Debra Isenbletter, Pastor, Springfield, Missouri
Jonah 2:4: “Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.”
In this verse we see Jonah’s Exclamation and his Expectation. This is about what Jonah knows. He knows where he is, he knows why he is where he is, he knows who put him where he is. He also knows there is hope and he knows Who to look to for that hope.
Jonah’s Exclamation: “Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight (presence).” Jonah is not being thrown away and discarded, he is being disciplined. He says he has been “cast out” but he has not been “cast away.” “Then” points back to what has happened. This is said after Jonah is thrown overboard, after the fish swallows him. This shows Jonah sees the consequences of his actions. By these words Jonah accepts God’s judgment and chastisement. While in the belly of the fish he felt that he has been “cast out” of the Lord’s “sight,” or the Lord’s presence. But the Lord still sees him and still hears him.
“Cast out” speaks of separation, of a forceful separation and Jonah feels that separation now. “Cast out” can also mean “driven out” or “thrust out” or it can mean “to divorce.” Both are different types of separation. Both figure Israel in the ways God chastised them and their relationship with their God. Israel was forced to leave the land of promise and driven out into the nations. Those nations stripped them of everything. They lost their homes and their land, but they lost something even more precious, they lost sight of their relationship with their God. They separated themselves from their God and God separated Himself from them. God “divorced” or “put them away” because of their unfaithfulness to Him, because of their idolatrous worship (Jer.3:8). It was not until they lost all these things that they realized what it was they lost and Jonah is a picture of that loss, and he feels it deeply.
Like Israel, Jonah felt that he had been removed by force, by circumstances out of his control. What is sad is that before he was “cast out” he had already left God’s presence. He did it voluntarily, he did it willingly when he ran away Jonah did not realize what he was turning away from and running away from.
There are different types of separation. There can be a physical separation, such as Israel from their land, their homes, and the blessings of God and Jonah’s physical separation from his home, his land, his people. There can be a spiritual separation, such as loss of fellowship. The relationship is still there because Jonah cries out to his God but the fellowship has been damaged and needs to be restored.
Jonah says “I am cast out of thy sight.” That does not mean God cannot see Jonah. Jonah does not feel the Lord’s “presence.” Jonah suddenly feels the loss of something that he had taken for granted. Jonah finally realizes what it is he has really lost. It is not about loss of life, it is about loss of fellowship. It is not that the Lord is not there, He is there. He hears Jonah’s prayer on some level, Jonah knows this, because he prays. It is when Jonah changes his attitude, when he repents, when he submits, when he prays, it is then that he will feel the Presence of his God.
Jonah’s sin had separated him, he could not hear God and he did not want to be near God. Sin separates man from God. After Adam sinned he hid from God (Gen.3:8). This is a lesson Jonah must learn, it is the difference between feeling and faith. Jonah feels cast out and rejected because of judgment, he does not feel the Lord’s presence. At the moment, Jonah sees only judgment, not the love behind the judgment. The Apostle Paul saw the love behind the judgment concerning God’s people, he knew that God had not “cast away his people” (Rom.11:1-2,5). He knew God would take them back again, on His terms and not theirs. This is what Jonah will learn.
Jonah’s Expectation: “yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.” In this statement we see that Jonah’s faith begins to overcome his feelings. Jonah says, “yet I will look again,” as impossible as it seems, he has this hope that one day he will “look again” at the place that he loves. To “look” means to “regard with pleasure” to look “again” means to look “toward;” to look “often;” it means that he will look “henceforth” or “from now on.” It could be he had not been looking like he should have, now he says he will look and that he will do this and not stop looking. The place that he is looking toward is “thy holy temple;” a consecrated place, a sacred place, a place of sanctuary. In the belly of that fish, with his eyes lifted up to his God in faith, with his voice crying out in faith, the place could be transformed. It had the potential of becoming a sanctuary.
It could be until this moment Jonah had not felt this way about the temple, he may have taken it for granted, now it means something. Sometimes we take for granted the opportunities and privileges of worship until they are gone. It could also be that being a prophet for the ten tribes, it was not easy to go to the temple after the division of the kingdom. The kingdom was split, the ten tribes worshiped in Dan and Bethel, the places Jeroboam chose instead of Jerusalem. (1Ki.12:26-29). The temple was in Jerusalem, it was where the two tribes worshiped. If anyone from the ten tribes went to the temple, it would not be easy.
Now in faith Jonah looks toward the temple with longing and remembers how precious worship and fellowship are. The temple was a place for God’s people to pray in (1Kings 8:38-39) and it was also a place for God’s people to pray towards, if they could not be in the temple. (2Chr.6:38-3; Dan.6:10). They did not have to be physically in the temple for their prayer of faith to be heard. Jonah looks forward to the time he will be in the temple again. Can you imagine, after this experience, what his testimony and his worship would be like? He could offer a sin offering or trespass offering acknowledging his sin. He could offer an offering of thanksgiving for his deliverance. He could worship the Lord his God, and his heart longed for the place he could do this.