Tuesday: Jonah’s Psalm

When Jonah was thrown into the sea, a big fish swallowed him up at God’s bidding.

Image © Educational Concepts from GoodSalt.com

Image © Educational Concepts from GoodSalt.com

Jonah must have thought that death indeed was going to be the only way to escape the mission to Nineveh. But the big fish (not called a whale in the book) was an instrument of salvation for the prophet. Unlike Jonah, this creature responded promptly and obediently to God’s commands (Jon. 1:172:10).

God’s providence worked in an amazing way here, and, however much some people scoff at the story, Jesus testified to its veracity (Matt. 12:40) and even used it in reference to His own death and bodily resurrection.

Read Jonah 2, often called Jonah’s psalm. What is he saying there? What has he learned? What spiritual principles can we take away from this chapter?

Jonah’s psalm celebrates God’s deliverance from the perilous depths of the sea. It is the only poetic part of the book. In it Jonah recalls his prayer for help as he was sinking deep into the waters and facing certain death. Becoming fully aware of his salvation, he thanked God for it. The hymn indicates that Jonah was familiar with biblical psalms of praise and thanksgiving.

Jonah’s vow likely consisted of a sacrifice of thanksgiving. He was grateful that, though he deserved to die, God had shown him extraordinary mercy. In spite of his disobedience, Jonah still considered himself loyal to God because he had not succumbed to idol worship. Whatever his many character flaws, he was determined to try and be faithful to his calling.

Sometimes it takes a terrible experience to open our heart up to the Lord, to realize that He is our only hope, our only salvation. Dwell on an experience you had where you clearly saw the hand of the Lord working in your own life. Why is it so easy to forget the ways in which the Lord has led you, even miraculously, especially when new trials arise?



Tuesday: Jonah’s Psalm — 19 Comments

  1. I have read the lesson but I'm wandering to know what's about the men in the boat? About the spiritual principles ?
    Please help me to understand ''Why is it so easy to forget the ways in which the Lord has led you, even miraculously, especially when new trials arise?''

    • If we learn to testify always, whenever we see God working in our lives, then we will always remember to trust in God when new trials come our way.

    • [Moderator Note: Please use full name when commenting]

      The men in the boat did not believe in the True God, they had different gods; hence they woke up Jonah to also pray to his God (Jonah 1:6). So even as unbelieving as they were, they had fear and reverence once they saw the amazing power of the true God.
      The second part, man tends to forget where he has come from, and how far he's come with Christ, especially when he is in a "difficult" position. The Israelites still doubted God after He had fed them with manna from heaven-now they were full and were facing more trials, they wanted more.
      We need to be thankful to God for what we have at all times, because they are all blessings. Few have lost what Job lost, few have seen what Paul saw. But yet they remained solid in the faith. Before we murmur, let us look at where we came from, and thank God. Our cross...already beared.

  2. God thank you for your lovingkindness towards a sinner like me. Thank you God for letting me know that you always provide a solution to any situation I may find myself into.

    • Steve, Anyone who knows you can tempt you, even if they don't know what is on your mind. You are a book read by lots of folks close to you; how much more someone who is studying all your moves, tendencies, decisions, movement of eyes, increase of heartbeat and sweating, etc. You are not just a book to be read, but a script to be written on, even manipulated, by lots of folks around you. Got angry with anyone recently, who gets you angry all the time? As usual walked off, get silent, write a check in disgust, got slapped on your hand by your wife when your eyes keep following sideways............ You haven't seen Satan play his best cards yet, as the Lord says: "He will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able to bear." God gave you a mind, and you can think through and make decisions by the power of God --decisions that will surprise those around you, and cause demons to flinch, because they can't read your mind. Plan, in your mind between you and God, the unexpected for Satan, when he thinks it is game as always. Blessings to all who resist.

  3. Jonah may have not have regarded graven images, but I find that for me, I bow down to the idols of: fear, ingratitude, and self-sufficiency. I shouldn't need a near-drowning, fish-belly experience to motivate me to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving daily. "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible; to the only wise God, be honor and glory, forever and ever. Amen!" (1 Tim. 1:17)

  4. Jonah's psalm should be ours too. The Lord did not give up on us when we sinned. It had to cost the life of our redeemer to get us out this condition of being doomed to misery forever. This world which was blighted with sin, man had no way of escape, but to die.
    Today, it realll amaizes me to see some people trying live life contrary to the will of God.
    Let us hold on to Him however perilouos times we encounter, however character flaws we have, this is the reason He died for, to iron our wrinkled characters. Today we should be praising our redeemer, because of Him we can live again. Whatever befals us, we must cry out Him. Our Saviour is ever willing to save even those who deliberatly disobey Him, but afterwards realising their folly, get back to HiM in faith and truth with a contrite heart, He will hear them.
    Sometimes when trouble hit our doors, these could be our turning points in our lives. We have no any other hope in this sinfull world except in our Saviour and Redeemer. When we think of this that our hope is in Him only, this should give us strength to hold on. The Bible says, " Hw who endures till the end, him shall be saved"
    We parise God for the Hope He has given us through His Son.

  5. About the "problem" of Christ's reference to "three days and three nights" in "the heart of the earth":

    Doug Batchelor makes some helpful points in this engagingly written booklet to which Dorothy Keller pointed us. Among other things, he points out that there are accounts of men surviving three days inside a whale. However, since the Bible tells us that "God prepared a fish" for the purpose, stories of survival inside a whale without the intervention of God are interesting but not necessary. (We don't even know whether or not it was a whale.)

    Doug also suggest an interpretation of the words of Christ that differ from the usual interpretation: He suggests that the "three days and three nights" began on Thursday evening because Christ took up the burden of sin then, and Doug doesn't believe that "the heart of the earth" refers to the grave. I don't believe that's a helpful interpretation. Here's why:

    In Jonah's psalm (Jonah 2:1-10), he uses these expressions that should help us interpret Christ's words:
    "I cried for help from the depth of Sheol" [the grave] (v. 2)
    "Thou hast cast me into the deep,
    Into the heart of the seas." (v. 3)
    "I descended to the roots of the mountains.
    The earth with its bars was around me forever." (v. 6)

    Here there is a clear parallel between "the heart of the seas" and the grave. Thus the parallel between "the heart of the earth" to the grave (Sheol) is suggested, and there's no need to argue for a different interpretation of "the heart of the earth."

    It is important to realize that in Jewish usage, a night and a day was one way of referring to what we commonly call "a day." And in their reckoning, any part of a day was reckoned as a whole.

    Thus we have:
    1. Friday night (Preparation day) Luke 23:54-55
    2. Sabbath Luke 23:56
    3. Sunday (First day) Luke 24:1

    This makes "three days and three nights" (three days in our terminology) in inclusive reckoning, which the Hebrews used.

    Note also that, according to Matt. 27:63-64, "after three days" and "the third day" are equivalent. (Other biblical examples are Gen 7:4,10; Gen 17:12 and Luke 1:49; Gen 42:17-19; 2 Chronicles 10:5, 12)

    Several passages mention that Jesus would rise “on the third day.” If the resurrection occurred after a full 72 hours (3 days) it would have been on the fourth. (Compare Matt. 16:21; Matt. 17:23; Matt. 20:19; Luke 24:7,21,46; 1 Cor. 15:4.)

    Others try to solve the "problem" by suggesting a Wednesday or Thursday crucifixion, but the Bible is clear that Christ was crucified on "Preparation day," (Luke 23:54) and in biblical usage that is only Friday, never the day before a ceremonial Sabbath. (It was not necessary to abstain from all work on ceremonial Sabbaths.) Comparing Luke 23:54-24:1 and John 19:31, settles the issue because it makes clear that Christ was buried on Friday and resurrected on Sunday.

    For more detail, please see the FAQ at the Edmonton Central Seventh-day Adventist Church.

    The bottom line is that the only problem with the "three days and three nights" is our not understanding the ancient Jewish practice of reckoning time.

    • Inge, educative discourse, worth reflection. Just one question: Jonah said a "fish" swallowed him. Some NT translations (incl NKJV)of Matthew 12:40 indicate "fish"; while some "whale". One Hebrew translation indicate "sea monster". I see you argue for whale, because it seems more reasonable than to take Jonah's word for it. Consider:

      Sperm whales are prevalent in the Mediterranean Sea; and so are the great white. If I take Jonah's word for it, then it has to be the 30 ft, 30 mph sharp teeth with digestive juices to melt bones. If I take some NT translators, it is the vegetarian 70ft giant with living room couch inside. Realistically, if it is the 30ft speedster, it can cover the approximately 300 mile route from the ship to the coastline west of Nineveh in 3 days. At 15 mph, the whale would have to dump him halfway with a much longer walk to his new destination. (Neither whale nor shark will travel continuously for 3 days and nights). The greater miracle is Jonah got picked up by the sharp teeth speedster, cutting Jonah's journey to Nineveh to less than half. Maybe that is a reason for picking the run away Jonah instead of another prophet: much faster arrival time. Any basis for a second thought - perhaps taking Jonah at his word?
      God's Word is rich, isn't it?

  6. I was looking for Stephanovitch on Jonah that one of the Adventists had recommended to me; I was unable to find him. I have just translated the "Psalm" and I'm torn between the "authorial intent" of the writer of the Jonah Psalm - (in response to the question of another Pilgrim in the Faith) - his question to me: "Are we disloyal to the Scriptures to ask: is Jonah a real person - shocked and horrified by Nineveh - (like us re: Dachau, Belsen, - and the Concentration Camps here in America - at Andersonville, and the Northern compliments of Andersonville, or the German POW camps in which we incarcerated 400,000 Prisoners from North Africa in WWII - or the thousands of Californians five miles from me in the For Profit Prison in Mississippi - to defer the costs of the State of California - which is over-budget - and therefore shipping its prison populations to other than California Venues) - you get the idea? Are we reading a social commentary by a down-home, good Jewish boy, conservative - (shocked by the evils of the Assyrian Empire) - or is this a real guy? (Was the Dutch Boy who held his finger in the dyke - is that about a real guy or just a story of many Dutch Boys? Or, is William Tell the story of a real guy, or it it just a reflection of the frustration of Swiss people with the Habsburgs?

    I certainly can't answer that question?
    Does someone know where I find Professor Stephanovitch? Thanks, (in Jesus our Redeemer) Dave Langdon

    • Dave, I don’t know about Professor Stephanovitch and I can’t find any comment on this blog referencing the person but one thing I do not do is to spiritualize away everything in the Bible. Inge Anderson mentioned in an earlier comment on this thread that there are documented accounts of people being swallowed by whales that survived after days. There is, therefore, no compelling reason to assume that the book of Jonah is just a fabricated story.

      If we begin to discount this story then we can legitimately do the same to the next and the next and soon we will find ourselves in a situation where there is no reason to believe anything in the Bible. When we reach that stage then there is no hope for anything more than the pitiful life we have and we can also rightfully believe that God doesn’t exist as well.

      The fact is that there is an immense amount of support and proof for the reality of the Biblical accounts. Even though some ancient stories are difficult to prove others are not. For instance:

      1. It is becoming increasingly clear that life didn’t just happen. Life is too well organized and far too complex for it to emerge by random processes. Besides science has no real explanation how life could have come into existence from inorganic matter. Neither can it explain the fine tuning for life including the presence of all the water on our planet.
      2. There are a lot of things in geology and paleontology that strongly suggest that there was a worldwide flood about 4000-5000 years ago.
      3. Population studies suggest that all the people of the world have descended from three people groups and that all three came from one source which to me would have been Noah’s family.
      4. That Jesus actually existed and ministered 2000 years ago and that there is no logical argument of history against His resurrection except a choice not to believe.
      5. That the Bible itself is a product of the involvement of intelligence far beyond the capability of man’s intellect. We know that several prophesies are still holding true after thousands of years. The probability of that happening by chance is for all intents and purposes zero.

      So may I suggest that we all have a little faith and believe a 4000 year old book that has weathered the assaults of some of the greatest minds that atheism can produce. It has been accepted by many people considered to be geniuses and is believed and read by more people than any other book ever written.

    • Dave, Pretty sharp analysis. Two separate issues: 1) Does God allow? We humans make a lot of the question of God's allowing, since we know He sees all, and has the power to stop what he chooses. Does that mean that God should manipulate all our consequences, for whatever behaviors we choose? That would be a terrible parent, or an unwise employer. God does take responsibility for everything that occurs in His world, since He is the owner of it; but it is the choice of love to allow life, including consequences, to run its course, so that we can be educated by results, and be motivated to make adjustments in decisions.

      One important decision is to turn our will over to His will (of love), and place our lives under His care. Now that is an invitation for His direct involvement; that says we trust that He will work for good, all that occurs in our lives. Nineveh might have been facing some natural disaster; or Israelite captives in Nineveh might have been facing a Haman-like genocide from Assyrians who didn't like their Daniel in Babylon or Mordecai in Susa kind of success. I believe that God was inviting Israel captives into a renewed relationship with Him, to give Him reason to place His protection over them, from whatever tragedy was about to occur.
      2) Even you can be that Jonah prophet, sent to persuade your brother, or neighbor to change behavior, by His grace, so they won't lose their job, or wife, or child...... or expand the concept to the larger picture of a whole people giving God reason to intervene and protect them from the natural or normal consequences of life.

      Personally, I can testify to the meaning of "all things work together for good to those who love the Lord", seeing His hand divert the hand of the enemy or block the spear on its way, or send a Jonah. Jonah knew His God, clearly represented in His PRAYER/psalm. But fear is real. So Elijah after seeing so much power from trusting God, fled from Jezebel; and Israel thought they were dead at the Red Sea. Jonah didn't mind preaching (keeping his vow of commitment). But Jonah didn't like looking bad when his word did not come through. Ran away, just like Elijah did. God had to personally take care of Elijah's faith issues before taking him to Heaven; and so with Jonah, too. God bless your faith.. and mine too.

  7. It pleases me to know that the people in the ship knew that Jonah's God was the creator and the controller of everything. Their god's are addressed in small letters but Jonah's God is address in with a capital "G"
    chek it out
    (5. Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.

    6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.

  8. Jonah and Christ - A Typological Comparison

    Studying the Psalm of Jonah, I should like to add another aspect in the discussion, not mentioned as yet. Confined to the belly of that creature, Jonah went down to the bottoms of the mountains, deep down in the sea. The earth above was closed with bars for ever, with no way out. What a horrifying situation. Looking back to that experience, Jonah is remembering how God had brought him up again and rescued him from that grave (Jonah 2:6).

    Eternal death has no way out, too. But the risen Lord has the keys of grave and death in his hands (Revelation 1:18). On our behalf He has gone through the experience of mankind deserving eternal death (Romans 6:23). He knew what He had to expect going down into the grave. That bitter cup He took with trembling hands, sweat as drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44). He went through that horrifying experience coming out victoriously. He once was dead coming up alive with those keys in His hands that will open the graves at the resurrection morning. What a morning that will be! A second time Jonah will be rescued from the grave to meet His Lord.

    Winfried Stolpmann

    • Winfried, Thank you. Beautiful capturing what Jesus Christ intended in His use of the Jonah story. Although it has meaning, I don't think that Jesus Christ was paying as much attention to the length of time as He was giving assurance of Divine intervention into death, making available eternal life for us through His death and resurrection. The death/sacrifice of Jesus Christ cannot save us of itself (Paul in Hebrews 9, 10; 1 Cor 15). Death pays the penalty. Resurrection gives new life. Thank God.

  9. please help me, I remember reading somewhere long back where it said Jonah's parents were killed by the people of Nineveh which is why he also didn't want to have them repent and be forgiven. anyone with the source of that information please help if it does exist.


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