“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. He said, “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and He answered me. I called to You from the land of the dead, and Lord, you heard me! You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath Your wild and stormy waves. Then I said, ‘O Lord, You have driven me from Your presence. Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’ “I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me. Seaweed wrapped itself around my head. I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever. But You, O Lord my God, snatched me from the jaws of death! As my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord. And my earnest prayer went out to You in Your holy Temple. Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies. But I will offer sacrifices to You with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.”
Jonah 2:1-9 NLT
Despairing of life will cause the deepest reflection and gratitude. And even though God knows most of our promises are generally short lived in the moment, yet His unfailing love and mercy always steps up. Jonah made a lot of vows from the belly of the fish, but he wasn’t a changed man. He made a lot of emotional observations about God, and promised to make good on them, but by chapter four the disobedient prophet was back to his old ways.
Sounds a lot like us sometimes doesn’t it? When our backs are against the wall, we’ll do and say anything for relief. We promise to change, make better decisions and choices. We promise to serve God wholeheartedly, give up our lives of rebellion. God answers our plea, not because He doesn’t know our hearts, but because He’s merciful and desires the best for us. We do well for a spell, and as soon as the way is clear, we forgot what got us swallowed in the first place. The prisons are filled with repeat offenders. Unfortunately so is the church. But we serve a compassionate Savior. One who longs for us to take Him at His Word, and not frustrate His grace.
The last line of Jonah’s reflection was put to the test. “What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”
So the Lord gave him an opportunity to prove it. V10: And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. With an entrance like that, who wouldn’t promise to keep his vows?
Now is your opportunity to do as you have vowed when you were facing uncertainty and even death. Jonah did obey, but he wasn’t happy about the outcome. Agreeing to do what God has asked is not the same as being willing. Remember I shared a story of a little boy who was being punished for disobeying his teacher? He was told to go sit in the corner, he did. But defiantly told her “I may be sitting down, but I’m standing up on the inside.” That was Jonah. The Bible says being willing and obedient, brings blessing. Isaiah 1:19. They’re Siamese twins. You don’t get rewarded for simply being compliant. The heart must be engaged.
We can’t play God! He is all knowing. The mercy shown by the Lord to a disobedient and unwilling prophet, is a clear example to us of the long suffering of God. It is also a picture of Grace. God could’ve used someone else, but He stuck with Jonah, just like He’s sticking with us. He only has the very best in mind for us, but we’ll only find it in willing obedience. Yes, He will provide ways to get our attention. It may even seem like the belly of a fish. But as your pain brings you to a place of reflection, don’t waste time on empty promises, use the time to do an honest assessment of what has gotten you into the situation you’re in.
Was it disobedience, wrong choices, poor planning, unhealthy relationships, cheating, lying, deception, greed,have you been ignoring the warnings and promptings of the Lord? What has you locked up in its vices? Reflection is the place to start. Deliverance is as close as an honest appraisal and repentance. Agreement with God about sin and it’s consequences, and your willingness to repent, will unlock every chain. I have no idea what challenges you may be facing. But I know Someone who has the cure and answers. His Name is Jesus Christ! We have a Heavenly Father who stands ready to forgive you.
Don’t wear your chains of disobedience any longer. Don’t allow the enemy to keep you trapped with his deceptive lies. Cry out from wherever you are, He will come and save you. He will command whatever belly you’re in to release you. This is your moment, today is your day for freedom. He hemmed you in to protect you. Jonah wanted to commit suicide, God provided the fish to save his life. Disobedience will torment you, obedience will free you. He knew what he was running from, and so do you. Your best escape is Jesus. He hears your pain. His help isn’t a temporary fix. It’s life changing and eternal. Don’t be like Jonah. Let your reflection be an honest assessment of your life, and a revelation of His love for you, and turn. Turn to Him, and make good on your vows. Our deliverance is not just about us. But for the Ninevites of the world who needs to hear His messages of love and grace. His messages of hope and healing. Who better to send, than those who have experienced His mercy firsthand? REFLECTION. Psalm 139:7-12
Written by permission of the Holy Spirit
May 27, 2021