Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 160 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Jonah 2 today and our focus is how to pray when you are in trouble! We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
Jonah was a prophet, but he really never got it, sad but true. However, Jonah the prophet came closest to getting it – to really understanding the God who called him – in the second chapter of Jonah, when Jonah was in as deep a trouble as a human could possibly be in. As a brief refresher, in case you don’t remember the story: God called Jonah to go and tell the people of Nineveh – the capital of the mighty Assyrians – that God would destroy them if they didn’t repent. Jonah apparently hated the Ninevites with a passion – maybe a bit of racism there, but also because this was the dominant country in the world at the time – they conquered lots of peoples, and would ultimately conquer the kingdom of Israel, and take them into captivity. So Jonah, knowing God was merciful and compassionate, did NOT want to risk even the possibility of the Ninevites repenting, so he went the absolute opposite way, taking a ship and sailing away. God sent a storm, however, and the ship was rocked by it, which ultimately caused Jonah to give in, and accept the will of God. He had himself thrown into the sea, and the storm went away, but a giant fish came and swallowed Jonah, and transported him to the shore nearest the city of Nineveh. I don’t know how all of that worked on a practical level, but I do know that Jonah prayed an amazing prayer from inside that great fish. Let’s read that prayer, and learn from it how to pray when we are in despair, because Jonah’s prayer nailed it.
This is probably the shortest chapter we’ve read so far, so allow me to repeat the first and last verse of Jonah’s prayer:
I called to the Lord in my distress,
and he answered me.
I cried out for help from deep inside Sheol;
you heard my voice….but as for me, I will sacrifice to you
with a voice of thanksgiving.
I will fulfill what I have vowed.
Salvation belongs to the Lord.
Wow, wow, wow: Jonah begins with a great call to God in his distress, and God hears him. Jonah ends with one of the greatest truths of the Old Testament: Salvation belongs to the Lord. Though this is a short chapter, it is epic. What do we learn about prayer here?
John Piper sees several lessons here, and I’ll cover three of them:
First, God answers our cry of distress, even when we are guilty. Jonah was not on his way to Nineveh when he fell overboard. He was running from God. He was guilty of disobedience. That’s why he was in the water. Some of you are in trouble right now precisely because of your disobedience. And if you are wondering, “Is there hope? Will God have mercy on me and hear my cry of distress?” take heart from Jonah. His distress was the fruit of his guilt, but God answered him and gave him another chance.
Second, God answers us in spite of his judgment. Notice verse 3: “For thou didst cast me into the deep.” According to 1:15, it was the ship’s crew who picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea. But Jonah knows that it was all of God. God was angry at Jonah’s disobedience, and he was going to require chastisement. I suppose nothing makes us despair in our distress like the thought that God put us there because he is angry with us. And I guess most of us might say, if God has put me in this rotten situation because he is displeased with me, then there is no point in praying for his help. But Jonah ventured to pray for deliverance from the very God who threw him into the water. And the God who threw him in heard his prayer and performed a miracle to save him. Even when God is displeased with us, he never brings us into affliction merely for the sake of punishment. His purposes always include redemption. Job 36:15 says, “God delivers the afflicted by their affliction, and opens their ear by adversity.” Adversity is redemptive, not merely punitive. Even if you have felt as though the very hand of God is against you in your distress, do not despair to call upon him. He answers his children in spite of his own judgment.
Finally, he answers us in the nick of time. Verse 7 says, “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to thee into thy holy temple.” More starkly we would say, “As I was losing consciousness, I remembered the Lord.” Jonah was still praying without an answer in sight just before he blacked out. In fact, he probably did black out and regain consciousness several days later, realizing he had been spared in the belly of a fish. God often answers our prayers at the eleventh hour. Many a saint has groaned with Habakkuk, saying, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and thou wilt not hear?” (Habakkuk 1:2). But Jonah gives us courage to be unrelenting in our prayer, to keep on crying out to God even as we go unconscious, and to believe that God will answer in the nick of time.
John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (1980–1989) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2007).
So, dear friends: If you find yourself in despair right now – don’t wait – stop, drop and cry out to God!
Bible Memory verses for the month of June: Daniel 6:23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to take Daniel out of the den. When Daniel was brought up from the den, he was found to be unharmed, for he trusted in his God.
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