“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.” – Jonah 2:2
Have you ever been in a place in your life where you feel helpless? It’s like you’ve been swept away in a strong, swirling current, with no control over what happens to you. You don’t know which way to turn. Then, when you feel like you’re going down for the last time, you realize there’s nowhere for you to look but … up. And that’s when you find God has been there waiting for you the whole time.
That’s pretty much the situation the prophet Jonah found himself in. He’d been rebelling against God’s marching orders for the whole first chapter of the Book of Jonah. Finally, in chapter 2—after he was thrown off the ship he’d hitched a ride on to escape God’s will—Jonah came to his senses and cried out to God in prayer. And it’s clear that Jonah didn’t wait until he was being digested by some big fish to start praying. He started crying out to God before the fish ever swallowed him. When he was thrown overboard, the waters engulfed him and seaweed wrapped around his head as he sank. He was going down, down, down until, in desperation, he looked up and cried out to God for deliverance.
And what did God do? Did He say, “Forget you, Jonah! You’re getting what’s coming to you! Good riddance, you worthless piece of fish food!” Thankfully, no. As Jonah sank down into his watery tomb, God broke through. God prepared a great fish and instructed the fish to swallow Jonah. And we all know what happened next. Unlike Jonah, the fish obeyed God’s instructions.
Now, we could talk about what kind of fish or whale might have swallowed Jonah—a whale shark? A sperm whale? A blue whale?—or how Jonah got by for three days in that creature’s digestive tract. But we’ve got bigger fish to fry. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Because as Jonah turned back to God in prayer, there are two very powerful words in verses 8 and 9 that I don’t want us to miss: grace and salvation.
Let’s start with grace. As Jonah prays to God from inside the belly of the great fish, he says in verse 8: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” This is such a great verse. As a prophet of God, Jonah had a pretty solid understanding of God’s judgment and God’s grace. He didn’t always agree with how God chose to apportion that judgment and grace, but Jonah understood it pretty well. He knew that if anyone stubbornly refused to give up all the stuff in his life that he considered to be more important than God, that person—to His own peril—was forfeiting the grace of God that could have been his.
Chances are, a lot of people reading this are running from God in some way or another. If you are, believe what Jonah is saying here: You are forfeiting the grace, mercy and faithful love of God that could be yours. Or if you’re putting Him on the back burner—you’ve got all sorts of people and things in your life that are higher priorities to you than God—once again, you are forfeiting the grace, mercy and faithful love that could be yours.
It’s time to stop running from God. It’s time to stop putting other things and people ahead of God. It’s time to take hold of the grace, mercy and faithful love that He offers to you when you humbly call out to Him and start obeying His commands.
As Jonah ran to God, he ran to God’s grace. But it’s clear that he also ran to God’s salvation. As Jonah is praying to God from inside the belly of the great fish, he says in verse 9, “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”
This is so cool. Guess what the Hebrew word is that is translated “salvation” in this verse. It’s … wait for it …“yeshua”—Jesus’ name in Hebrew. Jesus (yeshua) means “salvation, deliverance, aid, victory.” Salvation comes form the LORD, Yahweh. Or if we do a quick substitution, Jesus comes from the Yahweh. Isn’t that the truth!
Some of us have made promises to God that we aren’t fulfilling. Like Jonah, we’ve made promises to God that we haven’t kept, and we’ve run from God’s marching orders. I believe God is telling you today to make good on your promises. Some of us still desperately need God’s salvation from our hopeless circumstances. I believe God is telling you today to turn to the only one who can throw you a life preserver--Jesus Christ. Jesus is salvation.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit www.fccvv.com and join us for worship Sundays at 10 a.m.