« PreviousContinue »
then is the Truth of God. If we perceive and grasp the realities, we need not stumble at the Word, but see how, through earthly things, Jehovah reveals himself, a God of mercy and love, desiring all to come to the knowledge of the Truth.
JONAH iii. 4, 10.
“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that he had said that he would do unto them, and He did it not."
The history of Jonah is regarded not only as beginning and ending with difficulty, but as of a very exceptional and extraordinary character. But we shall see that however singular it is as to one event, yet it is simply the history of many.
Here we have the covenant in its relation to sin and transgression ; not only as respecting the believer and the prophet of the Lord, but also the great city, as representing the world, whose wickedness came up before Jehovah, calling down his sore judgments upon it.
We find Jonah uttering like words with Elijah, who, because it was not after his own way, would give up his life and die. Their history, however, begins differently. Elijah stands before God. Jonah flees from his presence. The former has a mission to the ungodly Israelites; the latter, to the ungodly Ninevites.
Whatever be the calling or position of men, be they born in Jerusalem or Nineveh, be they vessels of honour or dishonour, each and all stand related to the everlasting covenant. And here we perceive that God is no respecter of persons, and that according to His covenant are all His gracious dealings to be interpreted.
If we understand the scope of this short but compendious history, and the important truth it reveals, we shall clearly
perceive how different is the spiritual condition of Jonah when fleeing from the presence of the Lord, or in anger that Nineveh is not destroyed ; and when, in the deep experience of the judgment of God, he testifies against those who, observing lying vanities, forsake their own mercy.
The prophet is his own historian. He distinctly states his own transgression and the only ground of safety, which we are bound to suppose he fully obtained. He tells us that his mission was to Nineveh, the great city whose wickedness had
before the Lord, and against which he had to declare that in forty days it should be overthrown.
We need scarcely remind you of the distinct meaning of the forty days. What was said to Nineveh is said to all the workers of iniquity : “In forty days, and thou shalt be over thrown." These forty days express a life, condition, generation, in its relation to the covenant. And thus men taking their course in wickedness, if they repent not, are overthrown.
Jonah is commanded to arise and go to Nineveh. But he arose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah. Here is a man undoubtedly commissioned of the Lord to go to thousands and denounce the judgment of a holy God against all their ungodliness, and to show the salvation of the Lord. No man would have this commission from Jehovah unqualified. Jonah knew the mercy and salvation of the Lord, and there is, in his sheer disobedience, simple transgression. It is a fleeing from the presence of Jehovah, a rejection of the covenant. But the Lord follows him, and brings down upon him the very judgment he was to denounce against Nineveh. He is in a ship which, from the great wind and stormy tempest, it is feared would be broken.
The wares are cast into the sea, and consternation and fear possess those sturdy mariners, inured to ordinary tempests.
Is the condition of Jonah, then, one bit better before God than that of the Ninevites, whom he was to denounce ? He lay there in that ship asleep, undisturbed by that very unusual storm, that the mariners were amazed. Alas! a true picture of the transgressor, blinded by the god of this world, who, having departed from the presence of his God, forsaken his own mercy, is undisturbed in fancied security, while the fierce wrath of a holy God is gathering around him. Which wrath he had to denounce upon the Ninevites; but he flees from the presence of Jehovah, and what was for them is now evidently for himself. The mariners awake him, and he says, “I fear Jehovah.” He who has the true fear of God, the reverential, filial fear, does His will ; while he who is awakened to a consciousness of his transgression, and seeks not the true repentance, must fear God, who cannot look upon iniquity, but must put from him all that maketh a lie.
Assuming, then, that the prophet is awakened to his true condition, what is to be done? What does he who knew the covenant of God record as necessary to be done in order to roll back from man the full tide of the wrath of a holy God? This wrath is ever against sin and iniquity as such. To escape it is to put away sin. The covenant, then, does not ignore this sad condition, the inheritance of all men.
The men anxiously inquire of Jonah what they shall do with him, that the sea might be calm unto them. He said, “ Take me up and cast me forth into the sea.” The probability of this fact, or whether Jonah was a coward, is not the question, but the spiritual truth revealed. He well knew that there must be a death to the old nature, as the only way into the presence of Jehovah. He knew that he had transgressed, was possessed with slavish fear, and that he must now be cast into the sea to appease the storm. The import of this is clear from what follows. With Jonah there is no compliance with any heathen superstition. Short of the truth, men may row hard, do their utmost, and then plead with Jehovah; but all is of no avail. Jonah must be cast into the sea. And note it, his advice is according to the will of God, for immediately the sea ceased from her raging, and men's fears were allayed. The Lord prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah, and he was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Whatever be our experience in transgression, there is but one paraclete, one only consolation and comforter-Christ the Righteous One, the true Son. And to the Christ the sign of Jonah is the witness. The Pharisees, having been told by the Lord that by their words they should be accounted righteous or be condemned, demanded a sign. What sign then should be given ? “ A sinful and adulterous nation seeketh after a sign,” said the Lord ; " and there shall be no sign given but the sign of the prophet Jonah." The Pharisees, as Israelites, to whom pertained the covenants, were not only sinful but adulterous, while the Ninevites were only sinful. Jonah, then, was sinful and adulterous. His disobedience was as the sin of witchcraft, for he not only dishonoured the covenant, but worked sin and iniquity; nevertheless, the sign of Jonah is the sign of Christ. As the one is in the whale's belly, so the other is in the bowels of the earth. Both are signs of the great truth : how that Jehovah, through Christ, put away sin—the sin of the world, -rolled back the great evil, that men might be restored and their sins forgiven.
To be cast, then, into the sea, to calm the raging tempest, was to die with Christ, whereby alone sin is put away, which is indeed widely different from wishing to die because of the disappointments of the lying vanities of this life.