Text: Jonah 2:2-9
Two middle-aged couples were enjoying friendly conversation when one of the men asked the other, “Fred, how was the memory clinic you went to last month?”
“Outstanding,” Fred replied. “They taught us all the latest psychological techniques, such as visualization, association and so on. It was great. I haven’t had a problem since.”
“Sounds like something I could use. What was the name of the clinic?”
Fred went blank. He thought and thought, but couldn’t remember.
Then a smile broke across his face and he asked, “What do you call that flower with the long stem and thorns?”
“You mean a rose?”
“Yes, that’s it!”
He turned to his wife, “Hey Rose, what was the name of that memory clinic?”
We all have trouble remembering things sometimes. My wife and I have a white board that we have the wall on the way into our kitchen.
Whenever one of us thinks of something that we need for the house, we write it on the board. When there’s an event coming up that we want to attend, we put it on the board. When we need to remember anything, we put it on the board. Why? Because there’s certain things that need to be remembered.
This morning, as we go back over the prayer of Jonah, we see that Jonah remembers a few things while he is in the belly of this fish, and we talked about this fish means two things for Jonah: it means his discipline and it means his deliverance.
- We talked about how God often uses what we go through to discipline us and form us into what we should be, namely the image of Christ. Discipline is supposed to be formative, it’s supposed to form you into something. That’s why when parents discipline their kids they should be disciplining intentionally so that their discipline shapes them to be better in the future.
- When you have kids, you have an idea of how you want them to turn out, and so what do you do? You form them in that direction. Through the love and discipline that you give them, you pave a road for them to walk down. Some of us might have had good parents that paved a good road for us to walk down. Some of us might have had not so good parents that made our lives more difficult, but what we always want to do is give our kids a straight road to walk down so that they grow up loving and fearing God.
- When a baby is baptized, the main covenant that the child’s parents makes before God is to raise their baptized child in the fear and admonition of the Lord. When they agree to that, they’re promising to do their best to pave a godly path for their child to walk down.
- And not only does Jonah’s experience discipline him, but it also turns out to be his deliverance. God will use the discipline that He places on your life as a vehicle to get you from the place where you are to the place you need to be.
As we read and study this passage, we see the things that we need to remember as well.
So, there’s three things that Jonah teaches us to remember: God’s Word, God’s House, and God’s Mercy.
JONAH REMEMBERS GOD’S WORD
Last week talked about this idea before we heard from our Gideon so I’m just going to briefly cover this point.
I mentioned last week that as I was studying for the message, I was able to take every verse of Jonah’s prayer and trace it back to certain passages in the psalms.
As he’s stuck inside this fish, he essentially is praying the psalms back to God.
- Listen, when you don’t have the words to pray and you know you know you need to talk to God, you will find words to fit whatever situation you are in in the psalms.
Everything you need for personal worship and devotion is found in the psalms.
“Every Christian who would abound in prayer and piety ought…to make the Psalter his manual…everything that a pious heart can desire to ask in prayer, it here finds Psalms and words to match, so aptly and sweetly, that no man…nor all the men in the world — shall be able to devise forms of words so good and devout.” – Martin Luther
Last week, we said that Jonah is in a situation where he needs stability. Where’s he going find stability? Where is he going to find the right words to say? The Psalms, God’s word.
- Historically speaking, the psalms have been the prayer book and the hymn book of the church.
Jonah is stuck in a situation where he is forced to remember. He’s got nothing to do, but think and remember. Based on what we read, we know that Jonah’s remembered God’s Word, but he also remembered God’s house. He remembered going up to Jerusalem with the people of God to worship in the temple.
Listen to what he says in verse 4 and verse 7.
JONAH REMEMBER’S GOD’S HOUSE
“Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ … When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; And my prayer went up to You Into Your holy temple.” – Jonah 2:4, 7, NKJV
Jonah, in his despair, remembers the temple of the Lord.
- The temple has always been the place where man and God commune together. Was it that God couldn’t be found outside the temple? No. It was just that the temple was where God designated worship among the people of God to take place.
- We’ve been studying about the temple in Sunday School, and I feel like sometimes we’re not really getting the point. We might be going through this quarter like it’s just another ordinary quarter and then we’ll be off to something else, but we need to understand the significance of what we’re studying.
- We’re not just studying about the temple so can get some Old Testament facts in our system and move on. We need to understand what the temple meant to God’s people so we can understand what the temple points to now under the new covenant. The Old Testament should never be disconnected or unhitched from how we understand the New Testament.
- All throughout Matthew 12, Jesus makes one controversial statement right after another about himself:
- “…in this place there is One greater than the temple.”
– Matthew 12:6, NKJV
- “…indeed a greater one than Jonah is here.”
– Matthew 12:41, NKJV
- “…indeed a greater [one] than Solomon is here.”
– Matthew 12:42, NKJV
You don’t know what any of those statements mean if you don’t know what the temple means, if you don’t know what Jonah meant, if you don’t know what Solomon meant to the original audience.
The temple was everything to Jonah since that’s how he met with God.
- How do we meet with God now? Jesus. In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” All throughout the Gospel of John you see Jesus saying over and over again “I and my Father are One, if you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” (John 10:30, 14:9)
- Since Jesus is where we meet with God, the question we have to wrestle with now: Is Jesus everything to us?
Jonah could visualize to temple and think to himself, “This is the place I need to be. I need to be where God meets with His people.”
- When we are in a situation of suffering, we need to look to Jesus because when we look to Jesus we find God.
Not only does Jonah remember God’s Word, not only does He remember God’s house, but he also remembers God’s Mercy.
JONAH REMEMBERS GOD’S MERCY (v. 8-9)
“Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy.” – Jonah 2:8, NKJV
Here’s where we can miss the full weight of what the passage is saying if we’re not careful.
- We think that because we don’t have a statue of a false god hanging around our house that we pray to and that we bring offerings to, we’re not idolators and so we think we’re good, but the truth is that we often take good things and turn them into god things.
Let me use Romans 1:24-25 to explain how this works.
“…God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their heart, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who blessed forever. Amen.” – Romans 1:24-25, NKJV
“…idolatry is what happens when inversion occurs. Something created is essentially deified. It is glorified… It becomes the source of our identity and our joy, the object of our affection. It is literally the object of our worship. And here is the tricky part. Most of the time we do not worship things that are bad; we worship things that are good. What happens is we take good things, [our marriage, our career, our possessions] we make them into god things, and in so doing they become bad things. In addition, most people are blind to their own idolatry.” – Mark Driscoll
I want you to think about the story of the rich, young ruler in Mark 10:17-22.
- Most of us probably know this story. A rich young ruler comes to Jesus and he asks him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus basically lists off the ten commandments, and the guy says, “Well, I’ve done all that stuff since I was a kid.”
- Jesus says, “Alright, go sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take your cross and follow me.”
- And then the Bible says that the young man went away sorrowful for he had great possessions.
- Jesus says in another place that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also, but this man couldn’t part with his stuff that’s where is heart was. Jesus doesn’t have a problem with our possessions as long as our possessions don’t possess us. When our possessions possess us they become idols.
In Psalm 115:1-8, the psalmist gives a description of what idolatry is and what it does to people. So, if you’re following along with me, then look back at Psalm 115:1-8.
“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth. 2 Why should the Gentiles say, “So where is their God?”
3 But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
5 They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but they do not see;
6 They have ears, but they do not hear; noses they have, but they do not smell;
7 They have hands, but they do not handle; feet they have, but they do not walk; nor do they mutter through their throat.
8 Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them.”
– Psalm 115:1-8, NKJV
The big universal truth is found here in Psalm 115:8 – “those who make are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them.” What does that mean? It means your life will always be shaped by what you worship.
“What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or for restoration.” – G.K. Beale
- What do you look like? What does your life look like? If you want to know in what condition your heart is in, then follow your treasure.
If we back up to our passage in Jonah 2, we’ll see that this is why Jonah says in Jonah 2:8, “those who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy.”
“Those who worship worthless idols forfeit the mercy that could be theirs.”
– Jonah 2:8, NET Bible
- With this one statement, Jonah draws a line in the sand. You can choose mercy or you can choose idolatry, but you can’t choose both.
Listen to what he says verse 9.
“But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.” – Jonah 2:9, NKJV
Jonah has made his decision. He says, “If I have to choose between mercy and idolatry, I’m going to choose mercy, and the only place to get mercy is from the Lord.”
Here’s the deal – Jonah is an authority on this issue. At the beginning of the book two weeks ago, we saw him choose his own security, his own comfort, and his own preferences over the will of God.
- But here we see that he’s had a change of mind, and maybe a change of heart. He, in essence, says, “I’m done running. I will give him a thank offering. I will pay what I have vowed.” And then he finally finishes by declaring that salvation is of the Lord.
If you’re here this morning, and you’re done running, and you realize that your heart isn’t where you thought it was… or maybe you’re here, and you realize that maybe you can see yourself slipping. This morning, you can talk to the Lord. You can say, “My heart is not in the right place, and I need you to fix me.”
I’m going to pray for us, and as we sing one last song, I or one of the elders will be more than happy to pray with you and pray for you.
Father in Heaven, Your Word is a sharp two-edged sword that divides the soul and the spirit. You see the truth about us. You see the truth that we might try to repress or hide, but Lord, You love us, and You care for us so much that You want us to come to you and unburden ourselves so that we can rest securely in You. So, Lord, would You send the Holy Spirit to apply this word to our hearts so that we would leave changed with our hearts and minds open to what You have to say to us. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
- Luther’s Preface to the 1545 Edition of the Psalter