Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,…
This prayer, as it now stands, was obviously composed after his restoration. It may be regarded as a compendium of what he uttered in his distress. Notice —
1. The depth of the prophet's misery. The prophet was in the utmost jeopardy. He knew not but that death might speedily be his portion. His misery arose chiefly from the agony of his soul — the conviction that he had been arrested in an act of wilful disobedience, — in the attempt, vain as that of the first fallen pair, to escape from the presence of the Lord. Many of his expressions are similar to those of the psalmist. David felt the bitterness which is the invariable result of a departure from the living God, — the intolerable anguish which arises from a consciousness of guilt when the conscience, by habitual transgression, has not been seared, and reverential fear of God not rooted out from the heart. When we contemplate the prophet in his dark hours of terror and agony, and behold the inevitable wretchedness which is the natural consequence of disobedience, we cannot but admire the wisdom, while we should seek to follow the example, of that apostle who declared, in the presence of Felix, that he exercised himself to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men. Though depressed and desponding, Jonah did not give way to despair. He called to mind former mercies. His prayer ascended with the incense to heaven. And to whom should we betake ourselves in the hour of affliction, but to that God who dwelleth not in temples made with hands? We should not look to other sources for that comfort which Jehovah alone can bestow. As Jonah looked to the temple, and thought upon the legal sacrifices there offered, so must we, in all our addresses to the throne of grace, have respect to the meritorious efficacy of that great sacrifice by which the Lord Jesus hath averted the Father's displeasure, and opened a way of access through His blood. The prayer of Jonah was not in vain. He was speedily delivered from his prison-house. No doubt can be entertained of the sincerity of the prophet's repentance — of the deep humiliation of his soul, of his heartfelt contrition for having disobeyed the Divine command. No sooner was the prophet restored than, like the mariners, he offered praise and thanksgiving, and paid his vows unto the Lord. How overwhelming must have been his feelings on this miraculous deliverance from his strange and fearful prison-house. His soul must have been transported with gratitude and amazement, and his vows were doubtless poured forth with a fervour proportioned to a sense of deliverance. But how often are pious resolutions forgotten when the time of danger is past. "Salvation is of the Lord." What truth more important to be habitually realised than this, — that all our temporal, spiritual, and eternal blessings proceed from God. What have we that we have not received? Our worldly success we are tempted to ascribe to our prudence and skilful management. We refer to second causes that which should be referred to the great First Cause of all. And we are apt to forget that it is "by grace we are saved." The great practical lesson for us to learn is — the value and importance of prayer.
(Thomas Bissland, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,