God’s Word for You
Jonah 2:1-2 God will hear your cry
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, September 15, 2018
2 Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from inside the belly of the whale. 2 He said,
“I called to the LORD in my distress,
and he answered me.
I called for help from the depths of the grave,
and you listened to my cry.
In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah prayed, “The waters closed over my head, and I thought I was about to be cut off. I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea” (Lamentations 3:54-56). Was Jeremiah thinking of Jonah when he wrote that? Jonah was probably thinking of Psalm 18:1, “I called to the LORD in my distress,” and Psalm 86:13, “You have delivered me from the depths of the grave.” Jonah knew that the whale that swallowed him was not a punishment, but his rescue. He did not know how this would all turn out, but somehow the Lord would use this creature to deliver him to another ship or to land once again. He deserved death, but God preserved his life.
Jonah’s prayer is helped along by his deep knowledge of the Psalms. He does not simply think of one single Psalm to quote but interlaces his experience with verses or parts of verses of many different Psalms. Learning passages of Scripture by heart is still a wise thing to insist on in our children even though they have constant access to the whole Bible in many translations on their phones. Why? Because access to the Bible is not the same as knowing it. All of us who are from an older generation know that owning a Bible is not the same as knowing where to go in that Bible for help, for comfort, and for answers to questions. Having the Bible at your fingertips is not at all the same as knowing two, three or four dozen passages that of great comfort to you and help you to express your faith in a God-pleasing way.
Another reason to be sure that our children are learning Scripture and also hymns from memory is that when they grow old, whether their eyesight is gone, or hearing is gone, or memory is fading, people almost never forget the very first things they learned as children. For example, I have never yet met a person with dementia who couldn’t still speak the language of his childhood, whether it was German, Norwegian, Dutch, or English. And I have never yet met a Christian nearing the end of their life who had forgotten the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, or the most familiar hymns. What would Jonah have done if his parents hadn’t made sure he knew his Psalms and that he had read his Moses?
One day, you might find yourself in a tight spot, without access to a screen, afraid for your life. What’s your confirmation verse? What’s your favorite Psalm? Is it the 23rd? Can you say all six verses by heart? Would it take very long to learn them? Pick a Psalm or a passage of the Bible you’d like to know and say it out loud five or six or even seven times every day for a week. Say it at different times of the day, but especially in the morning, at noon, and again at night. Pray about it. Think about what it means. And, if you will pardon the expression, before you know it, you’ll know it. You, like Jonah, will be able to cry out from the depths of the grave or wherever you are—and no matter what your prayer, God will hear your cry.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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