“But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.” (Jonah 2:9)
Jonah, a preacher of God, was thrown overboard from a ship heading to Tarshish; he had been attempting to flee from the Presence of the Lord (1:3). God had called Jonah to go to the City of Nineveh “…and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me” (1:2).
There arose a great storm on the sea, and it seemed that the boat and its passengers would soon perish because of the fierceness of the storm. The crew and passengers determined (by the casting of lots) that Jonah was the reason for the storm. In an effort to save the ship and themselves, they finally threw Jonah overboard. Jonah was cast into the sea. But God had prepared a great fish and this fish swallowed Jonah.
Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights; and then was vomited up by the fish onto dry land. Chapter two of the Book of Jonah describes the events that took place in the belly of the fish. This chapter gives a very graphic picture of these events in Jonah’s life.
Jonah cried out unto the Lord in his affliction:
“When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.”(Jonah 2:7)
Jonah reasoned with God by saying:
“They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.” (Jonah 2:8)
Then Jonah said what he would do:
“But I will (first) sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; (second) I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.” (Jonah 2:9)
There are several truths that one can glean, or harvest, from the story of Jonah in the fish’s belly for three days and three nights concerning “thanksgiving.”
First, thanksgiving is the act of giving thanks. To “thank” is to “express gratitude to.” In the case of Jonah, it was “unto thee” (speaking of God, the Lord, Jehovah). Synonyms for gratitude are “appreciation, gratefulness, gratitude; also thanksgiving”; and antonyms would be “ingratitude, ungratefulness.” Also, to be thankful is to be conscious of benefits received; to be grateful. In Jonah’s case, and in every other case, the offering of thanks comes as a result of benefits received. The depth of “thanks” to God comes from the degree of the reason for the giving of thanks. When you are in dire straits, even unto death, and are delivered by the power of God – then you give “thanks” to God.
Secondly, Jonah called it a “sacrifice unto thee.” Webster defines “sacrifice” (a noun) as (1) “the offering of something precious to deity”; (2) “something offered in sacrifice.” In Jonah’s case, he offered a “voice of thanksgiving” to God for his deliverance from death in the fish’s belly.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews says:
“By him (meaning by Christ, or through Him; that is, through the Atonement of Christ on the Cross, or through the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, offered up as our Substitute, for our sins – so on the basis of His Atonement) therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15)
So the praise of thanksgiving is founded in Christ’s Atonement for the sinner. There is no deliverance from death (spiritual death; which is spiritual separation from God) without the Atonement of Christ. In Jonah’s case, the deliverance was from the belly of the fish. His deliverance typed out Christ in the belly of the earth for three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40), from which Christ was raised from the dead for us (Romans 4:24-25).
Therefore, Jonah’s praise of thanksgiving (and every Child of God’s praise of thanksgiving) is a sacrifice, or to say an offering up of thanks, based on Christ’s Atonement for sinners. This is saying that all thanksgiving has its source in Christ – He is the Deliverer and none other.
Thirdly, Jonah said it was a “sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving.” Two things are to be noted here:
- The voice indicates a confession, or declaration, of thanks offered to God. Also see Hebrews 13:15c, “let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.”
- This voice can be inward, in the spirit of the person; or it can be audible. By saying “the fruit of our lips,” it is primarily dealing with audible praise. Note in 1 Samuel that Hannah’s lips moved, but there was no sound:
“Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.” (1 Samuel 1:13)
Hannah’s prayer was inward, but her lips moved. So it can be with praise to God.
Either way, Jonah’s voice (inward or audible) was indicative of his action of praise to God, or his giving of thanks to God for his deliverance.
Fourthly, is the phrase, “I will pay that that I have vowed.” In Jonah’s case, as in most everyone’s, his promise to give God the sacrifice of thanksgiving happened even before he was delivered. It was in the midst of the fish’s belly; read verses 2 through 7, especially verse 7:
“When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.” (Jonah 2:7)
Jonah promised, or made a vow, to God that he would offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving when he was delivered. It wasn’t until after Jonah’s promise in verse 9, that the fish vomited Jonah upon the dry land (verse 10).
It is a sad commentary on the suffering saint that it takes a deep affliction, or a Valley of Baca (tears), to cause a vow to offer up a thanks to God. Solomon gives a grave warning for not paying a vow to God in Ecclesiastes 5:4-7; even saying it is better to not vow, than to vow and not pay (verse 5).
Fifth, and lastly, the subject matter of Jonah’s sacrifice of thanksgiving is, “Salvation is of the LORD.” A true thanks unto God is acknowledging that salvation (deliverance, preservation) is solely and totally of God, without any merit of man.
Jonah said, the thanks I will pay to God is that I will confess, or proclaim, or declare, that I fully understand that “Salvation is of the LORD,” and not of me.
Actually, Jonah was pointing to his understanding of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as the Foundation of his salvation (Matthew 12:40). The Salvation of God involves:
- Deliverance in a spiritual sense, seen in Christ’s Atonement for sin on the Cross. This Atonement was vicarious (substitutionary) and expiatory (appeasement, satisfaction) for the sinner (2 Corinthians 5:21).
- And deliverance in a physical sense, as the saved sinner is preserved daily in his temporal walk on earth. (See Romans 5:10, 17; Galatians 2:20.)
In conclusion; let every saved sinner have the understanding that all thanksgiving to God is based on Christ’s Deliverance, both spiritually and physically, in the Atonement of Christ on the Cross.
Here on the Cross, as the sinner’s Substitute, Christ is our Salvation, our Deliverance.
Here we, the saved sinners, are Reconciled to God (or brought back into focus to God); Redeemed from the power, penalty, and punishment of sin; and Justified (or declared righteous) in God’s sight in Christ.