Yes, you read that caption correctly — “You can praise God in the midst of a storm.”
I think most of you will remember the Old Testament account of Jonah, the rebellious, run-away Prophet who wound up in the belly of a great fish that was prepared by God. (1:17) He was there for three days and nights. God will only tolerate our rebellion and running away so long.
In Jonah 2, we find the prophet in the belly of the fish, with all kinds of stuff swirling around his head and he begins to pray. The interesting thing to me is that he is praying scripture back to God. I am convinced that God loves to hear us pray His word back to Him.
In Jonah’s case, he is quoting the Psalms in his prayer to God. In 2:2 ESV, we hear him say “I called to the LORD, out of my distress, and He answered me, out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice.” This is almost a direct quote of Psalm 18:6 … “In my distress, I called upon the LORD; to my God, I cried for help. From His temple He heard my voice, and my cry to Him reached His ears.” (ESV) Aren’t you glad that God hears us every time we pray in concert with His word and His will?
In Psalm 120:1 ESV, we read “In my distress, I called to the LORD, and He answered me.” God not only hears us when we are distressed, but He answers us.
In Psalm 86:13 ESV, we read “For great is our steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”
Folks, if we are paying attention to the prayers of Jonah and the Psalmist, both are praising God in the midst of their distressing circumstances. I’m convinced that God is really impressed when He hears us praising Him when we are going through deep waters.
In Jonah 2:3 ESV we read “For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all Your waves and Your billows passed over me.”
Can you see the lengths that God who loves us, will go to rein us in? Jonah said, “You (Lord) cast me into the deep.” God prepared that great storm. He also prepared a great fish. What kind of situation has He prepared for you or me to bring us to the end of our rope and lay hold of His presence and His promises?
In Jonah 2:4 ESV he said “Then he said, ‘I am driven away from your sight’ yet I shall again look upon Your holy temple.’” The prophet who was blinded by his disobedience is getting refocused. This is so important. Satan will do everything to get our focus off of the LORD. Remember Peter — he was walking on the water to meet Jesus, but then, he noticed the wind and waves and he began to sink. That will always be the case when we take our eyes off of the LORD … we will begin to sink.
The Psalmist made a similar cry (3:22) “I said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from Your sight. But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help.’” Dear ones, our God is not out to destroy us, but He will discipline us because He loves us.
Notice the progression of Jonah’s prayer (2:5) “The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped around my head.”
Say, friend, are you in a rebellious period in your life? Are you running away from what God is asking you to face? What will God have to do to get your attention? Whatever it takes, it is because He loves You and wants you to follow His good plan for your life.
The Psalmist made a similar confession to God – (30:3) “O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; You restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.”
Listen to Jonah’s confession in 2:6 … “I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet You brought me up from the pit. O LORD my God.”
I hope you are noticing that in most of the statements Jonah made, he praised God for hearing him, answering him, delivering him, and helping to get refocused. In Psalm 22:3 we read “You (LORD) are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel” God deserves to be worshiped and He dwells or inhabits the praises of His people, regardless of our circumstances.
What are you going through today? Has God allowed it or ever sent it into your life because He has a greater purpose for your life? What should you/we do? In Jonah 2:7-8 we read “When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake this hope of steadfast love.”
Think for a moment about Jonah’s words – “I remembered the LORD.” He was saying “I finally came to my senses. I woke up to what was really going on and how Satan was leading me astray.”
I am reminded of a similar statement made by the prodigal son in Luke 15:17-19, “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger. I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”
There is a lot more to the story of Jonah, but today I hope you see that we can truly praise God in the midst of our deepest most discouraging circumstances. Jonah did and we can as well. In Jonah 2:9 we hear him say — “But I, with the voice of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you: what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD.”
In Hebrews 13:15 the writer says “Through Him (Christ) then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God that is the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.”
Note: We are to praise God, not just when we feel like it, but continually, because we know He loves us, cares for us, is committed to us, wants the best for us, and will do whatever is necessary to bring about good in our lives. To praise Him in some circumstances may be a sacrifice, but that is what He desires from us. Others have done it and by God’s grace, we can as well.
Dear brothers and sisters — Praise the LORD!
By His grace, Pastor Leonard