Jonah’s running from God took him to rock bottom, literally. In Jonah’s prayer he states that he has been taken to the bottom of the mountains. Yet it was at rock bottom that he finally started looking up. When Jonah was forced to sit still and face the reality of where the consequences of his decisions had taken him, he began to realize God’s great mercy over him. What a miracle that he was even alive at all. How humbling that God’s plan for him was surely better then where his own had taken him. It was in the desperation of this miserable situation that he began to remember the peace of God’s presence and long for it once again. In that moment, he turned his eyes toward God’s temple which he had run fervently from and began, even while he was still in the pit of despair, to acknowledge his mistakes and praise God for His mercy.
In Jonah’s prayer we see a picture of true repentance. He confesses that his own actions of lying vanity (or deceitful selfishness) had caused God’s mercy to depart from him. He didn’t blame God for his situation anymore, but came to realize that he had brought this miserable state upon himself. Only when he was finally able to see this was he able to truly appreciate God’s great mercy and repent of his foolish vanities with a humble, selfless, and thankful heart. Even in removing certain of His mercies, God was showing mercy by not allowing Jonah to run too far. In his great hardship he was being brought to repentance, and that is the greatest act of mercy God can pour out on a lost soul. Jonah had no idea where he was or how he would get free, he was as lost as a soul can be, but he knew no matter where he was, God could meet him there. So in his despair, from the depths of rock bottom, he looked up and set his eyes on God. Then something amazing happened. As soon as Jonah acknowledged his sin, repented, and praised God with a thankful heart, God spoke into his situation and in an instant he was back where he was suppose to be. He had lost a little time, but had lost no ground. He was on the shores of Nineveh, and his calling laid before him.
We all have played the Jonah or know someone who has. We pray for God’s mercy as they run from God or their calling, but sometimes that mercy comes by way of a removal of mercies that they might come to miss and appreciate His greatest mercy, His salvation. Despise not rock bottom, for it is often the only place that some will look up and behold in reverence the eyes of power, love, and redemption; watching, waiting, ready, and willing to restore all that was lost in their running, and set their feet back on the shores of their calling.
“Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. 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. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord. And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” – Jonah 2:1-10