“I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight;
yet I will look again toward your holy temple.”
Jonah 2:4 (NIV)
One of the most conflicted prophets in the Old Testament was the man Jonah. God had called him to preach to the violent nation of the Assyrians beginning with the capital city of Nineveh. He was to be the first genuine foreign missionary of the people of God. We know the story line how Jonah did not wish God to be merciful to the warmongering people in that city so he rebelled and ran in the opposite direction.
Jonah demonstrated just how opposed he was to God being merciful to the Ninevites because he actually took passage on a ship bound for Tarshish. Jonah’s people were not sea going. They feared the sea and stayed as far from it as possible. Hence we see that he was desperate in his plan of disobedience to God because he took to the sea where you easily lost sight of land.
However, no one can be successful in hiding from God and the story goes on to say that a great storm rose up on the sea and Jonah recognised that he was the cause of it. He told the sailors that only if they threw him overboard would the storm cease.
The sailors seemed more merciful than Jonah and did not do as he told them at first. When the storm heightened they recognised that Jonah was right so they put him overboard. Immediately the storm ceased and Jonah was swallowed by a great fish.
Perhaps Jonah was the most isolated man in the Old Testament. Job is another who was desperately alone but Jonah vies for first place in that department. He was in an utterly hopeless position and so he began to pray and cry out to God whom he had disobeyed so thoroughly.
Among other things he said the words of our text. Jonah’s analysis of his predicament led him to conclude that it was all over, that God had truly forsaken him for his rebellion. That was the position to which logic led as he examined the situation. His reason said he was a dead man.
But then faith kicked in and Jonah saw that there was hope even in such a bleak circumstance as being in a living submarine, the large fish. When Jonah spoke of looking toward the temple of God he was thinking about the place in his day where sinners and God especially met. The temple was the place where people went to have sins forgiven.
When Jonah said he would look toward the temple he meant he would call out to the God Whose presence was especially known at the temple and Who loved to forgive sinners. Jonah recognized from his frightening situation that God was angry about his sin yet he also knew, because of the temple, that God desired to forgive sinners.
Perhaps your problem today my friend is that you have messed up with God. You have long ignored Him, you have refused to be thankful for the blessing He has given you in life, or you have rebelled against Him in some other way. Remember the story of Jonah. Jonah used his faith to reach out to God when his reason told him his situation was impossible.
God loves to hear the faintest whisper of faith and if you cry out to Him today, be assured He will hear and respond just as He did to poor Jonah so long ago. Your Creator waits to hear from you. Come and speak with Him today.