Jonah 2 has the prophet in a bit of a situation. He tried running from God, was thrown overboard, and now finds himself in the belly of a fish. So what’s he come up with to do? What all of us do when we are over our heads and beyond our own ability to control the situation – he cries out to God for help. Finally, after running from God, now he calls for help. “Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish”. Wouldn’t that have been more appropriate before taking off and trying to leave God behind? We really get things messed up by taking them into our own hands. Jonah should have started with prayer before ever contemplating a run for it.
But he didn’t, and finally turns to the only One who can save his sorry life. “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”. And what does God do? What He always does. He hears and listens and is there to restore us to right relationship. But He doesn’t immediately pluck Jonah out of his bad situation. Jonah has some confessing and repenting to do first. That’s part of restoration – we have to confess our sin and be willing to repent of it before God’s going to step in.
Jonah makes his case, acknowledging that God had “cast me into the deep” and that “the waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head”. Jonah is confessing his situation and the reality that he was where he was because of his very bad choice to try and run from God and not do what he had been commanded to do. Then he admits that God had intervened and saved him. He knows he doesn’t deserve God’s grace, but “you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God”. God’s grace is always sufficient if we will just turn to Him. He’s ALWAYS waiting to welcome us back.
So Jonah has the confession made, and now he moves to repentance. God had given him a very specific task to do – to preach to the hated people of Ninevah. Jonah didn’t want to do it, and chose to run instead. Obviously God wasn’t having any of his rebellion, so Jonah now commits and repents. “I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay”. Jonah was a prophet whose job it was to serve God as He wished. He recommits to that mission. Then what? God restores. He sets Jonah free and puts him back on mission. “The Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land”. It’s what God wants to do for you and me too. To restore us through grace and set us free to walk in obedience to Him for eternity!