A Closer Walk
The Old Testament prophet Jonah had a better idea; a better plan. The Lord God Almighty had given him specific instructions. But he had a better idea. A better plan. We sometimes do that also don't we? Think we have a better idea, or a better plan than the Lord? Jonah was directed by God to go to the great city Nineveh and preach repentance to its people. Instead he booked passage on a ship going to Tarshish and went in a different direction. We sometimes do that as well don't we? Go in a different direction than God instructed us? Because of his disobedience Jonah was caught in a fierce storm at sea, was thrown overboard by the sailors, and then swallowed by a great fish.
At this point he decided it would be a good time to pray. "Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said, 'I called out of my distress to the Lord, And He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; Thou didst hear my voice. For Thou hadst cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the current engulfed me. All Thy breakers and billows passed over me. So I said, I have been expelled from Thy sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Thy holy temple. Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, Weeds were wrapped around my head. I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, but Thou hast brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord; And my prayer came to Thee, Into Thy holy temple. Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness, but I will sacrifice to Thee With the voice of thanksgiving, That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the Lord,'” Jonah 2:1-9 NASB.
This prayer seems to be a very tender moment between Jonah and his God. He says he called to the Lord out of his distress and the Lord answered him. Our God will answer our prayers, including those that come out of our distress. Jonah says he cried from the depths of Sheol. The word Sheol is the Hebrew word for hell. Jonah was completely engulfed by the sea. So much so that he felt as though he had been expelled from God's sight. Water encompassed him to the point of death. Weeds were wrapped around his head. Jonah may have been dumped into a kelp bed. It's possible the weeds, as he called them, kept him from sinking even deeper.
What can we learn from all this? Disobedience may bring calamity or distress. If we are completely engulfed by water, the weeds may keep us from drowning (This could be both literally and figuratively). We can call to God out of our distress and He will hear us. Even though the great fish shows up and swallows us, we will still be in the middle of the sea. In the Lord's good time the great fish will spit us out onto the shore. And like Jonah we will be delivered safely back onto dry ground. Also like Jonah we may have to go through Sheol before we get back to the shore. We also learn that our God may choose to go to the depths of the sea or the ends of the earth to bring us to where He wants us to be.
These events in Jonah's life were all used by the Lord to “encourage” him to obey God and do what God had instructed him to do; which he eventually did. Could he have avoided all this Sheol by simply being obedient at the beginning? Probably. But then we wouldn't have this wonderful story to read, study, and receive instruction from.
“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't possibly live long enough to make them all yourself,” Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.