Debra Isenbletter, Pastor Springfield, Missouri
Jonah 2:3: “For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.” In this verse we see Jonah Overcome and Overwhelmed and at the same time we see Grace in the midst of Judgment.
Jonah is Overcome when he says: “For thou hast cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas.” He acknowledges the Lord: “For thou;” He acknowledges the Lord’s power: “hast cast;” He acknowledges his weakness: “me.” He cannot resist, he can only submit. Jonah does not blame the sailors, He knows who is responsible. It is the Lord. He knows that it is because of his relationship with the Lord and his responsibility to the Lord. Though the sailors did this, and Jonah had told them to do this, God had allowed them to do this. God is responsible. This is his acceptance, the beginning of his lesson and growth. Jonah sees “thou” and he sees “me,” Jonah has a relationship with God. But Jonah needs to let go of “me” of self, he needs to see only the Lord. Jonah says: “For thou hast cast me in…” Yes, Jonah was cast in but he was not cast out. He was cast “in” a place of suffering, it was a place of confinement, but it was also a place of preservation. That is God’s grace and mercy in the midst of judgment. And this also becomes a place of instruction because Jonah will learn about himself, learn about his God and lay hold of the promises that he knew in the scriptures that now will become a reality through his experience. That is what often happens in our own lives. Personal experience teaches us the real power of the scriptures. Jonah will learn to be like Job in his experience. “Then Job arose and … worshiped … And said … the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21-22).
Jonah has been cast “into the deep” and that word “into” hints that there is also an “out of.” Here we see God’s justice balanced with God’s mercy. The word “deep” is from a root meaning “an abyss.” It is a deep place, a dark place, a bottomless place. Jonah cannot see the end of the experience he is in. He looks around and there is only darkness and despair and the only light there will be the light he finds in the scriptures that he remembers and the promises he embraces.
Jonah has been cast “in the midst of the seas.” The “midst” speaks of “the heart, the interior.” It is like the center of a tornado, the eye of the storm, a place of quiet. The storm still surrounds but there is a break, a pause. It can be translated “the inner man” or “the mind, the heart, the soul.” It can also speak of that part of us that cannot be touched by outside circumstances. It is the place Jonah is brought to so that he can examine himself and hear the Lord speak to him. The word “seas” comes from “to roar” (as a noisy surf breaking on the rocks).” It is plural, speaking of many and can speak of the Gentile nations which are violent and in turmoil because they are the wicked and are never at rest. “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest …” (Isa.57:20). This is the place the Jews have been cast into through judgment and it is the place where they will learn to see their Deliverer, their Messiah.
This is an impossible place and yet it is a place filled with possibilities. The Lord put him in this place. The Lord can remove him from this place. This is also a double enclosure, it is a place within a place. It is a place (the deep) within another place (the seas). It is a double hiding place that is found in Christ, in God. “For ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col.3:3). It is a place found by faith, discovered through the Promises of God and Jonah will find that place. It is a place of preservation and a place of revelation.
Jonah is overwhelmed: “and all the floods compassed me about: “all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.” I have broken this verse into two topics: The Means of Judgment (floods, billows, waves) and the Measure of Judgment (compassed, passed over). He has been overcome, and finds brief refuge. Now as he looks back at what has happened, he is overwhelmed but through it he will learn to overcome and not be overcome. Every experience we go through are lessons that teach us how to overcome, and at different times we will be overwhelmed, but we learn to overcome on that day, until the next day, until the day we are finally delivered. Like Jonah, we are first overcome, then overwhelmed, then we overcome.
The Means of Judgment: “and all the floods … all thy billows and thy waves.” The word “all” shows full judgment. Jonah experienced all these things. The word “thy” shows the source, shows the Judge. Jonah acknowledged that his God was responsible and he accepted God’s judgment. The words “floods, billows and waves” show the degrees of judgment. These are three different types of water, three levels of turmoil and turbulence. They picture different levels of suffering but they are all under God’s control. He chooses whatever means He needs to bring us to that place of overcoming.
The Measure of Judgment; “compassed me about … passed me over.” Jonah said he was “compassed about,” that he was “surrounded on every side,” that he was “enclosed.” He was compassed but he was not crushed. He was enclosed by God’s Mercy and Grace. He was surrounded on every side by God’s Promises. Jonah said all those judgments “passed over me.” They “overtook” me. They “passed through” me. They “carried me over, brought me over, conducted me over.” Jonah lets them pass over him, he lets them pass by, he surrenders to them. He lets them overtake him, knowing he cannot outrun them. He will pass through them, they are temporary trials. He will let them carry and conduct him to a closer revelation and fellowship with God. This is a description of God’s judgment balanced with God’s mercy. Nothing could touch him but what his God allowed. He was surrounded on every side and enclosed. He could not get out but nothing could get in. He was preserved and protected while he was disciplined. This reminds me of Paul’s sufferings and persecution when Paul said: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed…” (2Co.4:8-9).
Jonah had to experience all these things to learn from them. He learns his weakness and there finds his strength. “…for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2Co.12:12). He is brought low so that he can be lifted up. “…know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound” (Phil.4:12). Jonah looks backs to the Psalms and cries out from the Word. This is where he finds his strength. He remembers David’s Psalms (Psa.18:4; Psa.69:2; Psa.69:14). The remembers the Teaching Psalms (Maschil Psalms). (Psa.42:7; Psa.88:6). In those Psalms we have descriptions of the same experience Jonah is going through. He draws on these scriptures and finds comfort and hope. His cry is the cry of the suffering Savior. It is the cry of the suffering Saint (both Old Testament and New Testament). It is the cry of the suffering Remnant (past, present and future). His cry shows the power of the Word of God in our lives.