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One of the greatest blessings of being a child of God is prayer. It is a privilege that cannot be overvalued but is often underused. We struggle with praying, allowing all kinds of factors to hinder or distract, but as one commentator says, ‘A Christian cannot come into a place so abnormal that he cannot pray to God there.’ We consider Jonah 2:1-10 Salvation comes from the Lord.
1. The plight
Note v1 ‘From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord’ – if we submit to the authority of Scripture, we accept the record, whatever its difficulties. This is the prayer of a man whose mind is filled with Scripture, especially the Psalms. We should use God’s Word in our praying in times of trouble. There is a vivid description of the storm (v3) and Jonah knows it is the result of his disobedience (1:12). He is near the end of his strength – ‘I have been banished from your sight’ (v4) – the sight from which he had earlier fled. But v3 is crucial – ‘you hurled me’ – he sees the hand of God in events. This is the Lord’s doing.
2. The prayer
Jonah evaluates his situation and seeks mercy and deliverance from the Author of his trial. He does not despair – he has sinned but ‘I remembered you, Lord’ (v7). Despite his sin, Jonah’s faith has not failed; indeed it is rekindled – ‘my prayer rose to you’. Jonah can pray with confidence born of faith in the covenant God who will not finally banish him (v4). He has taken the path of repentance and can speak thus before he is delivered – ‘you listened to my cry’. As a result – ‘you brought me up from the pit’. The God of the covenant will not let his children finally fall.
3. The pledge
Jonah knows all other sources of help are ‘worthless idols’ (v8). He has experienced grace – in the face of his sin God has been very gracious in restoring the reluctant prophet. Note Jonah’s response: ‘I, with songs of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you’ (v9). This is gratitude to the God who, he is confident, will deliver him. What the Lord has done thus far convinces him that full deliverance will follow. Believers can testify, ‘The Lord has remembered us; he will bless us’ (Psalm 115:12). Grace restores us to the place of obedience.
4. The principle
The principle demonstrated by Jonah’s experience is summed up in v9 ‘Salvation comes from the Lord. This is the theological centre of the book. The Lord – the God of the covenant – is the only Saviour. This applies to deliverance from physical dangers and especially from spiritual lostness under the wrath of a holy God. It is significant that Jonah’s experience is cited in relation to Christ in Matthew 12:39 – ‘the sign of Jonah the prophet’. These events foreshadow the mission of the Saviour who took the punishment of his people, ‘banished’ (v4) from the Father’s sight – so that we might receive eternal life through him.