Life is full of ups and downs.
Jonah brought about all this suffering on himself and others because of his own stupid decisions, his own foolish actions. It’s hard to feel sorry for the guy. This is the point at which I would be yelling, “Yeah! Just through him overboard! Do what he says! Wait, what? Why are you trying to row to shore? Just dump Jonah and be done with him! Save yourselves!”
Check it out. From 1:3 all the way to 2:6 we see Jonah make decision after decision to take himself further away from God until he literally hits rock bottom.
- But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish
- He went down to Joppa
- But Jonah had gone below deck
- he lay down
- fell into a deep sleep
- “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied
- Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
- From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help
- You hurled me into the depths
- To the roots of the mountains I sank down
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit. (2:6)
God let him hit rock bottom. God allowed Jonah to get to the point of no return. There was no possible way Jonah could pull himself up out of that pit he had dug himself into. Jonah could not save himself. He could not correct his own mistakes. He could not hope to swim to the surface and somehow rescue himself from drowning. God waited until Jonah knew that God was his only hope.
And Jonah got it.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’ (2:9)
How does God view those who purposefully rebel against him? Sometimes he lets the consequences play out as they may. Sometimes the only way someone can truly be saved is when they get to the point of no return. Sometimes God has to wait until the rebellious one has no out, no plan B, no way of saving himself. So when God acts, there is no denying that it was only God. Salvation comes from the Lord and no one else.
Does that mean that God is unloving? Absolutely not! There are times that my sons have to learn some things through their natural consequences. I can tell my son not to touch the hot stove, but the best way for him to learn is to touch it. Once is all it will take. Then I step in to put ice on the burn and comfort my crying child. Love means the freedom to choose.
God never stopped loving Jonah even though Jonah was trying to run away from him. That’s why, to our surprise, Jonah’s prayer in chapter two is a Psalm of praise and thanksgiving, not a prayer of lament.
It’s just like what Paul describes in Romans 7:
19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
We are saved not by anything we do, because we will just make a mess of things. We are saved by God and God alone. Just as Jonah was saved by the “great fish,” so we are saved through the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. When death seemed inevitable God rescued us from the bondage of death. We cannot save ourselves. Salvation comes only from God.