Debra Isenbletter, PastorSpringfield, Missouri
Jonah 2:6: “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me forever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.”
Jonah sees God’s grace behind the discipline. He says he went down but he is able to say by faith, that the Lord brought him up. We see the depths of his descent: “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains.” The phrase implies movement from a higher to a lower place. It can mean “to bring down, to send down, to take down” and “to lie prostrate” while in that position.
Vine’s says that one may “go down” to a lower spot in order to reach the city gates which was in an elevated place. He gives an example in Judges: “the people of the Lord go down to the gates.” (Judges 5:11). I was struck by that statement because it shows that one may go down to a lower location in order to reach a higher location. In this sense, it implies that Jonah must go down in order to or before he can go up. The gates of the city figure the gates of deliverance. The gates bring him into God’s Presence. The gates are resurrection. How many times are we brought down before we are brought up, and having been brought up from that lowly position, find that we have a greater appreciation for it. The phrase “went down” is also used of dying, of going down to the grave. We see movement and the descent, but also that there is no return. Those that make this descent, go down into the realm of the dead. The only way up is resurrection.
Jonah describes how far down he went, to the “bottoms of the mountains.” There are depths within the ocean and mountains in those depths. he bottom of those mountains is about as deep as you can get. This is what he felt in his experience. There are mountain ranges under the surface of the ocean some of the mountain ranges extend 40,000 miles from the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, around Africa, Asia and Australia, and under the Pacific Ocean to the west coast of North America. Jonah said he went to the bottoms of those mountains. The words “bottoms” and “mountains” are both plural, showing there were levels in his descent as he went deeper. It must have been a terrifying experience. That is what despair feels like when we are out of the will of God.
Jonah describes his prison: “the earth with her bars was about me forever.” The “earth” is translated “a country,” “nations,” the “world.” The earth contains all of these. It does not matter where he was, he was restricted and confined. This is what Israel has felt every time God has disciplined them. It does not matter where they are, they cannot escape God’s discipline and neither can we. In that discipline, even the country or nation we find ourselves in is not so large that it cannot feel like a prison. And when we are in God’s Will, we can be in a prison and it will not feel like one.
What is so striking is that Jonah felt not only the discipline but felt the prison. It was as if he could see the “bars” that held him in place. Those bars were visible and yet invisible, they were unbreakable and inescapable. Those bars can represent several things. Those bars were emotional grief and physical death. The Psalmist described these bars with the words “sorrows” and “death.” “The sorrows of hell (Grief: Emotional) compassed me about: the snares of death (Death: Physical) prevented me.” (Psa.18:5). Those bars were the gates of hell or the grave. Jesus He is the Rock upon which the church is built and told Peter “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt.16:18). That is the power of the work of the Cross. It unlocks the gates of hell. Those bars were God’s Will and God’s Word, they held Jonah in place and he knew it.
Jonah is looking at eternity when he says they were “about me forever.” One translation is “they closed behind me forever.” It is as if Jonah heard the gates shut, the bars go down over the gates and the doors locked. These were bars that he could not break and there was no escape from this place. This is what the unsaved do not see or realize. They do not see what a terrible place awaits them but we do. We also see what a terrible place our Savior endured for us in Jonah’s description. We see the loneliness, the emptiness, the despair He felt. Jonah felt this, Jesus felt this. The only thing that Jonah had were the promises of God and the hope of deliverance. Jonah is a type of Jesus in the grave and although Jonah was hoping for salvation, Jesus knew absolutely that He would be delivered. He knew every promise. He knew “salvation is of the Lord” and He gives us that same assurance and hope, we are not hopeless or helpless.
Finally Jonah by faith describes his Ascent: “yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.” We see his Life: Jonah uses the wonderful word “yet.” This word looks upward and forward and sees deliverance. Jonah is saying, “yet” despite of where I am; “yet” despite of what I am; “yet” despite my failures; “yet” despite my fears. Jonah is saying “yet” despite of everything I have hope. This word “yet” lays hold of the impossible and sees it as possible for “with God all things are possible” (Mt.19:26). We see Jonah’s absolute faith because he uses the past tense, “yet hast thou brought” me up. Jonah sees what his God can do and what his God will do and he sees it by faith. Jonah is transformed by his experience and his suffering.
Jonah next says “brought up” and in those words we see a wonderful picture of the resurrection, the ascension and the exaltation of the Lord Jesus. The meaning for “brought up” is “to bring up or take up” and there we see the resurrection of Jesus. It also means “ascend up” and there we see the ascension of Jesus. It also means “to exalt” and there we see the exaltation of Jesus. What is so wonderful is that in our identification with our Lord and Savior, we experience all three of these.
Jonah says “my life.” He is saying that his life is a transformed life, a chastened life. He is saying “my life” is an obedient life, a surrendered life, an overcoming life. He is saying “my life” belongs to you, it is your life. Jonah’s life was given new purpose and new power. We can say these same things concerning our life. This should be our testimony also because we have come up in resurrection with Jesus and our life should show this transformation. Because of the price Jesus paid we should surrender that life to Him. Because we have been bought with a price our body should glorify God because we belong to Him. (1Cor.6:19-20).
We see his Death: “from corruption,” in the Hebrew this word is also translated “the pit” or “the grave.” Jonah is remembering the scriptures and through them he finds hope. He sees the reality of death but along with the reality is another reality, that of hope and through the scriptures he has hope. Jonah remembers what Job said, “He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light.” (Job 33:28). Jonah remembers the Psalms, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (Psa.16:10); “O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave, thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.” (Psa.30:3). We see the “grave,” the “pit,” the “corruption” but we also see the promise of deliverance, the hope that is given through the Holy Spirit as these individuals spoke under His Anointing.
We see his God: “O Lord my God.” Jonah concludes with this wonderful testimony of faith, he looks to his “Lord” and calls Him “my God.” Jonah knows that only his God can free him and he places his hope in the promises of God. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown says that “he speaks as if the deliverance were actually being accomplished” and “against hope he believes in hope” (Rom.4:18). What a glorious testimony of faith that will lead to a greater faithfulness. What a glorious testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. How death could not hold Him in the grave because God raised Him up, (Acts.2:24). What a glorious testimony of the resurrection, of the New Creation, of all who believe in and receive the Lord Jesus by faith. Col.2:12, we are “buried with him” and yet we are “also risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him (Jesus) from the dead. Faith is such an essential part of our lives. Faith lifts us up out of the pit of despair, faith embraces the Word and Will of God. Whatever bars that hold us helpless are lifted and we walk through victorious because our Savior led the way and we are victorious through Him.