Jonah 1:17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
2:1 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly,
2 And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
3 For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.
4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.
5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
Yesterday we noted that Jonah was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ with regard to salvation. Jonah needed to be cast into the raging sea in order to calm it. Jonah was not a sacrifice to the “sea god”. Jonah was being punished by the LORD. Jonah needed to be thrown overboard in order to spare the lives of the men who were on the ship. They all assumed that Jonah would die in that water. He did commit himself to die so that those men could live.
Jesus Christ came as the sinless Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world. Jesus was not being punished, but He stood in the place of man who deserved to be punished and cast into hell for being a sinner. Jesus Christ never sinned and He did not need to go to hell. He shed His blood and died for sinful mankind. He spent three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. He then rose again victorious over sin and death.
In verse 17 we see that the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. God was in charge and He had a plan and His plan was going to be fulfilled. Jonah tried to interfere, but he would learn that God has the final say.
In Psalm 23 we read that the LORD prepared a table for David in the presence of his enemies. It would be much nicer to sit at a table with the LORD, than to be floating inside the belly of a fish. The choice is ours, for those who are saved.
Jonah did not die in that fish’s belly. He was there for three days and three nights. We get some description of that in the following verses. Jonah was fully conscious inside the belly of that fish. He now turned to the LORD in prayer. God had his attention now. Jonah did not need to get to this place physically, but he needed to get to this place spiritually.
God needs the full attention of His child. The souls of people are of far too great importance to God to have His servants be careless about it. Jonah was given an important task by the LORD. God was not going to let him get away with his rebellion. Just as the LORD called Moses and did not accept his feeble arguments, here the LORD was not about to allow Jonah to live out his rebellion.
We see a difference here between a true child of God and a pretender. A pretender will persist in his ways. He will struggle with life as all lost people do. However, he will be allowed to waste his life and end up lost for all eternity. A saved person will be chastened by the LORD. The LORD’s chastening will bring about the peaceable fruit of righteousness in those who are exercised thereby.
In the belly of that fish, the LORD heard every word of Jonah’s prayer. There was no cell tower interference. There was nothing to interfere with Jonah’s communication with the LORD. We see in verse 2 that Jonah cried out by reason of his affliction.
Jonah was forced into this state of pleading with the LORD. He did not have a good working relationship with the LORD. It was this affliction that caused him to cry out to God. It is a good thing that he did cry out to the LORD in this state. He could have stubbornly persisted in his rebellion. For the moment, he humbled himself and sought help from the LORD. There was certainly no one else that could help him.
Jonah described his situation as “the belly of hell”. Jonah was not literally in hell, but he was certainly not in a five star hotel either. There have been others who have speculated what it must have been like in the belly of that fish. We are told in chapter 1:17 that the LORD prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. That preparation would include making that stomach such that Jonah could live in there for three days and three nights.
Jonah would not have had anything to eat in there. He certainly had time to consider what he was doing. It is too bad that he needed to be in that place to finally take a more serious look at his life. It seems that is the case for many of us. We need to be brought into a place of some less than pleasing environment to get us to turn to God in repentance.
Jonah acknowledged that the LORD heard him from the belly of the fish. There is no place where God cannot hear His child.
In verse 3 we see that Jonah knew where he was. He was in the deep, in the midst of the sea. He was in a place where he should have drowned. However, he did not drown. He was in a protective place, much safer than he had been in the belly of that ship.
In verse 4 he noted that he was cast out of the LORD’s sight, and yet he also knew that he would look toward God’s holy temple again. He may have thought he was out of the LORD’s sight, but that was not so. The LORD knew exactly where he was. The LORD directed that fish as it swam in that water. Jonah had an assurance that he would not die in that fish. He knew he would somehow be brought back to the dry land.
In verse 5 he noted that the waters had compassed him about. The belly of that fish must have been full of water, except for the space that Jonah took up. There must have been some air in that belly so that Jonah could breathe. He was in darkness. That fish had swallowed him and it did not have any windows that would let any light in. Furthermore, that fish was swimming in the water and the light would be obscure there.
Jonah also talked of the weeds that had wrapped around his head. He would have been quite the sight. After being in that environment, he must have looked quite ugly when he was finally vomited out on dry ground. His skin must have been shrivelled up and his colour would not have been good.
Jonah definitely had a unique experience. It was one he would not forget. That experience had some good impact on him, but as we will see, he still had a rebellious streak in him. We, as people, can be very slow learners.
We can learn the importance of listening to and obeying the Lord God. Those who are saved are blessed beyond measure by the Lord. We need to be grateful for His blessing to us. We need to be willing to submit to Him and follow Him faithfully,
He has a perfect plan for His children. He wants us to be willing to reach out to the lost that He has in mind for us. We can be thankful for the opportunity to serve the all-wise and all-knowing God.