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Redemption In The Belly of a Fish

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INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION

In life things aren’t always exactly as we see them. We live in a day where people market things in incredible ways. What we order is not always what we get. Happens all the time with hotels. You go to a place with a gym, luxury bath, and a hot breakfast. It turns out when you get there that the gym is a small room with a broken treadmill.The luxury bath is a 2x2 stall with a shower head that detaches. Your hot breakfast happens to be pop tarts and a toaster that only burns things. You thought something was good, but it really wasn’t.
It can happen in the opposite way too can’t it? It’s possible that something we experience is awful, but in reality, we needed it. It may have saved us!
Imagine you have a nice day planned out. You have a family picnic planned out at the park. You’ve already made your finger foods and desserts. You have the drinks made up and chilling in the refrigerator. Then, all of a sudden the rain comes. Your picnic is ruined! It’s upsetting. Now your perfect family outing is done. Kids are upset cause you;re not going to the park. Now everyone is stuck in close quarters. You end up staying home stuck inside with sandwiches and lemonade! All you can see is this unfair situation even though the forecast has been predicting rain all week long.
We’re going to be observing a situation similar to that this morning. I want to look at the 2nd chapter of Jonah today.
This is a very familiar story to many of you. Maybe all of you. It’s still something we can all benefit from.
Meanwhile, outside your house the grass is watered. That’s good because it’s been kind of dry. Your flowers watered. That’s nice because they were getting a bit droopy. You don’t have to run your sprinklers for a couple of days. That’s nice because the water bill has been kind of high and you needed to save some money.
That’s something small. It can be easy enough to step back and see something good that happened in it.
A little about Jonah. Jonah was a prophet. God called him go to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. They had become very evil and God was sending them a chance to repent in order to not be destroyed. At the time Assyria was the most powerful nation in the world. They were nasty vicious people too. They were not a group of people you would want to cross. Barbarians became squeamish at some of the things they did. This was no secret. These guys were shooting for world domination.
Jonah wanted nothing to do with them. He knew if he went and gave them God’s word, they would repent, and God would be God and forgive them. It’s also possible he had heard from other prophets such as Joel and Amos that God would use Assyria to conquer Israel for their disobedience. Jonah did not like them to say the least. He definitely wanted to play no part in helping them.
So he turned and ran away the other direction. He got on a boat and tried to run from God. It didn’t work. God sent a storm. The men on the boat tried to figure out what was going on while Jonah slept. They woke him up, he told them it was his fault. If they wanted it to stop, they’d have to throw him over. They didn’t want to. Tried not to, but eventually did. That is where we pick up!

Jonah’s Prayer and Deliverance

17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

2 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly. 2 And he said:

“I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction,

And He answered me.

“Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,

And You heard my voice.

3 For You cast me into the deep,

Into the heart of the seas,

And the floods surrounded me;

All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.

4 Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight;

Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’

5 The waters surrounded me, even to my soul;

The deep closed around me;

Weeds were wrapped around my head.

6 I went down to the moorings of the mountains;

The earth with its bars closed behind me forever;

17  And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah’s Prayer

2 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, 2 saying,

“I called out to the LORD, out of my distress,

and he answered me;

out of the belly of Sheol I cried,

and you heard my voice.

3  For you cast me into the deep,

into the heart of the seas,

and the flood surrounded me;

all your waves and your billows

passed over me.

4  Then I said, ‘I am driven away

from your sight;

yet I shall again look

upon your holy temple.’

5  The waters closed in over me to take my life;

the deep surrounded me;

weeds were wrapped about my head

6  at the roots of the mountains.

I went down to the land

whose bars closed upon me forever;

yet you brought up my life from the pit,

O LORD my God.

7  When my life was fainting away,

I remembered the LORD,

and my prayer came to you,

into your holy temple.

8  Those who pay regard to vain idols

forsake their hope of steadfast love.

9  But I with the voice of thanksgiving

will sacrifice to you;

what I have vowed I will pay.

Salvation belongs to the LORD!”

10 And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.

17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

2 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly. 2 And he said:

“I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction,

And He answered me.

“Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,

And You heard my voice.

3 For You cast me into the deep,

Into the heart of the seas,

And the floods surrounded me;

All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.

4 Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight;

Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’

5 The waters surrounded me, even to my soul;

The deep closed around me;

Weeds were wrapped around my head.

6 I went down to the moorings of the mountains;

The earth with its bars closed behind me forever;

Yet You have brought up my life from the pit,

O LORD, my God.

7 “When my soul fainted within me,

I remembered the LORD;

And my prayer went up to You,

Into Your holy temple.

8 “Those who regard worthless idols

Forsake their own Mercy.

9 But I will sacrifice to You

With the voice of thanksgiving;

I will pay what I have vowed.

Salvation is of the LORD.”

10 So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Despair in a Fish

This is Jonah’s prayer. This prayer is classified as a psalm of praise. You’ll see it’s a bit poetic in nature and wrought with emotion and powerful imagery.
Jonah found himself in a terrible spot. He was the source of pain, fear, and possible death for some men. Because of that he was thrown overboard. Now Jonah is sinking to the bottom of the ocean. He is literally being overwhelmed by the water. Then He cried out to God from his watery grave.
He cried out from the belly of Sheol. Sheol is the underworld. The culture at that time believed it lied under the Earth’s surface, specifically under the ocean floor.
Jonah felt as good as dead. He couldn’t handle it. The waves beat on him. Him muscles gave out. He was sinking. He cried out to God even though He knew God sent these waves to him.
God your waves and billows are passing over me. Jonah knew he had messed up. He knew the situation was his fault.
Even worse he felt like God was no where near him. I’ve been cast out of your sight. “You’re no where to be found Lord!” He felt absolute despair as he sank.
The more he fought, the more he got dragged down. The wees wrapped around my head. I’m sinking further to the base of the mountains here in the see.
There is not going back. The bars of the earth close behind me. He was saying the gates of sheol are closing behind me. I’m as good as dead. There’s no way out!
Then as he’s sinking a giant fish swallows him. Talk about some luck. Thrown overboard into the sea, then swallowed by a giant, stinky fish. I bet Jonah never ate sushi after this experience. He’d have some nasty flashbacks!
Jonah was experiencing absolute despair.
Can any of you relate to this feeling? Has anyone in here ever felt despair like this? It’s my guess that most of us can relate to this. We have to notice some things about being in the belly of a fish.
It’s hard. You know that. It’s overwhelming. You know that too. Emotions will coming crashing over you. You feel helpless. Angry. Confused. Scared. Overwhelmed.
There may be times where just like Jonah, you feel like God is no where to be found. “I’ve been cast from your sight Lord.” I can’t see you! I can’t find you!
You may feel like every time you fight, the seaweed is wrapping around you and dragging you further down. You fight and fight and just lose ground.
Then when thing feel impossible, a big fish eats you up. Absolute despair.
To be an encouragement I want to point something out. Jonah knew this. I’ve definitely experienced this. Sometimes it’s our own doing.
Jonah was thrown overboard because of his decision not to follow God’s command. We do that too.
Did you know that the average of credit card debt per household is $15, 762 . That’s huge. Stack on top of that a new car, maybe 2. Add a big house. Then all of our other bills. That’s makes for some bills doesn't it. People in this situation often find themselves wondering where money is going to come from. Paycheck to paycheck isn’t quiet enough. That’s something so many Americans have done to themselves.
I have family members who were believers. They made decisions and lived in ways they shouldn’t have. They made decisions they knew were wrong. Now they’re a single parent struggling in a way they shouldn’t have to.
Recently the brother to one of my high school friends died of liver failure at the age of 36 because of alcoholism. It’s terrible.
Others of us have health struggles because of self control or poor decisions. If your like me, Why do I struggle with my weight! Because I eat too much, and what I do eat isn’t always great for me. I like food though! It can be an issue.
Our decisions can have big impacts on us. Jonah saw that. He took responsibility for it. Notice he didn’t say why are you doing this to me God? What did I do to deserve this? He knew.
Notice his response in this situation though. Jonah is not always a good example, but in this case, he did pretty well.
I realize there are times where we’ve seemingly done nothing and have issues. Those aren’t the times i’m talking about.

Praise in a Fish

Yet You have brought up my life from the pit,

O LORD, my God.

7 “When my soul fainted within me,

I remembered the LORD;

And my prayer went up to You,

Into Your holy temple.

8 “Those who regard worthless idols

Forsake their own Mercy.

9 But I will sacrifice to You

With the voice of thanksgiving;

I will pay what I have vowed.

Jonah’s response is one that may appear odd to us. He went through his lament in the fish and then realized something. “I’m alive! Thank you God, I’m still here. I didn’t drown. I deserved to, but You delivered me. You lifted me up from the pit. I’ve escaped Sheol! “ When he was at his lowest, he remembered God, he prayed, and then he gave praise to God.
Jonah realized what God had done. He continued...”I’ll make sacrifice to you. I’ll worship you. I’ll do as you say. I will do what I’ve vowed. What you wanted! I won’t pursue other God’s like people around me. They’re missing out on your love. Your mercy! Thank you!”
In Jonah’s greatest need He turned to God. As he was falling to the sea floor he prayed. From the belly of a stinking fish, he called out to God, and he gave praise. He turned fully to God. We can learn something good from Jonah here.
In Jonah’s greatest need He turned to God. As he was falling to the sea floor he prayed. From the belly of a stinking fish, he called out to God, and he gave praise. He turned fully to God.
In our times of deepest need we should turn to God for help. I don’t know about you, but that has not always been my first reaction. First was panic! Second was, what can I do to fix this. My relationship is falling apart. What do I do? What do I buy her? I may not be able to make this bill, I’m going to get a fourth job. And the list and the situations are endless. When do we stop and pray? Many times like Jonah, it’s kind of a last resort. It should be our first though.
More than just prayer he gave praise. Jonah was praising God for this situation. He gave praise for the fish! The fish is what physically lifted him up from the pit. The fish is what saved him from drowning. Even though the situation was tough, He saw God’s deliverance. I know it sounds odd, but we should give God thanks for those trials that we face. Many times God uses them to correct things. He allows them so we can grown stronger. James said in the first chapter of his letter to the Jews, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials,...”
In this moment, that’s exactly what Jonah did. He saw the fish for what it was, God’s deliverance. It saved him. For 3 days he sat in misery. Probably couldn’t move much. Couldn’t breathe well. He was hungry. It was hard, but God delivered him.
Sometimes our deliverance can be hard. When I was a teenager I dated a really nice girl. She was pretty, smart, talented, all of those things. We hit it off well and I fell hard for her. As things progressed we got along less well. We fought regularly. It turned out we weren’t the greatest match. I didn’t realized that though. I had our future planned out. After a couple of months at college and many miles between us. She broke up with me. It really difficult for me. Thing is, it wasn’t really a healthy relationship. I brought the pain on myself. It was still hard though. I was in the belly of a whale.
Turns out that saved me and shaped my future. Because of that, I met an incredible curly headed redheaded blonde girl. She’s perfect for me and I have a marriage and a relationship that’s better than I ever imagined. God definitely gave me someone I don’t deserve. I’m especially grateful now for the belly of the what I had to sit in.
When we find ourselves low, we call out to God, and we give Him praise. You may not see it now, but God knows exactly what is best for you. Even when we don’t like the deliverance.
The last things Jonah prayed was great!

Finding Salvation in a Fish

Salvation is of the LORD.”

10 So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Salvation is from the Lord. Jonah found God’s salvation through that fish and he knew it. While we see so many things that Jonah missed, He got this right. God is what saves. Jonah got himself into a mess. He ran away from God because of his hate for the Ninevites. In spite of all of that, God still saved him. God was good to Jonah. As he said in verse 8 “Those who follow idols give up God’s mercy. They miss out on God’s love.”
As a believer, remember, God is your salvation. Whatever situation you’ve managed to find yourself in, he’s there. You may feel as if He’s gone. He isn’t. Don’t try to fix things with your own power. Don’t try to fix things with money. Don’t try to fix things with status or prestige. Those are those worthless idols was talking about. Don’t forsake the love and mercy of God. Don’t forego the love and mercy of the God who came and died on a cross for your sins.
You may find yourself in the belly of a fish thinking, “God doesn’t love me.” That is a lie! He loves you. Jesus showed that to you on the cross. He overcame death and is alive and well right beside you. He’s your salvation. Cling to him. Turn to Him! You have hope in the darkness of your life.
You may find yourself in the belly of a fish thinking, “God doesn’t love me.” That is a lie! He loves you. Jesus showed that to you on the cross. He overcame death and is alive and well right beside you. He’s your salvation. Cling to him. Turn to Him! You have hope in the darkness of your life.

Closing

Although we may not feel it or see it, sometimes deliverance comes in the belly of a fish. Sometimes God uses the most difficult things in life for your good and for His glory. When you’re hopeless and overwhelmed cry out and look for Him to answer.
R.T. Kendall said, “The belly of a fish is not a happy place to live, but it is a good place to learn.” So look back at those times and see how God has taken care of you. How God has changed you through those times. Give him praise and thanks. You’ll find that with God’s salvation comes new strength.
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