We know the story: God said go one way, Jonah went the other. Waves crashed violently against a boat and the crew decided it was god's curse against a very specific man. So, over went Jonah into the deep, right into the mouth of that huge fish.
We know the story: Swallowed up, Jonah cried out and then was spit onto shore. Curse turned blessing, at least in our eyes.
However, there's one huge piece I always forget. In fact, I'm not sure if I've ever noticed it before today:
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said:(Jonah 2:1-2)."In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry."
That's the part I've known — that overly simplistic account of what first happened from the pit of a fish's belly. Here's the part I hadn't noticed:
[Jonah said,]"But I, with shouts of grateful praise,And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, 'Salvation comes from the LORD.'"
Did you catch it? Did you notice those few, little lines before the whole "it vomited Jonah onto dry land" piece?
Shouts of grateful praise!
See, when I read the first few lines, I can't help but imagine what "I called to the Lord" really meant. Call for help? Undoubtedly! Call the Lord things that aren't repeatable? Quite possibly.
I'm only speculating, and more than anything, I am alluding to what unfortunately would might be my reality if I were in Jonah's wet sandals. I have no idea what that cry looked like or sounded like, but this I do know:
He decided, even from the pit, to praise! He promised to offer shouts of grateful praise while still in the belly of the sea-beast!
Jonah hadn't seen the flannel-board ending to his story. He didn't know what was about to happen. All he knew was that he was sitting in the stomach of a great fish (Okay, really? I type this as if that even makes sense! How incredible is this situation? Kinda just shows how creative God is!).
You caught that he was still in the belly of a fish, right? As far as I know, no one before him had ever done such a thing and lived to tell about it. I doubt Jonah praised thinking that praise was his life-saver. Instead, he sent praise to his true Life-saver.
I'm not about to say that Jonah is one of my Bible heroes. He isn't. He fled from God. He blatantly disobeyed God. Jonah saw God provide a miraculous way to deliver him from the sea and then saw God deliver Nineveh from destruction. Then Jonah chose to sit and whine after God did deliver Nineveh from destruction.
No, Jonah isn't my favorite, but I sure can relate to him. The part of Jonah's story I want to most be seen in me is this: he praised God from the pit.
How about you?
Do you praise God from your pit?
Do you find it hard to praise God in the midst of intense fear and suffering?
We don't have to like Jonah to learn from him. Let's learn to praise God from our pit because we know our God is the God of deliverance!
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