November 6 I Saturday
“From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said: ‘In my distress I called to the LORD…’” —Jonah 2:1-2
Throughout the pages of Scripture, we read that God is almighty and able. He delivered the Israelites from their bondage of slavery in Egypt. He made a way when there seemed to be no way by parting the Red Sea. He rained manna from heaven for the children of Israel for 40 years in the wilderness. He brought them water from a rock. He is the God whose covenant faithfulness remains committed to His people, even when they are faithless.
As Jonah was thrown overboard, swallowed by a giant fish, and sat in the belly of the fish, he cried out to God in prayer, saying, “In my distress I called to the LORD…” (Jonah 2:2). It is an interesting choice of word that Jonah used in his opening prayer to the Lord. The word “distress” is the same Hebrew word that God used to describe the “wickedness” of Nineveh in Jonah 1:2, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before Me.” Jonah’s use of “distress” in his prayer alluded to how he saw himself in the exact same state as Nineveh—distress due to his disobedience and wickedness.
What was Jonah’s disobedience and wickedness? He was running away from God’s calling for him to preach in Nineveh. Jonah did not want God’s love to be extended to his enemies. The action of Jonah was the complete opposite of Abraham with Sodom and Gomorrah. When God revealed to Abraham His plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham interceded on behalf of the city for God’s mercy. Yet, when God told Jonah that He threatened to destroy Nineveh, Jonah’s attitude was one that implied, “Have at it. Please wipe it off the face of the earth.”
As I have read Jonah throughout my life, I often found it hard to relate to. I cannot imagine hating a city so much that I would want God to completely destroy it. But then, I realized that I could actually acknowledge, like Jonah, that I had been holding on to a grudge. Maybe something happened in our life and we have been nursing that trauma. Left untreated, that hatred could become the root of bitterness, and we could become imprisoned, unable to move forward in life because we are wrapped up in our own desires. That bitterness could control our life and we cannot grow, get past it or move forward— we become troubled or distressed.
The Lord wants to set us free today. May we pray admitting to God, “I want freedom. Lord, will You remove this bondage from me? I cry out to You in my distress!”
Prayer: Dear Lord God, You are almighty and able. In my distress, I cry out to You. Please set me free from my trauma, hatred and bitterness. Thank You, Lord.