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JESUS, JONAH AND YOU
First, it is strongly suggested, READ JONAH.
If the phenomenon of the 'beast' - a financial, military, political and social complex of aggressive power and imposition moving into every conceivable niche of privacy it can find - is a horror rather like that of meeting a grisly bear in a forest, then the private parallel is little better.
If, on the other hand, the beauty, peace, propriety and the sheer loveliness of the kingdom of heaven ( cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 2) is what man is made for, as is the case, without which he is as a dying sun and a dwarf star, but in which he lives together, with God and his brethren as children of God, in goodness and grace; then any trends to absenteeism from this life, or vagaries in it, are going to be painful.
You can see it either positively, so that voiding is vicious, or negatively so that sight is horror. These are but obverse sides of it; and it can be public, when it is beastly harassment from blindness, or else private, where stark folly intrudes like a virus. Yet it has one source and atmosphere: blindness and intemperance, pride and folly. It has one result: force and breach, emptiness and vainglory.
In this chapter, we are seeing that divorce from the glory of God is as privately painful as is a national departure a source of shame, a structure of sham and a power blitz by the incapable, interfering with what they do not understand, and ruling when they themselves are contrary to rule, and know no direction but competing glories, deliberate decadence or empty energy, like wolves baying at the moon.
In contrariety, directedness in peace and assurance to, in and by the source of man, this has the sheer peace of that divine presence, and His power, the abiding love and His purity, the all-knowing, comprehending tenderness, and His discipline as needed: this is without comparison. Its voiding by disbelief is without remedy.
Just as, in Ch. 5 above, we have seen the shambles of misadventure - as in TMR Ch. 8, that of its educational arm, so now in Jonah we see the private, sheer cliff to which even a temporary rebelliousness can lead a child of God.
Jonah is famous, and is justly so, and his lonely episode as a servant of God, moved into stark disobedience, looks very like that of Peter, or the lapse of Thomas as exposed in John 20. Each lapse is notorious.
Yet in each of those cases, the knocking over of one hurdle did not ruin the entire course, and great is the eventual reputation of all three of these men of God.
This should be a delight to those who start to stray, and realising their error, repent and return; but the rebuke each of these saints met, whether verbal, physical or both, should no less be a warning and a stimulus to sobriety and salubrity of spirit.
If to spoil, whether in a little, or a little more, a magnificent vase or painting is a shame, how much more vital is it to avoid spoliage of that painting which is man's life! Tracing the national and international degradations, loss of individuality and zest is one depiction of the spiritual prognosis for alienated man in God's word; and doing so in the private life of an individual is another.
Jonah's error leaves a monument to wisdom only because in the Lord is the very majesty of patience. Patience here in turn is an expression of confident power and wisdom, not intemperate but effectual. When One knows all, all patience becomes one of the expressions of the wisdom of love and the love of wisdom.
Indeed, so powerful is the will and grace of God, that we can now even launch into a study of Jonah as a TYPE of Christ in various ways, and be edified by the outcome as by the means that led him there, despite his fall and failure in the notorious episode of refusing an appointment - for a time only!
I Jonah is a type of Christ
This is not of course true in all of his features, or he would BE Christ.
Firstly he is not God in flesh (Philippians 2:1-10, John
10:26-33, 5:19-23, 8:58, Matthew 11:27), secondly, he was an adventurer at one
in active if temporary rebellion against the known will of God,
thirdly he was a sinner,
fourthly, he was not very quick in learning a lesson
which brought vast light to his soul, when he did learn it.
Nevertheless, there were MANY episodes and aspects in his victorious and praiseworthy life of obedience (in the massive main) which so reflect things which evoke the thought of the morals and ways of Christ, that we must consider them.
Before however we proceed, let us recall Christ's
own use of Jonah for illustration, as shown in Matthew 12:38ff..
"Then some of the
scribes and Pharisees answered, saying,
'Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.'
"But He answered and said to
Here we find, with that
which the supernatural need not strain to acquire in incarnation,
¨ the Lord's reference to the actual event of Jonah,
¨ correlative with Solomon's visit from the Queen of Sheba,
¨ and Nineveh's repentance itself, on the one hand,
¨ and with His own coming death right down to the three days and nights.
The latter, for Christ in the analogy, is inclusive of His 'trial', (Psalm 22:1,12-21),
itself filled with false accusation, and betrayal of trust
and nearly as near to hell, as man could make it.
HE too will do what must be done, we see as He speaks of the Cross coming to Him,
and greater is He than those who adorned the pages of history, yet to Him they are leads.
Now praise God, it is done (Hebrews 9:12-28), and what we await is not more, but His return.
It is not as if the men of Nineveh will arise: they WILL.
It is not as if the Queen of Sheba might think of arising in judgment: she WILL.
That is what is written.
That is what is written. What is implied ? that shame will come
from their selfish ignorance of Christ at judgment, who ignore Him or reject,
when these others ignored far less!
Their testimonies will be like arrows of fire.
The texture of history is thus incisively provided by God
from the word of God,
and there is no more room for prevarication in history,
than in judgment:
for indeed what happens in history it is,
which acquires judgment in fitting measure.
In this case, Christ was preparing to BEAR that
for all who received Him (Isaiah 53:4-6),
who would thus be healed of their iniquity at His most willing expense.
At once, we must realise that Jesus Christ, in giving that SIGN of the PROPHET JONAH, as the one for these knowledgeable dabblers, and all they would get in their moody unbelief as they sought to make Him act and react, was giving a MASSIVE one. It had parallels to His own work and testimony which can be found to the order of twelve, which will be shown below; and these speak to those hard of hearing, showing Jonah as a type of Christ, and binding the independent testimony of what He was prophesied to do, and did, to this dramatic figure in a way which strikes the imagination and penetrates the heart.
What accuracy was in this choice of TYPE, of sign, and how it shows that depth of art in the word of God, that multiple usage of many forms and figures with the stark facts, conjoined, to drive home the point with an artistry of brilliance, and the power of piercing penetration. Similarly, it shows how the God of providence has organised history itself, so that it can speak from many sides, as the object of His counsel and a megaphone for His will.
Now we are have considered Christ and Jonah, we are ready to see Jonah as a type of Christ,
one with instructive preliminary parallels,
before He came.
¨ II Jonah has many facets in this field
Firstly, when he DID rebel in this one episode, fleeing from duty, taking a ship for a destination other than that to which he was specifically directed for godly service; when the storm DID threaten the ship on which he sailed, what was his response when he was asked about any contribution of his own which could have led to this predicament? It was this: he owned up immediately, and sought to be removed, thrown overboard so that others might live. His refusal to face his commission from God, to go and preach judgment to Nineveh, and his taking of a sea voyage instead were not hidden. Thus the results could be contained. There was no cover-up, no delay, no secrecy.
When therefore he acknowledged his fault openly to all, in the stormy threat, there was hope for one, for all on the ship.
This was the sort of repentance NOT to be ashamed of (II Corinthians 7:10, cf. Matthew 3:7-8), a change which showed so clearly that it was unmistakable. Jonah's acknowledgment of is fault was not mere form but unselfish dedication to the God whose he was (and is), for God is God of the living! So when Christ's time came to die as a ransom for the sins of men, to meet death for those who would receive His salvation, in their behalf: the Lord Himself did not fight, nor did He allow others to fight for Him (Matthew 26:52ff., John 18:36). Instead, He swiftly allowed the aggressive soldiers and the priestly party to take Him to what for Him, was a pre-planned and pre-announced vicarious sacrifice for sin. Their wrath served His purpose, and He knew and faced its coming long before its arrival (cf. Matthew 17).
Like Jonah, Christ readily gave Himself up, even though the difference is the REASON for His arrest: righteousness, whereas with Jonah, the reason for his plight was unrighteousness.
Thirdly, the men tried to avoid tossing him overboard, just as Peter tried to prevent Christ actually going through with it and dying as Matthew 15:22-23. In each case, those seeking to dissuade failed. Jonah had to be tossed overboard, and Christ insisted on being Saviour and so paying what it took (cf. Matthew 26:52-56).
Thus, and then, fourthly, Christ too was 'tossed overboard' by those in this world in power in Israel and in Rome. Pilate tried to prevent it too, in further parallel to the case of Jonah and the merciful sailors, but in self-preservation, he decided to give Him up to them.
Fifthly, we have this in the parallel, the treatment of Jonah as a type of Christ. For Jonah, a great fish received him, as prepared.
For Christ, the Father received His Spirit as He had prepared to do.
How was this done ? For Jonah, God prepared a great fish (probably a whale-shark, a species reported to be capable of 70 foot lengths, air-breathing and with a compartment much bigger than a man, where it stored unwanted objects that floated into its often open mouth); and in this the prophet was safe, although his experience as noted in Jonah 2, reminded him of hell, the bars of which seemed to enshroud him while he was enclosed in this chamber, in the deep! They seemed everlasting as the sea-weed became entangled in his guilt, and his guilt in his predicament.
Such was his chastening. Then the great fish, as by report appears the wont of such creatures, vomited him up nearer the shore in order to be all cleaned up. Being vomited, like sin, is better than staying IN IT!
In this come further parallels to Christ.
Sixthly, there is the PROVISION for Him, that His Spirit was received into heaven (Acts 3:19-21, I Peter 3:20-21), just as Jonah had his maritime conveyor receptive. In both cases, the deliverance means were not only there, they were consummated in marvellous provisions. \
Seventhly, just as Jonah felt the pangs like a hell overshadowing his guilty life, so Christ not only felt the pangs of bearing the sin of others, crying, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!" as Psalm 22:1 foretold, in treating His death (cf. Joyful Jottings 22-25), but as we shall show, actually proclaimed this very thing to denizens of hell itself.
There is no limit to the love of God as shown in Colossians 1:19ff., and this is wholly comportable with that fact.
Let us then consider, in connection with this SEVENTH PARALLEL: the evidence that Christ actually went and preached to the spirits in prison, awaiting judgment, confronting the very precincts of hell with His preaching, following His crucifixion.
First let us note I Peter 3:18ff. suggests what the Apostles’ Creed declares, Christ ‘descended into hell’ so completing a vast universe tour of triumph in which He ‘preached’ to the spirits in prison there. This is a phrase not used in the Bible of people still living on earth, but closely resembled one used of those awaiting judgment in Jude 6, and the entire conceptual presentation in Jude concerning this; and hence it is not only comportable scripturally with such an understanding, but matches no other scriptural concept in its form and content.
Again, in I Peter 3:18ff., where you find Christ preaching to the spirits in prison, you have a thrilling sequence. It is this.
First, Christ is seen suffering, then the reason for it is given, then the form of it is shown, put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit, and next after this vitalisation by the Spirit comes
further reference to the Spirit in whom Christ went to the spirits in prison, those from Noah's day of mass judgment, and that He preached to them. Hence the focus is, and remains, Christ the Saviour, and the movement is into the earth, providing action, achieving salvation, then declaring it, moving even into hell, covering all.
Here is cohesion, sequence and focus on Christ's movements, raised by the Spirit, moving by this Spirit while His body lay dead, to preach to the last vast agenda of world judgment. The love is universal, the scope is universal, the tour is universal, the meaning is universal in OFFER; and although it is most limited in the limited ATTAINMENT, according to the foreknowledge of God, yet this is not to be read backwards as if the self-control of love were to be equated with its demise or delimitation. Scripture continually gives just such a breach of all that could hold in the sacrificial splendour and conscientious zeal of the Lord, of whom it is written, 'The zeal of your house has eaten me up!" (John 2:17).
These things were hard because His love was unwavering, and nothing was just dumped, nowhere was just ignored.
Such then is the thrust and language, concept and sequence in the Scripture. But to avoid this, it is a strange adventure!
It is to refer by an alien phrase
(people may be seen as prisoners of sin, but the phrase SPIRITS IN PRISON of people on earth is more Platonic then Biblical; and this is not Plato but God speaking),
to a breach of sequence,
and then to aggravate the situation, by dispensing with the liaison and development of raised by the Spirit and going by the Spirit, in order to satisfy some desire to depict a sudden breach in the focus, with a reference to Noah's day becoming thereby an oddity more than an odyssey. Let us pursue this error in interpretation of I Peter 3.
To think about some earlier time when the Spirit is conceived of as speaking to people who, though alive on earth, are 'spirits in prison' seems to abandon an odyssey of meaning and sequence, closely composed, for an episode of breach, like drinking coffee while you type; and appears as forced in sequence and relevance, as alien in verbal construction to the Bible.
Instead however of such time-displacement, like a lecturer having a sudden aberration, or someone reminiscing instead of proclaiming an intense and coherent doctrine: when the issue is taken in order of depiction, as written, then there is time concatenation, the sequence moving from first to last, from achievement to consequence, from action to application, from attainment to its delivery, from the love that sent to the love that gives vent and acts.
So does theme determine the matter in wedlock with phrasing, and that with the biblical depiction of man, not as a spirit in prison, when alien on earth from God, but as a spirit in sin, and a prisoner self-condemned.
Thus we have the seventh parallel: as Jonah suffered acutely in the chamber of the fish, because he would not at first consent to go to preach judgment to that vast, and cruel imperial metropolis of Nineveh, and just as he felt the bars of hell, so Christ actually and voluntarily went to preach to the spirits in hell, in prison, held for judgment. He died not for lack of power, but abundance of love; and thus His light and love not suppressed, but expressed went like a search-light to hell itself.
Jonah in fact was vomited from the fish, and eventually came and preached to Nineveh. This enables us to pursue the parallel.
Eighthly, Jesus Christ completed and evacuated from this journey, and resurrected, came back to this world for His completion of His testimony as triumphant over death. Jonah, for his part, was neither dead nor resurrected, but he DID come back from what would be like death, like hell, and he did proceed to tell Nineveh of the 40 days they had in which to repent, just as Christ for 40 days taught in the midst of His disciples (Acts 1:3) before returning to His place (in heaven). This arithmetical aspect provides the ninth parallel.
Tenthly, many in Nineveh repented, so that the city was spared for many further years, just as a whole Christian Church repented at the first in Jerusalem and in Judea: and some 40 years were left before the city, drunken with unbelief, was destroyed, as Christ had said it would be (Luke 19:42ff., Matthew 24:1ff., 23:37ff.).
Now come the differences,
despite this list of ten parallels: for Jonah like you and me, was a sinner, even if
his victorious life was a savoury spirituality in the main. Notice especially
that it WAS a victorious life, that he DID do the will of God, of which Christ
speaks categorically in Matthew 7:21. As a child of God, it is part of the life
one is given, to FIND AND DO THE WILL OF
We are not our own and it is inconceivable that Christians remain their own, and yet are His (Romans 6-8). That is calling black white. Pardon is free and so is regeneration; and whoever heard of a regenerated pretence! Still, Jonah still had to learn much and God chastened him (Hebrews 12).
Let us then look at specific differences for our instruction.
Firstly, he was SORRY that Nineveh was not destroyed, just as Christ wept because He knew that Jerusalem would be desolated (Jonah 4). That is a stark contrary and contrast! Secondly, it was not IN his Nineveh work that Jonah thus failed, but after it; whereas Christ’s triumph was not only in, but even over death, His self-sacrifice being redemption itself (Heb. 9:12-28). Thirdly, Jonah sought to rebut God when He told him of his error, saying yes, he OUGHT to be sorry in losing the protection of the gourd that grew in the heat, when he left, grumpy, from the city. He needed an entire reorganization of thought on the love of God, and God in His teaching mastery, made him realise.
But Christ (John 8:29), ALWAYS did what pleased His Father.
Again, fourthly, Jonah paid his fare for fleeing from God in the vessel; but Christ paid OUR fare in NOT fleeing from the Cross! (Matthew 20:28).
is much grace to be gained in this arena.
Firstly, we should be zealous to deliver people, just as Jonah was when the storm raged on the ship: even, if need be, to our own hurt. That is why missionaries frequently die for the love of God, at the hands of those whom they seek to help. ‘Survival’ in this world is the cartoon of the fallen, as unangelic as a dream of indulgence.
As to the prophet's intemperate post-mission emotional explosions attested in Jonah 4:
We by contrast with Jonah on this point, need to be crying with Christ,
Father, FORGIVE them, for they do not know what they are doing;
and still love.
We need no less to realise that Jonah was a real spiritual hero, for if at first he was slow to act, at last he was most courageous and really effective in his proclamation to that mighty, severe and dangerous Empire seat of Nineveh. This teaches us to be fearless for Christ, overcome evil with good, and to be valiant for the truth (Jeremiah 9:3, Philippians 2:15) .
Again, reflect on this part of the report. When Jonah was fleeing at first, he could have allowed the men to risk their lives to the uttermost as they rowed to seek to bring them all THROUGH THE STORM; but he cut it short, and in being thrown overboard he became a TYPE of Christ, who was thrown overboard from this world, which has suffered ever since from the lack of a Prince of Peace, with Power and Truth His own companions to the uttermost.
Never and nowhere does it find such personal power, such healing compassion, such capacity to raise the dead, such constrained resurrection in a closely watched format of guards and prophecy, mocking the world's pretension and simply doing the job. Nowhere is found such power to overcome in all dimensions, verbal and physical, moral and spiritual, answering every challenge and unchallengeable in any particular. In no sense is there any equal who coming to die, rose, coming to help, was hated, coming to love, died for His love, and coming to deliver, rose to present it. No one else never fails in anything; no one else ever succeeds in everything, and while some do well as human sinners, none achieve human perfection which to come to man, had to be given in incarnation of God Himself.
The world pants of holiness (in its outcomes), but will not pay (in its incomes). It seeks to seize the work of God and run it, and runs merely into trouble, terror, murder and marring, as if the Cross of Christ being ignored, the marring must be their own; and never was it more obvious.
Even though murdered, Christ brought peace in this: those redeemed are at peace with God, brethren of the Lord. To those who received this vicarious action on their behalf, and accepted both it and Him, there was a peace on a plateau, that of His own love and performance; just as Jonah as an intercessory agent for God, brought through their repentance and turning to the Lord, a time of deliverance for that city.
Thus we too should cut it short when we are fall into any sinful error, and have it cut out fast with the spiritual scalpel of the word of God, as a doctor cuts a small, budding cancer. We should abort being a needless trial to others, and seek to find the way to bring peace if we can, WITHIN our service to God.
We must suffer if this is needful to achieve such ends, rather than inflict it, but TELL the truth as He did, who was it, rather than being dumb dogs, yap a little for comfort, meaning nothing but futile form. Without this, confusion continues without clarity, and charity is lost in the midst of convenience. Doctors who mumble about a 'c' word, when they mean cancer would possibly be de-licensed. Any called Christians who mumble what is acceptable instead of presenting the Gospel are too like such a thing.
Thus by all means let us be agreeable, where we can be.
At the same time, like Jonah, we must ensure that we remain UTTERLY CLEAR
on the Gospel message to family, friends and others, and
in our testimony of obedience to the word of God:
lest in seeking to be like others, we become not only unlike Christ,
but not even a chip off the block of Jonah!
Next time you want to scorn Jonah’s early weakness, or share it, think of these things and be strong in faith, word and deed.
Let God's love send you to your own 'Nineveh', and be as plain when you get there with the Gospel of Christ, which the world does not love, as was Jonah at Nineveh. Love the world and you love death. Love those in it, and seek to bring them to life, where it is, in Jesus Christ according to His own infallible word, by the power of His Spirit and the grace of His mercy.
A squeaky door still squeaks when you have finished discussing greasing methods; the solution not only has to be clear, but APPLIED.
If many have been disgusted with what they imagine is Christianity, the 'chaff' is in the tepidity of time-serving pretence, the chaos of endless traditions as with the Jews, masquerading as the truth (cf. Mark 7:7ff.), the equivocation of those not wanting to take up their cross and follow Christ (Luke 14:27), all of which things have nothing to do with Christianity, except as perversions of it. Look at Jesus and then when you recognise what you see (John 6:40), you will see better what is going on, often inconspicuous, despised, that is like Him.
As John the Baptist pointed out (Matthew 3:9-13), the chaff is going to be burnt with fire unquenchable, and Christ made the destination no less salubrious (Mark 9), for it is intrinsically hot and polluted.
The chaff life for man, woman or child ? it is a matter of lacking the seed of truth, preferring to lack body in doctrine, in faith and merely being 'near' to Christianity in some detached sort of way. It is this which is the fate of many, never willing to deny themselves for Christ's sake (Luke 14:287ff. - the required and intrinsically apt thing before one's God), but rather USING Christ for their own sake. They do this, as if He were not God, but a cleaning service for which you paid; and in many cases that is just what is done. Some DO what they want, DO NOT do what they do not want, seek to be cleansed as a mode of living like that, and then wonder what is lacking in their lives, as if they ran the mower over the lawn without engaging the blades; and then blamed it.
You cannot 'make use of' God': HE makes use of you, for He is LORD. To be sure when He does so, He cleanses you, keeps you, is comrade to you, understands you and undertakes for you in a love which is incomparable: but it is HIS OWN work. Indeed, so did He cleanse Jonah as you see in Jonah Ch. 4, for a pettish personal feeling was being indulged when the grandeur of pity and compassion managing in the power and presence of God to deliver the children, so many, even the cattle, yes and the harsh and cruel city through repentance was being forgotten for a time. God brought Jonah back, with the dying gourd which no more protected his solitary grumbling in the hot sun, as an illustration, to see the lamentable thing that judgment is, and the wonder that mercy is, when it is received as sent, as therefore efficacious. The kingdom of heaven is the place for wheat, peace, production, joy and gladness of heart, free consciences and glorious concern, where pity and realism walk as comrades, and vision and victory are friends.
What is the chaff to the wheat ? Whether in private or in public, the pretence or the push is mere blown particles of vanity; whereas the wheat is sustained, and sustains, being what follows its breed, which HE bred (I John 3:9); and this wheat which is His, does His will (Matthew 7:21) and so grows for harvest; for that, it is what wheat does, instead of chaffing the nostrils as left-overs.