Debra Isenbletter, Pastor
Jonah 2:2: “And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.” This verse begins with a Cry of Need and ends with a Cry of Faith. It is a Cry of Supplication.
It is a Personal Cry: “I cried,” “to call out to, to address by name.” This is the cry of every man. It is the Sinner’s cry. It is the Saint’s cry. There are times in our lives when we come to this place of need and this place of faith and we cry out because of our need and because of our faith. This is the cry of the suffering man. In the Psalms from which Jonah quotes, and which he knows so well, we have so many examples of different cries. An overwhelmed cry: “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed…” (Psa.61:2). A constant cry: “I have cried day and night before thee.” (Psa.88:1). A distressed cry: “In my distress I cried unto the Lord…” (Psa.120:1). A supplicating cry: “…I cried unto thee…be attentive to the voice of my supplications.” (Psa.130:1-2). A specific cry: “I cried unto the Lord…I poured out my complaint before him; I showed before him my trouble.” (Psa.142:1-2). There are such a wide range of emotions, and the Lord hears every single cry. I can see Jonah and the saints and the remnant of Israel in this suffering man.
This is also the cry of the suffering servant, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Psalm 22 pictures that time of suffering on Calvary. “O my God I cried in the daytime … and in the night season and am not silent.” (Psa.22:2). This verse shows two distinct cries that are one continuous cry. There was a cry “in the daytime” (in the Garden) and there was a cry “in the night season” (Golgotha). When Jesus cried in the Garden, God was silent but He heard that cry and we see the surrender of the Savior when He said, “Not my will but thine be done.” At Golgotha God is still silent while Jesus fulfills His will. He is silent until His justice is satisfied and when it is, He speaks and when He speaks the Suffering Servant is raised from the dead! In the Gospels we see that it is a suffering cry, it is an agonizing cry. “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44). That suffering came from obedience, (Heb.5:7-8). The obedience of Jesus was tested right up to the moment of His death. Through it all, He prayed and He never stopped praying!
It was a Pitiful Cry: “by reason of mine affliction.” The affliction is intense, it is both inward and outward, emotional and physical. It gives us a glimpse of what Jesus felt and yet we can never understand the depth of that suffering. The word “affliction” means “anguish or distress” and pictures the suffering of the mind. It also means “trouble and tribulation” and pictures the suffering of the body. Others have cried out in “anguish” and “distress” and cried out because of it. Joseph felt this “anguish” which we do not realize until his brothers acknowledged they had seen “the anguish of his soul. (Gen.42:41). Hannah felt this “anguish” when she prayed and said, “I am a woman of sorrowful spirit.” She “poured out her soul before the Lord.” (1Sa.1:15-16). David felt both emotional anguish and physical distress and he made the amazing statement, saying, “thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress” (Psa.4:1).
It was a Powerful Cry: “unto the Lord.” Jonah knew Who to cry out to and he cried out. It did not matter that he had disobeyed. It only mattered that he believed. The name of the Lord is a strong tower (Psa.18:10). It is a fortress, a place of strength (Psa.18:2; Psa.27:1). It is a place of security, a secret place (Psa.91:1-2). Jonah was not ashamed to cry, he was not afraid to cry, he was willing to cry. When he did he was preserved and then delivered.
Following Jonah’s Cry of Need, we have Jonah’s Cry of Faith: “he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.” The need is critical, it brings Jonah to a turning point. He comes to a place where he is not ashamed, not afraid to cry and he is willing to cry. Jonah makes a declaration in the midst of his desperation. He declares: “and he heard me.” How does he know this? He remembers the scriptures. He remembers the promises. He remembers his faith. The word “heard” means “to answer, to respond.” Faith believes that God not only hears but answers. When we look back to the Psalms, we see the condition of those who cried out believing that their cry was heard. What is amazing is that no matter how desperate or pitiful the condition, each one believed. Jonah looked to the Psalms and found the poor man who gave this cry (Psa.34:6). He found the promise that all men who give this cry will be heard (Psa.65:2). Faith sees the impossible as possible. Faith sees and believes.
Jonah’s declaration of faith reveals his desperate situation. He says “out of the belly of hell cried I.” What a description this is! It is hard to comprehend. Jonah describes the belly of the great fish as the belly of hell. It is a terrible, terrifying place. Jonah started out sleeping in the belly of the ship and ended up swallowed up in the belly of the fish. He started out in a place of his choosing. He ended up in a place not of his choosing.
Jonah calls this place “hell” which is “Sheol.” The Jews believed this was a place that the dead went. They believed it was a place of waiting, a place of no return. It is often translated as hell, pit or the grave. The Jews believed this place was divided into two parts, Upper and Lower Sheol. Jesus talks about the two in Luke 16:20-25. There he describes the poor beggar as being in Abraham’s bosom and the rich man in a place of suffering with a great gulf between the two. One is a place of hope and the other a place of hopeless. Jonah is in this place but he is not hopeless. He is able to cry from out of this place and it is a cry of hope. His body is imprisoned but his spirit is not.
There is only one escape from this place, and it is resurrection. A resurrection to “everlasting life” or “everlasting contempt” (Dan.12:2). Martha knew her brother would rise again in “the resurrection of the last day” (Joh.11:24). Jesus declared that He was “the resurrection and the life.” (Joh.11:25). There is only one escape from this place that Jonah finds himself in and it is resurrection and Jesus is that resurrection and Jonah is a type of Jesus in resurrection. When Jesus arose “many of the saints which slept arose” (Mat.27:52-53). When Jesus arose He “led captivity captive” (Eph.4:8). Jonah is a captive waiting to be set free! But like others before him and after him, Jonah sees “hell” differently. He sees “the sorrows of hell” (Psa.18:4-6) and “the pains of hell” (Psa.116:3).
Jonah began this verse with “I cried” and in the middle he says “he heard me” and at the end he says “thou heardest my voice.” In-between he describes his suffering and his fear but we see above all his faith and his voice. His faith: “thou heardest” and he says this before God answers. He does not doubt, he believes absolute. His voice: “my voice” and that voice has many tones to it. It is the voice of supplication, it is the voice of suffering, it is the voice of submission and it is a voice that will be heard! It does not matter where he is, it does not matter that he is in “hell;” he knows that his God will hear him. David knew this for he said, “For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell” (Psa.86:13). Jeremiah knew this for he said, “I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon” (Lam.3:55). Jesus knew this for He said, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psa.16:10/Acts 2:27). This is the place Jonah cried out from. This is the place Jesus cried out from. This is the place we have been delivered from.