Scripture: Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” Jonah 2:8-9 ESV
Observation: Chapter 2 records the prayer of Jonah spoken in the “belly of the fish” (2:1). In its introduction, Jonah tells us that he regained his sanity and called out to the Lord in his distress (no longer seething to the point of preferring death over obeying God’s command to preach repentance to his enemies). And in this place of surrender, God listened to Jonah’s prayer (2:2) that affirmed how the Lord had orchestrated Jonah’s rescue and redirection:
- Casting him into the heart of the sea (2:3)
- Rescuing him from the pit of death at the sea’s bottom (2:6)
- Provoking him to prayer (2:7)
- Revealing to him the consequences of idolatry (2:8 above)
Thus, Jonah appropriately offers thanksgivings and renews his vows (2:9 above). And the Lord responds by speaking to the fish and ordering it to vomit Jonah on dry land (2:10).
Takeaway: Overarching to all that transpired, Jonah knew that the Lord had supervised the entire sequence of events—even when the sailors had cast Jonah overboard (chapter 1). Thus, it was Yahweh who led him to repentance and saved him from self-destruction. And it was the Lord who drew Jonah into his presence and inspired him to give thanks and rightfully recommit himself to obedience. And while Jonah promised to pay his vow with a sacrifice, as the story continues, we learn that his attitude (continuing to harbor hate against his enemies) will breach sufficient payment.
Thankfully, there is One who did fully pay the price of his vow by always aligning with his Father’s will—even unto death. Indeed, Jesus likened Jonah’s story to his own: a sign of his forthcoming burial in the heart of the earth for three days (Matthew 12:39-40). And like Jonah, God would recuse his Son from the depths of the grave. But what Jonah could only do in part as a sinful messenger, Jesus, who knew no sin but died a sinner’s death, would become much more: our means for eternal salvation.
So how should we respond to such good news of everlasting life in Christ? Like Jonah, we need to remember that God is sovereign over our circumstances and listens to our heartfelt repentant prayers. Then, similarly, we would do well to offer thanksgiving and renew our commitment to cooperate with his Holy Spirit in doing life our Lord’s way.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who paid the price to restore our relationship with you. Would you please help us to remember that you are sovereign over our failures and the resulting consequences, that we might be quick to cooperate with your Holy Spirt in repenting with a thankful heart while renewing our commitment to follow your will? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling