Christian, should you have taken the other road — the one less traveled? Do you find yourself outside the “perfect will” of God? Today, have you fallen to depths you never imagined? Have your transgressions become public? Do you imagine you have gone too far and sinned away the grace of God? Does it seem like God’s Spirit has “left the building” because of your gross, intentional, persistent, private, and public sins? And right now, today, do the consequences of your decisions seem insurmountable? Would you like to die and be done?
Well fellow sinful saint, I have good news. We are just like Jonah. We are far more sinful we think, but we are far more loved and graced than we can imagine. And right now, even though we sin terribly and hurt horribly, our Heavenly Father is gracing us and calling us to repentance and restoration.
It is time for us to pray like Jonah.
By the time we get to the second chapter of Jonah, much sin has been exposed. Jonah is a horrible worshiper who has …
- Been greatly blessed by the Lord
- Been called to be a prophet of the Most High
- Clearly heard the Lord’s command to go and preach to Nineveh.
- Proven himself to be an ordained minister with little regard for God’s will and kingdom.
- Proven himself to be a bigoted racist with little regard for those perishing.
- Reasoned foolishly — thinking he can run away from the presence of the Lord.
- Intentionally rebelled and taken off in the opposite direction.
- Wasted the Lord’s resources by buying a fare to Tarsus.
- Harmed God’s sailors on his particular ship and probably others in the region.
- Harmed God’s foreign friends whom God has chosen to redeem.
Yes, Jonah is the perfect picture of the prodigal prophet, the depraved disciple, or the sinful saint. If anyone has gone too far or sinned away God’s grace, Jonah is that man.
However, as a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to Jonah. God graces Jonah by …
- Not selecting another prophet to go to Nineveh.
- Not leaving him alone.
- Hurling an unconquerable storm.
- Sending a pagan ship captain who awakens Jonah and calls him to prayer.
- Providentially pointing him out through the casting of lots.
- Giving him divine revelation that he must be thrown overboard.
- Creating, appointing, and sending a fish to save him from drowning.
- Sending forth his Holy Spirit to work repentance in the troubled mind of his wayward man.
All of this is undeserved love. All of this is sovereign grace. It is true, “All things work together for good — for those who love God and are called to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) And God is doing good work for, in, and through Jonah.
And how does the depraved disciple, pitiful prophet, prodigal preacher, and sinful saint respond? Chapter two records his prayer:
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “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. 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. Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. 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. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. (Jonah 2)
Jonah knows the omnipotence of God. Rebellious prophets, violent storms, pagan sailors, and sea creatures are all controlled by the Lord Almighty. It is ultimately God who distresses him. It is ultimately God who casts him into the sea. They are God’s waves and God’s billows.
Jonah knows the holy justice of God. God is holy, and Jonah knows he deserves to be driven away from his sight.
Jonah knows the omnipresence of his God. There is nowhere he can flee from the presence of the Sovereign. From God’s holy temple, his Lord and Savior hears him.
Jonah knows the love, mercy, grace, and salvation of God. Despite his rank transgressions, he has hope:
“I shall again look upon your holy temple.”
“You brought up my life from the pit.”
“Salvation belongs to the Lord.”
Jonah repents and states his desire to worship well:
“Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay.”
Jonah is then refreshed and restored to ministry. The Lord speaks to the fish. The fish responds, and Jonah is called to use his gifts and fulfill God’s purpose for his life.
Therefore friends, since we are too much like Jonah and find ourselves to be breakers of God’s good law, how ought we to respond today?
Let us remember the unreasonable love of our Heavenly Father. Despite our sins — neither loving God nor loving our neighbors — our Father has chosen us and sent his Son and Spirit our way.
Let us remember the unreasonable love of our Elder Brother and Groom. Despite our sins — whether they be those of intentional commission or unintentional omission — the Son willingly chose to come to earth, earn our righteousness, and receive our hellish condemnation. Jesus was treated like Jonah that we might be treated like Jesus.
Let us remember the unreasonable love of our Holy Spirit. Despite our sins — those of yesterday, today, and tomorrow; pre-regeneration or post-regeneration — the Spirit has entered our being, and he continually effects our hearts.
So, right now, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Today, let us enjoy the Spirit’s work of internal revival.
Let us enjoy the Son’s work of paying our sin-debt and granting us his pristine righteousness.
Let us enjoy the Father’s will and call. It is time to exit the fish, enjoy God, encourage one another, engage in worship, until we need to repent again — later today.