Waiting in Sheol

Group Discussion // April 20, 2022

This is a lesson I prepared for a community group discussion. I have reworked it a bit to provide a summary of the discussion points during our time spent together in Jonah chapter 2.

Jonah 2

2:1-2  Prayer During Distress

  • Assuming this is day three in the belly, What do you think it’s Jonah’s current state of mind? What is he feeling?
    • Jonah had to be feeling desperation, hopelessness, helpless. He doesn’t have any indication of how long he has been in the bell of the fish. In the darkness, the days all seem to run together and I am sure this just adds to his disorientation. He has to be feeling hurt, remorseful, ashamed, guilty even.
  • What do these first two verses of prayer tell us about those the days?
    • He is in distress. It is out of his distress that he prays. He likens his situation to being in Sheol, the grave. And truly that must be what it was like. This filthy, pitch black, putrid belly of a giant fish. It had to beyond unpleasant. 
    • They also tell us that Jonah is beginning to see the folly in his previous line of thinking. For it is here in Sheol that they Lord not only heard him, but answered him. The man than was trying to flee the presence of the Lord finally realizes that even in the depths of despair in the belly of a fish at the bottom of the sea the Lord is present with him.
  • When we are most overwhelmed, most troubled, most anxious – these are times when we need to cry out to the Lord. We can rest assured that he not only hears us, but answers us. Even when it doesn’t feel that way. When  everything around us seems hopeless, God is near.

2:3-4  Remembering Hope

  • You cast me into the deep… Jonah here acknowledges that this was by God’s design. Jonah may have decided to flee, but it was the Lord’s design to bring him to this point. To have him hurled into the sea and be found in the belly of the fish.
  • Driven away… how does this reflect back on him fleeing the presence of the Lord?
    • This is a reminder that God will sometimes give us exactly what we want. Jonah was wanting to flee the presence of the Lord, so the Lord was in a sense driving him away. He was letting Jonah have a small taste of what it really means to flee the presence of the Lord.
  • I shall yet again… In his despair, Jonah sees hope. He knows that the Lord is a merciful God and that in the mercy of God, he is exactly where the Lord intended. His salvation was by the appointment of the fish to swallow him. There is yet hope that he can trust in the goodness of God. Jonah chooses to focus on hope. Hope in the Lord.

2:5-6  Relentless Trials

  • The relentless waves of the world, the flesh and the devil continually press in upon us and seek to drag us down into despair. Jonah describes his descent through the water to the floor of the sea. This continual increasing threat of drowning is a reminder that our enemy is threating to drown us as well. Our enemy is as relentless in his pursuit of our destruction as the sea is in swallowing Jonah.
  • But the Lord brought him up! Jonah remembers the faithful patience and salvation of God. Jonah remembers that even in the most bleak and hopeless point of his life. The point where death seemed inevitable, the Lord provided salvation. The appointment of the fish was a divine solution to the circumstance.
  • It is helpful to remember that the Lord could have appointed the fish to swallow him on top of the water, but it was for Jonah’s good that he waited until Jonah was on the bottom of the sea to bring the fish.

2:7-9  Remember, Search, Give Thanks

  • I remembered… and prayed
    • It took the threat of life for Jonah to see his sin. We want to learn this lesson well. The lesson being that we should keep short accounts when dealing with our sin. The threat of death is a painful and last resort type of waring. We should aim for quiet reminders from the Lord, not jolts to shock us awake from our slumber.
    • When he saw it, he repented. May we all have this singular response to having our sin revealed. May we not run and hide from the Lord, but run and embrace the gracious merciful Lord Jesus.
  • Vain idols cause us to lose hope.
    • What are the main idols of your life? What do you doing to in place of God?
    • These idols are a vanity. A wisp of air. Nothing. Our idols lead us astray and require everything. We will forfeit everything in the end to the harsh master of an idol. We will forsake the steadfast love of the Lord for the immediate gratification of sinful pleasure.
  • Thanksgiving is the cure. Thanksgiving keeps us humble. Thanksgiving teaches us to remember the faithful steadfast love of the Lord in our lives. Thanksgiving continues to bring our hearts in alignment with the will of God.

2:10  Appointed Salvation

  • When the time of Jonah’s appointed circumstance was completed, God brought about it’s completion. God’s timetable is not based on our comfort, but his sovereign will. The fish swallowed Jonah at the exact right appointed moment and then vomited him out when the trial was complete. Not a moment before or a moment after, but exactly when the Lord had determined.
  • Salvation indeed… but there are consequences to our sin. This is a crucial point to remember. There is forgiveness with repentance. Every one of us can be assured that God will freely bring grace and mercy into our repentance. Yet, there will be consequences for our sin still. Our eternal state is secure, but our immediate circumstances are affected by our every decision. Both the obedient and the disobedient one.

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