I’ve blogged about Jonah before (or more specifically, the “Jonah Syndrome”). I like the book because of how it shows God’s patience and mercy (3:10; 4:2). From earlier Old Testament history, when the Israelites are warring against the Canaanites, it might seem as though He doesn’t care about all the lives (human and animal) and property destroyed; but this book shows that God is very calculated – even economical – about His judgments. He shows pity on the repentant Assyrians of Nineveh and chooses to spare them and their livestock (4:11; cf. 3:7-9).
Another important part of Jonah’s story is that of God’s mercy on the runaway prophet. Despite being a “type of Christ” in both calming a storm while at sea (1:4-6, 15; cf. Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25) and being in a fishy tomb for three days and nights (1:17; cf. Matthew 12:39; Luke 11:30), Jonah disobeyed the Lord. So, like King David, he cried out to God for help.
If I knew more about Hebrew literature and the prayer's construction, I would know whether or not to call it a “speech,” “poem,” or “song.” Regardless, I’m often surprised that no Christian musician seems to have ever bothered to set it to music. Is it because we’ve decided that David’s psalms are aesthetically superior? Or is it because putting Jonah’s words into our mouths would be a blatant admission of our own guilt? As “sinners in the hand of an angry God,” why not sing it? Doing so has already literally saved one man from “Hell” (2:1).