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1 Salvation Belongs to the Lord: Jonah 1:17 ­ 2:10 Ben Reaoch, THREE RIVERS GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH Do you believe the Bible? Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe that a man can be swallowed by a large fish and survive for three days and three nights before being vomited out upon the dry land? This is an extraordinary story, indeed! And this story of Jonah in the fish has been a stumbling block to many unbelievers who do not trust in the authority and accuracy of God's Word. And surely it raises questions in the minds of believers as well. Could this really happen? Would God really do something like this? It just sounds too bizarre! Some view the entire book of Jonah as a parable. These events didn't really happen in history, some would say. It's just an amazing story used to teach some moral principles. But this interpretation doesn't work, because Jonah is a real historical character. He's mentioned in 2 Kings 14 as a prophet who lived during the time of King Jeroboam II. And the narrative is presented with such specificity and detail that it would be a real stretch to say it was meant as a parable. And also, Jesus refers to Jonah's time in the fish, and that also supports the fact that this is real history. Jonah was a real man who lived in Israel in the 8th century B.C., and he was really swallowed by a great fish and vomited out after three days. Isn't that cool! That really happened. Children and teenagers, can you imagine what it would have been like to watch this happen? And not just in VegieTale animation, but in real life. Imagine sitting on the beach and all of a sudden a huge fish raises its head out of the water. And if that's not strange enough, it then opens its mouth and out comes the nastiest smelliest guy you've ever seen. His skin is bleached from the stomach acid. He's got seaweed wrapped around him, and half-digested fish food in his hair. That would be something to write home about! We didn't get to see it, but we do get to read about it in God's Word. For those who do not believe in this miracle, or all the other miracles in the book of Jonah and in the Bible as a whole, the real issue is not whether or not a man can survive in the belly of a fish. The question is whether or not there exists a God who is sovereign over creation. That's the fundamental difference between Christians, whose eyes have been opened to see God's power and sovereignty over everything and therefore can believe what is written in God's perfect Word, and those who scoff at the miracles in the Bible because they deny that anything supernatural can happen in the world. Now, I don't expect that everyone here this morning is a born-again believer. Maybe you're here and you're not sure what to think about the Bible, or about God, or about Jonah in the belly of a fish. I would encourage you to have an open mind. Don't automatically rule out the possibility of God doing amazing things in His creation. God made all of this, and He made all of us. And He is in control. If you doubt God's Word, and you doubt God's ability to work miracles, I just want you to understand that the most amazing miracle of this passage is not that a man survived in the belly of a fish. That IS awesome! And it certainly qualifies as a miracle. But the more astounding miracle is that God had mercy on Jonah and saved him from destruction. This story is not ultimately about a great fish. It's about a great God! Jonah rebelled against God and ran away from God, and ended up being thrown into the raging sea. And he deserved to die. He deserved to drown in that storm. But God rescued Him. And God can do that for you, too. We have all rebelled against God, and we deserve the

2 punishment of hell. But God sent His beloved Son to die in our place, so that whoever believes in Him will be forgiven. That is a miracle, and that is very good news! So don't stumble over the amazing details of this story. God is powerful to command the sea and the fish, and in chapter 4 the plant and the worm and the wind as well. And God is also powerful to save! Salvation belongs to the Lord, as we read at the end of this chapter. Let's look at this prayer that Jonah prays in the belly of the fish. The prayer is inserted into the flow of the narrative here. Chapter 1:17 tells us that God appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah, and 2:10 tells us that the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. And in between those two key events (the fish swallows Jonah, the fish vomits Jonah out), we read this prayer that Jonah prayed to God during his three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish. There are two main things I want us to see from this prayer and from Jonah's experience in the belly of the fish. The judgment of God and the mercy of God. These are two major themes that run through the whole book. In chapter 1 we saw the threat of God's judgment against Nineveh. But Jonah refused to carry out God's clear command to him, and then we saw God's judgment when He brought the storm upon the sea to chastise Jonah. God punishes Jonah for his blatant rebellion. And yet in the midst of judgment we see God's mercy toward the Gentile sailors. Jonah was thrown into the sea, and the sea calmed down and the pagan sailors were saved. The prophet is judged, and the Gentiles are shown mercy. Judgment and mercy. In chapters 3-4 we'll see Jonah declare God's judgment against Nineveh, but then after Nineveh repents, God has mercy. Jonah desperately wants judgment to come down on the Ninevites, but God shows them mercy. Jonah wants mercy for himself, of course, but he wants judgment for the Ninevites. Judgment and mercy are the themes we're dealing with in this book, and in chapter 2 we see God's judgment on Jonah, and also God's mercy on Jonah. And these words that Jonah speaks from the belly of the fish should be a great encouragement to believers who have disobeyed God and have failed to follow His commands for our lives. That's all believers, by the way. We have all disobeyed God, and we continue to disobey Him in various ways. It may be rejecting God's clear call on your life to go into full-time ministry or mission work. It may be rejecting God's clear commands concerning sexual immorality, and moving in with your boyfriend or girlfriend, or looking at pornography, or watching TV shows and movies that lead you to lust. It may be rejecting God's instructions concerning our speech, and taking part in gossip and foul language and crude joking. Or it may be rejecting the Great Commission and heading away to the Tarshish of comfort and ease and apathy. In numerous ways we regularly seek to flee from God's presence by rejecting His Word, by rejecting His clear commands, by rejecting the wonderful words of life that He has made known to us. All these things will have consequences. They will result in diminished intimacy with God. We are distancing ourselves from God when we disobey Him, when we focus our lives on other things, when we substitute the TV or money or sex or power for God. When we flee from the presence of the Lord there will be a downward spiritual spiral that will build momentum and drag us down to the belly of Sheol, to the pit. Do you see how Jonah talks about this in his prayer? In chapter 1 Jonah's spiritual descent is symbolized by his physical descent. He goes down to Joppa, down onto the boat, and down into the inner part of the ship. And now he is descending down

3 to the depths of the sea. In 2:2 he describes it as "the belly of Sheol." In verse 3 "the deep," "the heart of the seas." He was near death. When the sailors threw him overboard he surely assumed that he was going to die. That was the end. He ran from the Lord, and now the Lord had come to kill him. And those thoughts must have raced through Jonah's mind as he landed on the turbulent waters and then plunged down, down, down toward the bottom of the sea. Jonah understood that the Lord was dealing with him here. Even though it was the sailors who physically threw him into the water, Jonah says to the Lord in verse 3, "For YOU cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all YOUR waves and YOUR billows passed over me." The Lord is in total control of the waves and the wind and the sailors. And God, in His providence, planned all these details in order to reveal Himself to Jonah and to the other characters in this book and to those who read this book. God here chastises Jonah. He disciplines him for his disobedience. But, of course, we see that the end result is salvation, deliverance. God saves Jonah by sending the fish to swallow him and take him back to land. But judgment is involved in this salvation; punishment, chastisement, a harsh rebuke. Hebrews 12 teaches us about this in verses 3-11. "`My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.' It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." This is what God is doing to Jonah. He is rebuking him and chastising him by casting him into the midst of the storm and even to the depths of the sea. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones comments on Hebrews 12 in his book entitled Spiritual Depression, and he says, "In His great love for us [God] is determined to bring us to [holiness], and He employs many differing means to that end. Our failure to realize that often causes us to stumble and, in our sin and folly, at times even to misunderstand completely some of God's dealings with us. Like foolish children we feel that our heavenly Father is unkind to us and we pity ourselves and feel sorry for ourselves and feel that we are being dealt with harshly. That, of course, leads to depression and it is all due to our failure to realize God's glorious purposes with respect to us" (235). Think about your life for a moment. Is God working on you? Even if it sometimes feels like He is punishing you, or rebuking you, or correcting you: Praise God for that! Even when God does dramatic and painful things to get our attention, perhaps especially when God does things like this, we should thank Him for His work in our lives. He has not left us to ourselves! He has not allowed us to go to Tarshish. He continues to pursue us and change us.

4 It's very clear as we read Jonah's description of his drowning experience, that this was not a pleasant thing. And yet his emphasis on that painful experience is meant to highlight the Lord's salvation. Jonah was at the bottom of the sea, and the Lord saved him by sending this fish to swallow him up and take him to land. What a testimony this is to the mercy of God! God hears the cries of His children. Let's look at how this is expressed in Jonah's prayer, this emphasis on God's mercy toward Jonah. God judged Jonah. He rebuked him, chastened him, in a dramatic and painful way. But now God rescues Jonah. In verse 2 Jonah says, "I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice." Do you feel like you're in distress? Do you feel like you're in the depths of spiritual depression? Cry out to the Lord! Call out to Him, and He will hear your cry. And even if He doesn't respond in the way you would like Him to, He knows what is best and He will do what is right and good. He is working for your sanctification, for your growth in holiness. He loves you! In verse 4 we see another expression of Jonah's hope: "Then I said, `I am driven away from your sight; Yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.'" In other words, I ran away from the presence of the Lord and have been driven away from God's sight, but I will be in His presence again. There's hope. I have sinned, but God is merciful. And verse 6, more emphasis on God's deliverance: "I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God." And the most glorious statement of the chapter, and of this book, is the declaration at the end of verse 9, "Salvation belongs to the Lord." This comes at the center of the book. It's at the end of the first scene of the book, right before the opening of the second scene. Salvation belongs to the Lord. Jonah knew that he deserved God's judgment. He deserved to drown in that storm. And yet God had mercy on him. God saved him. And it was God alone who could save him. Jonah could not save himself. Jonah stood no chance against the Almighty God of the universe. And so in light of the fact that Jonah deserved judgment, but got mercy, he confesses at the pinnacle of his prayer: "Salvation belongs to the Lord!" The irony is that Jonah professes this with his mouth, but this glorious truth is not evident in his actions throughout the rest of the book. If Jonah really believed this truth, and delighted in it, he would have been happy to see God have mercy on the Ninevites just like God had mercy on him. But instead (as we'll see in chapter 4), Jonah only wanted mercy for himself and for his people. He didn't want God's mercy to extend any further than that. Salvation belongs to the Lord. He can save whom He wishes. As God says in Exodus 33:19 (and Paul quotes in Romans 9:15), "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." But Jonah wants God to have mercy on Israel and judge everyone else. His confession in verse 9 that "Salvation belongs to the Lord" should have produced a desire to see God's salvation go to the Ninevites as well. Jonah deserved judgment, and the Ninevites deserved judgment. And Jonah is thankful for God's mercy in saving him from judgment, but he despises the mercy that God shows to the Ninevites. What a stark contrast we see here in the heart of this prophet. Judgment and mercy. The Bible shows us that we all deserve judgment, and

5 God is free to have mercy on whom He wills. And the clear implication from these truths is that we should never become prideful or greedy or exclusive with respect to the salvation we have received. But rather we should seek the joy of seeing God's mercy extend to others as well. Let's have the thankful attitude that Jonah displays in this prayer, but let's also realize that God has mercy on us in order that we might be a channel of mercy to others. God blesses us to make us a blessing. Salvation belongs to the Lord, and He has ordained that individuals will be saved from every tribe and language and people and nation. God's salvation will extend the ends of the earth! I want to conclude by going back to 1:17 and commenting on the significance of this comment that Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Last week we looked at the parallel between Jonah, who slept in a storm, and Jesus, who slept in a storm. And this week we see another parallel between Jonah, who was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights, and Jesus, who was in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. Jesus, Himself, pointed this out. In Matthew 12:39-41 Jesus responded to the scribes and Pharisees who were asking for a sign, and he said, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here." And thus we see a profound foreshadowing of Christ in the life of Jonah. Jonah allowed himself to be thrown into the raging sea, and by his symbolic death others were delivered. After three days he was resurrected, when the fish vomited him out onto the dry land. Similarly, although in a much greater way, Jesus Christ allowed Himself to be crucified on a cross. And by His death we are saved. And on the third day he arose from the dead and came out of the tomb. God's plans and God's Word are so awesome, that we can see in the life of this rebellious prophet such a beautiful picture of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Are you trusting in Him? Are you trusting in this One who is so much greater than Jonah? Are you clinging to the hope that is offered to us through Him? Salvation belongs to the Lord! We deserve judgment, but we have received mercy. We have been blessed in order to be a blessing.


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Microsoft Word - Jonah_2.doc