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God’s Word for You

Jonah 2:5-6 simply and miraculously saved

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, October 6, 2018

5 The waters enclosed around me and threatened my life,
  the deep engulfed me,
  seaweed wrapped around my head.
6 Down I sank, to the roots of the mountains.
  The earth and its bars closed upon me forever.
  Yet you brought my life up from the pit,
  O LORD my God.

Here in the center of his song, Jonah is thinking of Psalm 69, which is also one of the most quoted Psalms in the New Testament. In the Psalm, the following lines appear, all in the context of David’s prayer to be saved from his enemies:

69:2 “the waters have come up to my neck.”
69:3 “I sank in the miry depths.”
69:3 “I have come into the deep waters.”
69:14 “Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink.
  Deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep waters.”
69:15 “Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
  or the depth swallow me up
  or the pit close its mouth over me.”

Jonah’s enemies were different from David’s. But just as the king had been surrounded by conspirators, so also Jonah had those who were battling against him: the devil who tempted him to run away, and his own flesh, which had its own agenda. As we will see, Jonah had condemned the people of Nineveh simply because they were Israel’s enemies and godless unbelievers. But God had commanded him to preach to them. God always has good in mind: Good for the plan of salvation, good for his kingdom; good for an individual. Just because we don’t see good coming out of a situation, or a catastrophe, or a bully, or whoever or whatever it might be, God has nothing but good in mind all the time.

Jonah, safely (!) in the belly of the whale, recalled those terrible final moments as he sank beneath the surface of the waves. Down he went, the final lungful of air, the last he ever thought he would have, filling his lungs. He remembered the seaweed, calling it suf in Hebrew, “reeds.” This is part of the name of the Red Sea, Yam Suf or “Reed Sea.” This doesn’t mean that the whale had traveled south from Joppa; in fact, the prevailing current travels in the opposite direction. The point Jonah makes is that the seaweed “wrapped around my head.” This is the same word we see in Ezekiel when Pharaoh’s broken arm is set and wrapped tightly in a bandage (Ezekiel 30:21-22). The seaweed wasn’t just loosely waving around, but had actually bound Jonah, twisting and tightening around his head and body, as David said: “The cords of death entangled me… the cords of the grave coiled around me” (Psalm 18:4,5).

The horror of his experience also made Jonah consider the place of his drowning. “The roots of the mountains” are those places at the very bottom of the sea, where the first stony step of every island thrusts its way up out of the sandy bottom. This was the “pit,” the grave Jonah saw or just barely squinted at in the dark depths of the sea. “The earth and its bars closed upon me.” The last precious lungful of air bursting his chest, the mechanics of Jonah’s body overtook his mind and his will, as must happen, and as the bubbling breath shot out of his mouth, the seawater just beginning to rush in to quiet his struggling and to end his life, and then the miracle overtook him. God’s hand caused the huge fish or whale to open its mouth, and instead of cold saltwater, Jonah inhaled the hot breath of the monster. Death was beaten by the hand of God. The pit had to give up its morsel, and Jonah realized what had just happened! “You brought my life up from the pit.”

No longer did the prophet’s feet lack a floor or a deck. He was in a hammock, the gullet of the whale, and he was carried along like a baby in a mother’s womb, or a wounded man on a stretcher. This was not a salvation anyone would have expected. For the rest of that day, and all through the next, and into the following morning Jonah rested from his struggling, breathing the hot and humid air, hungry but not starving, exhausted but safe, his mind racing but filled and comforted with the word of God. For the moment he had but one thing to do: breathe.

A breath in, a breath out. In again and out again—what was impossible just moments before was possible now: sweet and free and amazing. He could let himself revel in the quiet simplicity and necessity of breathing once again.

He had been saved, and now he lived. The call and command from God would come again. His place to work in God’s kingdom was still there. But for now, he was simply and miraculously saved.

How different is any one of us? We were lost, all of us. There was no hope for our rescue as we sank down to the pit. But miraculously, spectacularly, amazingly, graciously, God scooped us up by the most unexpected of means and saved us from our own sins. Just today: Breathe. Breathe in the breath of life and know that you have a place in God’s kingdom; a part to play in God’s plan. You have been simply and miraculously saved.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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