In the movie The Little Mermaid, Sebastian (a crab) sings the song “Under the Sea” to Ariel (a mermaid) to persuade her that life there is better than life on land. He paints a picture of carefree happiness: “Since life is sweet here, we got the beat here, naturally, even the sturgeon and the ray, they get the urge and start to play. We got the spirit, you got to hear it, under the sea.”
From the bottom of the ocean, Jonah brought back a rather different report! We might see Jonah as a kind of “everyman,” that is, a typical human being. We can all identify with his attitudes and actions. In our own feelings, we don’t want God to bless our enemies. In our own wisdom, we think we can hide from Him. In our own strength, we’re unfaithful to our calling when it conflicts with our personal desires. When push comes to shove, we would rather run away and indulge in self-pity than admit we were wrong!
Under miraculous circumstances, Jonah found himself under the sea, still alive and with time to reflect on his foolishness. This was God’s side of the conversation—showing His prophet that He cared for him and was not going to let him get away with disobedience. Jonah responded in today’s reading with an extended “Help!” His confession of sin was implicit, as he knew very well he wouldn’t be where he was if he had followed the Lord’s instructions (vv. 3–4). He was in the “depths of the grave,” the ocean deep, struggling with currents and waves and breakers, sinking “to the roots of the mountains,” with life ebbing away. God heard and answered Jonah’s prayer, causing the fish to vomit him up onto dry land. “Salvation comes from the Lord” (v. 9)!
Apply the Word
The deeper context for the conversation between God and Jonah was not momentary circumstances but their ongoing relationship. Jonah was pained to be banished from God’s presence and looked forward to the day he would worship in the temple again (vv. 4, 7). He knew he’d receive the grace God intends for all who affirm His sovereignty (v. 8).