Journey to Dry Land:
How Repentance Gets You Back on Track
Jonah 1:17-Jonah 2
There are four journeys that Jonah goes on in the book of Jonah. Over the next several few weeks we are going to go on these journeys with Jonah. As a prophet he has to learn to understand, or at least love the world as God does. The first week we looked at Jonah’s Journey to the Inside of a Giant Fish. Today we will look at Jonah’s Journey to Dry Land.
At the end of Jonah 1, the sailors did not want to harm Jonah so they tried to row to shore, but the storm on the sea was too great. The sailors, these lost men, are doing all they can to save Jonah. Jonah does nothing. The sailors prayed for a second time, “they called out to the LORD.” Jonah, still has shown no remorse or repentance for his actions that has put the sailor’s lives in jeopardy.
The sailors made vows, had a sacrifice – they are doing all that they can think of to be right with God, while Jonah won’t even throw himself into the sea, he tries to pull them into trouble with him. Jonah won’t go where is supposed to go, he won’t act when he needs to act, instead he sleeps. He won’t pray when asked to pray, and he won’t even jump into the sea to save the ships and it’s crew – Jonah’s rebellion is one of inaction.
So today we find Jonah, having been thrown overboard, floating on the water and the ship headed to Tarshish disappearing into the horizon.
The Sign of Jonah (Matthew 12:39-41)
Jesus says in Matthew 12:39-41 “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”
What is the sign of Jonah? This comparison is not meant to be exact. Jesus never sinned, whereas Jonah is far from the presence of the Lord until he repents. Jesus died and was buried, Jonah never died, but was thrown up after three days and nights. Jonah was a prophet, Jesus was the Son of God.
Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection was the only sign that will be given for people to place their trust in Him as their Savior. Jonah would be a picture of what to come in Christ. As we will see, when Jonah marches into Nineveh, the people respond to his message from the Lord with repentance. The sign of Jonah is him miraculous emerging from a giant fish, after three days, with a message for the people of Nineveh.
Imagine you are on the seashore picking up seashells, and a giant fish appears in the water. Then throws up a man, who then says, “I have a message from the Lord for you.” Would you listen to his message? What does God have to do to get your attention?
“the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign . . .”
Is it wrong to want proof that Jesus is who he says he is, or that if you were Nineveh to want proof that Jonah’s message was from the Lord? Why does Jesus call the generation “evil” and “adulterous” for wanting a sign?
There are many miracles surrounding Jesus’ birth, and fulfilled prophecies. The star that led the wise men, God the Father audibly speaking at Jesus’ baptism, miraculous healings, the calming of the storm, casting out of demons, raising of the dead, healing the blind, . . .
Jesus had already given them sign after sign, but here they want more. They simply are choosing not to believe, in light of many given proofs. But, there would be one ultimate sign that would be given for all generations that Jesus was God, the resurrection from the dead.
Luke 16:27 “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” If you choose not to believe God’s message, then it’s not because there is not enough evidence.
The Appointed Fish (Jonah 1:17)
1:17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Another word for “appointed” is “ordained”, “called” or set aside.” God prepared a giant fish. It was able to house Jonah, and provide him with enough air to survive for three days. It’s really not important for us to identify the species of animal, or know it’s anatomy to see if this is a true story or not. But think about two things:
1) “Scientists were startled in 1980 by the discovery of a tremendous diversity of insects in tropical forests. In one study of just 19 trees in Panama, 80% of the 1,200 beetle species discovered were previously unknown to science… Surprisingly, scientists have a better understanding of how many stars there are in the galaxy than how many species there are on Earth.” – World Resources Institute (WRI). We are constantly discovering new animals on our planet that we had no idea even existed.
2) “These experts calculate that between 0.01 and 0.1% of all species will become extinct each year. If the low estimate of the number of species out there is true – i.e. that there are around 2 million different species on our planet** – then that means between 200 and 2,000 extinctions occur every year.” There are many animals going extinct every year.
The Prayer of Jonah (vv. 2-6)
“2 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, 2 saying,
Jonah’s Distress vv. 2-6
On two other occasions Jonah was asked to pray, so that perhaps the ship and its’ crew would be saved. Jonah wouldn’t do it, so facing the choice of total destruction of the ship and death of the entire crew or throwing Jonah over board – over Jonah went.
“Then Jonah prayed . . .” from the belly of the giant fish. God did what was needed to guide Jonah to repentance and to get Nineveh’s attention. We don’t know how far along into the three days that he prayed. Was it immediately? Was it day two, day three? But at some point, Jonah, cried out to the Lord. T. Kendall has said, “The belly of the fish is not a happy place to live, but it is a good place to learn.”
“I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me;” From the following verses we see what kind of distress that Jonah would have endured. It would have been disorienting darkness, water would have surrounded him, seaweed wrapped itself around his body, pressure caused by the digestive process and the depths of the ocean.
There is a good possibility there would be acid from the stomach of the giant fish that would have corroded his skin. The constant taking in of water, sea animals, and air would have been exhausting because you don’t know when you will run out of air, and the giant fish will take its next bite from the ocean.
“I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; you of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. 3 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. 4 Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ 5 The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head 6 at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. 7 When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. 8 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. 9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!”
Jonah’s Relationship With God (vv. 7-9)
Why not just get another prophet to do this? I think the answer to this question is found in the description of Jonah’s prayer. Jonah prayed “to the LORD his God” In this distress he called out to the Lord, and his God hears him. Jonah says in verse 8, that if you place your trust in “vain idols” then you forsake a hope of steadfast love.
Those that call the Lord their God, have a hope of steadfast love. The Bible uses the word Hesed to describe this type of love – this is a word that combines love with commitment. This is where one person in the relationship has determined or committed to love the other person (regardless of the other person’s actions or choices).
God loves us with a hesed love because He has chosen to do so. Committed, promised to love us (regardless of our sinful actions). Hebrews 13:5 “. . . I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
When we as Christians choose hesed love toward the world – to love them regardless of how they show love toward us, if at all, then we grow in our relationship toward God. Jonah should have a hesed love toward Nineveh as a prophet – but he hates them. How many churches have an us-verse-them toward the world?
John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
The book of John discusses how we a followers must remain in Christ, stay close to Him in our relationship. Jesus is talking about his followers, and those that do not bear fruit. A better translation for those that do not bear fruit, instead of “takes away” is to “lift up.”
There is a tendency for new vines to grow toward and along the ground. Down there they get covered in dirt, dust, mildew, and don’t produce much fruit if any at all. But the vinedresser will take some water and a rag, and wash those vines and move them up higher with the other vines, and then tie them off.
Then they begin to produce much fruit. When the vine falls into the dirt, the vinedresser doesn’t throw it away (it’s much too valuable), he lifts it up. God doesn’t want to throw Jonah away because of his rebellion of hardheartedness – He is taking an action that will “lift him up” and get him back where he can begin producing fruit for the Lord.
The belly of the giant fish was a place of discipline not judgement. If you are not producing any spiritual fruit in your life, God will step in a discipline you.
Deuteronomy 8:5 “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. 6 So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.”
God set aside a giant fish for Jonah. If we run away from God and His presence, isn’t it scary to imagine a God who we know loves us, and is the Creator of the universe and can do whatever and make what He wishes has prepared and set aside for you in your time of rebellion?
Many would see their time of discipline as being awful – it must have been horrible inside the belly of the giant fish. But Jonah sees it as wonderful. He understands that the belly of the whale, being swallowed, and held there for days was the means of him being saved from the depths of the ocean – an ocean grave. The giant fish is not seen as an act of judgment, but how God saved him from himself. He says” But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD.”
“Salvation belongs to the LORD” – being saved is found all throughout the book of Jonah. The sailors and captain are saved in chapter one, Jonah is saved in chapter 2, Nineveh is saved in chapter 3, and chapter 4 focuses on Jonah and God discussing salvation. And in every situation that salvation comes from the Lord alone.
10 And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.” The word “vomit” was intentionally used to induce revulsion – it was supposed to gross us out. It is a graphic image of Jonah emerging, along with other undigested sea animals, seaweed, and land upon the sand upon the shore, “dry land.”
Some scholars believe that because the sailors tried to row back to shore when they were fighting the store, and that Jonah was later thrown up on dry land that it probably is Joppa – the place where he started. He has a chance to reset, a do over, a second chance.
God of second chances – When you come clean with God, you open up and seek forgiveness from your Creator, he is ready, with arms wide open to forgive you. Don’t let discouragement wrap around you like that seaweed around Jonah, and take you down. God is with you, and wants you to get back on track
Thomas A. Edison was working on a crazy contraption called a “light bulb” and it took a whole team of men 24 straight hours to put just one together. The story goes that when Edison was finished with one light bulb, he gave it to a young boy helper, who nervously carried it up the stairs. Step by step he cautiously watched his hands, obviously frightened of dropping such a priceless piece of work. You’ve probably guessed what happened by now; the poor young fellow dropped the bulb at the top of the stairs. It took the entire team of men twenty-four more hours to make another bulb. Finally, tired and ready for a break, Edison was ready to have his bulb carried up the stairs. He gave it to the same young boy who dropped the first one. That’s true forgiveness.
 Billy K. Smith, The New American Commentary; Amos, Obadiah, Jonah (Broadman and Holman; Nashville, Tennessee, 1995) 241.
 Bruce Wilkerson, Secrets of the Vine (Multnomah Publishers; Sisters, Oregon, 2001) 34.
 New American Commentary, 252.