Jonah 2:1. Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly.
What a strange place for prayer! Surely then is the only prayer that ever went up to God out of a fish’s belly. Jonah found himself alive;-that was the surprising thing, that he was alive in the belly of a fish;-and because he was alive, he began to pray. It is such a wonder that some people here should continue to live that they ought to begin to pray. If you live with death so near, and in so great peril, and yet you do not pray, what is to become of you? This prayer of Jonah is very remarkable because it is not a prayer at all in the sense in which we usually apply the word to petition and supplication. If you read the prayer through, you will see that it is almost all thanksgiving; and the best prayer in all the world is a prayer that is full of thankfulness. We praise the Lord for what he has done for us, and thus we do, in effect, ask him to perfect the work which he has begun. He has delivered us, so we bless his holy name, and by implication we beseech him still to deliver us. Notice that it says here, “Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God.” He was a runaway; he had tried to escape from the presence of God; yet the Lord was still his God. God will not lose any of his people, even if, like Jonah, they are in the belly of a fish, Jehovah is still their God: “Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly,” —
Jonah 2:2. And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me;-
You see that this is not praying, it is telling the Lord what he had done for his disobedient servant. Jonah had prayed, and the Lord had heard him, yet he was still in the fish’s belly. Unbelief would have said, “You have lived so long; Jonah; but you cannot expect to live to get out of this dreary, damp, fetid prison.” Ah, but faith is out of prison even while she is in it. Faith begins to tell what God has done before the great work is actually accomplished; so Jonah said, “I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me;” —
Jonah 2:2. Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
He was like a man in the unseen world among the dead. He felt that he was condemned and cast away; yet God had heard him, and now he sings about it in the belly of the fish. No other fish that ever lived had a live man inside him singing praises unto God.
Jonah 2:3. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas;
The word Jonah used implies that God had violently cast him away into the deep. “Cast me not off,” prayed David, but here is a man who says that God did cast him out like a thing flung overboard into the vast deep: “Thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas;” —
Jonah 2:3. And the floods compassed me about:
“They rolled all over me, beneath me, above me, around me; ‘The floods compassed me about:’” —
Jonah 2:3. All thy billows and thy waves passed over me.
Jonah had evidently read his Bible; at least, he had read the 42nd Psalm, for he quotes it here. It is a blessed thing to have the Bible in your mind and heart so that, wherever you may be, you do not need to turn to the Book because you have the Book inside you. Here is a man inside a fish with a Book inside of him; and it was the Book inside of him that brought him out from the fish again.
Jonah 2:4. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.
What grand faith Job displayed when he said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him;” and here is another splendid manifestation of faith, “’I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.’ If God does not look at me, I will still look towards the place where he dwells. As I am being flung away from him, I will give one more look towards his holy temple.”
Jonah 2:5. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul:-
They seemed to get right into his spirit; his heart became waterlogged: “The waters compassed me about, even to the soul:” —
Jonah 2:5. The depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
Like his winding-sheet,-as if the cerements of the grave were wrapped about his mouth, and ears, and eyes, and he was consigned to a living tomb. This narrative is a graphic description of the natural motion of the great fish which had swallowed Jonah. When the fish found this strange being inside him, the first thing that he did was to plunge as deep as ever he could into the waters. You will see that Jonah did go down very deep indeed. The next thing was for the fish to make for the weeds; as certain creatures eat weeds to cure them when they feel very ill, this fish went of to the weedy places to see if he could get a cure for this new complaint of a man inside him.
Jonah 2:6. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains;-
To the very roots and foundations of the mountains, where the big jagged rocks made huge buttresses for the hills above: “I went down to the bottom of the mountains;” —
Jonah 2:6. The earth with her bars was about me for ever:
Down went the fish, as deep as he could go: and, of course, down went Jonah too, and he might well imagine that he was in a vast prison from which there was no way of escape,
Jonah 2:6. Yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
And, dear friend, God can bring you up, however low you may have gone. Though, in your own feelings, you feel as if you had gone so low that you could not go any lower, God can, in answer to prayer, bring you up again. O despairing one, take heart, and be comforted by this story of Jonah! God is dealing with you as he was with him. There may be a great fish, but there is a great God as well. There may be a deep seas, but there is an almighty God to bring you up out of it.
Jonah 2:7. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD:
It is a blessed memory that serves us faithfully in a fainting fit. Mostly, when the heart faints, the memory fails; but Jonah remembered the Lord when his soul fainted within him.
Jonah 2:7. And my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.
Think of Jonah’s prayer going right within the veil, and reaching the ear and heart of God in his holy temple. He said that he was cast out of God’s sight, yet his prayer went into God’s temple. Oh, the prevalence of a bold believing prayer! “My prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.”
Jonah 2:8. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
If you trust anywhere but in God, you will run away from your own mercy. God is the only really merciful One who can always help you; but if you trust in your own righteousness, if you trust in priest craft, if you trust in any superstition, you are observing lying vanities, and forsaking your own mercy. God is the source of your mercy; do not run away from him to anyone or anything else.
Jonah 2:9. But I will sacrifice unto thee-“
I long to do so. I cannot do it just now, but I would if I could; and I will do it when thou shalt grant me deliverance from my present peril.”
Jonah 2:9. With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.
That is one of the grandest utterances that any man ever made: “SALVATION!” Write it in capital letters. It is a very emphatic word in the Hebrew, and I might read it, “Mighty salvation is of Jehovah.” This is real, old-fashioned Calvinistic doctrine spoken centuries before John Calvin was born. The whale could not endure it, and he turned Jonah out directly he said, “Salvation is of the Lord.” The world does not like that doctrine, and there are many professing Christians who do not like it. They say, “Salvation is of man’s free will; salvation is of the works of the law; salvation is of rites and ceremonies;” and so on. But we say, with Jonah, “Salvation is of the Lord.” He works it from beginning to end, and therefore he must have all the praise for it for ever and ever.
Jonah 2:10. And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
God has only to speak, and even sea-monsters obey him. I know not how he spoke to the fish; I do not know how to talk to a fish, but God does; and as the Lord could speak to that fish, he can speak to any sinner here. However far you may have gone from all that is good, he who spoke to that great fish, and made it disgorge the prophet Jonah, can speak to you, and then you will give up your sins as the whale gave up Jonah. God grant that it may be so this very hour! That is the prayer of an ancient mariner, may it be ours, as far as it is suited to our circumstances, and may we be brought by God’s grace to cry, with Jonah, “Salvation is of the Lord”!