Sunday, May 28, 2017

Jonah Experiences the Unequaled Part 2

Sermon:     GM17-152

Tag:           Jonah: A Gospel of Grace

Title:           Jonah Experiences the Unequaled (Part 2)

Text:           Jonah 2:2-7

Theme:       Jonah composes a Psalm

Theory:      The gracious compassion of the salvation of God compelled Jonah to compose a psalm of thanksgiving and praise

Target:       To provide God’s people with the motivation to praise when they find themselves “saved” or “delivered” by God


Jonah Experiences the Unequaled (Part 2)


Jonah 2:2-7 (Repeat)


Our theme for today is Jonah composes a Psalm


Jim Dunham, from the Flying W Ranch, tells a story which illustrates the reason for this introduction.
Jim is a Christian gunslinger and fast-draw artist who has taught many western movie stars to handle a gun. When he got married he decided to teach his wife to handle a gun. To his delight she became amazingly accurate.
One day he took her deer hunting. He positioned her in a good spot, told her he would be nearby, and instructed her to shoot her rifle twice into the air if she got into any trouble. A little later, he heard one shot fired from his wife’s direction. Assuming she had either shot a deer or gotten into trouble and forgotten to fire a second shot, Jim went to look for her. When he came upon her, she was holding a man at gun point. Jim said he overheard the man saying, “All right lady, the deer is yours, but first let me get my saddle off him.”
It is important for a deer hunter not only to be able to shoot straight but to know the difference between a deer and a horse. It is also crucial for a student of the Scriptures to know the difference between poetry and prose.

When we read in the early chapters of Genesis that God created Adam and Eve, we read it as history, and we believe this man and woman to be historical persons, just as the New Testament indicates our Lord and the apostles did (cf. Matt. 19:4-61 Cor. 15:45). 

However, when we read in the Psalms that David made his bed swim and he dissolved his couch with his tears (Ps. 6:6) we do not take his words literally; but we should accept the truth behind the figurative expression, and we know that David was communicating the idea that he was so overcome with sorrow he cried constantly.

When we read in Psalms that the rivers clap their hands and the mountains sing for joy (Ps. 98:8), we interpret these words in light of the fact that we are dealing with poetry and not prose, or in language in its ordinary form without a metrical structure or symbolism.

What must be said … is that a Psalm is really a poem, and poems are intended to be sung: not doctrinal treatises, nor even sermons. … Most emphatically a Psalms must be read as poem; as lyrics, with all the licenses and all the formalities, the hyperboles, the emotional rather than logical connections, which are proper to lyric poetry.

A Psalm must be read as a poem if they are to be understood; no less than French must be read as French or English as English. Otherwise we shall miss what is in them and worse think we see what is not in them. I used this little illustration and said these things because Jonah leaves off writing prose, or his historical narrative in ordinary language and actually in chapter two (2) composes a Psalm, or a poem designed to be sung as worship to God.

If we don’t understand we will be like the skeptics and scoffers who cannot believe this account to be true or accurate because it does not make logical sense. And it keeps us from shooting a horse thinking it was a deer.

Now, before we actually begin, let’s take a short moment and…


[Let’s take a moment and remind ourselves that…]

Jonah has been commissioned and commanded by God to travel to Nineveh in Assyria and to preach or proclaim God’s Word to the residents of Nineveh.

We now know that Jonah did the very opposite. He traveled from his hometown to the seacoast town of Joppa, where he bought a ticket on a ship sailing to Tarshish, which is most than likely on the coast of Spain.

What he was going to do there we do not know. What we do know was that he was not going to go to Nineveh and preach about the grace and mercy of Jehovah to the Ninevites!

So, Jonah boarded the ship and immediately it seems he went down into one the bottom cargo holds and found a place to curl up and go to sleep.

But God had other plans. God caused a major storm to occur. This storm was so great that the ship itself determined to break apart and sink. The sailors panicked, prayed to their gods, and tried to determine the reason that this storm was about to scuttle the ship and drown them all.

The sailors decided to cast lots, which was a common practice of their day. The lots fell towards or pointed toward Jonah as the reason for the storm. The sailors demanded to know who Jonah was, where did he come from, who was his family, and what was his occupation?

Jonah told them. He said I am a Hebrew, I fear the one and true God who made both heaven and earth. This made the sailors even more afraid. But Jonah came up with an unusual idea. He told the sailors to throw him overboard because this storm was on his account, or because of him.

At first they did not want to throw Jonah overboard. They tried to row to shore but apparently they could not. Then they prayed to be absolved of his death. Finally, they threw him overboard.

As Jonah sank to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, he was swallowed up by a great or a very large fish that God had ordained or appointed to be at that exact spot and at that exact time. Jonah spent three (3) days and three (3) nights in the belly of this huge fish.

Remember we are looking at Jonah’s extraordinary actions. I am calling them unequalled or unparalleled because we haven’t seen anything like them

Last week we looked at what I called The Unequaled Predicament of Jonah. When we left Jonah last week he was in a real pickle. His was an unequaled predicament because we really don’t have any examples, at least verified, of anyone being thrown overboard and being swallowed up by a huge fish.

Last week we saw three main ideas about this unequaled predicament of Jonah.

[The first idea we saw, was…]

·        The Reason for Jonah’s unequaled predicament – Jehovah had appointed or ordained a large fish to be at the right spot at the right moment in order to swallow up Jonah.

[The second idea we saw, was…]

·        The Region of Jonah’s unequaled predicament – by region I mean location. Jonah found himself in the belly or the stomach of a huge fish. We saw that Jonah was in that region or location for three (3) days and three (3) nights.

There are a lot of places I don’t want to end up; I don’t want to end up in the belly of a huge fish! And so, we saw the unequaled predicament of Jonah.

[The third idea we saw, was…]

·        The Request from Jonah’s unequaled predicament – Jonah prayed in the belly of the fish. Not only did Jonah pray, or ask, but his prayer was a cry, an assault or  an accosting of God.

[So, having refreshed our memories with what we have learned so far, let’s move to our…]


Now, we will begin looking at chapter two (2) verses 2 through 9. Verse one (1) contains the prose, or the narrative by Jonah and then this prose or narrative is interrupted in verse two (2) through verse nine (9).

 This short interruption is where Jonah turns to poetry and composes a Psalm. Then in verse ten (10) of chapter two (2) Jonah picks up his narrative and returns to prose, or ordinary language.

So, if you have not already done so, please turn to Jonah, chapter two (2) and look with me as we begin to look at this wonderful poem of Jonah.

[As we turn to chapter two, and verse two (2) we will see...] 


          Jonah produces a great Psalm

Jonah’s psalm seems to focus on a single theme, a single idea or concept. What is that theme? What prompted Jonah to compose this psalm?

Verse two (2) gives us the answer very clearly:

o   “…and He answered me.”
o   “…and you heard my voice.”

Jonah senses himself to be safe. Even as he looked back on his experience of being in the fish’s belly, even at that time he felt safe and that he was delivered.

And so at some point after being delivered up on the dry land, Jonah composes this psalm of thanksgiving and of praise. There seems to be at least three (3) elements that serve as the basis or the foundation of this psalm of thanksgiving and praise.

 [So, let’s begin our examination of this unequaled Psalm of Jonah by looking at the first foundational element which is…]

1B     Jonah recognized his circumstance (Vss. 2-6)

          1C     The Circumstances surrounding his deliverance (2-4)

                   Jonah is in dire straits!

“And he said: ‘I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction…”

I don’t think we have to strain our brain to any great limits to get the idea that Jonah is in some pretty deep trouble right about now. I don’t think we have to stretch our imagination too far to know that Jonah didn’t just raise his voice a bit and conversationally speak out to God.

He is drowning and sinking deep into the Sea – he cries out as loud and as vigorous as he can. As a matter of fact the idea inherent in our word “cry’ is the idea of accosting someone.

Our English word accost comes from the Latin. This word pictures a Navy’s ships attacking or accosting the seacoast of an enemy.

This is a violent, energetic, dramatic, aggressive cry plea to God. Jonah is uttering a very loud sound. He is drowning and is probably in “full panic mode.” We can imagine that it is something like a ‘shriek.”

Why? Why does Jonah utter such an aggressive, violent, energetic, and loud plea? The answer is…
                             “…because of my affliction…”

The primary meaning of this Hebrew word is similar to the idea in our word dire straits or distress.  The idea is intense internal turmoil.

It is comparable to the pain of a woman bearing his first baby. Unless you have an experience where you have almost drowned we can’t imagine the terror and turmoil that Jonah was in.

The closest that I have come to this feeling of anguish, or distress, or dire straits, was one time I choked on some type or kind of food I had eaten. I could not breathe. I could not get air into my lungs. I was almost in full panic mode – I actually thought I could die.

Jonah goes on to relate this circumstance with this phrase…

“…out of the belly of Sheol I cried…”

Jonah thinks he is in a hellish grave. This is very real for Jonah. 

The word “Sheol” is used in a number of ways. But, it most certainly was used in the sense that it referred to a place of the dead. Jonah that that the belly of the fish would serve as his grave.

Sheol had a real place in the thinking of the Jews at this time:

o   In Amos Sheol is spoken of as a place under the earth

o   Those in Sheol were thought to be separated from God

o   Sheol was used as an expression of “being in the grave”

o   John MacArthur wrote, “Sheol frequently has a hyperbolic meaning in contexts where it denotes a catastrophic condition near death.” [1]

Jonah uses “Sheol” because he thought he had gone to join the dead.

But now Jonah believes his prayer has been answered.

1D     Jonah recognized the source of his affliction (3)

                    “For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas…”

First of all – Jonah recognizes that his circumstances were a judgment engineered by God Himself. “For you…” IOW God did this.                     

o   Jonah might have been the one to suggest this course of action

o   The Sailors did actually and physically throw him into the sea

o   But God was the one that ultimately threw Jonah overboard

Jonah knew why he had been chastised or disciplined. Jonah recognized in these circumstances that the justice of God was working itself out in Jonah.

Second – the Hebrew word for deep is defined as the very heart of the sea. Jonah was describing the very depth of the water. It may be that Jonah used the plural, seas, to describe the boundless, limitless, ocean that he found himself in.

“…and the floods surround me; all your billows and your waves passed over me.”

It seems that his circumstances and God’s judgment is rolling over him in waves after waves after waves. There is nothing more desperate than to be sinking in the ocean to the bottom and then being swallowed up by a fish.

I think we see the same thing here, the sea with its waves and billows are instruments in God’s hand to chastise or discipline Jonah.

Martin Luther
“Jonah does not say the waves and the billows of the sea went over me; but thy waves and thy billows, because he felt in his conscience that the sea with its waves and billows was the servant of God and of His wrath, to punish sin.” [2]

So, the first idea that Jonah communicated to describe his despair was to emphasize his circumstances. The second idea that Jonah used to communicate his despair was…

2C     Jonah recognized the seriousness of his affliction (4)
Look at what Jonah says and see if you can’t see just how serious this really is. You think that drowning would be serious enough, but Jonah was concerned about something far more serious than merely drowning.

Jonah is floundering around inside the belly of some huge fish in the depths of the oceans, and one of his first thoughts is that God has rejected him.

“Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of your sight…”

How ironic, don’t you think? First, he had tried to remove himself from God’s presence, or God’s sight by running from his home in Gath-Hepher to Joppa in order to sail to Tarshish.

And now, he is believing that God has rejected him, has cast or thrown him out of God’s sight. He thinks, this fish is his Sheol, his grave and he will be forever separated from God.

But something happens. We can only surmise, but something takes place that gives Jonah a new found confidence. (Because he says…)

“Yet I will look again toward your holy temple.”

There is a dispute over the actual Hebrew word in the last line of verse four (4). Some say it is “how.” And they say thatJonah asks the question, ‘now that I am encased in this fish which will be my grave, how will I ever be in your presence again.’

Others say it is the word yet. I think the text is clear that the Hebrew is the word yet. So secondly, Jonah says, “however, or nevertheless, I will one day be back in your presence.

T. Desmond Alexander in his commentary believes that this “nevertheless” is an affirmation showing the confidence that Jonah will one day worship in the presence of God in the Temple because God had rescued him from certain drowning by the huge or large fish that had swallowed him.

So, verses three (3) and the first part of verse four (4) indicate when Jonah was in the water drowning, and the last part of verse four (4) indicates that he has by now been swallowed by the fish, which Jonah concludes is his salvation,

So there you have it, Jonah recognizes just how serious his circumstance really is. He recognizes the source of his circumstances and seriousness in the consequences.

Jonah has had a change of heart.

[Now, we see Jonah once again refer to the great danger that he finds himself in. But he isn’t just repeating the danger or the despair, but he seems to speak once more about his danger in order to call attention to the great salvation that he senses.

So Jonah seems to go back in verses 5-6 to when he was thrown overboard by the sailors. Let’s move then from the recognition of Jonah to that fact that…]

          2B     Jonah remembered his connection (Vss. 5-7)

Jonah’s despair is very real. Again, we can’t even imagine what he was feeling and thinking. Jonah communicates his troubles in very personal terms or words. It isn’t too far off the mark to think that Jonah was experiencing absolute terror and despair. I think Jonah communicated his despair in two ideas.

Jonah gets very descriptive here. He uses some poetic words and phrases to share with his readers just how close to death’s door he has actually come and how great God’s salvation was.

Jonah was at death’s door. The gates of hell were about to lock him in. He seemed to reach the land of no return. All he had been expecting was death.

But no, God worked a miracle. So, let’s look first at…

1C     Jonah’s reflections on his helplessness (5)

Jonah reflected on two specific things that demonstrated just how helpless he was:

1D     the water completely enveloped him –  

          “The waters surrounded me, even to my soul…”

This was very graphic and traumatic for Jonah. This experience was so horrible that Jonah had to give a very dramatic recount of it. The waters seemed to reach his very soul.

Jonah paints a terrible picture of the action of the water against him. The waters were threatening to drown him, to take his life.

It was all encompassing leading Jonah to believe that he would drown. He was helpless against the overwhelming water.

2D     the weeds completely encircled him – 

          “…weeds were wrapped around my head.”

Can you just grasp even a bit of this absolutely helpless position that Jonah is in. He is sinking down in to the depths of this sea, the water has completely overwhelmed him to his very soul, the seaweeds have attached themselves to his head and he is on the very brink of drowning.

[Not only is Jonah at this moment completely helpless, Jonah is also…]

                   2C     Jonah’s reflections on his hopelessness (6)

It is one thing to be helpless, to be in a situation where you cannot help yourself or do nothing to help yourself. It is another to be in a situation where you there is no hope. Listen to what Jonah says in verse six (6):

“I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever…”

First of all there are some phrases in this verse that are very hard to translate.

·        The word for moorings or bottoms seem to indicate the base or the foundation of the mountains on the ocean floor. Jonah seemed to be saying that he was in the deepest part of the ocean as far removed from the world of living human beings as he could ever be.

·        The earth with its bars may refer to the limit that God put on the oceans and seas when he first created them so that they would not come up and over dry land. The ocean only comes so far and then goes back out.

For Jonah this may have meant the door or a door had been shut, locked and bolted, and he could not reopen that door. This might be a reference to Job 38:10 where God fixed the limit of the ocean.

·        The words forever imply the hopelessness that cut off any escape or way out of this terrible predicament that Jonah was in. Escape was impossible from his standpoint

Now, before we finish verse six (6) and move on to verse seven, let me say there are those who believe that Jonah at this point did actually drown and die.

It is quite possible that he did die. And if he did die, it would not hurt the narrative nor any part of God’s plan. Because if he did die then it stands to reason that God raised him from the dead. There are those who believe that God did in fact raise Jonah from the dead.

If he died and he was raised from the dead it would make his reference as a sign for Jesus in Matthew a bit stronger, (not that it needs to be any stronger.)

                   3C     Jonah’s reflections on his helper (Vs. 6c-7)

                             “…yet you have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God.”

                             Salvation is an act of God, and God alone! God does the impossible!

“When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer went up to you, into your holy temple.” J

Jonah has fainted from lack of oxygen or he has actually drowned, either way, God is bringing him up and out of his grave, out of the pit. Just when Jonah was about to sink away into the darkness of eternal death, God saves Jonah. God acted as helper to the helpless and hopeless Jonah.

Jonah was so near death but he remembered God and he prayed to God and he had confidence that his prayer went up to the place where God resided and God heard his prayer. This awakened confidence in God prompted this psalm of thanksgiving and praise.

Well, Jonah produces a Psalm. A Psalm of thanksgiving and praise.
 [What do you say we wrap this up?]

CONCLUSION Let’s pray! J

Praise, according to the Scriptures, is an act of our will that flows out of an awe and reverence for our Creator. Praise gives glory to God and opens us up to a deeper union with Him. It turns our attention off of our problems and on the nature and character of God Himself.
As we focus our minds on God and proclaim His goodness, we reflect His glory back to Him. The results can fill you with peace and contentment (Isaiah 26:3) and transform your outlook on life. Praise is the overflow of a joyful heart. Jonah had a joyful heart because he knew God delivered him from eternal death and separation.
Father, thank you for your Word. Thank you that it is more often than not clear and concise enabling us to see wonderful, marvelous, and even mysterious things.

Father, please, help us today to realize that you may have need to engineer some great and even desperate chastening or correction for us when we sin against you. But also help us to realize that you are longsuffering, kind, loving, and so gracious even to sinners such as us.

Father, help us to follow Jonah’s example of responding to his great affliction or chastisement through prayer. May you always remind us and enable us regardless of how dark, how desperate, or how devastating our situation is to always cry out to you through prayer.

Thank you for being so loving and so gracious to us! Thank you for Jonah and your great fish.


[1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), p. 1011
[2] Quoted in Keil & Delitzsch, Jonah, COT; 10:401

1 comment:

nashvillecats2 said...

WOW what a read. Most enjoyable and thought provoking which I will think about during the remainder of the day.
Thanks Gregg.