Most people are familiar with the popular Thanksgiving song that begins, "Over the river, and through the wood, / To grandfather's house we go." These lyrics are actually part of a long poem, "The New-England Boy's Song about Thanksgiving Day" written by Lydia Maria Child in 1845, It might surprise you to learn that the original wording has "grandfather's," not "grandmother's," house. What's more surprising, is that none of the poem's twelve stanzas mentions giving thanks to God!
Today's passage from Jonah contains a very different thanksgiving song. The account of Jonah shows the depth of God's love for all people, even the dreaded Assyrians in Nineveh. This short book also stresses God's complete control over everything. This is seen in Jonah 1, where a violent storm lashes the boat as Jonah tries to flee the Lord.
The book of Jonah contains lots of surprises, including the fact that pagan sailors were reluctant to throw Jonah overboard, even though he was the cause of horrific storm. After Jonah declared that he was a follower of the God of heaven and earth (Jonah 1:9), these sailors prayed to the Lord, not Jonah! They prayed for forgiveness because they were sure that Jonah was about to die.
The surprises continue when the Lord provided an unusually large fish to deliver Jonah safely to dry ground. We can't imagine what Jonah felt as he was being carried along in the fish's belly, but his song shows that he knew that life is a precious gift from God. It's also clear that Jonah understood that God, not the sailors, had thrown him into the sea (v. 3).
It's interesting to note that Jonah's song is not a prayer for God to rescue him. Jonah understood that God was using very unusual means to deliver him! His song is one of thanksgiving to God for his salvation (v. 9). He also knows that those who worship idols miss out on this grace.