Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,…
The object in setting forth the history of Jonah is to show the nature of his sin, the truth of his penitence, and the way in which he was restored to God's favour. Turn thought to the change which was worked in Jonah's soul. Bear in mind what was the nature of his sin It was not that he was separated from God, but that he had abandoned his duty, had shrunk from his mission, had thought more of his own relief from trial than of God's will. When some wrong has been done which we have not the courage to confess, and the truth is discovered, fixing the charge on one's self-personality, we know what a terrible shock and deep inward sense of self-reproach is felt. Illustrate by the cases of Achan and David. When the sailors asked Jonah what was to be done, he replied, "Cast me forth into the sea... for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you." What do his words prove? Not only Jonah's personal sense of guilt, but his complete surrender of himself to God, whether to live or to die. "If I die," he seems to say, "it is my just doom; if I live, it is the pure undeserved mercy of God." It was the most perfect reparation we can conceive. As before he would not surrender his own will and his own judgment, notwithstanding the command of God, so now he would give himself up wholly for whatever God might will as his deserved punishment. The sailors east him into the sea, but then a yet deeper sense of penitence awoke within him, and a yet stronger expression of profound sorrow and unquestioning childlike faith broke forth from him. Jonah saw, by faith, life restored; he saw Divine mercy working itself out in the midst of the deep darkness, and he acknowledged God as his Father, his Protector, his eternal Hope even then in the midst of his awful doom. Two lessons —
1. We see here an act of purest faith. There is a faith of a soft and easy kind, when everything goes smooth, and we have no anxiety, no fear or distress darkening the path of life. How glibly then do men speak of having their hope in God. There is another kind of faith, which produces resignation, patience, willingness to endure and be brave, and even willing to suffer. But yet it may not be faith that cheers the soul, — not a "rejoicing in the Lord," not the triumph of a trustful soul. The real saving faith is seen when the soul finds God working in the storm and tempest, and reads the handwriting on the wall, speaking even in the midst of death and terror, and yet can calmly look on the Redeemer on the Cross, and see in the future the immortality beyond the grave, see the brightness of the glory that will one day be" to the faithful the heritage of boundless joy, and so be comforted and gladdened even in sorrow and pain, — it is such faith we see realised in the repentant Jonah.
2. We may learn the reason of trials and troubles which so often disturb the currents of our life. What would it be if we were always in the sunshine, always prosperous? Would there not be, even to the most faithful, a risk of too great confidence of a false assurance?
(T. T. Carter.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,