When my soul fainted within me,
I remembered the LORD;
and my prayer came to You,
into Your holy temple.
Those who pay regard to vain idols
forsake their true loyalty,
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to You;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Deliverance belongs to the LORD!
For all of September I will be preaching Jonah. His story resonates with all of us, because who hasn’t been faced with a job for the LORD, and not wanted to do it? Who hasn’t felt at one time or another that they were in the deep belly of a fish in darkness and misery? Who hasn’t felt like they were vomited up into a situation they never wanted? And who hasn’t felt resentment when someone we dislike has escaped our version of justice? If any of these has happened to you, you are in good company, because Jonah felt all these things.
This prayer, from the belly of the big fish, confirms all that Jonah knows to be true of God. Hebrews believed that prayers had special effect if they were spoken in the temple of the LORD, but Jonah can’t get there. So from the depths of the ocean, from a belly of the fish, Jonah asks for help and trusts that his prayer finds it way to the temple and so to God. He also counts on returning to the temple some day to pay the vows he’s making in that dark place, of giving thanksgiving and a sacrifice of praise.
When we are in trouble, we may be sure that our prayers make it to the very throne of grace, that God hears all our petitions, and we can count on returning to our places of worship to give public thanks, to make offerings, and to praise God because we know: Salvation belongs to the LORD!
September 5: Jonah 1 “Recalcitrant Prophet” September 12: Jonah 2 “3-Day Prayer” September 19: Jonah 3 “180° Turnaround” September 26: Jonah 4 “Sour Grapes”
Catch my sermons at Stanford Presbyterian Church's Facebook page, or at www.stanfordpresbyterian.org or www.wvlivingstone.com