Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Here the prophet is, as he is called in the Koran, "the man of the fish." God had pity on him, and sent him into an awful school house that he might "come to himself." A strange character was his, and a strange chastisement came upon him. God's power was his keeper - his power "who hath a bridle for the lips of every disease, and a hook for the nostrils of death." The external history of the man through that imprisonment is unwritten. Not so the history of his heart.
I. SEE JONAH AT PRAYER. He had slept in the ship; he is awake in the fish. He prays; he feels his misery; he sees his sin. The man is awake. In the terrible darkness of adversity he longs for the light of the Lord. In what solitude was he! Far from light of day, human voices, human sympathy. Yet there he could pray. We can pray anywhere. Jeremiah could pray in the miry pit, Daniel in the lions' den, and Jonah in the fish amid the paths of the seas. He was in sad and extreme case. He was as a dead man out of mind; yet he can pray. What distress is ours? Our hopes may be "ready to perish." But think of Jonah! He could have recourse to prayer. So can we. The greatest of all was Jonah's Friend. In losing his liberty he has found his God. He prays "unto the Lord his God." "O Lord my God" (ver. 6), he cries. We, too, have the greatest of all as our Friend. None need despair with such a Helper.
II. JONAH'S PRAYER WAS A CRY. Whether a vocal cry or not, it was the cry of his soul. In this second chapter we have a well arranged prayer. If not the exact order, we have here the substance of the requests he cried unto the Lord. What agony and horror may be in a human cry! In cries from the sea when perishing men call for a lifeboat! Jonah cried to God. What tears in his words! what distress in his tones! What hope for him, as "out of the belly of hell" (the unseen world, the place of the dead) he cried? Already he seemed numbered with the dead. The sense of God's displeasure was the soul of his affliction. "All thy billows and waves passed over me." Was God favourably there? "I said, I am cast out of thy sight." That was the pang. He had sought to escape God's presence; now he mourned the Divine absence. He had no enjoyment in his prayer, yet it was accepted. The prayer of agony ends in the voice of singing.
III. JONAH'S PRAYER WAS ONE OF FAITH. "I will look again," he said - mentally look again - "toward thy holy temple." How much the "temple" included - the Law, worship, sacrifices! towards these he looked, and thus overcame his fears. Down there, in those depths, in that living tomb, by that "look" this man becomes one of the heroes of faith. He, too, like a prince prevailed. That look was seen. God was pleased with it, and accepted it. Still God sees a look when the soul is in it. Though no word be spoken, we can look unto him and be saved.
IV. JONAH'S PRAYER WAS ONE OF THANKFULNESS. In this prayer he recalls and makes his own words from the Book of Psalms. Some of the old cries of David became the new cries of Jonah. And, marvellously preserved, his prayer was praise; and, in view of his deliverance, he vowed unto the Lord. And his vow was kept. The very subsequent writing of this chapter warrants our belief of that. And what of the vows we have made in times of peril? "Vow and pay." Say, "I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back."
V. JONAH'S PRAYER WAS ONE OF UTTER DEPENDENCE ON GOD. Such was his spirit, such his prayer. With "salvation is of the Lord" it ended. And by that he seems to have meant that he left all with God? He was in the best hands. In his own time and way God would save him. If he will, creatures will act contrary to their natures, as did this fish in not hurting Jonah. It God had "prepared" or appointed; and now its work was done, the prophet penitent, saved not only from death, but also from trusting in "lying vanity," "the deceitful promise of his own will and his own way," no longer "forsaking his own mercy" even God, but cleaving to him. Now "the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited Jonah upon the dry land." And the prophet is a saved man - saved body and soul, the word, his creed and To Deum, upon his lips, "Salvation is of the Lord," Still, "he must save, and he alone." Jesus, and no other, "shall save his people from their sins." - G.T.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.