No sacrifice is more pleasing to your Lord than the sacrifice of words in the form of humble, honest, heartfelt confession. -Paul David Tripp
Devotion & Scripture focus: Jonah 1:17, 2:1-6
But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:
“In my distress I called to the Lord and he answered me.
From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me, all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.
The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me…
… But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God.”
The sign of the fish
I have always found it strange that Jonah would pray a prayer of thanksgiving from inside the belly of a great fish instead of waiting until he had planted his feet once again upon dry land. True, at this point, God had saved Jonah from drowning, but if we look with anxious eyes as is our natural inclination, he does not yet seem to be totally out of danger. How astonishing it is, then, that Jonah’s prayer is an affirmation of God’s goodness, an expression of complete faith and trust that God will respond to those who turn to “look again toward his holy temple,” even in the midst of dire circumstances and challenging times.
This passage is proof that there is no place from which God can’t hear our prayers. How comforting that is, especially in this period of the COVID pandemic when our daily lives and interactions with other people are still so drastically affected by the threat of a disease that has killed more than half a million people within the United States and two-and-a-half million worldwide to date. Sometimes it seems as if we have indeed been “banished” from God’s sight. Even if we have not lost a family member to COVID, most of us know someone who has. Many have felt as though we have been teetering on the edge of a grave for the past year, and even though the vaccine rollout has begun, the danger has not yet totally passed us by.
How, then, can we be confident of God’s care and compassion when the circumstances we see in the world seem to contradict that very idea? We human beings have such difficulty believing in things we cannot see and touch. We seek signs for confirmation of what God has already told us in his Word; we want tangible proof of assurances he has already provided. Jesus himself addressed this when he referenced Jonah’s story in Matthew 12:39-40: “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign. But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days in the heart of the earth…” Jesus used Jonah’s experience in the fish’s belly to illustrate his own coming death and resurrection from the tomb on the third day. His hearers would have known that the outcome of Jonah’s decision to return to God and carry out his mission was the repentance and restoration of many.
We are now in the period of Lent, a time when we reflect upon the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice made our salvation possible. Today, may we, like Jonah, embrace the conviction that, no matter how we have tried to flee from God, he will forgive us if we direct our attention back to him with gratitude for what he has done for us.
Thank You that You hear our prayers - our prayers in need of You no matter where we've been or what we've done. Help us to continue to turn to You as our Savior.