Read Jonah 2
2 1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. 2 He said:
“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.
3 You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
4 I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
5 The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.
7 “When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
8 “Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”
10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
In this passage, Jonah vividly describes his feelings of hopelessness as he is sinking into the sea and swallowed by a fish. What Jonah experienced is the stuff of nightmares as seen in Jonah 2:3-6 “…the flood surrounded me… water closed in over me, the deep surrounded me…weeds wrapped around my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the pit whose bars closed upon me forever.” Jonah is figuratively in a spiritual/emotional valley as his circumstances fight to overwhelm him with hopelessness. By paying close attention to Jonah’s description, we find that Jonah is also literally in a valley as well since he is surrounded by “mountains.”
The fact that Jonah is literally and figuratively in a valley is likely no mere coincidence and should make us recall the literal and figurative valley depicted in Psalm 23 where David describes our Shepherd (God) leading the sheep (us) through the “valley of the shadow of death.” In both of these passages, we find David and Jonah recognizing God’s presence in the midst of their difficult times. In psalm 23:4 David writes that in the valley “I will fear no evil, for you are with me”. Likewise, in Jonah 2:2, Jonah speaks of how God “answered me” and “heard my voice” while in the belly of the fish. With this realization of God’s presence, Jonah and David were able to be comforted despite their terrible circumstances, and what a comfort that should be for us during our challenges.
The correlations between these passages continue! In Psalm 23, David discusses how the shepherd’s rod and staff “comfort me”. These were tools used to protect and guide the sheep. As described in A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, a shepherd’s staff were used by the shepherd to “guide his sheep gently onto a new path” or “reach out and catch individual sheep … and draw them close to himself for intimate examination.” The correlation between Jonah’s whale and the Shepherd’s staff is undeniable as we see how God uses the whale to redirect Jonah’s path as well as catch Jonah and bring him close to Himself. It is encouraging to see God’s kindness and provision repeatedly displayed in these passages and stirs me to ensure that I’m part of His flock.
- What are your tendencies when you face challenges in life? How has God been a part of those moments?
- How can you ensure that you are reminded of God’s presence when difficult times ensue?
- What part of God’s character stirs your affection for Him?
Watch the sermon “A Shepherd Comforts and Protects”. This sermon discusses part of the Psalm 23 passage that was listed above. This sermon series is based on the book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller.
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