What do you do in these situations? Drown? Maybe not, if you’ll discover and do what Jonah did. In fact, this could be one of the reasons God included the Book of Jonah in the Bible. Jonah is the book God laid on my heart for us to study for three months so you can learn inductive study skills that will help you remember and understand correctly what God says. So often we read the Bible, close it and cannot remember what we read. That is not the case when you learn to study inductively–when you discover truth for yourself.
Last month you observed Jonah chapter one, color-coding the references to the Lord God and Jonah. God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh and cry against the city because of its wickedness. Jonah sailed in the opposite direction toward Tarshish. But not for long!
God went after Jonah. When you marked and listed your observations about the Lord God, you learned that He is quite a God. He speaks to man, creates a storm, stirs it up, then stops it and appoints a fish to swallow Jonah when the sailors throw him overboard.
What a powerful God! He might be worth asking for help if He can do all of that. Let’s see for ourselves.
Read the first two chapters of Jonah and, as you did last month, color-code every reference to Jonah in orange. Now list everything you learned from marking Jonah. One of the things you will see is that Jonah prayed. In fact, prayer is a key word that’s repeated in Jonah chapter two, if you include synonyms like called out and cried. Mark the references to prayer like this: (prayer) [circled].
Who did Jonah pray to? Color the references to the Lord, including the pronouns, You and Your, the same color. I use yellow. When you finish, list everything you learn from marking the references to the Lord. Then, Beloved, think about what you have discovered for yourself: truth! This is not a fairy tale to delight one’s imagination. This is God in action. God who intervenes in the lives of people, casting Jonah into the deep and controlling the forces of nature–even commanding a fish to swallow him and three days later to spit him up on shore! This is a God who saves (Jonah 2:9).
How foolish you and I would be to know this truth and not act on it. Whatever your situation, it is not too difficult for a God who can appoint a fish to swallow a man and then three days later to spit him up on shore. I know it sounds impossible, but it is true. And it points to an even deeper, more magnificent truth waiting to be discovered.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: The Bible is a progressive revelation of truth. Because it’s truth, Scripture can never contradict Scripture; therefore, Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture. Consequently, for a full understanding, you always want to see what else the Bible says about a teaching or a person. You do this by looking up the word or the name of the person in a concordance. There are many free quick and easy Bible study tools online, or you can use my book “How to Study the Bible.”
If you’ve read the Gospels, you probably recall Jesus speaking of Jonah. Let’s see what He says. Read Matthew 12:38-40, 16:4. List your observations. Compare these verses with John 2:18-22, and then think about how Jesus supports the account of Jonah in the belly of a great fish.
Do you realize how many people scoff at the Book of Jonah–at the likeliness that this truly happened? Yet, what did Jesus do? He likened it to His death and resurrection–a major component of the Gospel. Stop and think who Jesus is. He is the Son of God. God in the flesh; the way, the truth and the life. Could He be deluded? Of course not! Could He lie? Absolutely not!
Now then, reason with me. What value is there in knowing these things? Is there any practical application? Of course! When you are in need or in trouble, run to God–even if the trouble is of your own making. Did you notice Jonah said, “I have been expelled from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple”? (Jonah 2:4, NASB).
If you are not familiar with the Old Testament or the building of the temple by King Solomon, you might wonder why Jonah says that as he’s torpedoing into the depths of the sea with his head wrapped in seaweed! Once again we need to do some cross-referencing.
In looking up references to the temple, you would also look for the synonym for the temple in the Old Testament–the word house. Eventually you would come across 2 Chronicles 6 where Solomon calls upon God to hear the prayers of those who pray toward His house (temple). Read 2 Chronicles 6:18-21 and 6:28-31. It’s obvious, isn’t it, that this is what Jonah was doing when he was “afflicted”?
So what have you learned? Although the temple is not in existence, God is, and He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. Call on Him in the day of trouble and He will hear from heaven and will help you, even if your trouble is of your own making! God is in the business of redemption–but you must cling to Him, do what He says and live as He wants you to live. Will you?