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 their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord! – Jonah 2:7-9 ESV
The Psalmist wrote, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1 ESV). That was the exact sentiment of Jonah as he wrapped up his prayer. When the conditions of Jonah’s life had reached an all-time low, he remembered God and called out to Him. But what is it he remembered that caused him to call out? The steadfast love of God. In spite of his own stubbornness and refusal to obey God, Jonah knew that God still loved him and would respond to his cry for help. Again, the psalmist reminds us, “Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress” (Psalm 107:4-6 ESV). Why did God deliver them? Because of His steadfast love.
From the literal depths of the sea and from the belly of a large fish, Jonah called out to God and his cry reached the very throne room of heaven. Distance was no problem. His own disobedience proved no barrier. When he called out in repentance, acknowledging his need for God, he was heard. Jonah knew that his God would hear him and respond in love to him. He also knew that those who worshiped idols would lose hope, because their gods were incapable of hearing or helping. Idols can’t extend help or express love. Only Yahweh, the God of Israel, possessed the unfailing capacity to love and the power to back up His love with salvation. Not only does God care about the needs of His children, He can do something about it.
Jonah was so confident in God’s love and ultimate salvation, that he pledged to offer sacrifices with thanksgiving as soon as he got the opportunity. As all of us are prone to do when we find ourselves in trouble, Jonah had evidently made some promises to God based on God’s deliverance. You know how that goes. “Oh God, if you get me out of this one, I will _______________.” You fill in the blank. Jonah told God, “what I have vowed I will pay.” He was confident God was going to deliver him, so he pledged to keep his promise to God. But the greatest statement found in Jonah’s prayer is his closing one. “Salvation belongs to the Lord.” It reminds me of the statement of Peter made before the Jewish Council. Referring to Jesus, Peter said, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 ESV). Salvation is the sole prerogative of God. Only He can save – from disaster, trouble, trials and from sin and death itself. Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of God’s saving power. He sent His Son to die as the payment for the sins of mankind. He sacrificed His own Son so that men might be made right with Him. Jonah’s salvation was temporary in nature. He would live only to die again. But the salvation Jesus brought is permanent. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). Salvation belongs to the Lord. And why would God offer that kind of salvation to sinful men? Because of love. For God so loved the world. Paul reminds us, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). The offer of salvation is an expression of God’s steadfast, unfailing love.
Jonah knew God loved him, so he had confidence to call out to God – in spite of his own rebellion against Him. If we don’t understand the love of God, it will be hard for us to trust Him. If we fail to recognize just how much He loves us, we will find it difficult to place out hope in His salvation. We can never earn it. We will never deserve it. His love will always be the motivating factor behind His salvation. It’s why He sent a fish to Jonah. It’s why He sent Moses to the slaves living in Egypt. It’s why He sent prophets to His people living in Canaan. It’s why He sent Jesus to earth as a man. Out of love. And in order to offer salvation to men who didn’t deserve it. Salvation belongs to the Lord. It was His idea. And it is the greatest expression of His love for men.