This is the second in a four part series on Jonah.
Jonah’s prayer in chapter two continues with the language of spiritual descent that is used in chapter one. In chapter one, Jonah continually went down (“yarad”) away from the presence and will of the LORD.
The language of his prayer from the belly of the fish is heartfelt and figurative language that Jonah used to describe just how awful his descent away from the LORD really was. In 2:1, Jonah finally qara (“calls out”), but instead of calling out against Nineveh he was forced to call out to God for rescue. Jonah says that he called and cried out to the LORD from the depths of Sheol.
Sheol, in the ancient mind, was the place of death. It was the final resting place for everyone. It was a place where one’s voice could not be heard; a place where the power and abilities of the very gods themselves were restricted. Only death could reach Sheol. There was no escape for one who entered Sheol.
Jonah’s prayer is often called a psalm of thanksgiving because something surprising and amazing happened to Jonah while he was in his own personal Sheol; God heard and answered Jonah. Though he had descended to the very roots of the mountains themselves God was able to hear him and give answer to his prayer. Sheol could not hold back the power of the LORD.
Verse six says it all. “I went down (“yarad”) to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the Pit.” It was Jonah’s disobedience that sent him down to a place he would never have been able to escape, but it was God’s love that lifted him up from the depths of the Pit, (a word that often is paired with Sheol.)
Just like Jonah, our own disobedience has taken us to the pit of Sheol and away from the presence of God. But thanks be to God that Christ descended onto the cross and into death for us and on our behalf so that we could be lifted up with him; that his death could be our death and his resurrection our resurrection. Through his obedience we are forgiven our disobedience.