God's Ways in Training His Own for His Service and Testimony: 4

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 10
We are accustomed to the well-known expression, “Jonah in the whale's belly;” but the Hebrew text makes no mention either of a whale or a shark, speaking only of a “great fish.” It was in all probability a miraculous fish, the same as with the miraculous tree in the last chapter. The skeptic and the rationalist, who possess no insight into the word of God except through their scientific spectacles, and whose faith does not go beyond their telescopes and microscopes, object that there is no fish existing with a mouth large enough to swallow a man As if God, Who created the world out of nothing, could not have prepared a fish large enough to swallow Jonah! “Jehovah prepared” [not “sent “] the miraculous fish. It was even a fish which God had “prepared,” we are assured, especially for the occasion, as He did the miraculous tree in the last chapter.
How foolish are the wise men of this world, who say, “Science must shed its light upon the Bible!” They resemble a man who holds up a candle towards the sun, to see whether the sun is shining or not, or a blind mole on the top of his molehill with a pair of spectacles on, and holding an open book, to read it through his spectacles. The famous geologist, Sir Chas. Lyell, had to confess, that in his geological calculations, he had made a mistake of several thousand years. Yet man presumes to make the light of “science, falsely so-called,” such as geology or astronomy, the measure of the truth of the word of God! How far wiser was the simple expression of that poor illiterate woman who said, “If it were written that Jonah swallowed the whale, instead of the whale swallowing Jonah, I should believe it, simply because it was written.” These are words that may elicit the pitiful smile of the skeptic and the rationalist; yet they are but the expression of the simple faith of a true believer, whose mind and thoughts have been brought into captivity to the Ascended, and therefore to the “written” Christ, that is to the word of God and its infallible authority. Such an one says, “I believe, therefore I see;” whereas unbelief says, “I see, therefore I believe.”
I will mention here another of these objections of blind unbelief, which presumes to discover discrepancies and incongruities in that divine book, where faith perceives perfect harmony. These enlightened “friends of light” (“Lichtfreunde"), as they call themselves: on the Continent, say, “It is written in the Bible that the Son of man shall be three days and three nights in the belly of the earth, even as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish. But Jesus was in the grave from Friday evening until Sunday morning, that is scarcely more than one day and two nights. How are we to reconcile such an evident incongruity?”
Here, as usually, when attempting to contest the truth of Holy Writ, the “friend of light” only betrays his dark ignorance, not only in divine things, but even in matters of simple history. For it is a well known fact, that according to the Jewish way of reckoning, any part of the day—the beginning or its close—counted for twenty-four hours. The body of our Lord was laid in the grave on Friday afternoon before six o'clock (the beginning of the sabbath); which according to the Jewish recording counted for one day and one night. Daring the whole of the following night and day (the sabbath) His body rested in the grave, which was the second day and the second night. And on the third (Sunday) early in the morning He arose, which makes the third day and the third night. None of the Jewish Rabbis, the inveterate enemies of the second part of Holy Writ, and its constant assailants, have ever dared to raise that objection to its truth, as in doing so they would have betrayed their ignorance. It was reserved for modern skeptics (i.e.,” seers"), rationalists and “divines,” thus to expose their ignorance in divine matters and the irrationalism of their infidelity.
But from the follies of men we return to the profitable and divine instructions contained in the second chapter of our prophet.
What a contrast to the tumultuous tempest of the preceding chapter do we find in the silent tomb of the second! There it was the mighty voice of God in the howling storm and the roaring waves, mixed with the cries of the distressed mariners, whilst the prophet was lying in his selfish and unconcerned sleep. But here, we have the stillness of death at the bottom of the sea, and the prophet entombed in the belly of the fish, not asleep but fully aroused in his conscience, to learn those two all-important truths, which God then and there would teach him far away from the eyes of men. From the deep silent grave the prayer of the prophet and his “cry out of the depths” ascend to God. His prayer somewhat reminds us of that of king Hezekiah (Isa. 38), when death was announced to him, only that in Jonah's case the conflict of soul was much deeper, being at the same time, it seems to me, a prophetic expression of the deep exercise of soul of the future Jewish remnant at the time of antichrist (like Daniel's friends in the fiery furnace), as expressed in the well-known 130th Psalm.
God had cast His disobedient prophet “into the deep,” into the midst (lit. “heart”) of the sea: the “floods compassed him about,” God's “waves and billows passed over him” who was buried alive. From the silent deep the voice of the distressed prophet went up to God's ear, “I am cast out of Thy sight!”
But mark, Christian reader, what follows. Does God's servant abandon his hope in God? If ever there was a hopeless situation, it was here. Does the prophet give himself up to despair, and lie down for the sleep of death? No. The same gracious but holy God, who had transferred his prophet into the solitude of that unique grave, not to kill him, but to render him, through deep exercise of soul, more fitted for His service, knew also how to strengthen the faith of His apparently cast-away servant, and to fill his heart with confidence in His mercy. Such are His wonderful ways and doings of old and now, in the Old and in the New Testament. The same voice which exclaims in deepest distress, “I am cast out of Thy sight,” continues in the same breath, so to speak, “Yet I will look again toward Thy holy temple.”
Could the prophet in the belly of the fish look toward the temple of God at Jerusalem? Daniel though far away from the place of that city, could open his window towards Jerusalem, and turn his face in the direction of the distant place, where once Jehovah's temple had been. But how could Jonah's eyes, in the belly of the fish at the bottom of the sea, have been able to find out the direction of the spot, where at that time the holy city with its glorious temple was still standing? The answer is very simple. The prophet's eye of faith was no doubt looking from the depth of his prison and of his distress straight upwards to a higher temple, to God's sanctuary. He “lifted up his eyes to the hills,” from whence alone his help could come and did come. He expected his help from the Lord, “who has made heaven and earth,” as he had confessed Him before the mariners. The waters compassed him about, “even to the soul. The depth closed him round about,” and “the weeds were wrapped about his head.” He had gone “down to the bottoms of the mountains,” and “the earth with her bars” appeared to be “around him forever.” Jonah's “soul fainted within” him and was well nigh giving way to hopeless despair.
Then Jonah “remembered the Lord.” His prayer went up and “came in onto Him, into His holy temple.” God, Who at a later period bade death and corruption to recede from the sick-bed of the godly king Hezekiah when sick unto death; and He who at a still later period, during His humiliation on earth, called forth His friend Lazarus from the bonds of death and corruption, was able to preserve Jonah's life from the same, and bring him forth again into daylight out of his deep grave. And He did so. God hears the prayer of faith, which addresses itself straight to Him, throwing aside every human prop. The eye of faith looks from everything off unto Jesus, to run in patience the race set before us. And as the needle, whilst trembling from the motions of the ship, ever turns towards the pole, so the heart of the true Christian turns to Christ, however it may appear to be moved and wavering under the pressure of daily circumstances. The believer's heart knows but one direction for its movements and aspirations, one refuge only, whither it turns for light and counsel and comfort and help, even God and His dear Son Jesus Christ our Lord (Pss. 46., 70.-Comp. Acts 4:24-31; 16:2524And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: 25Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? 26The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 27For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. 29And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, 30By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. 31And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:24‑31)
25And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. (Acts 16:25)
; Rev. 8:3-53And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand. 5And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:3‑5)).
But two great truths Jonah had to learn in the fish's belly, before God could deliver him from the prison of his living tomb. These two truths, all-important for us as for Jonah, we hope to consider, if the Lord will, in the next chapter.