Day 188: What you Think About From the Belly of a Fish (Jonah 2)

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying...
Jonah 2:1-2a

Through the Bible: Jonah 1-4

There are a thousand lessons we can learn from the short book of Jonah, and from the reluctant prophet himself. We can think about God’s heart for all the nations, sending a prophet from His own people to warn the nation of Assyria of coming judgment. We could focus on the compassion of the pagan sailors, who only threw Jonah overboard as a last resort, and even then prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you” (Jonah 1:14).

We can talk about how strange it must have been to see the cows of Nineveh wearing sackcloth (yep! If you missed it, check out Jonah 3:8). Or we can talk about how petty and small this mighty prophet of God turned out to be, complaining to God when Israel’s most ruthless enemy was spared.

But today, I want to talk about how well Jonah knew the Bible. When you look at his prayer from the belly of the fish, line after line is either an allusion to one of the Psalms or a direct quote. Check this out:

In verse 2, Jonah prays,

“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress,
    and he answered me; (Jonah 2:2)

Compare that to Psalm 130:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
 O Lord, hear my voice! (Psalm 130:2)

Jonah 2:3 says,

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.

…which is word for word from Psalm 42:

Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me. (Psalm 42:7)

And it just keeps going. Jonah prays “you brought up my life from the pit” (verse 6); echoing Psalm 103:4:

who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

One more: in verse 7, Jonah prays, “When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord.” Compare that to Psalm 94:19:

"When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul."

All of this from the belly of a fish! Jonah’s prayer reflects a deep, deep reverence for God’s Word. Jonah may not be a great role model for us in a lot of ways, but one thing he got right: when he was at his lowest point, and when he was at his most stressed and anxious, what poured from his mouth was Scripture.

Beloved, as you go through this reading plan, you are hiding God’s word in your heart. I pray that what comes out when you are in distress is the word you have put there. Use the calm seasons of your life to drink deep from God’s word, so that when you are in a dry and weary land where there is no water (Psalm 63:1), your soul will be sustained.

And if you ever find yourself in the belly of a fish, pray God’s Word back to him.






2 responses to “Day 188: What you Think About From the Belly of a Fish (Jonah 2)”

  1. […] to the city of Nineveh. He rebels and gets swallowed by a fish. You know that story, but see Day 188: What you Think About From the Belly of a Fish (Jonah 2) if you need a […]

  2. […] Psalm 119– where every letter of the Hebrew alphabet gets its own stanza. You get prayers like Jonah 2, filled with Old Testament references and allusions. And you get prayers like Nehemiah’s. Or the […]

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