Jonah 2: Swallowed by Grace
If you were with us this past week, you know that we are in a series about Jonah called “Depths of Grace.” In sermon one, Pastor Greg set us up in the framework of the Jonah story. Maybe you know it, maybe you don’t. In Jonah 1, God asks Jonah to go to Ninevah. Jonah isn’t thrilled with that idea so runs the other way. We were then asked to think on our own “Ninevah.” What are we running from? What (or rather, who) should we be running to instead?
In sermon two, Pastor Pat breaks down what happens after Jonah tries to outrun God. Jonah says “no” to Ninevah, boards a ship to Tarshish, one thing leads to another, and the man gets tossed into the ocean only to end up in the belly of a fish.
In our quick judgement, we can often view the fish as the bad guy, as a means to God’s wrath or punishment. We might say to ourselves, “Jonah got swallowed up because he disobeyed God.” But what if we are wrong?
What we need to understand is that Jonah’s trip overboard is a death sentence. He isn’t swimming back to the boat. There isn’t a shoreline in sight. There isn’t a piece of driftwood that miraculously floats by. The murky waters overtake him and he begins to drown. He is brought to a place of hopelessness.
From this same place, Jonah cries out and the grace of God comes swimming along. Literally. The fish is appointed by God to rescue Jonah from the waters he has found himself in. Fish = good guy. Fish = Jonah not dead. Fish = grace.
Upon his rescue, Jonah cries out with a prayer that can resonate with all of us. His prayer, in its entirety, serves as Jonah 2. He begins, “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.”
It is a prayer of repentance, of thanksgiving, of hope, and of a renewed vigor for the Lord. The belly of the fish sets the stage for Jonah’s change of heart and his realization that despite his running, God has saved him from death. We are also witness to God’s character; He is a pursuing God who will provide us with grace regardless if we are running to or from Him.
Jonah’s prayer is for anyone who feels burdened, distressed, or hopeless. It is for every one of us who might need a reminder of God’s character. It is for those who feel that God is out to punish, when in truth, He is out to save and to swallow us in grace.
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