The Book of Jonah

by James Jacob Prasch

Before we turn to the book of Jonah, turn very briefly please to the book of Acts chapter 2:24 and 27.

“And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.”

In verse 27 we have a quote from the book of Isaiah and the Psalms,

Because thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Thy holy one to undergo decay.

It was impossible for death to hold Jesus in its power: it was a theological, spiritual and logical impossibility.

We are told in the book of Hebrews that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son €“ as a type of Christ €“ because even then he knew that God could raise his son up from the dead to fulfill his purpose. (Heb 11:17) It is an example of how God puts somebody in a “death situation”, with the assurance that his resurrection power is going to be found in it.

With these things in view turn with me to the book of the prophet Jonah.

The word of the  Lord  came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the  Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the  Lord.

The  Lord  hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep. So the captain approached him and said, “How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.” Each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.

(Now in Proverbs 16:33  it says:  the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.)

Then they said to him, “Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord  God  of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.”

Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, “How could you do this?” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the  Lord, because he had told them. So they said to him, “What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?” for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy. He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.” However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them. Then they called on the  Lord  and said, “We earnestly pray, O  Lord, do not let us perish on account of this man”s life and do not put innocent blood on us; for You, O  Lord, have done as You have pleased.”

So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. Then the men feared the  Lord  greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.

We’re not told it was a whale. The Jews translate this literally as in modem Hebrew  leviathan. Whales are not usually indigenous to the Mediterranean, we don’t know what kind of fish it was, we just assume it was a whale. (Strictly speaking, of course, a whale is a mammal not a fish €“ it has no gills).

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said,
“I called out of my distress to the Lord,
And He answered me.
I cried for help from the depth of Sheol;
You heard my voice.
For You had cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the current engulfed me.
All Your breakers and billows passed over me.
So I said, “I have been expelled from Your sight.
Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.”
Water encompassed me to the point of death.
The great deep engulfed me,
Weeds were wrapped around my head.
I descended to the roots of the mountains.
The earth with its bars was around me forever,
But You have brought up my life from the pit, O  Lord  my God.
While I was fainting away,
I remembered the  Lord,
And my prayer came to You,
Into Your holy temple.
Those who regard vain idols
Forsake their faithfulness,
But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving.
That which I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation is from the  Lord.”

Then the  Lord  commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.

Now the word of the  Lord  came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the  Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days” walk. Then Jonah began to go through the city one day”s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

Now the word here for overthrown is nechpakeh. It’s the same word used in Genesis for the destruction of Sodom, the most terrible destruction and judgment on a city that the Jews had a record of in the Torah. By using that particular term nechpakeh it would have conjured visions of what God did to Sodom and Gomorrah. – –

Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. He issued a proclamation and it said, “In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.”

When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.

But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please  Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. “Therefore now, O  Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.” The  Lord  said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”

Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. So the  LordGod appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah”s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.”

Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”

Now understand that this is a very arid climate €“ it’s not that the air conditioning isn’t working €“ this was a grueling situation to be in.

Now the idea of not knowing the difference between their right hand or their left hand in the Hebrew text is this: you’d have the term “yad“, right hand is “yemani“, as in If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, may I forget my right hand.” Im eshcacak yerushalim tishcah yemani (the King James mistranslates it “my right hand forget her skill” €“ it’s not what it says in the Hebrew).

The Right Hand of the Lord in the Bible

The Lord will bring salvation with his night hand“. Isaiah has the same ‘to whom has the arm – same Hebrew word yad – of the lord been revealed?’ The Right Hand is a type of Jesus in the Old Testament. What it is basically saying is, “these pagans don’t know the way of salvation, they don’t know the difference between the right hand and the left hand they don’t know how to save themselves.” It’s the right hand of the Lord that brings salvation. That would be the implication from the Hebrew term: the right hand.

Quite a story! It was probably written during the reign of Jeroboam, somewhere between 814 and 783 BCE. We also know from history that there was an Assyrian king who became a monotheistic king, his name was Adad-Nirari III who reigned roughly from 810 to 782 (there was actually one Egyptian pharaoh who became a monotheist and there were a couple of kings of Babylon who became monotheists €“ see the book of Daniel). It may have been this king who turned to the true God.

Jews were always called to be lights to the Gentiles €“ even in the Old Testament. They didn’t do it the same way we do it now but if salvation was to come from the Jews, as Jesus said in John chapter four, they were still to be his witnesses to these nations and show them the true God. Today rabbis complain about “Christians” proselytizing Jews, forgetting that the Jews themselves, based on what Moses originally decreed, were supposed to be out trying to win people to believe in the true God! The very fact that they are not doing that, shows that they are no longer practicing a true Judaism.

The Story of Jonah

He was reluctant to go to Nineveh and not without good reason. These were, to say the least, not the nicest people in the world: they were “bad people”; they were total heathens! More than that, as a Bible-believing Jew, he would have read the prophecies of his predecessor the prophet Amos and he would have seen what God decreed and predicted through Amos about Nineveh. So he would even have had a  biblical  basis for not wanting to go there. It was not just that he knew God would have compassion on them but that they might kill him. He knew that, on the face of it, they were destined for judgment as the prophet Nahum had predicted (and this happened at a later point when they turned back to their pagan ways). He had good reason  not  to go.

But let’s begin with Jonah’s name. “Yonah“, meaning, in Hebrew, “a dove”. What images would this conjure up? One is in John 2:16. Jesus drove the people out of the temple who were selling doves. (This comes from Leviticus 14. A dove was an animal deemed suitable for sacrifice and as such it was a type of Christ €“ as all these animals were). In the Song go Solomon 1:5, he tells the lover that her eyes are like doves.

“Eyes” because doves are monogamous birds and they only have a relationship with their partners, they don’t procreate with other doves. So too in Genesis 8, first Noah sends out a bird that the Torah would later decree to be “unkosha” €“ a raven, but the second bird he sends out is a dove. All these images would have been conjured up in the minds of Jews. In the New Testament Mathew 3:18, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus as a dove. All these images might highlight some aspect of Jonah and his character but probably the most important is found in the Psalm of David 55:4-6,

My heart is in anguish within me,  
And the terrors of death have fallen upon me.  
Fear and trembling come upon me,  
And horror has overwhelmed me.  
I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!  
I would fly away and be at rest.

The idea is this: wanting to escape from the calamity that has come upon you; and Jonah was a man that wanted to escape

But what about this calamity? What does it mean for us? What we have to understand about Jonah is the first thing we have to understand about  all  the Hebrew prophets: every single Hebrew prophet is a type of Jesus, a type of the Messiah, every one of them foreshadows Him, who he would be and what he would do. There is no Hebrew prophet whose life does not foreshadow or typify the Messiah who would come after them to bring in the Redemption which they prophesied.

Let’s Look at Jonah as a Type of Jesus

Turn with me please to 2 kings 14:25  . That’s the first place we read about Jonah in the Bible.

He [Jeroboam] restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher.

Notice that Jonah was sent to his own people the Jews first. Only  after  this was he sent to the Gentiles. In Matthew 15:24  we read the following:

But Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. “

Jesus was first sent only to His own people, then only at a later point was He sent to the non-Jews. We are told that Jonah was from this particular area Gath-hepher. Gathhepher is in walking distance from Nazareth. Now there was something unique about Jonah in this.

Turn with me to John 7:52   €“ something here that the Sanhedrin overlooked!

They answered and said to him, “You are not also from Galilee are you? Search and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee.” (or as they say in the same chapter, verse 41) “The Messiah is not going to come from Galilee, is he?”

No prophet comes from Galilee? They were wrong.  Jonah  came from Galilee! He’s the only one except for Jesus who was from Galilee.

Jonah : 4-6, a terrible storm comes, and the word for “wind” in Greek in the New Testament is “pnuema” and in the Hebrew it is, of course,”  ruach”, but in both it is also the word for “Spirit”. In this storm sent by God, during the storm Jonah sleeps in the boat and the other people are frantic about this, “How can you be sleeping in the boat during the storm?”

[We have a tape on this, The boats of the bible on Mark chapter 4 and 6, where we explain the typology of the boats in greater depth]

But let’s look very briefly at Mark 4:37-38.

And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

What happens to Jonah prefigures what will happen to the Lord Jesus. Jonah becomes a type of Christ.

Now let’s understand this a bit more.  Jonah 1:12, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea then the sea will become calm for you.” Jonah, of his own choice, was willing to lay down his own life to bring salvation to others, including gentiles.   John 10:17-18,

For this reason the Father loves me because I lay down my life that I might take it again, no one is taking it -from me but that I lay it down of my own initiative.

Jonah was willing to lay his life down to bring salvation and deliverance to others, so the Messiah, who Jonah prefigures, was willing to lay His life down so salvation would come to others.

Turn with me now please to  Luke 11:30 €¦

For just as Jonah became a sign to the Israelites, so shall the son of man be to this generation.

We know from Kings that Jonah was the son of Arytittai. He prophesied during the reigns of Jeroboam, both of them a very bad man and king. There were two Jeroboams: one was as bad as the other. At the preaching of Jonah the Gentiles repented when the Jews would not; at the message of Jesus the Gentiles accepted what He said at a time most Jews did not. Not all Jews rejected him €“ not all Jews rejected Jonahm, but basically it was the Gentiles not the Jews who repented in the days of Jonah and it was the Gentiles not the Jews who repented in the days of Jesus.

Jonah 1:17  tells us this: The Lord appointed a great fish.

The Lord Sent the Storm

Jonah prayed in the stomach of the fish €¦he said. “I called out of my distress €¦and He answered me”, etc.

The Lord appointed the storm, the Lord appointed the great fish. Now this was a “death experience”. Some argue from the Hebrew text that Jonah may have actually died biologically, from the implications of what “Sheol” could mean. But certainly the connotation would be there of a “death place”. It was the Lord who appointed Jonah to a place of death; the Lord consigned him to it.

In Acts 2:23  we read,

‘this man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.

Isaiah 3:10  it was the will of the Lord to smite him. Jonah was delivered up by the foreknowledge of God to a place of destruction, Jesus was delivered up by the foreknowledge of God to a place of destruction. Jonah “died” in the sea. He died, as it were €“ his death experience. (Whether he died or not people may debate but his death experience took place in the sea.)

Turn with me please to Psalm 69. This is of course a Psalm of David which is Messianic prophecy in the literary genre of Hebrew poetry. It is in this Psalm, for instance, we read in verse 21,

they gave me gall for my food and they gave me vinegar to drink,

€¦a prophesy of what would happen when the Lord Jesus was on the cross. However, this Psalm which looks ahead to the death of Jesus begins,

Hoshanna Elohim: save me oh God from the waters that have threatened my life.

Metaphorically then the death of Jesus is represented in Hebrew prophesy as a drowning experience.

Now we just sang this wonderful hymn, “When peace like a river attended my soul; when sorrows like sea billows roll”. This was written by Mr. Stockwood but what many people don’t know and what I didn’t know until five or six years ago is that he composed it after his family drowned where, of all places, a building of the American colony hotel now stands in Jerusalem. It was after his family died that he actually wrote it in Jerusalem. The idea of “sea billows roll” is the drowning experience that happened to his family,  but also in biblical typology particularly the Psalms you see, when people are under this kind of death experience, it is alluded to as drowning and points to Jesus.

Jonah 3:8,

But both man and beast in sack cloth and ashes repented after Jonah had told these people, “Repent, repent, repent, God will destroy this city in forty days.”

And he goes on to say,

“perhaps if you repent God may turn back – (in verse 8) he may relent.”

Recently I actually had a long email from somebody trying to justify people who predict things that don’t happen. He was trying to justify Rick Joyner, Gerald Coates and these guys by saying, “Well, was Jonah a false prophet? Look at what Jonah predicted and it didn’t happen.” That was his argument to justify these false prophets! However, the text of Jonah makes it very clear that it was a conditional prophecy that says “if you don’t repent this is what’s going to happen.” He never said that it was going to happen  full-stop. It was conditional. It’s an unfit comparison, but they always have to pervert the Bible out of context.

Nonetheless we see that Jonah gave a direct message of “repentance because the judgment is coming.” In the Gospel of St.  Matthew 4:17, Jesus began to preach, “repent because the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jonah gave a message of repentance so that judgment could be averted, so it was with Jesus and his disciples. “Save yourself from this wicked generation.”

Jonah 2:4,

So I said, “I have been expelled from thy sight from before Thine eyes. “

The Hebrew says that Jonah was expelled “from before the presence of God”. God could not look upon him, God wouldn’t look upon him, he was cast away from before God’s eyes. We look at the Gospel of St. Matthew 27:46, “Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani” – “my God, my God why have you forsaken me“. Jonah was cast away from the presence of God’s sight, God would not look upon Jonah, so God would not look upon Jesus.

Jonah 1:17, he was three days and three nights in the stomach of the great fish and, as Jesus of course tells us in  Matthew 17:39-40, that’s a picture of the resurrection. As Jonah was three days in the stomach of the great fish, so Jesus would be three days in a tomb. Jonah is, like all of Israel’s prophets, a type of Jesus. He teaches about the Messiah who would come after him; every Hebrew prophet does. When you read their lives carefully, they teach something about the Messiah and Jonah is no exception.

Jonah is given over to this death experience but there were things in Jonah’s life that were blocking him from being conformed to what God wanted him to be.

  • He resisted God’s will. He didn’t want to do what God wanted him to do and, again, not without good reason: he knew what Amos had said about this nation that he was been sent to, he knew these people were bad. Who wants to be sent to a place like that where you might get killed?

  • Secondly, he lacked the compassion of God. He understood the judgment and anger of God but he lacked the compassion of God and he was very good at something which we say in Yiddish:  treching, complaining.  Trech,  trech,  trech, complain, complain, complain. Somebody who with good reason doesn’t want to do what God wants them to do. What God was asking him to do was very difficult, to go to a people he didn’t even like, a people who were going to hate him because he wasn’t one of them. In terms of the ancient world, he was from the West they were from the East.

Just by virtue of the fact that he was a Hebrew, a believer in the true God €“ not a pagan €“ and that he was from the West of the known world and they were from the East, that made him a target just by going there. His complaint was not without good reason. The things he was concerned with were valid points, humanly speaking. It was difficult for him to understand how God could have such compassion on such barbarians.

You know for me it would be like, I suppose, going to fundamentalist Muslims who put a bomb on an airplane at Lockerby, or who want to kill my Israeli family, or perhaps like a Jew being sent as an evangelist to the generation of Germans who carried out the Holocaust. There were good reasons, humanly speaking, why he could not feel or experience the compassion of God for these people. These were bad men.

The Jonah within Us

It says the word of the Lord came twice to Jonah. Now the word for “word” in Hebrew is “davar“, but in Greek its “logos“. It doesn’t mean a message so much as it means a person. Jesus is the  Logos/davar  in the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was only for certain people at certain times: high priests, kings and prophets, But the Holy Spirit still communicated Jesus to them the way He does us. It was only Jesus’ identity that was not there but it was still Him: “the word came”, it means “the Lord Jesus came”, it was a christotological encounter with Christ in Old Testament terms. Again, when Adam heard God walking in the garden, that was Jesus. When Jacob wrestled with the Metatrone (angel of God), it was Jesus. Jesus was in the Old Testament the same as in the New. When the word of the Lord came, it was an encounter with Christ.

When the Lord asks you or me to do things we don’t want to do, or when there are things in my character or your character that are blocking what God wants, the Lord’s not going to give you just a message, he’s going to come to you. Jesus is going to stand in front of you, you’re going to “see” Him. The message is going to be obvious once He comes and you’ll know what’s wrong with you! It’s the encounter with the person, not just the word or the message or a letter or a telegram, a fax, an Email €“ it’s the  person. When Jesus comes to us we’ll know where we stand, when we stand in front of Him.

The Name of Jonah

In the Hebrew part of the world today Jews normally name their children after dead ancestors but in the Bible they named them after biblical characters in Israel’s history. In Hebraic thought, “son of” does not simply mean offspring €“ biological descent or pedigree €“ it means “in the character of”. Turn with me please to  Matthew 16:17. Jesus said, “Blessed are you Simon bar Jonah” €“ that’s of course Aramaic and not Hebrew. The Hebrew would be “ben Jonah”. Now why is Jesus calling him by his surname as well as his first name? True his father’s name was Jonah but there’s more to it than that: it’s providential that Peter’s name was “Bar Jonah”. He’s in the character of Jonah €“ and so are you and so am I.

Here they go to the place Caesarea Philipp,: a place where the Greeks had worshipped Pan and a place where the Romans worshipped Caesar Augustus. Here in Matthew 16:22  Peter was very angry and wanted Jesus to deal with and judge these pagan Gentiles for defiling the holy land just as Jonah wanted the Lord to judge the Gentiles. Jonah didn’t want to go to the Gentiles did he? Neither did Peter €“ in the character of Jonah. In Acts I0, the story of Cornelius and the “non-kosher” food, Peter did not want to go to the Gentiles just as Jonah didn’t. “You are Bar Jonah”; “Peter, you are in the character of Jonah, you don’t like these Greeks and Romans, you’re in the character of Jonah, he didn’t like the pagans either, you’re in the character of Jonah. He didn’t want to go where I wanted him to go.”

Look at   John 21:18,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.”

Peter, in the character of Jonah who didn’t want to go.

Look at Galatians chapter 2:11-12. Jonah had an attitude €¦

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.

Jonah didn’t want to get involved with these Gentiles, nor did Peter bar Jonah want to get involved with Gentiles!

There are a lot of people I don’t want to get involved with. As a younger believer I went through terrible, terrible battles of hatred and I mean  hatred. I remember I saw the film  The Hiding Place  – Corrie ten Boom and what the Nazis did to these Christians, these believers in Holland who protected Jews: how they murdered the old man and raped the women and so forth €“ and I was so angry. I began praising God for creating hell not just for Nazis but for Germans – I hated Germans. When we take our tours to Israel and go to Yad vashem [the Holocaust Memorial] I stay in the bus. I don’t go in there. I remember once I visited the Nazi death camp at Dachau where the Germans did the experiments on the Jewish children. I just think of my own children. I think even of that little girl hiding in the movie  Schindler’s List. I could just picture my son Eli in that situation. I battled with hatred towards Germans.

My father was in the American military in the second world war. His family was from Merseyside. His mother was from there. (She left before the war and came back after the war) When my father came with the American navy, he saw what the Germans did to Liverpool, how they destroyed everything including where his mother was from. And I had this hatred of German people. It took me a long time through the Lord bringing German people into my life €“ whom I love and who are believers €“ to lose this hatred.

There were some people who hated gypsies: “these people were crooks, they’re connivers”, but there was someone along the road who had the compassion of the Lord for the gypsies and now they’re the fastest growing church in the United Kingdom, lives radically changed.

To take another example: I’ve been attacked by Muslims even in England €“ physically attacked by gangs on  Speakers’ Comer  for preaching the gospel €“ and it’s not a racial thing: I love Asian Christians: they’re great people. But when I read what the Muslims do in Pakistan to Christians or what they do to Christians in Saudi Arabia I get angry. I look at the Amnesty International website and I just get so angry. One of the great blessings of my life, one of the great thrills of my life, was when I spoke about Islam in Auckland, New Zealand and some Iranians, who had just come to New Zealand from Iran, Shia Muslims, repented and accepted Jesus and r
enounced Mohammed and the Koran and became believers. I know people who were anti-Semitic before they got saved: some crooked Jewish landlord did something to their aunt Milly thirty years ago and so they hated Jews. But after they got saved the Lord gave them a love and a burden for the Jews they couldn’t explain and they couldn’t even understand.

There’s things in us, things that are not irrational, things that have some logical basis €“ sometimes even an apparent biblical basis. There were reasons Jonah didn’t like these people. He had read what Amos said about them, he had read what God was going to do, so it was not totally irrational. In fact, it was totally rational. There were good, logical reasons humanly speaking. But he could not see and understand the compassion of God. No matter how bad these people are, when the word of the Lord comes to us and we stand before Jesus, we see that no matter how bad they are (even compared to us); we’re all infinitely bad compared to Jesus. You know the sort of thing.

“Single mothers on council estates be warned: you’ve got five kids from three different yobbos and we’re having to support them. Why do I have to pay taxes and support my family? To pay for these kids? Why don’t these yobbos that you pick up in the pub support their own kids? Why should I have to?” It’s rational but where’s the compassion of Jesus for these single mothers? When I see them on the news doing these things, throwing bottles at football games, they don’t care about football €“ they just care about getting drunk and throwing bottles. It’s tribalism. “Please beat their heads in”, that’s me! Not altogether irrational but where’s the compassion of Jesus? I’ve known yobbos who’ve got saved, I’ve known Muslims who’ve been saved, and I’ve known prostitutes who’ve been saved, and I’ve known drug addicts who’ve been saved: I used to be one! Where is the compassion of Jesus?

So Jonah gets plunged, God creates a storm, God appoints a death and there he finds himself buried in the guts of a fish, underneath the Mediterranean somewhere between Turkey and Tel Aviv. Now this particular experience is one of the things in the Bible which theologically teaches about life after death. But it also is one of the things that reveals something about what will happen to Jesus. When He died on the cross for our sin, when His Father couldn’t look upon Him, when His Father’s voice went into the depths of Sheol and raised Him from the dead. We are told in Acts 2:24  that death itself could not contain Jesus Christ, the grave was not strong enough to contain him, death itself was not strong enough to control Jesus or to hold him in.

Turn with me please to 2 Corinthians 4:8-14  
we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus” sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.

As the prophet Hosea puts it in chapter 6:2, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is  our  resurrection because his death is  our  death. Look at what Hosea says, He will revive us after two days; and the third day he will raise us up that we may live before him.

Because Jesus” death is our death. His resurrection is our resurrection, could death contain Jesus? No! Can death contain you or I? Because of Jesus, no! There are no shortage of things in my life that block what God is wanting me to be and things in my life that are blocking me from really doing what God is wanting me to do. Sometimes I feel like I am being put to death when I complain about my neck, when I complain about being rejected by so much of the popular church because I won’t go along with what’s going on. Then I get a copy of Brother Andrew’s News Letter and I read of Christians living in almost sub-human poverty, imprisoned and their families unable to support themselves. My kids have a roof over the’ head €“ what do  I  have to complain about? Yes my neck hurts but I have pills. There are people whose necks hurt and they don’t have the money for a pill. I have a pill in my pocket if my neck goes into spasm, I carry it around with me. All that bothers me. Why am I being put to death?

Why is it that ministries who teach the truth are always struggling for money but the ones who are corrupt rake it in? Because they struggle for money too, only they are expanding their corruption! Honest ministries are trying to expand the truth; they have to struggle and trust God. Death works in me. Why, Lord, if I am teaching the truth? I was only upholding the Trinity yet people who were part of Moriel began using my name a few weeks ago to endorse people who denied it. When I took the stand, they slandered me, they said I was mentally unbalanced from my automobile accident. Maybe I am unbalanced, but not from my automobile accident. Who needs this. What those people did was wicked but the real question is why did God allow it? What is God saying to me in this? God will deal with them but what is He saying to me? When my neck hurts the way it does today, (I am going to have to take a pill pretty soon!) what’s God saying to me? What’s God saying to you, when you are in the fish’s guts? Remember Jesus said He’s like Jonah. It seems like God himself banishes us from his presence. We are behaving in a way we think is reasonable and at least it’s not irrational. We had reason on our side but we are in this bad situation. Sometimes lousy employment, sometimes no employment, financial hardship, health problems, problems in the church, problems in the ministry, problems in the family, problems in the marriage €“ problems, problems, problems. It seems like the Lord has banished us from His presence. He put us in a tomb, h=He left us in a grave. Oh! not the Ninevites, not the Mormons or the Muslims, not the yobbos or the prostitutes! He puts  us  in the grave.

He’s banished us from His sight. But death could not contain Jesus and death cannot contain you either. I’ve said a thousand times the test of a true Christian is not that they don’t have trials. On the contrary, if you don’t have trials you’re not a Christian. You have tribulation in the world. The test of a Christian is not that you  don’t  go into the fish’s guts, the test of the trial is what happens when you’re inside of it.

Turn with me to  Psalm 18:4-6. There are direct parallels in the Psalm to what happened to Jonah in that fish’s gut.

The cords of death encompassed me,
And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me.
The cords of Sheol surrounded me;
The snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.

We may have been banished from his sight but not from his ears.  Psalm 42:7,

Deep calls to deep at the sound of thy waterfalls and all breakers and waves have rolled over me

Just like Jonah.


The cords of death encompassed me
And the terrors of Sheol came upon me;
I found distress and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I beseech You, save my life!”
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
Yes, our God is compassionate.
The Lord preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
For You have rescued my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
My feet from stumbling.
I shall walk before the Lord
In the land of the living.

Even if you die there is a resurrection, there is a millennial kingdom.

(verse 15) Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his godly ones.

Even if we die we see him not in the land of the dead but in the land of the living. What does Job say? (Job 19:25-27)

“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
“Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall see God;
Whom I myself shall behold,
And whom my eyes will see and not another.
My heart faints within me!

Even if we die we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. “Out of the depths I cry to thee O Lord“, wrote David. (Psalm 130:1)

When you’re in the depths you’ve been banished from God’s own presence. Your arguments are rational €“ at least to your own mind, certainly they are logical and even to a degree biblical. There you are in the stomach of the fish, the waves have overtaken you, you are not only drowning but are perhaps drowned. The bars of Sheol give you no way out and you can’t even see the Lord: He has banished you from His presence. But these Psalms don’t tell us He  looks  upon us, they say he  hears. Then and only then did the fish regurgitate Jonah out onto the beach. He must have looked a mess and smelt even worse but he was ready for action! When you go through a mess like this you might not look so good.

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