Conclusion to the Sign of Jonah series
All the signs of Jonah point to Jesus. The signs that reveal Jesus’ presence in our lives are sacrifice, death and resurrection, God’s word and Repentance that leads to life. Are your lives defined by these signs?
Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh as the representative of God’s people to do the work of God. We will see next week that Jonah’s flight from God was consistent with kind of prophet he was. Jonah and Israel did not understand that their mission was not separate from their life as the people of God. That was the lesson Jonah was learning to teach Israel. It’s the same lesson we need to learn.
Your mission is not separate from your life as the people of God. I can ask all kinds of questions about missions. How many of us are foster parents? Support a missionary? Visit lonely old widows tucked away alone in retirement homes all over the Puget Sound. But our problem is more fundamental than that. Why would we want to add to our church? How are we doing loving the people we already have? How many different families have you had over in the last two weeks? The last two months? The last two years?
We don’t reach out to the world because we do so poorly reaching out to each other. Reaching across the street starts with reaching across the pew. I know you do not have an affinity with everyone. And being nice is not the same as loving people. You may not feel animosity toward anyone in this church but how many people’s welfare in this congregation would you say you are passionate about? We think that because we are polite to the bank teller and the barista and are courteous drivers that we are loving people. We think if we ask someone how work is going while standing around the cookie table or make some amusing comments about baseball in passing conversations that we are loving people. But love is defined differently by Jesus. Continue reading
Jonah preaching to the Ninevites, by Gustave Doré. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The sign of Jonah is the sign of judgment
It is important to understand that Nineveh is the capital of Assyria which is public enemy number one in Israel’s eyes. God uses prophets to lead people to either repentance and righteousness or destruction. Of course Jonah is nervous. What if Nineveh and Assyria actually repents, when northern Israel hadn’t in 150 years? Who would be the instrument of God’s judgment against who? We know what happens of course. The judgment of unrepentant Israel comes a few generations after the book of Jonah. By who? Assyria destroys northern Israel. The judgment associated with Jonah is the spirit of God departing from northern Israel to rest on the repentant Assyria.
Assyria’s attack on Israel comes after hundreds of years of God struggling with his wayward people. Covenantal presumption is death. It is the judgment of Israel that God uses to bring the good news to the nations. This points forward to the same situation in Jesus day, but then, God uses the rebellion of Israel as a means to save the whole world. God punishes His people for its complacency. The Lord’s kingdom does not remain with the unrepentant, presumptuous or proud.
It’s like giving a bb gun to a young boy for his birthday. How many times are you going to discipline him for shooting his brothers or birds or windows before you simply take it away? How much recklessness will you allow a 17 year old to commit with an automobile? These seem like reasonable situations for discipline, but surely God doesn’t reject his people! God does reject the self-righteous and presumptuous; those who say Lord, Lord and yet know nothing of doing His will in the world. How long will the kingdom of God remain with those who use God’s grace as an excuse to live sinful, worldly, self-centered lives? Continue reading
prophet Jonah being thrown into the Sea, catacombe di Priscilla (photo by Wilpert, Joseph. Die Malereien der Katakomben Roms, 1903) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Sign of Jonah is Jonah’s word
God sends Jonah into Nineveh with words to save and this points the reader forward to when God will send His living Word into the world to save. The evidence of Chapter 3 reveals that Jonah’s words are powerful because God’s spirit goes before them preparing fields to be planted.
The seed clearly goes down and sprouts up quickly, but nothing about Jonah leads us to believe he is capable of such a feat. His words have a power quite above himself. It says in Jonah 3:3 that it’s a three day journey across Nineveh and yet in verse 4 it says Jonah went one day’s journey and his word goes before him throughout Nineveh like a wildfire.
Jonah’s speaks a meager 8 words, only having traveled a third the way through the city and we have one of the greatest revivals in history. This is a rare instance where one Prophet’s words are effective instantaneously. Jonah doesn’t even need to be present, but the mere report of his proclamation is enough. It is too miraculous to attribute to Jonah or his words alone. It points forward to a prophet, Jesus, whose word is spoken with real authority and is operative instantly. Continue reading
The Sign of Jonah is the Fish of Jonah
In the section mentioned earlier from Matthew, we saw that Jesus referred explicitly to the fish being a sign of His death, burial and resurrection.
Death and resurrection are part of our life in Christ. Dying to ourselves is the only way to live for God. Jonah was shown this truth through his ordeal in the fish. Jesus demonstrated it throughout his life, ministry and passion. We must die to ourselves so that we might live for God. Doing the will of the father requires it and it is a sign that points to Jesus Christ. It is a sign that signifies one is a disciple of the living God.
So, this is a fairly straight forward and easy sign. Jonah is swallowed by the Fish and remains in a death like state for three days. He rises on the third day with words of power to speak to the nations. Just like Jesus.
English: Jonah Is Spewed Forth by the Whale (Jon. 2:1-11) Русский: Пророк Иона, изверженный китом (Ион. 2:1-11) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Sign of Jonah is the sacrifice of Jonah
Our tale begins with the descent of the prophet Jonah in chapter 1 of the book bearing his name. In verse 3 he “goes down to Joppa;” In verse 5 he goes “down into the ship,” then “lies down” to sleep. This descent places Jonah in the midst of the very people who will sacrifice him for their own salvation in verse 15. This set up alludes to Christ going down from heaven, down to Jerusalem to be crucified and being laid down in the tomb in the sleep of death. Jonah flees from God and God uses him as a type of Christ.
Jonah is a substitutionary sacrifice for the sailors like Jesus is a substitutionary sacrifice for the new humanity. Jonah’s story is typological. It is not exactly the same in content or effect. Jonah’s sacrifice saved the lives of the sailors not their souls. But Jonah is a picture of Jesus. Jonah descends from a place of honor to a place of shame amidst those He will be sacrificed for. Jesus descends from a place of honor to a place of shame amidst those He will be sacrificed for. Jonah lies down and sleeps in a boat, Jesus lies down and sleeps in a boat. Jonah is awoken amidst a storm. Jesus is awoken amidst a storm. Jonah is sacrificed at the hands of the ones his sacrifice saves; Jesus is sacrificed at the hands of the ones his sacrifice saves. Continue reading
The Sign of Jonah; Introduction
Matthew 12:41The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
Jesus says he is greater that Jonah. Why? Isn’t it self-evident that He is? Why not just say I am great and Jonah is Jonah. We understand Jesus is the greater Moses, Joshua, and David. But who would call Jesus the greater Jonah? Jesus did. We need to get the big picture. Who wrote the book of Jonah? Jonah did. Jonah learned an important lesson and wants you to learn it too. Jonah’s sins were startlingly revealed to him and he took the lesson to heart and wrote a book about it.
Jonah is a humbled prophet. Jonah is great because he wrote a book in which God is the hero. Besides pointing the reader toward God’s glory, Jonah is one of the most succinct, dynamic and multi-dimensional “types” of Jesus in the Old Testament.
What is the sign of Jonah? A quick read will point us to the fish and the three days of Death, but it’s more complicated than that. To properly interpret the book of Jonah we need to understand that “the sign of Jonah” is the Sacrifice, the fish, the word and the judgment of Jonah as they foreshadow Jesus’ ministry.
Light is there
as through a linen curtain
So many words alive, unsettled
moving about with barely room for
one another, barely folding together enough
to make any real utterance
Only harsh brutality, natural
like the first man
looking through flaming swords
Light barely perceived
illumination only enough
to penetrate and reveal a life
of true and utter darkness
White House at Night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
History is a schoolroom. The lives of covenant members throughout history, teach us and our children lessons about our own trials, tribulations and faith. There is nothing new under the sun and the best way to deal with situations that arise in our times is to correctly understand our history. God moves and shapes events, and there is much we can learn from the dust that has risen up and been laid aground behind us.
Vincent Van Gogh can teach us a great deal about the real sin of Apostasy. Yet, the psychoanalysts would rather turn his struggle with faith into a steamy story of drugs, whores and artistic impetus. What few people know, is before he was a painter, he was a Methodist preacher. He was an evangelist and schoolteacher. He loved God’s word, studied it and declared it. Continue reading