Sermon on Jonah 1:17-2;10 – “Deliverance Received”

Sermon for Sunday Evening, June 2, 2024 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)


Sermon Text

[Jon 1:17 ESV] 17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

[Jon 2:1-10 ESV] 1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, 2 saying, “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. 3 For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. 4 Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ 5 The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded 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 forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. 7 When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. 8 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. 9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” 10 And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.

Introduction

Jonah is swallowed by a great fish.

And Jonah is vomited out by that great fish on to dry land, saving him from the storm that was a sea.

That is the beginning and the end of this passage.

But the bulk that is in between is a prayer of Jonah to the Lord praising Him for His salvation.

Fascinatingly, Jonah’s prayer is not a petition for deliverance, but thanksgiving and praise for deliverance already received. Being swallowed by the fish SAVED Jonah from drowning. The chaos of the sea was the threat, not the fish that swallowed him.

What did Jonah do in the belly of the fish? He prayed. That’s it. That’s all we’re told of. He prayed.

King James said “Whale,” but the Hebrew word means fish.

And this fish quickly gets Jonah. He doesn’t tread water for an hour with sharks slowly moving toward him. He’s soon consumed by the fish. Have you ever tried treading water with clothes on? It doesn’t work well.

A prayer of dependence on God. No hope but in Him.

Jonah is sinking one level deeper than before. He was in the belly of the ship, now he’s in the belly of the fish.

But the danger was the water.

Let’s look at the prayer. See all the “water is dangerous” references.

– For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas and the flood surrounded me.

– all your waves and your billows passed over me.

– the waters closed in over me to take my life.

– the deep surrounded me

– weed were wrapped around my head.

Never once is there a reference to the fish!

Not as a danger anyways.

But the Lord saves Jonah:

– he answered me

– you heard my voice

– you brought me up from he pit

– my prayer came to you

– Salvation belongs to the Lord.

Much of what Jonah prays is word directly from the Psalms. From a variety of them. Especially Psalm 18, 31, and 116. But there is overlap with others as well.

But listen to these:

[Psa 18:4-6 ESV] 4 The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; 5 the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. 6 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.

[Psa 31:6 ESV] 6 I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD.

[Psa 116:3-4 ESV] 3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. 4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!”

So Jonah prays FROM THE BIBLE. That’s going to happen when you live in the Bible. The simple truth is we speak the language that surrounds us. So surround yourself with the language of Scripture.

In 1st Samuel we’ve seen the deliverance of David from the attempts of Saul to murder him.

Now we see the deliverance of Jonah.

David’s greatest sin was yet to come. The Lord delivered him knowing that he would sin.

Jonah’s greatest sin had just occurred. The Lord delivered him even FROM that sin.

What is the sin of Jonah?

Disobedience. Not going where the Lord told him.

It is also a racism, a prejudice against the Ninevites. Not wanting them to be saved.

And then it is a worshipping a false idol. That idol was his own conception of God. He conceived of God as the God of the Jews ALONE. But the true God is a god of the Jews and the Gentiles, all people. So Jonah needed to correct his thinking.

And Jonah does change. He repents. We see this because in the next chapter he does go to Nineveh. He does do what the Lord says. And we see it in this chapter – his prayer – because he gives glory to God, the true God, who has delivered him from the storm.

You would think there would be an order like this:

Jonah sins

Jonah repents

God saves him.

But thats not it. Rather it goes like this:

Jonah sins.

God saves him.

Jonah repents.

Jonah’s prayer to God from the fish is AFTER he is delivered!

And Jonah prays, and I’m paraphrasing, “Thank you Lord for you deliverance.” Salvation belongs to the Lord.

But salvation from what? Jonah WASN’T concerned about the storm. Remember, he was SLEEPING in the boat! So what is he thanking the Lord FOR?

Jonah is thanking the Lord for deliverance from his INNER TURMOIL; those battles within him. Do I obey the Lord and Israel could be harmed? Or do I disobey the Lord and risk my life?

Israel had had many prophets prophesying for many years and did not repent. Nineveh, this was the first prophet to go to them. And if they should repent, in one try, Israel sure would look terrible. Maybe God will save Nineveh and condemn Israel! That’s why Jonah didn’t go there.

But we here Jonah now pray, “I shall again look upon your Holy Temple.” He is alive yes, but if we take this literally it means that Israel will not be destroyed. Jonah apparently has a promise from God that Nineveh will repent AND Israel will not at that time be destroyed.

Salvation belongs to the Lord! Both for Jew and Gentile, and in HIS time.

As God has power over the fish of the sea, so he has power over the king of Assyria and over all the nations.

And as God hears the prayer of Jonah from inside the fish in the depths of the sea, so he will hear the cries of Nineveh for the Lord.

Deliverance is received. It is not earned, it is received. Deliverance, salvation is from the Lord.

What is the turmoil you are going through?

What is the deep, the waves, the weeds wrapped around your feet?

And what should you do?

Jonah prays. He cries out to God.

As should we. Cry out to God. He has the power to deliver you from all evil.

What do you do? And where do you go? You go to the Lord.

In the worst chaos, the most desperate situation, you go to the Lord.

And in your deliverance, give praise to the Lord.

Jonah is delivered from the storm, and then he is even delivered (upchucked) from the fish who delivered him.

Well, I skipped something at the beginning of the passage. Before Jonah prays, we read that he was “three days and three nights in the belly of the fish.”

This fact is used then by Christ in Matthew’s Gospel.

He calls it the sign of the prophet Jonah.

That is, he calls it a miracle. So any doubt as to whether it COULD happen that a man be eaten by a fish and live, well it is a miracle. Whether it can happen naturally or not isn’t importantly. God intervenes.

In the Gospels, the scribes and Pharisees want a sign, and Jesus says to them:

[Mat 12:39-40 ESV] 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

So this miracle precedes and points to the greater miracle of Christ, rising from the death.

Jonah is back on dry land. Good for him.

Christ is Risen from the grave. Good for YOU.

There is application from the text of Jonah. Go to the Lord, pray to the Lord, trust in the Lord.

But there is that greater truth we see come to fruition in Jesus Christ. And it is the same truth that Jonah notes in his prayer, “Salvation is of the Lord.”

In the plan of God for our salvation and eternal life, Christ was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. He took our punishment, truly died. He did not swoon and come back to life. He was truly dead. But then, He was alive.

And the sign of Jonah was given.

In Luke 11:30 it tells us: [Luk 11:30 ESV] 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.

So as Nineveh was called to repentance, so are we.

Turn to the Lord, for there is salvation for sinners. There is deliverance received.

Let us pray.