(408) 779-0697 | info@westhills.org

Jonah 2 Study Guide: Salvation Belongs to the Lord

Community Group Study Guide — Salvation Belongs to the Lord
Jonah 2:1-10

Study Information:
Where do the people of God turn in times of distress? In our previous study guide we met Jonah and learned about his defiance to God’s call, the Lord’s discipline and how things like the storm and the fish that were sent were also God’s mercy to Jonah. We now find Jonah absolutely humbled and in distress and see how he viewed the situation from the belly of the fish. 

Jonah 2:1-9
We often do no realize the true state of our hearts or need for God until we’ve been humbled. In our modern world this humbling takes the form of job frustrations, challenging family dynamics, experiencing loss, coming face to face with the consequences of our sin and so many other circumstances that bring us low. Self sufficient people have a barrier to seeing their real need for God, so God likes to reveal how dependent on him we really are. In Jonah’s self will and defiance he boarded the ship to Tarshish to get away from God’s presence and the call of God on his life. God sent the storm and Jonah was hurled overboard to be met by a fish that God had appointed to swallow him up. This put Jonah into a position of distress that manifested itself in a prayer where Jonah acknowledged his situation and offered a prayer of repentance stating his need. 

Jonah’s prayer is filled with quotes and paraphrase from other parts of scripture. There is a strong connection with Jonah and his response to Israel and their hatred of the surrounding nations, idolatry and rebellion. In some ways Jonah, whether he realized it or not, was drawing from Israel’s history, sin struggles and times of repentance and pulled it all together in this prayer from the belly of the fish. 

First, Jonah recognized his distress and equated the belly of the fish with the grave (Jonah 2:1-3). Next, he admitted that he had been driven away from God’s sight; he neglected to admit that he was the source of the separation from God, but he was still able to assess that his problem was being removed from God (Jonah 2:4). Then he talked about how his life was in jeopardy through the waters closing around him, and that he felt like it was ebbing away (Jonah 2:5-7). Throughout these verses he expressed confidence that he’d one day look on the temple again which was a place where one would go to be in God’s presence, the very thing he was trying to flee. This reveals to us, that at least in this moment, Jonah has come full circle.

The prayer culminates with Jonah’s realization of two important things. First, the option we have is to either worship idols or to hold onto God’s steadfast love (Jonah 2:8). Both the nations that Jonah despised and Israel itself traded God’s steadfast love for idols. The people of God consistently turned from God to worship statutes that promised temporary earthly blessing. Jonah tells us that these idols are vain and that they promise things they cannot deliver. Second, we learn that salvation belongs to the Lord (Jonah 2:9). In many ways this is the message of the Hebrew scriptures and the book of Jonah particularly. Jonah was delivering a message of judgment to Nineveh and they repented and turned to God and Jonah got angry about their salvation. However, salvation was not in Jonah’s hands and he knew in his core understanding of God that God was quick to offer grace. The irony is that Jonah experienced this same grace from the belly of the fish as he was humbled by the Lord, and he got upset when God offered this grace to the Ninevites. 

Being humbled is something we so desperately need but avoid with all our might. Humility is a gift in as much as it helps us see our true need and depend on God. 

Jonah 2:10
God heard Jonah’s prayer and delivered him from his waywardness and from the belly of the fish. The process was unpleasant, it involved being in the fish for 3 days and culminated with being vomited up; and experience I’d like to avoid. 

The prayers of God’s people, even when imperfect and when they’re struggling, are not ignored by God. He delights to deliver the needy and to help struggling believers get back on the right path. In scripture we see a pattern of dying and rising where we need to be brought low in order to be lifted up. Calling out to the Lord in distress and coming to a place where we truly realize that salvation belongs to the Lord are good things. Follower of Jesus, God is committed to conforming you into the image of Christ and will work in difficult circumstances to humble you and make you more like Jesus. When you’re running from God and experiencing his discipline his goal is to bring you back rather than push you further away. You may find it helpful to pray prayers from scripture and to confess your need and to allow your circumstances to draw you back to God.

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read Jonah 2:1-10

How does Jonah experience getting humbled throughout the story? Throughout the prayer Jonah recognized the distress he was in; what specific imagery did he use?

What statements of confidence in the Lord are in this prayer?

Read Jonah 2:8-9. How does “paying regard to vain idols” relate to Jonah’s view of the Ninevites and how does it also point to Israel’s own history? What is the importance of the phrase “salvation belongs to the Lord” in the book of Jonah?

What are some things you personally learned through this study, sermon and scripture for when you find yourself in distressing circumstances in the future?