Saturday, July 29, 2017

Jonah Experiences the Unequaled (Part 3)

Sermon:     GM17-153

Tag:           Jonah: A Gospel of Grace

Title:           Jonah Experiences the Unequaled (Part 3)

Text:           Jonah 2:8-10

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 3)


Jonah 2:8-10 (Repeat)


Our theme for today is Jonah praises God


C. S. Lewis once wrote:

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but 
completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. If it were possible for a 
created soul fully to 'Appreciate,' that is, to love and delight in, the worthiest object of all, 
and simultaneously at every moment to give this delight perfect expression, then that soul 
would be in supreme blessedness. To praise God fully we must suppose ourselves to be in 
perfect love with God, drowned in, dissolved by that delight which, far from remaining 
pent up within ourselves as incommunicable bliss, flows out from us incessantly again in 
effortless and perfect expression. Our joy is no more separable From the praise in which
 it liberates and utters itself than the brightness a mirror receives is separable from the 
brightness it sheds. 

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


[We need to remind ourselves that…]

Last week we began looking at this unequaled psalm of Jonah. Jonah produced or wrote a tremendous Psalm of praise about his unequaled predicament.

We said, that verse one (1) was prose, or part of the historical narrative but beginning in verse (2) Jonah used prose in order to compose this psalm. Of course verse ten (10) is a return to prose or historical narrative.

When you read poetry you must keep in mind that it differs from prose and is interpreted differently than prose. A working definition of poetry goes like this:

“Poetry is the art of rhythmical composition, written or spoken, for conveying information by beautiful, imaginative, or elevated thoughts. ... Poetry is lofty thought or impassioned feeling expressed in imaginative words”

This is exactly what Jonah did. Jonah took passionate and dramatic thoughts and feelings and expressed them in beautiful, imaginative, and elevated thoughts or words with literary license.

It stands to reason that Jonah didn’t really sink or fall to the very bottom of the ocean. The pressure of the water would have killed him. Even if he was in the fish and even if the fish could dive to the very ocean floor he still would have died. The Mediterranean Sea is over 17,000 feet and man can dive about 190 feet before he explodes from the water pressure.

Of course I am not discounting nor denying that God could have miraculously preserved Jonah as I am sure he did, but the poetic language conveys his thoughts adequately without us thinking that Jonah literally went to the very bottom of the sea.

Last week we saw two of the three main ideas found in this unequaled psalm of Jonah.

[The first idea we saw, was…]

·        Jonah recognized his circumstance – John recognized and realized that he was in dire straits; he was sinking in the Mediterranean Sea and was drowning. And in some form or fashion Jonah cried out, he figuratively accosted Heaven, to God because of this affliction, or the fact that he was drowning. By the way, within Jonah’s recognition of his circumstances was his understanding of both the source and the seriousness of his circumstance. He knew this affliction was from God Himself and he recognized just how serious it really was.

[The second idea we saw, was…] 

·        Jonah remembered his connection – Jonah says in verse seven (7), “I remembered the LORD.” Jonah remembered his connection or his relationship to his God. 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

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


Today we will finish looking at the incredible and unequaled psalm by examining verses 8 through 10 of chapter two.

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

[As we turn to chapter two, and verse eight (8) we will see...]

          3B     Jonah Reinforced His Conclusion (8-9)

The salvation, the deliverance, or even the preservation of Jonah caused him to conclude that God had in fact delivered him. This conclusion gave birth to a tremendous desire in Jonah’s to express his thankfulness to God through this psalm. As we have seen this is a psalm of thanksgiving and praise.

Included in his thankfulness and praise, Jonah reviews his conclusion in three (3) distinct ways. The first way Jonah reviews his conclusion is seen when:

1C     Jonah expresses the problem of sinners (8)

          “Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own mercy…”

In the Hebrew this verse contains just five (5) words.  As a matter of fact one translation has a footnote that reads, “Meaning of Hebrew uncertain.”

It is very difficult to translate and it can be interpreted at least three (3) ways. The explanation is technical and difficult. So I will spare you the long and drawn out technical explanation and say that I have chosen to take the third and less held way of interpreting it and will give you that in a moment.

First – the interpretation by the majority of scholars

The King James uses the term “lying vanities.” This is a descriptive name used by Jonah to refer to the idols and the gods of the pagan world. The word for “lying” is translated twenty-two (22) times as vanity or worthlessness. Jonah may be referring to useless or worthless empty and temporary idols. This refers to anything that a man would make or turn into an object of trust or faith.
In our context this sentence refers to the source of salvation. Jonah is saying that there is no salvation in the idols of the pagans. This is a direct reference to the fact that salvation only comes from the true and living God of heaven.

This is true no matter which interpretation that you take, salvation only comes from God.

Jonah points to idolaters as those who have forsaken, forfeited, or abandoned the mercy available from the true God.

It is absolute and complete foolishness to put faith or trust in an idol. Keep in mind and idol is not restricted to a statue, or picture, or physical object. Many everyday things in our lives can become idols when we have placed our faith and trust for salvation, for support, or for sustenance. Things like:

§  Parents
§  Spouse
§  Employer or job
§  Our own skills

You know that the list could go on and on. The point is an idol, any idol cannot give or supply any help, assistance, or salvation at all. 

It is possible as some scholars think that Jonah reviews this idea because he might have connected it to the idolatrous sailors who had prayed to their idols for salvation or deliverance from the storm. He is not simply showing our useless and ineffective idols really are, but how absolutely foolish it is to trust in them because when you do, you forfeit the mercy of God.

And so, if you look to any type or kind of idol you will miss out on the grace that could be yours which comes from the true and living God.

Second – it could be interpreted this way:

It is possible also to conclude from this verse that Jonah might be saying that anyone who trusts in idols will abandon their idols when they discover just how useless they are.

The first three words of this verse refer to anyone who practices idolatry. The last two words in our verse can refer to a couple of different ideas:

§  they forfeit the grace that was theirs – as we have just said
§  they have abandoned their loyalty to you

The noun can refer to the loyalty of human worshippers or to their loving kindness which God gives to those who trust him.

It seems that this verse is written to give a contrast with what we will read in verse nine (9).

Jonah is expressing an opinion that those who worship idols will discover in times of trial or trouble just how useless their idols really are and as a result will no longer be loyal to them or to love them. But those who worship and love God will always find God to be trustworthy and reliable.

So, there are some scholar who translate this difficult verse is this way:

“Those who cling to worthless idols will abandon their loyalty to them.”

But that is a bit stretched even though the verse is difficult to translate and has interpretative challenges. Once again, the overall thought seems to be an emphasis on the salvation that comes from God.

Third – it could be interpreted in this manner:

The Hebrew word "hesed" can be translate as goodness, kindness, favor, mercy, merciful, and even grace. It is usually translated as “loving-kindness.”

Once again our verse gives us the idea that people who forsake their God forfeit or lose something very significant – they are about to forsake their hesed.

Remember, this is the charge that God takes up against unfaithful and idol worshipping Israel.

Jonah might be making a reference to Israel. Jonah might be saying that those who reject God and worship idols are risking their hesed, or their grace of God. IOW, if you reject the one and true God you reject the grace, mercy, and faithfulness of that God.

There is one other place in the Bible where this idea is put forth and that is in Psalm 31:6-7:

“I hate those who cling to worthless idols; I trust in the LORD. I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.” [Psalm 31:6-7, NIV]

John Calvin
No aid and no help can be expected from any other quarter than from the only true God.” [1]

The key to understanding this verse regardless of the interpretation that you chose, is that as Calvin also said,

                             John Calvin
“…men miserably go astray, when they turn aside to vain superstitions, for they rob themselves of the chief good: for he calls whatever help or aid that is necessary for salvation, the mercy of men. The sense then is, that as soon as men depart from God, they depart from life and salvation, and that nothing is retained by them, for they willfully cast aside whatever good than be hoped and desired.” [2]

The salvation, the deliverance, and the preservation that Jonah experienced caused him to conclude that God had in fact been merciful to him. The first way Jonah reviews his conclusion is seen when Jonah expresses the problem of sinners; “Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own mercy…”

[The second way that Jonah reinforced his conclusion is seen when…]

2C     Jonah expresses his pledge of service (9a-b)

“But I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed.”

It seems for Jonah that a true act of sacrifice is an expression of thankfulness to God rather than simply being a means to appease the wrath of God. The act of sacrificing signifies a complete commitment to God and more importantly, in Jonah’s case, to the will of God.

It may be that at this point Jonah is reflecting back to his first prayer (2:1) when he cried out to God for help. He may have promised or vowed to God that if God saved him from drowning he would perform certain things or give certain things to God.

The mention of paying his vows connects the past prayer for help with the present psalm of thanksgiving for the help he in fact received, iow, he did no drown nor was he digested by the huge fish.

Page and Smith mention that maybe Jonah had promised or vowed to live up to his calling as a prophet. Henry Morris thinks that Jonah vowed to go to Nineveh and proclaim God’s word as he was first commissioned to do. [3]

At any rate Jonah thinks that he will once again be able to worship in the Temple of God in Jerusalem. Jonah believes that because of the miraculous salvation of God that he will be able to carry out his obligations and promises to God.

Jonah has offered a “todah”, a token of his extreme gratitude to God because God did not let him die. Jonah is pretty happy about being delivered from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.
Calvin is under the opinion that the “vows” that Jonah referred to are not specific promises to be performed, but Jonah merely repeated his praise of thanksgiving in a different way. He thought that Jonah was repeating the same thing twice.

Regardless of whether they were specific actions or functions to be performed or carried out or a repeated expression of thanksgiving, Jonah was expressed a pledge of service to God because of his conclusion that God had saved him and delivered him for certain drowning.

Jonah had rediscovered the one thing that he had feared he had lost. Do you remember what he said in verse four (4)?

“…I have been cast out of your sight.”

Jonah found the grace of God again. Jonah was thankful that God had not utterly forsaken him, but had turned him from rebellion and caused him to call out to God. He was thankful for the grace of God

Each one of us who are in fact genuine believers must stop right here and in great and unspeakable thanksgiving pledge our lives and service to God because God did the same thing to us and for us.

Those of us who are genuine believers were not utterly forsaken by God, but God through His Holy Spirit based on the atoning sacrifice of His only begotten Son, turned us from rebellion and sin, and caused us to call out to and upon the name of God who then saved us by his eternal, free, and infinite grace. We should be right now pledging to pay what we have vowed because God has graced us.

If you would, let me give you a somewhat lengthy quote that I hope expresses this reality more clearly:

“Jonah has not been answered if we take the answer to be rescue from the belly of the fish, salvation from hell. But he has been answered if we take the answer to be adoption under the care of the God who takes on the totality of our sufferings, dramas, and situations, He is answered because grace does not fail in any way, and even if there is no visible, actual and personal sign, Jonah can state that the answer takes place because grace has been granted to him from all eternity. Jonah rediscovers this grace of God at the very moment his situation is hopeless and to all appearances nothing more is to be expected, His refusal and flight were clearly outside of grace. Events have taken place without any indication of a favorable intervention, only signs of judgment. But suddenly, when he has accepted his condemnation, when he has acknowledged before God that he was guilty and that God was just, he sees that at no point did God cease to show him grace…” [4]

God, by His grace has restored the broken relationship with Jonah. This is just as God has done with every genuine believer!

[How do we know this? Well, we don’t have to look any farther than the third way that Jonah reinforced his conclusion when…]

                   3C     Jonah expresses his provenance of salvation (9c)

                             “Salvation is of the LORD.”

Jonah is sure of one thing – salvation is a gracious gift of God. Jonah made these expressions of thanksgiving and promises of worship because his hope was based on the fact that God is able and willing to save those who cry out to him. Only God can grant salvation.

This is the climax of Jonah’s psalm! Jonah has experienced the grace of God. This is an admission of Jonah and for us an insight into the sovereignty of God in the area of salvation and deliverance.

This is why Page and Smith in their commentary state, “It is correct to say that this line may serve as the key verse in the book.” [5]

Listen, Jonah knew that he deserved death. He did not deserve deliverance. He desired to be saved, to live but he knew he did not deserve it. He states that “salvation is of the LORD” because he knew salvation was a gracious act of God. This is his testimony.

What is your testimony today? Can you truly state with absolute conviction that salvation is of the Lord? Or are you indifferent to it, or trying to obtain salvation by your own works and efforts. If you are, stop it! Look to God, look to His Son, and cry out for His grace. Why? Salvation is of the LORD, no other.

Well Jonah reviewed his conclusion, all right! The salvation, the deliverance, or even the preservation of Jonah caused him to conclude that God had in fact delivered him. This conclusion gave birth to a tremendous desire in Jonah’s to express his thankfulness to God through this psalm.

[Finally, there is…]

3A     The Unequaled Processing of Jonah (Vs. 10)

Jonah know returns to prose. His psalm has concluded. He now reverts back to writing or recording the historical events that took place after he was delivered by God. The narrative of chapter one (1), verse seventeen (17) resumes.

The conviction of Jonah that he was “saved” or delivered by God was not just an internal conviction. This salvation was demonstrated by the way that God “processed” His runaway prophet – we have an actual event where Jonah is delivered out of the belly of the huge fish on to dry land.

We can’t as Calvin states take this event for granted. This was an incredible miracle. Who would have thought that a man could be swallowed by a fish and live for three days and three nights? Why wasn’t Jonah drowned? Why didn’t he asphyxiate?  Why didn’t the fish digest him? This was an event beyond the normal means of nature.

But I think Calvin is right, we have a miracle that is intended to cause us to appreciate, admire, and adore God even more than we do right now. Listen to what Jonah writes:

“So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.”

Once again God by His sovereign power, His absolute omnipotence, and based on His total ownership of everything in the universe, took control over this huge fish. God spoke to the fish.

What did God say? God spoke to a fish and the fish responded in complete obedience. 

The Hebrew word gives the idea of “a command.” In some way God commanded this fish to deposit Jonah onto the dry seashore. The word for “vomit” is a kind of nasty word and it is used in the OT to cause you to “see” or think of disgusting images or pictures. Sometimes translations uses words like spit or spew, but the word is very graphic.

Naturally the fish instantly and completely obeys in every detail. Jonah was vomited or spit up onto dry land. The lesson here is first and foremost, that Jonah, the sailors, the ocean, and even the fish were not in control. God and God alone was in absolute sovereign control!

And so this fish responded better than Jonah. As soon as the fish knew God’s will, the fish obeyed. Allen, in his commentary reflects that possibly the fish was glad to do vomit him up. Allen writes:

It obediently and doubtless gladly spews up this indigestible object and swims off with a flick of its tail, its distinguished mission accomplished.”  [6]

Where was Jonah vomited or spit up? There is great debate over this question. All we really know for sure was that it was “dry land.”

This land was probably near Joppa on the seashore of Israel. I think it was near Joppa because in chapter one (1) before the sailors threw Jonah overboard they tried to row back to land. They might have tried to reach the port where they had sailed out of but of course they could not and did not.

We have looked at and finished Part Two of Jonah: A Gospel of Grace. Part 1 gave us The Prodigal Prophet, 1:1-16. In part one we saw that Jonah did the unexpected.

Part 2 gives us the Praising Prophet, where we saw that Jonah did the unequaled 1:17-2:10. 

There were three (3) sections to the fact that Jonah did the unequaled:

·        The unequaled prayer of Jonah – Jonah prayed out of his dire straits
·        The unequaled psalm of Jonah – Jonah praised God for his deliverance
·        The unequaled preservation of Jonah – Jonah was processed onto dry land
 [What do you say we wrap this up?]


God delivers Jonah.

Our God is a saving God, a God of deliverance. The Bible is filled with examples of divine deliverance. When God brought the flood upon the earth to destroy it, He saved Noah and his family, along with a remnant of the creatures that dwell on the earth (Genesis 6-9). When Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt, God rescued him from bondage and made him a great leader in the land of Egypt, and a savior to his own people (Genesis 37-50). When the Israelites were held captive as slaves in Egypt, God rescued them and eventually led them into the land of Canaan (Exodus 1-15). God often delivered David from his enemies, and especially from Saul, who sought to kill him (1 Samuel). We read of many other deliverances in the Book of Psalms. God rescued Jehoshaphat from the Syrians (1 Kings 22) and also from the Moabites (2 Kings 3). He rescued Jerusalem from the Assyrians when Sennacherib sent Rabshakeh to destroy Jerusalem and capture Judah (see Isaiah 36-37).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.

Let’s pray! J 

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 Calvin, Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets, trans. John Owen, vol. 3, Jonah, Micha, Nahum, (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1847), 88.

[2] John Calvin, Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets, vol. 2, Jonah, Amos, Obadiah, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), 86

[3] Henry M. Morris, The Remarkable Journey of Jonah, (Green Forest: Master Books, 2003), 91

[4] James Montgomery Boice, The Minor Prophets, vol. 1, An Expositional Commentary Hosea-Jonah, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1983), 288

[5] Billy K. Smith & Frank S. Page, The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of the Holy Scripture, Amos-Jonah, vol. 19b, (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 1995), p. 252

[6] Leslie C. Allen, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), p.220

No comments: