Jonah In the Hands of a Sovereign God
Thank you for joining us this week for another Grace for Today, Bible study. We are looking at the Book of Jonah today and we’ll pick things up at the last verse of chapter one. If you’re joining us for the first time and would like to catch up, you can access the other Grace for Today articles from Jonah at http://www.gccWaverly.com
Enfield, Connecticut on July 8, 1741 heard these words:
There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God. By the mere pleasure of God, I mean His sovereign pleasure, His arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty any more than if nothing else but God’s mere will had, in the last degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment.
Jonathan Edwards in his sermon entitled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God goes on to list ten reasons why lost people should be in hell. He also says that the devil stands ready to fall upon them and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. Edwards compares Satan’s eagerness to seize lost souls to a chained lion whose meal is just out of reach…the only thing keeping the lion from his meal is the strength of the chain.
As we think about this truth Edwards presented to his church we should be moved to consider our soul and its condition and the souls around us. At the time appointed when the Lord releases us from this life will we be ready to face eternity? Is Satan waiting for you? What happened after this sermon was preached was that the area around where Edwards preached experienced an awakening. Through the Word of God the people began to awaken, God brought many souls to life in those days.
The Ninevites were not ready to meet God. They were very wicked and immoral. They had nobody to tell them that God judges sinners. They had no one to proclaim the good news. If God were to let the lion (Satan) loose the Ninevites would be devoured.
God was at work fulfilling His eternal plan. Part of God’s plan was to get Jonah ready to preach. God was going to give Jonah, His rebellious prophet, a small taste of the wrath of God. In fact God was going to give Jonah a small taste of death, hell and the grave.
Here’s how the Lord did it:
* Please read Jonah 1:17-2:10
1. God’s Terrible Manna (1:17)
And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
In this fish God had a two-fold purpose. He provided discipline and salvation.
A. Appointed for Salvation
The first important point is that this fish was provided or appointed by God. It was no mere chance meeting between Jonah and this fish. God had ordained and decreed this fish to swallow Jonah. This was an obedient covenant fish.
The Hebrew word translated provided is the word manna. In the same way God gave the Israelites manna in the wilderness he gave Jonah a great fish. God’s provision would prove perfect to accomplish His purpose in Jonah.
In much the same way as a prophet was summoned to perform a particular task, so this fish was called to a particular task. What was the fish called to do?
B. Appointed for Discipline
The fish showed Jonah first hand what the Ninevites were to face should they not receive the message the Lord wanted Jonah to preach. So the Lord fixed a time of three days and three nights for Jonah to think about who God was and who he was and what hell is like. Jonah was in training.
What was it like in the belly of the fish?
Here’s where many get side tracked, we don’t want to go too far, but a little vividness may help us think what Jonah was enduring in this time of struggle at the hand of God.
It’s often helpful to imagine what the biblical characters endured. Here is a good time to consider Jonah’s situation inside the great fish. He was in total darkness, he breathed stale humid air, and he was laying in wet slimy gastric juices, and was enduring terribly hot temperatures.
As amazing as this miracle was, the truly amazing thing was what was going on inside of Jonah. It’s in this setting far and away from anything and anyone Jonah remembers God. His theology begins to change. God’s purposes are working out perfectly. In his struggle, Jonah remembers God.
2. Jonah’s Prayer (2:1-9)
What is amazing about this is the location of the prayer, from the belly of the fish.
What Jonah was trying to do this whole time was to get away from God, to flee His presence was the intention. But to his surprise, in the depths of the sea, God was present and heard Jonah’s prayer.
What we have is Jonah’s retelling of his experience and prayer. In this passage he is giving us the just of what he prayed to God. Some scholars believe that he wrote these words while at Nineveh.
Years later, what amazed Jonah was that the Lord heard is prayer. Jonah was so thankful that God heard his prayer and even though Jonah was disobedient, he was still God’s child. God still loved Jonah.
Today, there are some Christians that need to hear that even though they may have sinned and failed God, even ran from God, God will hear you when you cry out to Him. God hears our prayers. Just like in this case, God answered the prayer of a rebellious child. God didn’t turn loose of Jonah. If you’re a child of God don’t think that because you have failed Him that He has forgotten you. No matter where you are, no matter how far you have sunk in the mire of sin, God will hear your prayer.
Jonah went down to Joppa, went down in the belly of the ship, went down into the sea, and went down into the belly of the fish. You just couldn’t get any lower than Jonah. In the great darkness of the tomb that Jonah was in there was a spark of hope. The spark of hope was God’s sovereignty. He was in control of the situation and Jonah’s destiny.
We should thank God that He cares for and keeps His people even in their rebellion. God’s grace is truly amazing. His people are truly in the hands of a sovereign God.
I’m Brian Evans pastor of Grace Community Church, where we preach and teach God’s grace every Sunday at 11:00am. Come and join us for worship. For more information about our church look us up on the Web at www.gccWaverly.com
Grace and Peace,