In Jonah chapter 1, we learned that there are 3 types of people in this world; 1) those who are far from God’s presence 2) those who are running from God’s presence 3) those who are seeking after God’s presence. We saw the characteristics of each group and why they are the way that they are. The last group of people were desperate for help and they cried out to God in their distress. God heard their cry and answered them. In chapter 2 of Jonah, we want to focus on the people who are running from God’s presence. As we will see, they will fall into distress because of their bad choices. In the midst of their distress they have 2 options; they can continue in disobedience, fall into depression, and ultimately perish because of their bad choices or, they can cry out to God in their distress and watch how God steps in to work a miracle.
Are you in the midst of great distress because of disobedience to God? Are you ready to learn specific steps to take in order to get God to step in and rescue you?
I. God allows people to fall into distress so that they will come to their senses and turn to Him for help. In Jonah chapters 1 and 2, there are 2 groups of people who are in distress; 1) the sailors (whose distress led them to the One true God) 2) Jonah (whose distress first leads to depression but then ultimately, to repentance). Sometimes distress is a result of your own bad choices (like in Jonah’s example) or it can be a result of God simply leading you to Him (like the sailors). One group needs to meet the Lord face to face for the first time (the sailors) while the other group needs to be shaken back to their senses (like Jonah).
II. God hears those who cry out to Him in their distress and He reaches down to rescue them with the strength of His mighty hand. The sailors were open to hearing about God and accepting His help. When they cried out to Him, He heard them and delivered them. Now Jonah is in the belly of the fish where he comes to His senses and cried out to God in his distress with repentance. God hears him and delivers him.
And Jonah prayed to Jehovah his God out of the fish’s belly, and he said, I cried to Jehovah from my distress. And He answered me. Out of the belly of Sheol I cried for help, and You heard my voice. (Jon 2:1-2)
III. The key to getting God’s attention in the midst of your distress is to cry out to Him in genuine repentance. Jonah had to set his pride aside. He had to turn away from himself and his pride. In chapter 1, he could not bring himself to repent of his actions. Maybe he was worried about what the sailors would think if he, a follower of God, were to repent and admit that he was wrong. He loses whatever pride it was that kept him from repentance in chapter 1. What about you, are you too prideful to repent and admit that you were wrong and that you need God? Maybe you are worried about what others will think if you repent. Maybe you think God will just overlook your actions and you will some how get out of the situations with your own wits. Jonah may have thought like that but look at what happened to him. He went from the “frying pan to the oven”, as we say. He went from a bad situation to a worse one. But, even in the midst of his distress, God had mercy on Jonah. He sent a fish to save Jonah’s life. He rescued Jonah from the belly of the fish. Are you ready to seek the Lord in the midst of your distress? He is ready to hear and rescue. You must cry out to Him in genuine repentance and trust that He will rescue you.
The prophet Amos leaves us with a good motivational verse;