voice of thanksgiving." Jonah was thankful. He had strong reason indeed to be. He paid the vows he had made. "Be ye thankful." Every mercy is an incentive to thankfulness. And God's mercies, "new every morning and repeated every evening," and pauseless in their coming, "cannot be reckoned up." And all crowned by the gift of Christ. "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable Gift." "Thanksgiving is thanksliving."
"Let never day nor night unhallow'd pass,
1. Objectively, the prophet's experience was that of one in the belly of hell, in the midst of the seas, entangled in the weeds, and among the caverns worn by the waves beneath the mountains on the coast. Jonah was in the belly of hell — Sheol, the region of the dead. He was in the heart of the seas. He sank at once when cast into the sea. He was entangled with the sea-weeds. Entangled with the weeds which gathered about his head, the prophet drifted towards the coast, and was presently carried into some of its submarine caverns by the current, and there he must have perished but for the Divine mercy.
And Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God, out of the fish's belly.
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.)
2. The subjective experience of Jonah beneath the waves was that of a living, conscious, suffering, and suppliant person. It was a miraculous circumstance that the prophet remained alive in such a position. Jonah was not only alive, but conscious while under the sea. The distress he experienced beneath the water appears to have been spiritual rather than physical. His soul was overwhelmed with the consciousness that he was cast out of God's sight. Jonah was saved from despair by the suppliant mood which possessed him. We need despair of no man while he prays. His prayer was accompanied by a look toward the temple of Jehovah. It was prompted by his remembrance of the Lord. "I remembered Jehovah." It was accompanied by a vow. It was answered in a remarkable manner.Observe his reflections when in the fish.
1. "Thou hast brought up my life from destruction, O Lord my God!"
2. "My prayer came in unto Thee, into Thine holy temple."
3. "They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy."
4. "Salvation is of the Lord."
(S. C. Burn.)
1. There was a great and sudden quickening of consciousness.
2. Rapidly this new consciousness became distressful. The reserved sorrow of long sinning comes all at once.
3. Then he began to "look" — upwards to earth, eastwards to the temple where he knew that the lost presence was richly manifested.
4. The look soon became a cry. It may have been an audible cry. But evidently the soul of the cry was this, that it was tim cry of the soul.
5. He began to be grateful.
6. The final state of his mind is a state of entire dependence.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
1. It is the usual lot of the Lord's children to have not only outward afflictions to wrestle with, but spiritual temptations and sad conclusions, gathered from their troubles, which are sorer to endure than many simple afflictions. For so was it with Jonah when he was in the sea.
2. The children of the Lord in their troubles may be so tossed and divided betwixt hope and despair that faith and unbelief will be talking word about, for so doth Jonah's experience teach. "I said, I am cast out; yet will I look again."
3. In a time of temptation, unbelief's word is generally first out, till faith come and correct it; ordinarily what is said in haste is unbelief's language, and to be unsaid again, for this comes first out, I am cast out of Thy sight.
4. A child of God may not only be assaulted with fits of despair, but for a time be overcome with it, and yield to it; and yet, for all that, recover his feet again.
5. As it is ordinary under temptation to judge of all God's respect, care, and love by our sense of His present dealing, so to be cast off by God, as one that He will not favour nor care for nor take notice of, is the sorest of trials, especially to the child of God, who lives by God's favour, and is made up in all his afflictions when he finds that God thinks on him, and that his troubles endear him to God's care.
6. It is no new thing to see a child of God, and vessel of mercy, apprehending reprobation and rejection from God, in his sad and dark hour, for this also is Jonah's temptation.
7. Nor is it strange to see the children of God exercised and sadly afflicted with that which hath never been, nor will be, save in their own fearful apprehensions; for so is Jonah with "casting off." When we reckon by our own deservings, and by probabilities in a strait, and not by God's love and all-sufficiency, we cannot but draw sad conclusions, and our own spirits will make us work enough.
8. Temptations, even when they have overcome for a season, are not to be lien with, and given way to, by the children of God, but ought to be resisted and set against, though they should (if it were possible) perish in the attempt, this being the way to honour God and get deliverance, — for vanquished Jonah will not quit it so; "Yet will I look again."
9. That whereby the children of the Lord must oppose all troubles inward and outward, and resist temptations, is naked faith closely adhering to the covenant of grace made in Christ, and gathering hope of better dealing This is imported in his "looking again toward the holy Temple," or eyeing God in His covenant, whereof that was a sign. To cast away confidence as useless in a strait, or not to essay faith until we are hired by sense, or to lie by in wilful unbelief, think that is the way to get sense to loose our doubts; or to seek any footing for faith but in God's covenant and free grace in Christ, is the height of folly.
10. The weakest act of faith may do much good in a day of greatest need; for in all this extremity Jonah had no more but a "looking again" as a poor banished man.
11. Faith in a time of need will find a way through many a dark impediment to find God.
12. It speaks much to God's praise that when His people are laid by with their temptations yet He will not lose them, but recover them out of their deepest swoons, and make vanquished faith yet again to triumph over difficulties which they had judged insuperable. For this is also recorded to His praise: that not only Jonah persevered crying when his trouble was great, but that he was strengthened, after he had once yielded to the temptation, to believe and "look again."
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.)
1. The spiritual exercises with which the prophet's prayer is identified. It is impossible to conceive of a more critical or distressing condition than that to which the servant of God was reduced.
2. The conclusion of unbelief. "Then I said, I am cast out of Thy sight." An outcast from Divine favour.
3. The victory of faith. "Yet will I look again towards Thy holy temple." See faith's realised triumph, "Yet hast Thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God."
4. The ardour of Jonah's gratitude.
5. His emphatic ascription. "Salvation is of the Lord." Notice also the evidence of spiritual reclamation which the prophet's prayer supplies. This is seen in his altered feeling towards God. In the rekindling of the spirit of devotion. In the vigorous action of faith. In the expression of this faith Jonah embodied the sentiments of former saints. The prophet's mind was evidently richly stored with the Word of God.
I. VIEW JONAH'S POSITION FROM THE SIDE OF SENSE. Was ever a case so fitted to call forth utter despair? Mark —
1. The case in which Jonah finds himself.
2. The hand to which he traces it.
3. The immediate effects produced on his mind by it.He felt to be cast out of God's sight. His soul fainted in him. Outwardly he was begirt with terrors unspeakable. These to him were tokens of an angry God. His soul was brought to the very verge of despair.
II. JONAH'S FAITH ROSE IN ITS STRENGTH AND TRIUMPH. What can stand us in any stead in such an hour but the prayer of faith?
1. We see the truth and power of Jonah's faith in that he betook himself to prayer at all.
2. He set before himself the certainty of Jehovah's reconcilableness, His promised forgiveness, His sure accessibility.
3. He did not do this in vain. He was answered in the progressive strengthening of his faith, even while his trial lasts.
4. Jonah offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving. He cometh unto God — unto God his exceeding joy.
(Hugh Martin, M. A.)
1. The moral significance of adverse circumstances. Circumstances make or unmake, mould or mar us for future usefulness and distinction, according to the spirit in which they are received and utilised. Adverse circumstances are morally advantageous when rightly understood, patiently borne, and rightly used. Adversity ever has a spiritual significance. Whether it be guidance judicial or disciplinary, we cannot do better than acknowledge with reverence the hand that strikes, and supplicate His mercy.
2. The important part prayer plays in the adversities of life. It is indispensable in the trying and troublous experiences of our moral and physical being. Jonah's prayer was a necessity. He was borne on the wings of strong moral impulses.
3. That the hearer or receiver of prayer is always within reach and approachable. Time, circumstances, con dition, place are no hindrances in themselves to drawing near to God. From every point in the compass of life He is accessible.
(1) (2) 4. That our prayers to a great extent are moulded by our experience. As the countenance indexes the mind, the eye, the health, so prayer is a pretty sure indicator of the soul's attitude Godward, its condition in grace, its experience in the faith-life. This chapter teaches the prevalency of prayer. It was answered in complete salvation. Note here, amazing Divine condescension. Great deviation from the Divine habitude. Prompt and perfect deliverance. Prayer is omnipotent, for it prevails with, it conquers God. There is no dilemma in Christian experience that prayer cannot deliver from. (J. O. Keen, D. D.) (S. S. Chronicle.) (Christian Herald.)
(2) 4. That our prayers to a great extent are moulded by our experience. As the countenance indexes the mind, the eye, the health, so prayer is a pretty sure indicator of the soul's attitude Godward, its condition in grace, its experience in the faith-life. This chapter teaches the prevalency of prayer. It was answered in complete salvation. Note here, amazing Divine condescension. Great deviation from the Divine habitude. Prompt and perfect deliverance. Prayer is omnipotent, for it prevails with, it conquers God. There is no dilemma in Christian experience that prayer cannot deliver from. (J. O. Keen, D. D.) (S. S. Chronicle.) (Christian Herald.)
4. That our prayers to a great extent are moulded by our experience. As the countenance indexes the mind, the eye, the health, so prayer is a pretty sure indicator of the soul's attitude Godward, its condition in grace, its experience in the faith-life. This chapter teaches the prevalency of prayer. It was answered in complete salvation. Note here, amazing Divine condescension. Great deviation from the Divine habitude. Prompt and perfect deliverance. Prayer is omnipotent, for it prevails with, it conquers God. There is no dilemma in Christian experience that prayer cannot deliver from.
(J. O. Keen, D. D.)
(S. S. Chronicle.)