Jonah And The Big Fish
Scriptures from the King James version of the Bible. This is dedicated to God and presented to you with best wishes for worthwhile reading. --- Joe K. Ballard
A most fascinating book to those who can read between the lines, and we will attempt to give you a look between the lines in this letter. Jonah's name means dove, which is an expression of his nature. He is fifth in order of the minor prophets, was the son of Amittai, and was born in Gath-hepher. He is first mentioned in II Kings the 24th Chapter where we learn Jeroboam reconquered all the territory that had been taken from the kings of Israel. Israel had been greatly reduced; great calamities had fallen upon all, disease, captives in the dungeons, and there was no helper. God sent Jonah to encourage them, and to assure them of better days.
The book of Jonah! This literary production is listed among the minor prophets, and is very unique. It is unique, because it is not a collection of Jonah's prophecies, but an account of Jonah's ministry in Nineveh. We learn in this book that God's mercy and grace went beyond the boundaries of Israel to embrace the nations. Jonah's experience was prophetic of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and a blessing to the Gentiles. His father's name is shrouded in obscurity, but all great men don't come from noted parents. Don't waste your life, it could mean a great deal to someone. Maybe the world did not miss your father, that is no reason why it should not miss you.
What a revelation we have in this book of one man's faults and follies. Don't censor him to severely for running away from God and duty. You would never have known that he was a runaway prophet, had he not told it. Would we dare write down our faults as Jonah did? We would like to make known the good deeds in our lives but keep silent about the faults and failures. Jonah did not seek his own glory.
"Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me." Jonah 1:1.
This was a sudden and startling call to Jonah, to go to the capitol of the Assyrian empire, the largest city in the world at that time. Over 600,000 people surrounded by a wall reported to be one hundred feet high,and broad enough for three chariots to run abreast upon it. The wickedness of this city had come up before God. This is a personification of evil. It ascends from earth to heaven; and stands before the supreme Judge, to bear witness against the persons whom it has seduced. Little did they know that their sin was committed in the face of god. As it was then, so it is now; the sins of the modern city cry louder in the ear of God than the rattle and roar of traffic in the streets. Nothing can silence that cry but the blood of Jesus.
Now look at the purpose for which Jonah was sent to Nineveh. He was to "cry against it". What a task. He did not have the news media, radio, television and the local ministerial association to announce his arrival. One little pebble in the bed of a mighty river rushing madly, crying against it. Perhaps the task seemed impossible to Jonah and no doubt Ezekiel had his misgivings when he received his preaching orders from the Lord. He was sent to the children of Israel, whom the Lord labeled a rebellious nation, stiffheated and impudent. " Don't be afraid of them Ezekiel though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou doest well among scorpions. "
But the prophet was not to be concerned about success, he was simply to obey the call and leave the outcome in the hands of him who called him. " Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord. " Every witness of God must cry against sin in his generation, when called upon to do so. Not all ministers are called to take the message that Jonah was called to deliver, but whatever the message, it's unwanted by the world if it is God-sent.
"But Jonah rose up to flee into Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them into Tarshish from the presence of the Lord." Jonah 1:3
He seemed to think that the Lord was peculiarly a resident of Judea; and if he got out of the land, the Lord perhaps would send another prophet to Nineveh. Have you treated the call of God the same way? You have heard the word, knew that you should accept Christ and be saved, but you turned away from it, and fled from the Lord, or, you are a minister with a message, but afraid to deliver it? Jonah was displeased and sent in his resignation. It is easier to quit than face reality. If your heart is not in sympathy with God, then it is easy to flee from the will of God. The adversities of life prove a man. The Sunday seaman will not touch you when your heart and mind are occupied with worldly things and next weeks' problems. Jonah was on the down-grade when he went down to Joppa, and then down into the ship. In shaking ourselves clear of our responsibilities and the call of God, we are going down to spiritual darkness. Why did he run from the presence of the Lord? He ran because the Lord is intolerable to a rebellious heart. No wonder the day will come when men will cry for the rocks and the mountains to fall on them. Right now God is calling on hearts to flee to Jesus Christ, but instead, they are seeking to silence conviction in their hearts with the pleasures of this life. Where or what is your Nineveh? The next thing to do was to pay the fare. Little did he know the fare was not all paid in advance. You start down the trail of disobedience and you pay from now on. The way of the transgressor is hard. Many of God's children will stand before God empty handed. The weeping and wailing in eternity tells the story of another class of people, Christ rejectors who have always resisted the call of God. Do you really want to pay the fare, or will you trust the price that Jesus paid on your behalf?
"For as much as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your father;
But with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot."
1 Peter 1:18,19.
Jonah found out -- "the bed was too short and the cover too narrow." The disobedient prophet fled with haste to Joppa. It's so easy to run down hill. It was to no avail for God's messengers are faster than the feet of this runaway. Since God controls the elements, he sends a storm out to overtake the ship and apprehend his guilty servant. God sent a strong wind and then an earthquake to stop Elijah, but when he got his attention he spoke to him in a still small voice. The Lord has to use extreme measures sometimes to get our attention. The seamen were afraid and began to cast forth their wares to lighten the ship. It is the old story, all that a man has he will give for his life. Many lead Godless lives and then when death stares them in the face, try to lighten the ship, so to speak. Wares will not still troubled waters that are moved by an angry God. God wants your heart and he will accept a surrendered heart even in the late hours of life, but don't offer him anything less.
We notice that as the seamen lightened the ship, they cried every man unto his god. Since they were all heathens, they probably had different objects of worship. Of course, Jonah was in the bottom of the ship fast asleep. Tired and weary the prophet was fleeing from God. Sleep is what runaway souls want, something to render them insensible to their failures. Man seeks to drown his conviction in drink or smother them in pleasure or pastime. Remember being insensible or asleep is not security. Many have been in real danger while dreaming of ease. The rich man that we read about in the book of Luke was dreaming of ease, planning to tear down his barns and build greater ones, in which to store all of his goods. Then he planned to sit back, eat, drink and be merry, but, oh, those solemn words, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee."
Jonah slept, while his companions battled for their very lives. Let's not play the Jonah, waste our time in selfish ease, while souls perish. A sleeping Christian is useless, helpless and a hindrance to God's cause. A disobedient servant of God was the cause of all the trouble. Think of our responsibility.
" What meaneth thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not. "
This was the arousing call of the skipper of the ship. Heathen as he was, he believed in prayer, at least while the waves of death were dashing him about. Foul weather prayers, many of them go up when the going gets rough, but the same lips are silent when the sea calms. The sleeping prophet awoke to find that the God he sought to get away from, had blocked his way. David tells us in the Psalms:
Wither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea:
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Psalm 139:8-10.
The seamen, thinking the storm came because one of them was guilty, cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. What a rude awakening, be sure your sins will find you out. The lot fell on Jonah and this is proof of an overruling providence. When the Lord comes to dispose of the lot that has been cast into the lap of time, everyone will receive their due. I'll take my chance you say -- what chance? Do you think you will escape detection -- escape judgment? Never, it is folly to flee from God. As a sinner you may be permitted to flee into eternal ruin, but as a servant, God may deal with you as he did with Jonah, he may put a hook in your jaw. Judas betrayed our Lord, committed suicide and went to his own place. Peter denied the Lord, but through prayer he was restored.
Instead of being a help to the heathen, Jonah was a weakling. Samson, in the power of the spirit of God was more than a match for a host of Philistines, but in the lap of Delilah, Samson was helpless. Pleasures and gaiety of the world has shorn the church of much of her power and testimony. Our strength lies in our nearness to God. Stay near the fire and its warmth will possess you. Moses knew this when he prayed: "If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence." We have nothing worth having, if we have not his presence. Jonah fled from God. David fled to God. How about you?
"What is thine occupation? " Don't you think that question sounds a little pathetic? No one had to ask Elijah, or Peter, or Paul this question. Their connection with God was stamped all over them. Jonah was confused and confounded. " I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven. " Then why does he not call upon the Lord? Others were calling on their gods, but he was silent. You see, Jonah had sinned and had not yet confessed his sin to God. Sin, unconfessed, sometimes shuts the mouth of prayer. Don't let a guilty conscience silence your lips at prayer time. Then another question put to Jonah: " Why hast thou done this?" We can give many reasons for fleeing to God, but there is no reasonable reason for fleeing from God. Oh, that so many should bear the mark of Cain and go out from the presence of the Lord. The next question cut even deeper: " What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? "
This is a most amazing question, for it speaks forth the doctrine of substitution. Why do the heathen practice it? Where did they learn it? It was God's first lesson to fallen man, when he took the skins of innocent animals to supply a covering for Adam and Eve in the garden. Because of pride and intellect this most precious truth is despised by many today. We are not to speak of the "fall of man," it is "the ascent of man." We are not to teach that God made man in his own image, but that he sprang from a drop of dirty water called protoplasm, a semi-fluid substance, regarded as the ultimate basis of physical life, from which all living organisms are formed.
"Take me up and cast me overboard ", cried Jonah. Jonah knew what it would take to calm the sea and was willing to be sacrificed in order that his companions might be safe. But the sailors were unwilling to throw him overboard. They rowed hard to bring the ship to land but to no avail. If a sacrifice is demanded all the strivings of man will not still the angry waves of God's wrath against sin, .. there must be a sacrifice. Many today prefer to bring the works of their own hands, deny the blood of Christ and shun the doctrine of substitution. They tried hard to land the ship but failed, because they were working against God's purpose, and if you find the haven of rest for your soul, it will be by way of the cross. If you want to work out your own salvation you had better see that it is God that worketh within you.
When they saw that their efforts were useless, they threw Jonah into the sea, and the sea ceased her raging. How easy it is for God to thwart our self made plans. It must be a very sad sight, the burial of the dead at sea, but how about this scene; the burial of the living? God accepted the offering and immediately the sea was calm. The key to all this is found in Matthew 12:39,40.
(39) .. "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
(40) .. For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
A sign of what? Of death, burial and resurrection of our Lord. What a picture we have here of Jesus, who offered himself willingly as a sacrifice that we might be saved from the wrath of God. We see the judgment of God in the storm because of sin. The remedy was the sacrifice of a prophet and again we see a striking illustration of Christ, the great prophet who took the place of the disobedient, and allowed himself to take the place of the guilty that the storm of judgment be averted and precious souls be saved. The sailors made vows as men sometimes do in the hour of trouble and then forget them when the storm is past. Don't make vows to God unless you intend to keep them.
Jonah Praying Out of the Belly of Hell or His Grave
"Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish's belly, and said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice." Jonah 2:1-2.
Are you praying for a wayward son or daughter, take courage, you could receive good news that will bring gladness to your heart. Remember, however, God sometimes uses extreme means to turn his children about, but it is worth it. But did a whale really swallow Jonah? Science says it is impossible, that the throat of the whale is too small. The word whale is not used in the book of Jonah but it is used by our Lord in the 12th Chapter of Matthew, Verse 40. Someone wants to explain this to mean "monster." It is a shame for teachers and professed ministers to furnish so much ammunition to the opposition. The secret to this whole episode is found in the last verse of Chapter 1:
"Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." Jonah 1:17.
The Lord had prepared this fish, whale, monster, shark or whatever. I prefer the designation whale, since the Lord used this word and it was one prepared for the task. Only one fish was prepared for this, only one was needed. Remember when Jesus would pay his tribute money (taxes) he told Peter to cast a hook into the sea, and take up the fish that first cometh up; open his mouth, take out the money, and go pay my taxes and yours. There was only one fish with money in his mouth for the tribute payment, the one that Peter caught. Yes, the miracle of Jonah and the whale has called forth a lot of unbelief, but infidelity is so intolerant of miracles.
Jonah was a sign of Christ -- in his burial. Jonah was cast forth into the sea, by his companions to die. Christ was cast out by his brethren, they led him outside the gate and put him to death. The prophet (Jonah) was buried in the heart of the sea and Christ in the heart of the earth. By casting Jonah into the sea, peace was restored and the angry waves quieted. Christ made peace through the blood of his cross. The sin was in Jonah; the sin was on Christ.
"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made righteousness of God in him. II Corinthians 5:21."
Jonah was a type of Jesus -- in his activity in the place of death. They buried Jonah in the sea and mourned over him as one that was dead. However, Jonah was alive, conscious and very active indeed. Our first thought is that Jonah was swallowed immediately, but if you read the account in the second chapter of Jonah you will find that is not exactly what happened. He spoke about going down to the bottom of the mountain and the weeds being wrapped about his head. Note:
"I went down to the bottom of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me forever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God." Jonah 2:6.
In this verse he is thanking God for deliverance while still in the belly of the whale. This is most remarkable, it is the true pattern of faith; thank God for the answer as you ask him for a favor. When you pray, believe that you receive and you shall have it. Yes, Jonah was very active, while the sailors mourned his death. They placed Jesus in the tomb, mourned his death and while they were preparing spices for his body, he was preaching to the spirits in prison, those who died in the faith and awaited his resurrection.
Jonah was a type of Jesus in his resurrection:
"And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land." Jonah 2:10.
It was the same man, with his own individuality that went into the water and the whale. It was the same Jesus, the same one that was placed in the tomb that came forth on that resurrection morning. Neither of them saw corruption. This is a pattern or a picture of what is yet to happen: the earth and the sea will vomit up the dead and they shall come forth, some to eternal happiness and others to shame and ruin.
These seven steps that we find in the experience of Jonah we find in all of those who have been redeemed from the bondage of sin into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.
1. DISOBEDIENCE. We have all taken this step. We have directly opposed the will of God, or neglected his will and most times are guilty of both.
2. CONVICTION. Disobedience to God is a sure and speedy way to despair. Jonah was encompassed with the horrors of hell, weeds were wrapped about his head and his heart. Confused and confounded, he was deeply troubled.
3. CONFESSION. Thou hast cast me into the deep. Sometimes it's hard to admit guilt, but oh, it's so good for the soul. Man cannot be saved until he is convinced that he is lost. The minister's work is twofold: He must convince man that he is lost without Christ before he can introduce him to the Saviour.
4. CONTRITION. Sorrow for sin. "When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord." When we stop long enough to contemplate on the goodness and mercy of God, the memories of the past blessings and goodness of God overwhelms us.
5. PRAYER. "He cried unto the Lord." After we have experienced conviction, after we have confessed our guilt, and after we have felt deep sorrow for sin, we are in the right mood or disposition to call on God. Prayer will usually gush forth from our very innermost being. This experience will unlock your mouth to prayer, but don't tempt God, friend, pray in the sunshine. Don't wait until you are in the belly of the whale!
6. DELIVERANCE. The fish vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. He shouted: "Salvation is of the Lord. "When you experience salvation, you will also know that you have been delivered. " The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ. " Wages denotes pay or money. Jonah had to pay his fare to flee from God, but thanks be to God, he had free passage back to God. All the cost of " Home coming " has been taken care of by our Lord at Calvary. " He that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. "
7. THANKSGIVING. " I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving. " Well, he might for so great a deliverance. How sweet it is to experience the forgiveness of sin and then be impelled by the spirit to offer up praise and thanksgiving to our God. It is not more musical instruments and programs we need in the church; it is more gospel preaching, coupled with prayer, that will create a spiritual atmosphere in which God can do a work in our hearts.
These three statements may include us all:
.. * Those who are indifferent about salvation.
.. * Those who are praying to be saved.
.. * Those who thank God because they are saved.
Which is yours? Thank God for His unspeakable gift.
" I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
And he put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.
Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and they thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. " Psalms 40: 1-5.
Jonah Goes to Ninevah
Jonah 3:1 - 10
" And the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. "
Be my herald and deliver my message, my words to this city. Cry aloud and spare not, preach with an earnestness that becomes a preacher with a message that has to do with souls that are asleep and dead in sin. How gracious of the Lord to give this prophet a second chance. Our only hope is the Second Man Adam, the Lord from heaven. How many of us have not had a second chance, or a seventh, or seventy, or more? Have you yet yielded to God? We cannot deny his patience and long suffering. The law was given, and failed, and man has received his second chance in the call of Grace.
" For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. " Romans 8:3--4.
We notice that the word came to Jonah before he was asked to preach it. Preachers must have a revelation from God, if they have no vision, then they have no message. Where there is no vision, the people perish. Paul said: " For I received of the Lord that which I delivered unto you. " Today, every attempt is made to discredit the miraculous. If there is no miracle, there is no mercy.
So Jonah arose, and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.
The prophet had a great task to perform, but I am confident it was easier to do a great thing for God than a little thing for the devil. Where did Jonah learn obedience? He learned it when the waves compassed him about, with the weeds wrapped about his head; yes, he learned it while in the belly of hell. Most of us have to learn the hard way. It was easier now for Jonah because his heart was right with God. It was easier for Daniel to enter the lion's den then to deny his God. It was easier for the three Hebrews to enter the firey furnace than to bow to the image. We mourn our afflictions and yet, God sometimes allows afflictions as an act of mercy.
Judgment is God's Strange Act
" And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed." God's message to this wicked city was not lacking in grace. it was a message of grace and judgment. They had forty days in which to listen and receive the message. Forty days of grace, of testing, a time to reflect, to search their hearts, a time to reason that God's judgment on this Godless city was justified. We have had nearly 2000 years to accept Christ as Saviour. Judgment is God's strange act. God has no pleasure at all in the death of the wicked. However, judgment is sure, and will fall suddenly, not without warning, for he has warned us repeatedly in his word. Note Luke 11:29--32.
" And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.
For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.
The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and condemn them; for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
The men of Nineveh shall rise up in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and behold a greater than Jonas is here".
Jonah wrought no miracle but he himself was a miracle. The Ninevites not only heard the message from God from his lips, but they saw in him proof of God's mighty power. He was as one raised from the dead. Satanic forces seek to destroy the doctrine of incarnation, regeneration and inspiration. But every regenerated soul is a sign and an evidence of the Divine and the supernatural.
So the people of Nineveh believed God. Is not this the purpose of the preaching of the Gospel, to persuade men to believe? It is not said that they believed Jonah but that they believed God. You may like or dislike the minister but it is very important that you believe God. Because they believed, they humbled themselves, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth. They had no doubt that the threatening would be fulfilled, unless they repented. Though not expressed, they knew the threatening was conditional. It seems that God in his wisdom, has seen fit to leave threatened personal judgment depend on the behaviour of man. In his character, God is holy, just and good. He is unchangeable without shadow of turning, but in mercy he turns to every penitent sinner. Oh, that man today would strip himself of all the gaudy garments of pride and put on the sackcloth of a broken spirit.
They cried unto the Lord. Don't tell an awakened soul to keep silent. His cry, his prayer may sound a little awkward, but cry he will. He is as sure to cry out as a new born babe. Don't hand him a prayer book either, it won't satisfy because there is something in his heart that needs expressing. The Ninevites did more than pray, they turned everyone from his evil way. This was proof of earnest prayer. God saw their works and withheld the judgment that was threatened. if we draw nigh unto God, he has promised to draw nigh unto us.
Jonah 4: 1-2
""But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
And he prayed with the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil".
There is a difference in obedience to God, because of sheer necessity or sense of duty and obedience because we delight in the law of God. The child who is obedient to parents because of love and not necessity, brings great gladness to their hearts. Remember the story of the prodigal son as recorded in Luke 15. The father was so pleased to see his wayward son come home and gave him a tremendous reception. The elder brother was angry and had no sympathy with his father for making such ado of the return of the prodigal. Jonah was vexed because his prediction was not fulfilled. He was more concerned and had more respect for his own honor than he did for the goodness and mercy of God. His prediction was not literally fulfilled; he had lost sight of the condition. Care should be taken not to mix our own motives with the grand purpose of God. Many have made shipwreck by so doing. What will they think of me as a prophet, they will never listen to me again. I cried, yet 40 days and your city will be destroyed. We are of little help to the Lord until we are willing to become fools for Christ. Opinions formed without the light of God's word will soon bring a blush to our face. is it your honor at stake, or the purpose of God? It is our duty to obey.
In Jonah's prayer we see the reason he fled from the Lord. " I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, and slow to anger." This is the very reason some of us fled to him. I prophesied their destruction and you had mercy on them. My preaching was in vain, and now I'll be mocked. There was both good and evil in Jonah and there is a lesson here. Look at his description of God, good, merciful, slow to anger and ready to turn from judgment. He was angry with God and we wonder why. Can you say with Jonah, " I know him. " He is slow to anger and merciful? The devil knows his time is short, and he is driving at top speed, he is seeking whom he may devour. The wheels of God may grind slow, but they grind exceedingly small.
" Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. " Luke 20:18.
Perhaps because of God's mercy some of you are spared to this very day. Don't despise it, be glad and flee to Him now.
" Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live. "
Better for me, was he still thinking of himself? If we fault him for this statement we must admit there is faith mingled with it. If he knew it would be better to die, then he had a good hope for the world to come. Would it be better for you? Paul tells us in Philippians 1:23-24.
" For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. "
So Jonah went out of the city of Nineveh and made him a booth. This was a shelter made of branches of trees and shrubs for protection against rain, frost and heat. Perhaps he could have shared the hospitality of the king but preferred this crude shelter outside the city. We learn from Paul's letter to the Hebrews that Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. We cannot live as the world and have a strong testimony against the world. Be not conformed to this world. Come out from among them lest ye perish with them. Lot was told to flee, tarry not in all the plain.
Jonah sat in the booth, out of the heat, till he might see what would become of the city. He looks a little lonely, somewhat pathetic, sitting there waiting to see what the Lord would do. Do you know anything about waiting patiently to see what the Lord will do? Perhaps this scene or one like it: The doctor has given up the child, the parents with heavy hearts, have committed it to the Lord and then waited to see what God would do. It is a solemn time. There are times in the ministry that we don't know what to do: just wait, wait to hear his voice, wait to see what the Lord will do. He is worth waiting for. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.
" Then God prepared a gourd and made it to come up over Jonah and he was exceeding glad for the gourd " . This is supposed to be a plant like the ivy, with leaves sometimes as large as the brim of a hat. A little extra shade for Jonah, or shall we say " handful on purpose" for a weary prophet? It was a gift from God, a shelter and deliverance from grief. Perhaps a passing shadow of the cross. It's in the cross that we have shelter and deliverance. Sit in the shadow of the cross and see what God will do. " Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. " We are told that this little word, come, is found in the scripture 642 times. This invitation extends to you and all that hear.
Every visible thing in this world has the stamp of uncertainty upon it. All the earthly comforts will some day wither and die. The face of the earth is constantly changing. What changes have you noted in your life-time, in your family and among your friends? Have you missed some old friends, have you any new ones? Happy one day and sad the next. Changes everywhere and in everything, but, there is one thing that changes not. Note:
" And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:
They shall perish; but thou remaineth; and they shall all wax old as doth a garment;
And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail ". Hebrews 1:10-12.
Change on all around I see,
Oh, thou who changeth not,
Abide with me.
"But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered".
The gourd was indeed a short lived pleasure, another change. God can prepare a worm as well as a gourd. Enjoy the sunshine and the calm, the rains and the storm will also come. Receive the mercies of God with humble and thankful hearts. Be careful about wishing the day would end, when you know not what the morrow holds for you. Every earthly thing has its worm. Don't get wrapped up in the things and the pleasures of this life, friend, for the worm of time is also working on the roots of all your earthly pleasures.
" And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than live. "
It does seem strange, at first sight, how God dealt with his prophet. He prepared a gourd to shade him from the sun, then a worm to cut down the gourd and vex him and then sent the vehement wind to smite him. We may find fault but we cannot change it. Is God obligated to explain in detail all of his working? Just yield yourself as a piece of clay in the potter's hand and let him speak to your heart. The spirit can minister to your heart from this book.
The wind was a terrible trial to Jonah but it's an ill wind that blows no good. The winds are in his fists and they are not flung out at random but sent for a purpose. It was a strong east wind that rolled back the waters of the Red Sea so that the children of Israel could pass over dry land. The winds may hinder the upward growth of the trees but it drives the roots downward that they may grow strong and come to maturity. Afflictions and adversity should drive our spiritual roots deeper into the unseen things of the world to come, and we will be able to stand when the tempests of life come our way. He giveth power to the faint.
I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
" Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say on the Lord ".
" And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. " Jonah 4:9
The lesson that God wished to teach the prophet was, that sin worketh death, both in the nation and in the individual. Sin, like Jonah's worm was eating the very life out of the nation, but when they heard the message, they turned from idolatry and repented. Now that the nation was on it knees, God would lift it up. Bow your knee, and confess Him as your Saviour today, and escape eternal death.
" Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou has not labored, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night,
And should I not spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?" Jonah 4:10-11.
God Condescends to Reason with Jonah
"Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool".
There is much in God's dealings with us, that we cannot understand. These things we must receive by faith. God is Holy and Righteous and knows what is best for his children. He used two powerful arguments to silence his prophet:
1. Sovereignty. Our first impulse may be to show displeasure at God's dealings if we cannot understand His meaning, but God has a right to do as He will with His own. The purposes of God are not subject to our will or our reasoning. Paul makes this point very clear in Romans 9:20.
"Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?"
2. Pity. "Should I not spare Nineveh and you had pity on the gourd? Is not the city due more consideration than this plant? There are 120,000 souls in infancy in this city. They cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand. Add to this, they have turned from their sins that induced me to denounce judgment on them. I can not destroy people who are fasting, praying and bewailing their sins. Humbled, covered with sackcloth, and crying for mercy. Learn from this that it is the unrepenting, the persistently wicked, on whom my judgments shall fall. It is the wicked who are threatened with judgment and on whom judgment will surely fall and not the penitent. Even the dumb beasts are the objects of God's compassion."
These arguments seemed to silence Jonah. We hear his voice no more. He slips away and allows God to have the last word. Have you allowed God the last word? Has He settled all your difficulties and silenced your arguments? Yield your heart and let Him have His way with you. By the power of His Spirit He would show us the evil of our ways, that He might bring us to repentance and confession. Then He will bestow on us the great gifts of His grace, love, peace, joy, rest and Eternal Life. He blesses all that He conquers. Has He conquered you?
ConclusionMany useful lessons can be learned from the book of Jonah. No doubt we do not all agree on the thoughts set forth here, but that is understandable. Every effort has been made to bring out thoughts that will help and be of interest to you. Since Jonah's experience was prophetic of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and is the highlight of the book. However, there are other important lessons that must not be lost, and every effort has been made to point them out. The facts in this book are miraculous, attested to by the Lord Himself, and on this ground all difficulty is removed. His power is unlimited, it can meet with no impossibilities. God commanded Jonah to preach to Nineveh, he sent the storm, He prepared the great fish to swallow His runaway prophet. He kept Jonah alive for 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the fish, then caused the fish to eject him alive on any seacoast He desired. Whatever therefore, that cannot be accounted for on mere natural grounds, may be referred to this supernatural agency. Look at the book in the light of the Spirit of God and the difficulties will vanish and the Book of the prophet Jonah will be a real blessing. May the Lord bless it to your heart.
" They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. " Jonah 2:8.
It was vain, indeed, for Jonah to think that he could flee from God. To trust in idols or follow vain predictions is vanity. When man is influenced to leave the path of duty, he forsakes his own mercy. God has measured out a measure of mercy for you and in forsaking God, you abandon that mercy.
It was very foolish for Cain to ignore God's word and trust in the work of his own hands. When God made coats of skins for Adam and Eve, as recorded in Genesis 3:21, he set an example that was to teach man that only a blood sacrifice would cover his transgressions. Cain ignored God's word and even when offered a second chance to rectify his effort, he refused. He forsook his own mercy.
You have heard the message of the Lord's second coming for years; you have made disparaging remarks about those who speak of His soon coming, but remember friend, He tarries not because of His children, but for you. He is long suffering, not willing that any should suffer. Don't forsake your own mercy.
"It is appointed to man, once to die, and after this the judgment. As a tree falleth so shall it lie." There is no chance after death. This is a lying vanity and those who trust in it are lost. Today is the day of salvation."
Today is the Day of Salvation.
Permission to reprint received from Jewel Ballard.
Please forgive any typing errors. They are a result of this typist and not in the original pieces of work.
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