God's Ways in Training His Own for His Service and Testimony: 6

 •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 12
Let us now turn again for a few moments from Jonah to Him Who was greater than Jonah, but in immeasurably deeper waters than he. We have considered, in contrast to Jonah, Jesus during the storm in His immovable peace, majesty, and power, and at the same time His loving and tender care for His own. He, the “faithful witness” and “image of the invisible God,” Who had made known to sin benighted men God's heart full of love and grace, whilst His life at the same time had been the perfect pattern and expression of what man ought to be in obedience towards God, had now arrived at the end of His short and perfect earthly career. The world, which was made by Him, had not known Him, and His own had not received Him. Israel's and man's trial generally was about to be closed forever at the cross, surrounded by Jew and Gentile in common conspiracy. God, “manifested in the flesh,” had been here on earth in Christ, “reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing trespasses.” But the world would not be reconciled unto God, and Judah's builders rejected the precious foundation stone which God had laid in Zion (Isa. 28 Peter 2). “They hated Him without a cause,” and His gracious invitation, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” drew from the hearts of His people no other response but “Crucify Him!” The bitterest enemies, such as Pilate and Herod, were reconciled to each other, and became friends on the day of His rejection and crucifixion. The world refused to be reconciled to God by the life of the gracious God-Man, spreading blessings wherever He went. The obedient Son of the Father, Who had power to lay down His life, and power to take it again, was now about to crown His obedience in life by His obedience in death, even the death of the cross, that He might, by His death, reconcile hostile sinners to God by believing in that divine love manifested on the cross, where man showed his love for sin and his hatred against God, and where God showed His hatred against sin and His love for the sinner; to overcome, by divine love, the enmity of man, and make sinners believing exclaim
“Nay, but I yield, I yield, I can hold out no more;
I sink, by dying love compelled, and own Thee Conqueror."1
Deep indeed were those waters whither the prophet Jonah was sent, when “the waters compassed him about, even to the soul, and the depth closed him round about, and the weeds were wrapped about his head.” But deeper, incomparably deeper, were those waters of death into which the obedient Son of God went down for our disobedience. “Deep called unto deep at the voice of God's waterspouts;” when not only the waters of death were beneath and around Him, but all the waves and billows of God's wrath went over Him.
Wondrous and past finding out are the depths of the counsels of divine wisdom and love and grace and glory. Who can fathom them? But who can say which was deeper, the wisdom of those counsels, or those sufferings on the cross which it required to make good and accomplish them, even the sufferings of Him Who, when dying upon the cross, bowed His head with the crown of thorns, and said, “It is finished!”
Great was Jonah's distress of soul when he, in his living tomb, deprived of all human help, “out of the belly of Sheol cried unto God,” when “his soul fainted within him.” But what were those sufferings—deserved sufferings—compared to those on the tree of curse, when the most forsaken of all forsaken ones—forsaken on our behalf!—cried, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? Why art Thou so far from helping Me, and from the words of My roaring?” When He was not only forsaken of all His disciples, whom He had called “friends,” and at last forsaken by God, but at the same time surrounded by “the assembly of the wicked,” all the power, malice, and enmity of Satan and men being let loose against Him All the poisoned arrows in Satan's full quiver, all the weapons of his immense arsenal were spent upon the holy, gracious, kind, and patient God-Man, when the “Mediator between God and men,” as the “Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world” was made sin for all who believe in Him, bearing their sins, when the reproaches of them that reproached God fell upon Him.
A solitary death-bed, when the dying one is forsaken of all his friends, relatives, or his servants, is something very melancholy. No voice of comfort or prayer to be heard, no loving sympathizing eye near, no tender hand to minister the last beverage, and to wipe the cold sweat from the brow of the departing one, and to close his eyes! Who would wish so to die?
Such a loneliness in death has been the lot of some great men of this world. It was the case with the famous conqueror, Robert of Normandy. The same solitary gloom surrounded the death-bed of the great statesman, William Pitt. A neighbor of the celebrated minister sent a messenger to his house to inquire how he was. He found the gate wide open, and the house-door likewise. The house was deserted and the stillness of death reigned. The messenger proceeded from room to room, until at last he came to the death-chamber, where the lifeless body of the minister was lying on the bed—the sole inhabitant of the stately mansion, the doors of which but a few days since had been besieged by inopportuning flatterers, petitioners, and place-hunters.
But however sad such a desolate condition of loneliness when dying may appear in the case of the great of this world, how far more terrible would be the circumstances of the death of such an one if his bed, instead of being lonely and forsaken of all his friends, had been surrounded by his worst enemies—and the great ones of this world have no few of them each of them doing his best to embitter the last moments of the dying one by the most virulent reproaches, abuses, and insults, and thus increase his dying agony in the most cruel way! “For the credit of humanity” it is presumed that in civilized countries such a case never happens, even the greatest criminal before his execution being treated with every possible attention and regard to his wishes.
And has then such a case never happened, kind and philanthropic reader? The cross of the Son of God, the Lord of glory, is the reply to this question. Yonder cross, where the Officers and soldiers of the first nation of the then civilized world, together with the highest religious dignitaries of “that nation,” which called itself the “people of God,” in terrible unison of common hatred against God, and as instruments of the prince of this world, manifested all blackness and enmity of their hearts against God's dear Son, when God laid upon Him the iniquity of sinners and enemies, that they who believe in Him might be “healed by His stripes.” Yes, He was “forsaken” in the most terrible sense of the word, in order that you and I, believing reader, never might experience such a reality of abandonment. He was forsaken by all His own, and—terrible above all— “forsaken of God.” Yea, not only forsaken, but surrounded by His enemies, Satan's instruments; surrounded by the “strong bulls of Bashan,” which “gaped upon Him with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.” The “dogs compassed Him; the assembly of the wicked enclosed” Him. All the cruel power, malice, and impurity of Satan was let loose against the spotless, meek, and patient Lamb of God.
Easy and comfortable was the prophet's position in the belly of the fish compared to that of his Lord and Master upon the cross, Who became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, and for our disobedience went down into those “deep waters,” waters far deeper and far more terrible than those whither Jonah was transferred for his disobedience. But He Who, by His almighty word, released Jonah from the belly of the fish, when Jonah's prayer, his cry from the depths, “came in unto Him, into His holy temple,” was Himself delivered by His God, and “heard from the horns of the unicorns.” “In the days of His flesh” He “offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared.” He Who once was “crucified in weakness” lives now in the power of God, Who “inclined unto Him and heard His cry,” and “brought Him up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set His feet upon a rock, and established His goings.”
When on earth as “Son of Man,” He ever was “the faithful witness,” indefatigable in the service of His God; and even now, exalted to God's right hand, He continues to encourage and preserve the testimony of grace and truth divine on the earth so beautifully expressed at the close of the Gospel of Mark, which presents Jesus in His character of faithful and indefatigable servant.
“So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming, the word with signs following.”
May God in His rich grace grant us to become His obedient Son's obedient and willing followers and faithful witnesses, learning at the foot of the cross, what His prophet had to learn in the belly of the fish. For those truths, which Jonah had to learn there and then, are learned far more thoroughly, blessedly, and fruitfully in the former place than in the latter. We now return to our prophet.