My name is Brooke Taulbee, and I am excited to be with you this morning as we continue our series in the Book of Jonah. We are in that book all month of July, and Carla shared with us last week chapter one. And so, just in review of what she shared with us, I’m going to read the very first verse of chapter one of Jonah, and it says this “The word of the Lord came to Jonah, and it said, ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because its wickedness has come up before me.'”
And so when the Scripture talks about a city, the city of Nineveh, being wicked, it was something that we cannot even imagine. I know Carla went into it a little bit last week and the details of what they would do and how they would torture men, women, and children. And it would just physically make us ill if we pondered what was happening in this city. And so God said to the Prophet Jonah, “go east.” Jonah went west. He said, “Nope, I’m going to go in the opposite direction.” God said, “Go.” He said, “No, I’m getting on a boat, and I’m going to sail as far away as I can get.” And he went 2500 miles away to the city of Tarshish. But God said, “this assignment, Jonah, it’s too important. I’m not giving up on you.” And so we’re going to see that today; how God did not give up on Jonah.
Actually, the captain of the ship that he was on, that was being compromised in the storm that was sent, went to Jonah and said, “Jonah, you need to pray to your God to free him to deliver us out of this storm.” He knew that he needed to pray. Jonah said “Mhmm, I’m in no mood to pray.” He had stopped praying. You see, Jonah was a prophet on the run, and the sailors, even they wanted to have mercy on him. They thought there has to be another way. “Jonah, we don’t want to have to throw you into the waters.” But Jonah said, “At the end of the day, guys, that’s what has to happen.”
And so it says in the last verse of chapter one, “Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of that fish for three days and three nights.” And so that’s where we’re going to pick up our story today.
We’re going to be looking at chapter two. And it is a poetic and beautiful prayer that Jonah prayed. It’s a Hebrew prayer, and some would even call it the psalm of Jonah, because of the way that it’s written. And we’re going to walk through that prayer today. You know, three days and nights in the belly of a fish, I doubt Jonah had his journal and his flashlight and his pen and was writing out his prayers, right? We’re going to talk about, kind of, what it might have felt like in the belly of that fish. And so this prayer, that we’re looking at, is a reflective prayer of how Jonah felt in the belly of that fish, and he was delivered from that fish. And we’re going to look at the lessons he kind of learned through that.
So, Jonah, chapter two, verse one says, “From inside the fish, Jonah prayed to the Lord, his God, and he said, ‘In my distress, I called to the Lord, and he answered me.'” I want you to circle that word “distress” this morning. And, you know, what does it say that Jonah did when he was in distress? He called on the Lord, right? He called out to the Lord. And what did the Lord do, when he called out to him? It says, “the Lord answered me,” and I want to stop for a moment and think about the concept that He called to the Lord, and the Lord answered. And that Jonah had the ability to call to the Lord, and who that really is. We’ll look at the word “distress” in just a minute, but I just want us to just possibly grasp the concept that Jonah and us, we, you and me, have the ability to call on the Lord; the God of the universe who created the heavens and the earth, who hung the stars. The first, the last. He’s the Alpha and the Omega. He’s the Supreme Judge. He’s the Holy One. He’s omnipresent, he’s everywhere. He knows all things. And we have the ability to call on his name. And it says not just that he takes it a step further, that He will answer us.
Jonah called on him after, in chapter one, he had basically said, “No, God, I am not obeying you. Forget you. I’m actually going to go in the opposite direction. I don’t want anything to do with what you’ve asked me to do.” And yet, immediately when Jonah prayed, God answered him, and had mercy on him. And church today, I need you to hear me say that we have that same ability. We can call on God in our distress, no matter how far we’ve run in the opposite direction. We can call on him at any moment, and he will answer you. Isn’t that great news? The hope that we have.
So I’m going to teach you a couple of Hebrew words this morning. And the first one is we’re going to look at that word “distress.” And I want you to write above the word “distress,” the Hebrew word Tsarah. I think I’m saying that right. I am not a Hebrew scholar, so we’re going to go with that today. It is T S A R A H, and that word literally means the travails of childbirth. Ladies in the room, raise your hand if you can identify with me the travails of childbirth. You understand what I’m saying? The distress that you find yourself in, in that moment. The Hebrew word also means this… I did a little bit more study on this, and I found this to be interesting. It means to be weighed down, crushed, low, or in a very narrow place. And I came across this picture, and I loved this man’s face because I feel like he looks very distressed. Right. I don’t know if he’s going coming out or going in. I don’t know what he’s doing. This is somewhere on the Appalachian Trail. And there was several other pictures that we tossed around. And I kept saying, “No, no, no, no, no. This man’s face says distress, right?” I can’t imagine how many of you have been hiking before, and you come to a place in the trail, and it’s like, “Oh, my goodness, this might cause me some physical distress to get through here, or down this rock or up this whatever.” Right? That’s, that physical distress that I think is all over his face. And how many of you today feel like that? This is an accurate representation of the situation that you find yourself in.
The distress of life that you find yourself in, the burdens that you carry are so heavy, and they’re closing in on you from every side. And this is how you feel. You see, I think Jonah felt this exact same way inside the belly of the whale. Physically, he was in physical distress. I can’t imagine the fact of being thrown from a boat. I’ve never been on a cruise. It scares me. I don’t like wide-open water like that. But to think of being thrown overboard, to think you might be drowning, and then to have this huge animal come up out of the water, and now you suddenly find yourself inside the belly of something. This giant fish, right?
I can’t imagine how he felt in his distress, but it says, “in my distress, in my agony, I called out to God, and he answered me.” And then, in verse two, it says, “From the depths of the grave,” he goes a step further. “I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” I want you to circle the word “grave” right there. And the Hebrew word here is Sheol. Can you say, Sheol? We sing some worship songs here and there from time to time that has this word actually in it. This word can be translated the grave, it can also be known as the realm of the dead. And the King James version actually translates this word to just Hell. So I’m going to use the word Hell. So brace yourselves this morning because sometimes that’s where we find ourself is in the pit of Hell. So from the depths of Hell, Jonah says, “I called on God, and he answered my cry. He answered me.” And from that point, you know, I think this is teaching us from that point where he was furthest from God. He was desperate with no hope. He was helpless and afraid. And he was probably hurting, that He called on God in that moment. Christians, I know some of us are walking through Hell right now. And I want to talk to you about that distress, in just a moment.
But right now, I want to talk to those of you in the room that are in the greatest distress. You are far from God. You’re sitting in the pit of Hell, literally separated from him. You have no relationship with the Lord, and you might not even know what I’ve been talking about up to this point. You’ve never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and you feel like you have no place to turn. Or maybe you feel like you don’t deserve his love in the first place, and you’re not even sure why you find yourself here, in this room, this morning. You feel like you’re stuck in Sheol, in Hell. But I have good news for you this morning. You are not here by accident, because the news that I have to give you is that there is hope, and his name is Jesus. And I need you to know that this morning Jesus can save you from your distress. But more than that church, he wants to be with you in a relationship. On your bad days, when you find yourself in the pit of Hell, in distress, and on your good days when things are going great, Jesus wants a relationship with you. He wants to walk with you through the distresses. He wants to deliver you and give you peace and deliverance right where you are today. And if you’re here and you do not know Jesus as your personal Savior. Or you feel like you’re too far gone, you’ve done too many sins, there’s too much stuff and you’re thinking there’s no way that God could ever accept me. The good news today is, friend, you’re here just for that reason. His arms are open wide to you this morning, and he wants to receive you just as you are. You don’t have to change today. You just have to be honest. And I want you to know today, the Lord, all you have to do is you just confess your sin and accept him.
Around here how do you become born again? We like to call it the ABCs. We use the ABCs, and I’m the kid’s pastor here for those of you that might not know that. And I do this all the time with the kids. I train our leaders how to use the ABCs. And it’s just easy for you to remember in order to be born again, to receive Christ and accept his forgiveness, there’s a couple of letters.
The first one is an A. Anyone know what A stands for? Admit. Admit what? Admit that you have sin in your life. And sin separates you from God, from a relationship with him. First step, you admit. You recognize that you have sin in your life.
The second letter is B, Does anyone know, what this one stands for? Believe, that’s it. So believe in what? We believe that Jesus died on the cross, and God sent Jesus to this earth for that very purpose. And that purpose that He sent Jesus to this earth was you, and it was me. So that He could die that cruel death that we don’t have to, and then be resurrected on the third day. And this morning, he is standing at the right hand of the father. And he’s looking out, and he sees his kids. And he is just waiting for you to confess him. Confess Jesus as Lord of your life. And to just recognize, yeah, I’m a sinner. Yes, Jesus, I believe that you died on the cross. And I confess with my mouth and my heart that I need you.
So, in a moment, I’m going to invite you to pray this prayer. And I know this is different, it’s okay. Typically, we do this at the end of service. I can’t wait, though. I can’t go on without inviting you, those of you in the room that may not have ever accepted Jesus, for the very first time. So in a moment, I’m going to invite you to receive Christ. And I want you to be included in the Born Again Prayer. And I’m going to ask you to raise your hand. You don’t have to come down front. You don’t have to send me a message unless you want to. I’d love to hear about it. But I’m going to ask you to raise your hand in just a minute, if you don’t mind. Would you bow your heads, and close your eyes? And if that’s you today, and you have never accepted Jesus, and you would love to accept him and accept his love and accept his grace, would you lift up your hand this morning? Would you be so bold and so brave as to say, yes, that’s me. I see your hand. One, two in the back. I see you. Three in the back. I see you. Anybody else? Anybody else? Oh, mercy. We’re going to pray this prayer this morning. You can open your eyes and look up here. We’re going to pray together. You can pray it out loud. You can pray silently in your heart. But we’re going to pray this prayer, and it kind of encompasses everything that I just talked about; admitting you’re a sinner, believing that Jesus died on the cross, and then accepting him and confessing him as Lord. Just raising your hand this morning. There was three. I saw three hands there, maybe more. So this morning, we’re going to pray that prayer together. And I would invite you. Would you pray this out loud with me? Let’s pray together.
Dear Lord Jesus, I believe you’re the son of God. I believe that on the cross, you took my sin, my shame, my guilt, and you died for it. You faced Hell for me so I wouldn’t have to go. You rose from the dead to give me a place in heaven, a purpose on earth, and a relationship with your father. Today, Lord Jesus, I turn from my sin to be born again. God is my father, Jesus is my Savior, The Holy Spirit is my helper, and Heaven is now my home. In Jesus name, amen.
Can we welcome those three this morning? It’s amazing. That’s amazing.
Now, I want to talk to those of you that are here that are walking through Hell and feel like you’re living in the depths of the grave. I have good news for you, too. You can call on Jesus. And what does it say that he will do, in that scripture? It said He will listen. He will hear your cry. He will hear your prayer. He listens to your voice. He’s actually listening for your voice. Can you imagine that? He is up there, he’s listening. He’s waiting for you to cry out to him. He is just on the edge of heaven, just watching and listening for you.
It says in Jonah 2:2, “From the depths of the grave, I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” Some of you today, you’re walking through Hell, literally in your marriage. You’re not communicating. You look at that spouse, that person, and say, “You know what, I don’t even know if I like you anymore. I’m really frustrated with you all the time. You’re not talking.” You’re really– there’s just nothing. You’re just kind of coexisting together, and you’re on the brink, possibly, of separation or divorce, and you’re just ready to give up.
Some of you might find yourselves walking through Hell in your heart and in your mind. Maybe you’ve told someone, maybe you haven’t. Maybe you’re dealing with fear and depression or anxiety, and you find yourself just being really on edge with everybody, with yourself and with your family, your friends. And it’s just all this stuff that’s going on in your mind. Your mental health that’s a real thing, and it’s just not good.
You might find yourself walking through Hell in your addiction. And I’m not just talking about an addiction to a substance, drugs and alcohol. I’m talking about an addiction, possibly to whatever it is that takes you away from God. Being addicted to your phone. It can be an addiction, Amen? Yeah. Being addicted to worry and fear like I was talking about before. You’re kind of just stuck in it, and you can’t get out. And whatever it is that consumes your thoughts, your finances, your calendar, anything you put before God, that it’s an addiction, right?
Maybe you’re walking through Hell, and your career and your finances, and you find yourself so overwhelmed and so overextended. You feel like you’re not making enough money, you’re not making ends meet. And you might even feel like the goals and the future that you had set for your children or your family has just kind of gone out the window with inflation and the rise of the interest rates.
You know, maybe you find yourself in an inward Hell, that nobody knows anything about the people sitting next to you, the family member you came with. They don’t even know. You can fill in the blank of where you feel that in your life.But I have good news for you. It says that when he wants us to call on him in those moments, and in verse two, it says He’s listening. He listens for your cry.
Now in the story of Jonah, at any point in the distress that Jonah was going through, God could have snapped his fingers and delivered him instantly. But he didn’t choose to do that. He was working a miracle through Jonah’s distress, in his situation, and through his life. And he was in a really dark place for three days and three nights. And God didn’t deliver him before that. He lay there. He sat there for three days and three nights. And what do you think God’s trying to accomplish in that moment with Jonah? Or what is he trying to accomplish with me when I am in distress, and I’m sitting maybe for three days and three nights in my distress? He’s trying to get our attention. He wants your attention. He wants my attention. And he doesn’t always deliver us immediately. Sometimes there’s a power of the process.
You have to go through the distress and walk through the situation. And I’ve learned a lot of times the reason that I have to do that, is so I can then help somebody else. Because I can’t identify, if I haven’t gone through it. Use it for good, when you’re going through those situations. You know and in my mind, I kind of see it as a valley that you walk through. You know, we have mountaintop experiences? Guys, you’ve been to camp this week. It’s a mountaintop experience, right? It’s wonderful. It’s amazing. It’s awesome. And then we have valleys that we just kind of feel like, “Oh, what do I do here?” But guess what? The grass is green in the valley. That’s where God is helping us grow. And I believe if we’re not growing in that valley, we’re not going to be able to experience the mountaintop and enjoy the views and appreciate it unless we’ve walked through something. Right?
And this year, I’ve walked through some, some fear and some anxiety and, dare I say, maybe even a little bit of depression in my mind. And I admit that to you today. And I wanted to hold it in, and I wanted to sit for three days and three nights and not let anybody know that. But guess what? God is using those moments where I feel like, am I called? What am I called to? What am I doing? I don’t know. He’s speaking to me in those moments, if I’ll just sit with him, in the belly, in the distress, because it doesn’t feel good. But he’s teaching me so that, like I said, hopefully, I’ll learn something, and we don’t have to go back around this mountain again. And then maybe I can help somebody else.
You know, the valley that Jonah was in was about as low as you could get, right? In the depths of the sea? And God was working to get Jonah’s attention. And all through that miracle, God never gave up. He did not give up on Jonah. Even though he told Jonah to go, and at first, Jonah says no then he got on that ship. He went in an opposite direction. God sent a storm. “Hey, Jonah, are you paying attention? Are you listening?” Jonah’s like, “Yeah, I hear you. I know that storm’s for me.” God sent the captain down. He sent a person into Jonah’s life and said, “Jonah, pray, pray to your God.” The captain knew. Jonah pray. Jonah said, “Nope, I don’t want have any part of it. I’m still going in the opposite direction.” God will do that with us too. He will send people to intersect our life and speak truth into us.
And so Jonah stayed in that fish for three days and nights, and finally that fish threw him up onto the shore. Right? There’s only a couple ways out of a fish. Couple of ways. You understand what I’m saying? God threw him up out of the shore. He delivered him onto the shore, so that Jonah could have a second chance. God delivered him.
Let’s see what the Bible says. Jonah 2:3-6 says this “You hurled me into the depths” he’s describing. If you can imagine Jonah being thrown, this is how the Bible describes it. And what’s happening to Jonah as he is in that water? “You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the sea, and the currents swirled about me. All your waves and breakers swept over me. And I said I’ve been ‘I have been banished from your sight. Yet I will look again towards your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, and the deep surrounded me. Seaweed was wrapped around my head to the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.” Can you imagine that feeling that Jonah must have had as he swirling into this raging sea with seaweed and darkness all around him? But it says this, “But you, Lord, my God” What is he getting ready to do? “You brought my life up from the pit.” The Lord delivered Jonah. Even though Jonah had hit rock bottom. How many of you have hit rock bottom before? You understand what I’m saying? You’ve sunk. Sunk, sunk as low as you can go. And there wasn’t anywhere else for you to go. But the good news was that Jonah didn’t. He wasn’t left in that state. God didn’t leave Jonah at rock bottom. And God won’t leave you at rock bottom either. It says in verse six, “But you, Lord, my God, brought my life up from the pit.” God didn’t leave Jonah in the depths of his distress. And he is not, church, going to leave you there either.
And as a result of God delivering Jonah, it says this in verse seven that Jonah, he did something. Jonah remembered God, and it says, “When my life was ebbing away…” I imagine he’s passing out probably at the most near-death experience he could be at in that moment. “I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to your holy temple.” When Jonah was at the point physically– he shouldn’t have survived, okay? He should not have survived being thrown into the raging sea. In the way, he talks about swirling down and then an animal coming up and swallowing him. He shouldn’t have survived, but in that moment, he remembered the Lord. And I tend to think that he remembered that God was a jealous God, and he was chasing Jonah. And I tend to think God, I tend to think Jonah was also thinking that, “oh, man, there’s a calling all my life.” Remember, Jonah was a prophet. I’m not going to sing you the song from the Veggietales movie. Every time I say “Jonah was a prophet,” I want to sing the song. Go watch it, if you haven’t. But I also think that Jonah remembered the season of life when he was closest to God. And he was remembering all of that as he’s sinking down into the sea.
And because, Jonah, remember that in that moment, his tone starts to shift. His mind starts to change in verse eight. And he realizes “What got in the way of me being disobedient, why I did not obey God and go to Nineveh when he told me to, the first time?” Says in verse eight, “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” Clinging to idols, clinging to things of this world. Anything that takes the place of God. Clinging to that will ultimately separate you from God. If God is not number one in your life and you’ve placed other idols ahead of Him, you will be separated in your relationship with him. Jonah realized that his focus had been on himself and on what he wanted. It had become the idols, whatever that was. And then his eyes turned from God, and therefore he couldn’t obey God. He couldn’t listen to God and do what he’d ask.
So, in review here, what did Jonah do after he was delivered up from the pit? In verse six, it says. He remembered God. His focus changed, and he realized that idols had gotten in his way. And then it says in verse nine that he made good on the vow that he had made to God. Let’s read, verse nine says, “But I was shouts of grateful praise will sacrifice to you, what I have vowed I will make good. I will say salvation comes from the Lord.” Now, the Bible doesn’t give us specifically what He had vowed and what He promised to God. But I tend to think that the vow that he was going to keep now is that vow to turn and say yes, and go to Nineveh. Jonah, ultimately, decided to say yes to God. He decided to be obedient on the call that was on his life. So I want to ask you this morning a couple of things… Have you forgotten God? Have you put him aside? Has he fallen from maybe number one in your life, that you kind of set him over here. Where do you need to remember God? What are the idols that, maybe, has gotten in front of your relationship with God? What things have you put in that way? Do you focus more on earthly things, material things, than you do on your relationship with God? I will tell you when you hit rock bottom, and you encounter God, your life is never going to be the same. And I’ll also tell you that when you accept Jesus, and his mercy and grace and forgiveness, your life will never be the same.
So what calling has God placed on your life that maybe you’re running from? Jonah was running from that calling that was on his life. He said, “No I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m going to go in the opposite direction.” What’s God asking you to do today? What’s the call on your life that He has put there that you need to follow? What’s the next thing that you need to do for God? Maybe it’s taken a spiritual step. Maybe here at East Side, you need to take your next step and join a life group. You’re tired of living in isolation, and trying to go through your distress alone. And, you know, I need a community of people. I’m scared to step out, but you know that that’s what you need to do. I would encourage you to do that.
Please stop at my people area on your way out and let us help you. Maybe you want to take your next step of serving. Maybe, you know in your heart it’s time to give back. I’ve sat here and sat here and soaked and soaked. And now I want to, I want to give back to others. Maybe it’s time to give generously. Maybe you’ve dabbled in giving here and there just to make yourself feel better or check off that box. But maybe you truly need to jump all into that. Maybe you need to set some boundaries with family and friends so that your mental health can be in a good place. Maybe God is telling you to do that, and you just don’t know how. Maybe you need to get some help from someone that can help walk with you through your past that you don’t know how to deal with. Or do you need to forgive somebody whether they ask you or not? What is it, Church? What is it today that God has put on your heart, and you know it’s there, and today you’re going to decide, I’m not going to run from it. God, I hear you. I’m going to listen. I want to obey.
It’s time to be obedient, Church. There’s freedom in obedience. And I can say that with all confidence, stop running like Jonah did. Stop running away from the call that God has on your life, and say yes to him this morning. I’m going to give you that opportunity in a few moments to actually– physically, we’re going to do something different. We’re going to get out of our seat if you want to and say, yes, this morning we have some people that we’ve asked to come and be down front to receive you. And we’re going to pray. We’re gonna have a time of prayer. And so I would ask you, for those of you that are going through distress and you feel like you are literally in the belly of that fish, or you are literally in that rock, and you’re between literal rock and a hard place, and you need somebody to come alongside you and to pray with you, would you come and pray this morning? Would you stand with me this morning, Church? For those of you that possibly accepted Christ for the first time, we want to celebrate that with you. Would you step out and come and tell somebody? We want to celebrate. We want to walk alongside you. We are a family here at Eastside, and we want to support you. We want to pray with you. Or maybe you’re ready to fulfill the vow that God has been asking you to do. Maybe you’re ready to stop running from the call that God has on your life. And it’s time to step out and make that commitment. Church, we’re here for you this morning. We want you to come. The altar is open. You don’t have to pray with the person if you don’t feel comfortable. But we want you to step out this morning. There is freedom in this place. There’s freedom to pray. And we would invite you to come and pray. And we want to come alongside you. Will you say yes to his call today?