Jonah Project 27

Jonah 2:9 

But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’

Last year, I went to my first Portland Timbers soccer match in downtown Portland, Oregon.1 I came home hoarse from 2 hours of shouting. I don’t shout very often. But it felt so good to shout and cheer and sing and celebrate among the Timbers Army as they routed their opponent on their way to the league championship.

Jonah shouts. Even when crammed in the belly of the great fish, Jonah shouts out his gratitude and praise to God. There is great power in giving thanks and praise to God, even shouting thanks. Rather than keeping it pent up, or quietly tiptoeing around our soul like a sleepwalker, try Jonah’s medicine, and shout thanks to God.

Jonah sacrifices. In the belly of a fish, he doesn’t have much else to offer up but his life. But what else do we really have to offer? The history of human religion is a story of people trying to figure out what to offer to God or to the gods. Faith is a story of sacrifice. At the heart of the Christian faith is sacrifice, the gift of Jesus life offered for us, revealing God’s great compassion for all people.

When we come to God, we want to bring something, offer something. In the ancient world, people offered as sacrifices their animals, their grain and food, their beverages and artifacts, and even other people. Human sacrifice stands as one of the evil tragedies of human history.

In our time, we continue to offer up sacrifices, but do so with our time and energy, our talents and abilities, our expertise and money, and hopefully our heart, which is the best sacrifice of all. Ultimately, a true sacrifice is something we give up, offer up, let go of, in order to cling to God. Jonah encourages us to let go of our grip on worthless idols and cling to God’s love.

Jonah prays the Psalms. As we’ve seen in his prayer from the belly of the great fish, Jonah prays an odd assortment of phrases and quotations from the Book of Psalms, including drawing upon Psalm 50:14,
    Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
    fulfill your vows to the Most High.

What is a sacrifice of thanksgiving? In the ancient Jewish world, there were specific offerings called “thank offerings”, sacrifices expressing the gratitude of the worshiper to God.2 

In our time, I like to think of a sacrifice of thanksgiving as an expression of gratitude to God even when you do not feel thankful. Our hearts follow our wills and our actions. Decide to give thanks. Act upon that decision by shouting out thanks to God. See your heart respond with the inflowing gratitude, even when you do not feel grateful.

Finally, Jonah makes vows. We all have made promises, entered into contracts or commitments with others. Those of us who are married know well what it means to make vows, and also the challenge of living by those vows. To many people today, vows can seem archaic, old-fashioned, almost medieval. Yet, those who have experienced the grief of unkept promises, failed commitments, or broken vows also know the beauty of vows and vitality of vow-keeping.

“What I have vowed, I will make good.” How are you at making good on your vows, promises and commitments? What vows are you currently seeking to fulfill? How do you deal it when you’ve made a vow and then broken it? Where do you need help in vow keeping?

Jonah points us to the power source. We cannot rescue ourselves. Rescue comes from the LORD. We have a limited part to play in this sacred drama. Like Jonah, we call out for help, we look up, we remember, we pray, we let go of our idols, we cling anew to God’s love, we shout thanks, we offer sacrifices of our hearts, and we make vows. God alone delivers, saves, rescues, renews, and restores our lives.As Ben Fielding and Rueben Morgan write in their well-loved song, “Mighty to Save”, 
Everyone needs compassion,
Love that’s never failing,
Let mercy fall on me.
Everyone needs forgiveness,
The kindness of a Savior,
The hope of nations.
So take me as You find me,
All my fears and failures,
Fill my life again.
I give my life to follow;
Everything I believe in,
Now I surrender.
My God is mighty to save,
He is mighty to save!3

Photo by Nick Hernandez, from Oregonlive.

1. See Timbers Army website 
2. See Leviticus 22:29.
3. Mighty to Save, by Ben Fielding and Rueben Morgan, CCLI #4591782.