Jonah: Salvation Belongs to the Lord!
Think with me of the beloved account of Jonah and the great fish. Most of us are familiar with how the Lord called this Hebrew prophet to take God’s merciful message of judgment to Nineveh. Jonah, not liking the new job assignment, opted to run from the Lord by boarding a ship headed the other direction.
Now, one of the main truths that the book of Jonah emphasizes is the sovereignty of God. God is always in control; He always gets His way. Jonah would learn to offer an “AMEN” to Job’s statement, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). So, when Jonah ran God responded by sending a “great wind” and a “mighty tempest upon the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up” (Jonah 1:4). The sailors, fearing for their lives, threw off the cargo and cried out to their gods. Finally, out of desperation, they cast lots to see who was to blame for this deadly storm. The lot fell on Jonah.
Jonah proceeded to inform them of his rebellion and that they must throw him overboard if their lives were to be spared and the storm calmed. Sometimes, at this point in the narrative, we fail to realize the gravity of the situation. To be thrown overboard in such a violent sea meant death not salvation. But, the sovereign God had another plan: “And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17)
What was to be certain death became God’s surprising salvation. Surely, Jonah didn’t expect a big fish to swallow him, and surely, inside the fish his immediate response was not to sing out “Amazing Grace!” No, this was a surprising salvation. This rebellious prophet (like the rest of us) had to learn that “salvation belongs to the LORD!” (Jonah 2:9)
When we consider the gospel of the Lord Jesus, once again we see that our God works a surprising salvation for His people. Many in Jesus’ day did not see clearly that he was the Savior. Some said, “Isn’t that the carpenter’s son?” And others remarked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Not many believed that this Jesus, born to Mary and Joseph, was the promised Savior. In fact, Isaiah said of Jesus, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him...a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Is. 53:2-3). A good person? Yes. A great teacher? Certainly. A miracle worker? Indeed! But the divine Savior?....
The Person of salvation was a surprise, and the way of salvation was a surprise. The disciples manifest this by their confusion and grief when Jesus died. He had repeatedly told them that he must give his life as a ransom. He had told them that he would be lifted up (death by crucifixion) and that three days later he would rise again. But, they just did not get it. Only after Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, did they begin to see that Jesus’ death was God’s salvation for everyone who trusts in him. It was and is such a surprising salvation! Yet, it was God’s plan and purpose from eternity past (1 Pet 1:20). Surely, we marvel and humbly declare with Jonah, “Salvation belongs to the Lord!”
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.