Jonah 2:8-9a

Last time, we continued our examination of Jonah’s prayer of repentance from inside the belly of the great fish. We saw that Jonah, in his despair, had finally remembered the Lord, and cried out to Him. We saw that Jonah used the figurative expression “I will look again toward Your holy temple,” to describe his turning his plea toward the Lord, and we looked at Solomon’s beautiful prayer at the ceremony devoting the first temple to the worship of the Lord.
 
In the meantime, unbeknownst to Jonah, the great fish had been returning him to somewhere appointed by the Lord from where he could continue on his journey toward Nineveh. Before we look at Jonah’s prophecy against Nineveh let’s now continue our study of Jonah’s prayer…
Jonah 2:8-9
8Those who regard worthless idols
Forsake their own Mercy.
9But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.

Salvation is of the LORD.

Let’s take this slowly, and savor what God has given us in this brief passage…

Jonah 2:8
8Those who regard worthless idols

Forsake their own Mercy.

The Word of God is suffused throughout with admonition against the worship of idols. The second commandment lays down this law, but it must really be taken in conjunction with the first in order that we might fully understand the direction of God…
Exodus 20:2-6
2“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

3“You shall have no other gods before Me. 4“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

Despite Ophrah’s objections, our God is indeed a jealous God who will not share His glory or the worship due only to Him with another; nor should He. As our Creator, He has a perfect right to demand our exclusive worship. But just as in ancient times, people still worship idols of all sorts throughout our fallen modern world. In our country, perhaps, these idols aren’t often physical sculptures of little godlets as they are in some of the places we Americans like to think of as backwaters of ignorance and superstition, so far removed from our own “enlightened” western society.
 
But the vast majority of even the illuminati of the great western democracies are guilty of this sin of idolatry which God so deeply abhors. Most of the “enlightened” people in American educated circles carry their zeal for the Earth’s environment beyond the healthy and admirable desire to be good stewards of God’s gifts, into a worship of the creation rather than the Creator whose very existence most of them deny altogether.
 
But lest we of God’s “elect” should fall into the sin of self-righteousness, let’s consider the idols that we ourselves might be tempted to worship. God makes crystal clear what we must do in order to accept and receive His salvation…
Romans 10:8-10
8But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
The work of our salvation – Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross – is completely finished. There is nothing we need to do, but accept His Gospel, and receive the seal of His Spirit. But doing so isn’t just mouthing the words “Jesus is Lord.” Our acceptance of Jesus’ salvation is more like our wedding vows…
Do you take Jesus Christ to be your wedded Husband to live together in marriage? Do you promise to love Him, honor and keep Him for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health and forsaking all others, be faithful only to Him so long as you both shall live?
Furthermore, since Jesus and His bride will live forever, when we accept Jesus as our Lord, He calls us not only to proclaim our love and allegiance, but to live our devotion out eternally, truly forsaking everything but Jesus. How many of us invest at least part of our devotion in our jobs, our families, our possessions, our schools? What about our church fellowship and its ceremonies? All of these can become forms of idolatry which God clearly abhors. Let’s be completely clear, though. Jesus doesn’t call us to abandon our earthly lives altogether, but rather to re-focus them as a form of worship devoted to Him…
Colossians 3:12-24
12Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
18Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.
20Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.
21Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
22Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
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The word “Mercy” is intriguingly capitalized here in Jonah 2:8. We can, indeed, think of this word as one of God’s names. The Hebrew word is חֶסֶד checed. It occurs 248 times in the Old Testament. In over half of these instances, it is translated in the King James Version as “mercy.” It is also translated as “kindness,” “lovingkindness,” “goodness,” “kindly,” “merciful,” “favor,” “good,” “goodliness,” “pity,” and, interestingly, once each as “reproach,” and “wicked thing.” But this use here in Jonah 2:8 is the only one in which the English word “Mercy” is capitalized (except when it occurs at the beginning of a sentence). Here are some examples of חֶסֶד checed from God’s Word…
In the second commandment which we saw earlier…
Exodus 20:6
but showing mercy[חֶסֶד checed] to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Then later in the wilderness when God threatened to destroy the Israelites in His anger, Moses interceded in prayer for them, reminding God of His own words in the giving of the Law…
Numbers 14:18
‘The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy,[חֶסֶד checed] forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.
At the beginning of Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple which we looked at last time…
1 Kings 8:22-23
22Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven; 23and he said: “LORD God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy[חֶסֶד checed] with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts.
In Job’s plea to God…
Job 10:12
You have granted me life and favor,[חֶסֶד checed]
And Your care has preserved my spirit.
Other assorted instances…
Joel 2:12-14
12“Now, therefore,” says the LORD,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
13So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;[חֶסֶד checed]
And He relents from doing harm.
14Who knows if He will turn and relent,
And leave a blessing behind Him—
A grain offering and a drink offering
For the LORD your God?
Isaiah 54:10-12
8With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment;
But with everlasting kindness[חֶסֶד checed] I will have mercy on you,”
Says the LORD, your Redeemer.
9“For this is like the waters of Noah to Me;
For as I have sworn
That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth,
So have I sworn
That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.
10For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But My kindness[חֶסֶד checed] shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
Says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
Of the 248 instances where חֶסֶד checed appears in the Old Testament, over half are in the book of Psalms. The word is found in 127 verses in this book. Perhaps the best known are…
Psalm 23
A Psalm of David.
1The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6Surely goodness and mercy[חֶסֶד checed] shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD
Forever.
Psalm 136
1Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever.
2Oh, give thanks to the God of gods!
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever.
3Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords!
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever:
4To Him who alone does great wonders,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever;
5To Him who by wisdom made the heavens,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever;
6To Him who laid out the earth above the waters,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever;
7To Him who made great lights,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever—
8The sun to rule by day,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever;
9The moon and stars to rule by night,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever.
10To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever;
11And brought out Israel from among them,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever;
12With a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever;
13To Him who divided the Red Sea in two,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever;
14And made Israel pass through the midst of it,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever;
15But overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever;
16To Him who led His people through the wilderness,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever;
17To Him who struck down great kings,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever;
18And slew famous kings,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever—
19Sihon king of the Amorites,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever;
20And Og king of Bashan,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever—
21And gave their land as a heritage,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever;
22A heritage to Israel His servant,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever.
23Who remembered us in our lowly state,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever;
24And rescued us from our enemies,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever;
25Who gives food to all flesh,
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever.
26Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven!
For His mercy[חֶסֶד checed] endures forever.
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Jonah 2:9a
But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;

When we consider the idea of sacrifice to the Lord we often think in terms of the Old Testament animal sacrifices commanded in God’s Law, or of sacrifices such as modern missionaries are called to in serving God. We know that Jesus sacrificed Himself as our ransom out of sin, but what are the sacrifices God truly desires from us in return? 

Remember the words of Jesus…

Matthew 11:28-30
28Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
This doesn’t sound like a call to sacrifice. On the contrary, it seems to be a promise of release from our burdens. Even in the Old Testament before Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross did away with the need for animal sacrifices, God told us that is not the act of the sacrifice that He desires…
Hosea 6:1-6
1Come, and let us return to the LORD;
For He has torn, but He will heal us;
He has stricken, but He will bind us up.
2After two days He will revive us;
On the third day He will raise us up,
That we may live in His sight.
3Let us know,
Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD.
His going forth is established as the morning;
He will come to us like the rain,
Like the latter and former rain to the earth.
4“O Ephraim, what shall I do to you?
O Judah, what shall I do to you?
For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud,
And like the early dew it goes away.
5Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets,
I have slain them by the words of My mouth;
And your judgments are like light that goes forth.
6For I desire mercy and not sacrifice,
And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”
Consider the very first sacrifices found in the Word…
Genesis 4:1-7
1Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the LORD.” 2Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. 4Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
6So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
Why was Abel’s offering acceptable to the Lord, while Cain’s was not? It wasn’t the sacrifices themselves that God judged, but the distinction between the hearts of these brothers. No one but God knows what was in their hearts, but since we know and believe God is loving, righteous, and just, we must assume that there was something about Cain’s spirit, and expectations in bringing his offering that caused God to reject it. Indeed, we can infer that God’s reason for including the story of Cain and Abel in His Word is to teach us His will in calling us to offer sacrifices.
 
Our sacrifices must also be offered with a clean conscience having confessed and repented of our sins before God, and sometimes – in obedience to Him – before each other…
Matthew 5:23-24
23Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
It isn’t the act of sacrifice that God desires from us, but a spirit of joyful offering. We must look at Jonah’s statement in its entirety to understand the point. The actual act of sacrifice is unimportant. What matters to God is our heart toward the sacrifice while we are in the midst of the sacrificial act.
 
God doesn’t need our sacrifice to accomplish His purposes in calling those He chooses to Himself. He is all-powerful, and well able to accomplish all of His intentions for the universe by the power of His Word and Spirit alone. He doesn’t need to use human beings to accomplish His will; He has chosen this way for our benefit, not His.
 
God has given us the opportunity to offer Him our goods, time, and effort in order to bless us, not Himself or those to whom He calls us to minister. Surely our sacrifices may also bless others, and please our Lord, but His desire is for us to realize the blessing we have in the calling and the burden He places on our hearts to serve – not out of a sense of duty, but in joy at having been chosen by Him to obey His will. Once we come to realize our own blessing in being called to honor Him in our service, we – like Jonah – will be able to give the sacrifice of thanksgiving.
Leviticus 22:29
And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, offer it of your own free will.

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