Israel’s best, and the best didn’t reflect God’s heart at all. May it not be so with us. God did not save us so we would keep it to ourselves. In the same way, God did not save us only to share it with those we like. God’s salvation must be offered to everyone, especially those who seem the furthest away. Don’t make God have to get your attention before you realize that fact.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate