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Jonah's Prayer

  • | Gunther von Harringa, Sr.
  • Audio: Length: 30:05 Size: 5.2 MB
  • A look at Jonah 2:1-9 when he prays from the belly of the fish.

Let us begin with a Word of prayer.

Father in Heaven, we thank you so much for this new day, this Sabbath day that you have given to us and we thank you for this opportunity to again look at your Word and we pray Father, that as we do so, that you might open our eyes and ears to see wonderful things out of Your Law and we ask these things, in Jesus name, Amen.

Today, I thought that we would start a study regarding Jonah’s prayer and this is Jonah 2:1-9, if you would like to turn there. We have to remember that, he is uttering this prayer from the belly of the great fish or whale. In Jonah 2:1-9, we read:

Then Jonah prayed unto JEHOVAH his God out of the fish’s belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto JEHOVAH, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O JEHOVAH my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered JEHOVAH: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of JEHOVAH.

We have to bear in mind that, Jonah’s experience in the whale’s belly, lasted three days and three nights, as we read in Jonah 1:17:

Now JEHOVAH had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

God associates Jonah’s ordeal with Christ’s suffering. This is really a picture of Christ enduring the wrath of God, which took place before the foundation of the world. The cross is merely a demonstration of what had taken place before God had created this world before anything of this present universe came into being. If we go to Matthew 12:38-40, we see this phrase, “… in the heart of the earth.”, for “… three days and three nights …”. In Matthew 12:38-41, we read:

Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Jonah 2:2 helps to clarify this phrase, “… the heart of the earth.” in Matthew 12:40, which is a portrait of hell, and we know that “hell” is the grave. It is really the essence of destruction. In Jonah 2:2, we read:

And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto JEHOVAH, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

We have learned that the number “three” is highly significant as it represents the purpose of God and in fact, it is used very frequently in connection with events leading up to the cross, the crucifixion itself as well as events that occurred after His burial.

But specifically, it refers spiritually, to the sufferings of Christ. And so, we see this here with Jonah’s prayer and the analogy of the “grave” or “hell” gives us additional details which hopefully, by God’s mercy, our understanding will be amplified a bit, as far as what Christ had to endure prior to creation.

Even though, we cannot understand how the Saviour could be annihilated? How He could rise again, from the dead after that annihilation because, after all, He is eternal God. He never ceases to exist and more than that, He is the very essence of eternal life. So hopefully, as we go through this study, we will be able to learn a little bit better, LORD willing about some of these details. We see first of all, in Jonah 2:1:

Then Jonah prayed unto JEHOVAH his God out of the fish’s belly,

Jonah prayed and in similar fashion, we see the LORD Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane, that Thursday evening. Let us go to Matthew 26. In Matthew 26:36-45, we read:

Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Let us go back to Jonah 2. In Jonah 2:2, we read:

And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto JEHOVAH, and he heard me; …

This particular Hebrew word rendered, “ … by reason of mine affliction …”, it is all one word. It is really the start of a portrait and a portrait of suffering, both physical as well as mental and especially spiritual that un doubtadly Jonah faced, as well as Christ faced, as He was demonstrating what He had accomplished before the foundation of the world. This same word “affliction” is also found twice in Genesis 42:21. But I would like to read Genesis 42:17-23, just to get the context. It is the account of Joseph who also, is a tremendous picture of Christ Himself, as He had been elevated by God, to be the second in command of all of Egypt. And of course, his brother’s came to him, not recognizing initially, who he was and they lament the fact that they had thrown Joseph into a pit and later sold him to a caravan of Ishmaelites, who were heading to Egypt. In Genesis 42:17-23, we read:

And he put them all together into ward three days. And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God: If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses: But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so. And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, …

This is the word “affliction”, that we find here in Jonah 2:2. It is also in the latter part of this verse, it is the word “distress”.

It continues:

… when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required. And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.

Also, if we go to Psalm 25:17-18, this word “affliction” is translated “troubles”. In Psalm 25:17-18, we read:

The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses. Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.

We see something similar in Psalm 143:7-11, where in verse 11, it is translated “out of trouble”. In Psalm 143:7-11, we read:

Hear me speedily, O JEHOVAH: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit. Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. Deliver me, O JEHOVAH, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me. Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. Quicken me, O JEHOVAH, for thy name’s sake: (that word “Quicken”, is the word “to make alive”) for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.

As I was studying this passage, I realised that there are actually two different words for “belly” that God uses in the first two verses of Jonah 2. The first one in verse 1 also appears in Jonah 1:17, where it is rendered, “… in the belly …”, but notice how God links this word, with the three days and three nights. In Jonah 1:17, we read:

Now JEHOVAH had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

The second occurrence is in Jonah 2:1. In Jonah 2:1, we read:

Then Jonah prayed unto JEHOVAH his God out of the fish’s belly,

This first word is commonly rendered “bowels” and in approximately a third of the references, it points to giving birth. Once in fact, it is translated “in my womb”. We find this in Ruth 1:11 (Note from the transcriber: the speaker made a mistake by saying Ruth 1:1, but the correct book, chapter and verse reference is Ruth 1:11), in which the widow Naomi having lost her husband Elimelech and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion, by death, asks her two Moabitish daughters in law, Ruth and Orpah, this question. In Ruth 1:11, we read:

And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?

This particular word also symbolises “great emotional upheaval” or “turmoil”, in one’s innermost being or heart or in one’s soul. We see this in Psalm 40:7-8, where it is rendered “… my heart.” and of course, this verse is speaking as a number of the Messianic Psalms do, about the LORD Jesus Himself. In Psalm 40:7-8, we read:

Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.

As I said, this verse on the surface is positive but, if we take these same words “… not my will, but thine, be done.”, as they are uttered in the garden of Gethsemane, the phrase takes on a totally different meaning, as Hebrews 5:7 affirms. In Hebrews 5:7, we read:

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;

So, the imagery of birth and the pain, associated with birth by extension or a similar excruciating pain, is what is really being expressed by this first Hebrew word “belly”.

The second Hebrew word in the phrase “… out of the belly of hell …” only surfaces in the book of Jonah, in Jonah 2:2. However, it is similar to the first word, in that, it too is related to giving birth or the womb or literally to one’s stomach or one’s body, but generally it does not express the degree of pain, as the first word “belly” did. But rather it states the action of what is taking place, if you will. Here are few illustrations, in Job 1:21, Job utters this wonderful truth. In Job 1:21, we read:

And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: JEHOVAH gave, and JEHOVAH hath taken away; blessed be the name of JEHOVAH.

And this is right after he learns about the deaths of his seven sons and three daughters and having lost all, if not, most of his wealth.

And so, it is a wonderful statement of trust in God. Remember, that in Job 2:9-10, we read:

Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? …

which is really the word “calamity”. And so, it is a wonderful admonition for us, as we recognize that God is in total control of a believer’s life and even what we might view as tragedy, God can turn that around as for blessing and we see that in Job’s latter end. It says that he was doubly blessed more so than in the beginning and for this reason, he is mentioned in James, where it speaks about the patience of Job, the suffering that Job went through and how the end of the LORD is mercy. It is great great pity. Similarly, if we go to Ecclesiastes 11:5, we find this declaration:

As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.

As I mentioned, the word “belly” – “…; out of the belly of hell …” is especially significant because it points all together to the LORD Jesus Christ and this word “hell” is the word sheh-ole’ and it is actually interchangeable, with the word grave and it is found 63 times in the Old Testament and we will just look at a few of these. It is also found in another prayer. This is Hannah’s payer, in 1 Samuel 2:6, where we find this declaration:

JEHOVAH killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.

That “bringing up”, has to do, of course, with the resurrection and we see this and hopefully, we will see it even more clearly as we go through Jonah because he is in the whale’s belly three days and three nights and then the whale “(Jonah 2:10) … vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” and then he continues with the mission that originally God had given to him to preach judgment to the Ninevites for 40 days and 40 nights. Also, if we go to Job 17:13, we see another example of this word sheh-ole’. In Job 17:13, we read:

If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness.

Also, let us go to Psalm 88:3. In Psalm 88:3, we read:

For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave.

In Psalm 89:48, we find this question that is being posed:

What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah.

And of course, we know that, with a few exceptions, Elijah, Enoch – they were translated. They did not see death. But this is the lot of all mankind. In fact, God tells us in Genesis 3:19b:

… for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Also, an interesting passage with regard to sheh-ole’ or the grave has to do with Satan himself. In Isaiah 14:11 and 15. In Isaiah 14:11, we read:

Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, [and] the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.

In Isaiah 14:15, we read:

Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

Going back to Jonah, the Hebrew word that is translated “to swallow up”, I want to just back up a bit. Jonah 1:17 is worth examining a little further because it also helps to underscore this reality of death and destruction that is associated with the grave and of course, it is associated with the belly of the whale. We find it for example, in Exodus 15:12. Let us go to Jonah 1. In Jonah 1:17, we read:

Now JEHOVAH had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. …

This word “swallow up” is in Exodus 15:12. Let us go to Exodus 15. In Exodus 15:12, we read:

Thou stretchedst out (this is speaking about God) thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.

Now the context, as many of may be knowing of Exodus 15, recounts the victory that God had over Pharaoh Thutmose III and his army, all of whom perished in the Red sea, after having safely delivered the Israelites, on dry ground and even though this is speaking about the Red sea, God chose to use the word “earth” to swallow Pharaoh and his troops because, as I mentioned, in Genesis 3:19 b, that is where we return, we return to the dust, we return to the ground and that is the picture here in Exodus 15:12.

Also, we find this same word “earth” and “ground” in Isaiah 14:9 and 12 and this of course, points to Satan’s demise, using the same word “earth” and “ground”. Let us go to Isaiah 14. In Isaiah 14:9, we read:

Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.

In Isaiah 14:12, we read:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

We also have to keep in mind that, when God speaks of Pharaoh, Pharaoh is a type of Satan. Psalm 69, which is another Messianic Psalm and one that exemplifies Christ’s suffering’s, also is very similar in some of the language to what we read in Jonah’s prayer. Let us go to Psalm 69. In Psalm 69:1-2, we read:

To the chief Musician upon Shoshannim, A Psalm of David. Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.

In Psalm 69:13-15, we read:

But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O JEHOVAH, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation. Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.

Let us stop here and then continue next time, LORD willing in this study of Jonah. Shall we close in a Word of prayer?

Father again, we thank You that, we have been able to spend a little bit of time in Your Word, in looking at Jonah’s prayer and we pray Father, that You might continue to open our ears and our eyes to the spiritual truths in Your Word and we ask these things with grateful hearts, in Jesus name. Amen.