JONAH IN THE FISH
We tend to skim over Jonah's actual prayer and just pick up the story with the large fish spitting him out on dry land. When you pause to consider what Jonah actually prays though, there are some interesting features that stand out.
First of all, there's actually two prayers.
It's also significant that Jonah never actually says that he's sorry.
He uses very poetic and religious sounding language to complain about his fate in the sea and talk down about pagans. If only he'd have a second chance, surely he would obey God this time.
The only thing to really commend in Jonah's prayer is that he demonstrates great faith that God will save him. He believes this despite the fact that he's still in a fish...in the middle of the sea! Even in this, it is debatable whether we should look to him as a model of faithfulness or a bad example of an over-inflated ego.
Jonah's prayer is self-centered, egotistical, fudges details, and only kinda-sorta shows the possibility that he's taking ownership of his actions. And we'll see from later chapters that even while he does finally obey God, he gets quite snobbish and resentful about it. His stint in the fish does not seem to have really changed his heart in any substantial way.
GOD SAVES JONAH ANYWAY
One of the most profound truths we learn from Jonah's journey is that God saves and uses us for good far before we've ever done anything to deserve it.
If God will listen to the self-righteous ramblings of this disobedient prophet, he’ll listen to your prayers no matter how long, short, eloquent, or stunted they may be.
If God will save a stubborn fool blind to his own faults, he’ll save you no matter what you’ve done or not done, whether you think you deserve it or not.
If God will take time to repeatedly visit Jonah and keep inviting him into mission, each time teaching him a little bit more about his grace, he’ll keep on teaching you, never failing to see the potential for life change in you.
All of us are works in progress. Some of us mess up by rejecting God outright. Others hide our sin under a veil of spirituality. No matter what your particular brand of brokenness may be, God longs to meet you where you are and transform the sickness of your heart with the glory of His presence.
So let's praise the God who saves us anyway.
The Word of God shared in community. The written text, illumined by the Holy Spirit, pointing us to the person of Jesus Christ.