Calvary Road Baptist Church

“SALVATION IS OF THE LORD”

Jonah 2.9

 

This morning’s message is based upon a verse found in the small Old Testament prophetic book of Jonah, a puzzling book about a prophet who was called by God to go to the city of Nineveh, then the capital of the ascending empire of Assyria. Why is the book of Jonah puzzling? For a great many reasons, of which I will now name but a few:

·         We know Jonah was called by God to preach repentance to Nineveh. Therefore, one would think the entire book of Jonah is about repentance. However, repentance is not a thread that runs through the book. The Gentile sailors found in chapter one, for instance, are surprisingly not described as transgressors. Neither is their submission to the will of the LORD and their great reverence for Him said to constitute a turning back from sin, which would show repentance without use of the word. Jonah sins, but his prayer from the belly of the fish is quite devoid of contrition, while his silence at the end of the book leaves the extent of his change unknown.[1] Thus, the whole book is not about repentance, just that portion which deals directly with the Ninevites.

·         Some commentators suggest that in the book, Jonah symbolizes Israel and Nineveh symbolizes Gentiles, yet neither the people of Israel nor the kingdom of Assyria is ever mentioned in the book.[2] Thus, it is not likely the book symbolizes people who are not once referred to anywhere in the book.

·         As well, consider this the next time you read the book of Jonah. “The story begins with two unique events that have no parallel in other prophetic stories: the dispatch of a prophet of the Lord to proclaim imminent punishment to a gentile city, and the prophet’s adamant refusal to perform his mission - to the point of preferring death.”[3]

Therefore, you see, the book is very puzzling. At the end of the first chapter, Jonah is thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish God had prepared. We are also told that Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights before being vomited out “upon the dry land.”[4]

That the book of Jonah is a record of historical events is confirmed by the Lord Jesus Christ, Who made reference to Jonah’s experience when He was asked for a confirming sign by His enemies and replied, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”[5] The Lord Jesus Christ then referred to a second event recorded in the book of Jonah, the repentance of Nineveh. Jesus said, “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here,” Matthew 12.41.

I point out some of the puzzling aspects of the book of Jonah, while showing you that the Lord Jesus Christ confirmed the historical reliability of the book, because skeptics deny the authenticity of Jonah, being unwilling to accept the record of the miracles that take place, Jonah in the belly of the fish and the revival in Nineveh. However, the denials of the skeptics are based upon their prejudice against miracles, not because they have any substantial proof that the book of Jonah is not a credible history of the events it records. The book of Jonah is so strongly tied to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ that we should be surprised if skeptics did not attack the credibility of the book.

I mention this before turning to my text so you will be aware of the spiritual opposition that exists, of some of the puzzling aspects that exist, and so you will know how profoundly important the book of Jonah is to the Christian faith. We know, from First Corinthians 15.17-19, how crucial the resurrection of Jesus is to the Christian faith and our individual salvation. Paul writes,

 

17     And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

18     Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

19     If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

 

Yet the Lord Jesus Christ to His own impending resurrection linked the book of Jonah. Thus, we freely admit that the credibility and reliability of the book of Jonah reflects on the certainty of Christ’s resurrection. The two are linked, and if one falls the other falls with it. Do you have any questions at this point? Therefore, with the background given, the historical lay of the land rehearsed to you, let us now turn to the text of my sermon, Jonah 2.9. Jonah has been cast overboard, swallowed by the great fish, and he cries out to God as he loses consciousness. Please stand with me and read silently as I read aloud, beginning with Jonah 2.1:

 

1      Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly,

2      And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

3      For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.

4      Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.

5      The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.

6      I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.

7      When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.

8      They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

9      But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.

 

Notice the last phrase of verse nine, voiced by the soul of Jonah rather than uttered by his mouth. Notice the progression from verse seven: As he faints he remembers the LORD, something no unsaved person can do. One must first know the LORD in order to remember Him. He then prays, though he is by now unconscious. Verse eight shows that his prayer begins with an awareness of the situation of the lost. Verse nine shows that he then turns to gratitude (“But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving”), before resolving to be faithful (“I will pay that that I have vowed”), and ends at the pinnacle of his soul’s expression (“Salvation is of the LORD”).

Join me in focusing your attention on this final utterance, what comes from the deepest portion of the soul of this man who is being most severely chastised by God. Imagine being thrown overboard in a violent storm, and swallowed by a great fish. Then imagine the nightmare of sliding into the bowels of the fish as you lose consciousness with sea weed wrapped around your head, with every human fear forcefully thrust into prominence: the fear of being rejected by men, the fear of being in the sea during a violent storm, the fear of dying, the fear of drowning, followed by the fear of suffocating, and the claustrophobic fear of being in a dark and confining enclosure, with all of this overshadowed by the fear that this is chastisement visited upon you by God.

As his brain and the rest of his body begins to shut down, perhaps from oxygen deprivation, or perhaps from fainting, that immaterial portion of the man is what remains, with his soul’s focus immediately sharpened on what is truly important when everything else has been violently stripped away: “Salvation is of the LORD.” Yes, that is all that really matters when you get right down to it. What else is important in comparison? Disagreements with your in-laws, an unfulfilling job, disappointment with your favorite team? When all is said and done, there is only God and the condition of your eternal and undying soul.

For a few minutes, let us consider the LORD and also salvation:

 

First, THE LORD

 

If you look back to Jonah 2.1, you might notice an interesting and significant detail: “Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly.” First, notice that Jonah prayed to the LORD. Of course, this is our English translation of the Hebrew name of the God of the Bible, what we transliterate as Jehovah. This is the covenant name of God with His people, Israel. Even more significant is the LORD’s description in the narrative as “his God.” He is Jonah’s God, and Jonah prays to Him. The question, of course, is whom this God is Jonah prayed to.

Turn, now, to Genesis chapter two to discover Who the LORD happens to be: In Genesis 2.4, we learn that He is the Creator: “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” In Genesis 2.7, we see that He created man: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” In Genesis 2.22, we are told that He also created Eve: “And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.” Genesis 12.1 reveals that the LORD called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees, and made a covenant with him by which He obligated Himself to Abraham and his descendants.

There are many other such verses showing the works of the LORD. However, there is one more Old Testament passage I want you to read that shows something you will find very illuminating. Turn to Numbers 21.5-6, which takes place after Moses delivered the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, where they find themselves need of food and water in the wilderness:

 

5      And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.

6      And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.

 

It is extremely important that you note that the children of Israel spoke against God, identified in verse 6 as the LORD, Jehovah, Who sent fiery serpents among the people in response. This episode figures very prominently in two New Testament passages, John 3.14-15 and First Corinthians 10.9.

Please turn to John 3.14-15 at this time. To review, the Israelites tempted the LORD, who responded by sending fiery serpents to bite the people. The LORD then instructed Moses to fashion a brass serpent to hoist on a pole, so that those Israelites who had been bitten could but look upon the brazen serpent to be healed. We now read John 3.14-15, to discover how the Lord Jesus Christ identifies Himself as the Object of faith to the sinner for spiritual salvation, much as the brazen serpent was the object of faith for physical healing for the Israelites:

 

14     And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

15     That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

 

Whereas faith in the brazen serpent hoisted on a pole resulted in physical healing for the Israelite who had sinfully tempted the LORD, so the Lord Jesus Christ was the spiritual counterpart Who provides eternal life to whosoever believeth in Him. Jesus, then, shows Himself in this passage to be the Savior.

In First Corinthians 10.9, the Apostle Paul writes, “Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.” We know from Numbers 21.5-6 that the Israelites tempted the LORD, Who responded by sending fiery serpents. However, in this verse, the Apostle Paul declares that the children of Israel tempted Christ when they tempted the LORD. Thus, the LORD, the God Who created this universe, Who created Adam and Eve, Who called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees and established a covenant with him and his posterity, Who delivered the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage by His servant Moses, is Jesus Christ! To state the matter another way, the Lord Jesus Christ Who was born of the virgin named Mary, and Who suffered and bled and died on the cross for my sins before rising from the dead after the pattern of Jonah’s experience in the belly of the great fish, and Who showed Himself to Nicodemus to be the Object of saving faith like the brazen serpent hoisted by Moses, is also the LORD, the one true and living God whose name is Jehovah.

Let us be very clear about this: “Salvation is of the LORD.” Simple. Direct. Pointed. However, equally clear is that the LORD is Jesus and Jesus is the LORD. Jesus is Jehovah. If words have meaning, this cannot be denied. However, what does the Hebrew word for the LORD actually mean? Most scholars take the word as being a form of the word that means the one who is, the absolute and unchangeable one, the existing, ever-living one.[6] It fits Hebrews 13.8 perfectly, which declares “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” “Salvation is of the LORD.”

 

Next, SALVATION

 

The Hebrew word for salvation that is found in our text is not the typical form of the word normally found in the Old Testament, but is a poetic form of the word.[7] The same form of the word is found twice, in Psalm 3.4, “I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah,” and in Psalm 80.4, “O LORD God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people?”[8] An almost exact parallel can be found in Psalm 3.8, differing only in the order of the two words and in the presence of a definite article appended to the Hebrew word for salvation. It reads, “Salvation belongeth unto the LORD.”

The question must be what does salvation mean? To what does it refer? How are we to understand the concept? If the immediate context in which the word is used provides insight, then consider the situation Jonah found himself in when he uttered the pointed statement, “Salvation is of the LORD.” He was inside a great fish, having lost consciousness, in the most fatal situation a human being can imagine himself being trapped in. Helpless and utterly without remedy apart from divine intervention. Yet three days and three nights later he was puked up on the beach, alive and well. Thus, salvation as it applies to Jonah’s hopeless situation refers to deliverance from the greatest possible danger to his life to the greatest possible safety on solid ground. In another context, consider Exodus 14.13. After suffering ten plagues, Pharaoh let the Jewish people go only to change his mind and pursue after them. They are now trapped between the waters of the Red Sea to their east and the chariots of Pharaoh to the west. “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.” Whereupon the waters of the Red Sea were parted, the people crossed dry shod, and the waters closed behind them to drown the pursuing Egyptians. From helpless and hopeless danger of complete destruction of life and liberty to complete preservation and safety from all harm.

However, salvation refers to far more than deliverance from physical danger to safety. It also refers to deliverance from spiritual danger to safety. The difference between the physical realm and the spiritual realm is easily explained: First, when there is physical danger it can almost always be easily seen. Jonah did not need to be convinced as he was sliding into the big fish’s belly that he was in danger. The children of Israel did not need to be told that the chariots that were approaching from behind posed an incredible threat to life and limb. However, spiritual dangers are seldom as quickly recognized as threats to physical safety, though spiritual dangers involve consequences that are far more serious. Your five senses perceive physical threats, but do not always take note of spiritual danger. For example, few people admit that they are dead in trespasses and sins and in imminent danger of Hellfire. Yet, they most certainly are. Therefore, “Salvation is of the LORD” should be understood as referring to far more than Jonah’s physical deliverance from physical death in a big fish’s belly. His confidence in his relationship with God (“Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God,” Jonah 2.1), his confidence God heard his prayer (verse 2), his certainty that he would in the future look to the Temple, and that he would yet pay to God what he had vowed (verses 4 and 9), illustrate that in the midst of his chastisement he remained a confident believer. Salvation, then, encompasses the totality of one’s being, from the deliverance of the body from physical danger to safety, and the rescue and removal of one’s soul from the danger of eternal torment to the safety and security of eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. My unsaved friend, you are in great danger. You are a sinner, and God’s punishment for your sins is in your future unless Jesus saves you from your sins. You have no more remedy for your situation than Jonah had for his situation.

 

“Salvation is of the LORD.” As helpless as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish, so helpless is every sinner trapped in the dark and suffocating mire of his own sins. Thankfully, for you, salvation is of the LORD. If it were otherwise, you could not be saved from your sins and you would be eternally doomed.

Jesus is Jehovah.

Salvation is of Jesus.

He is the Savior, and Hebrews 12.2 describes Him as the Author and Finisher of our faith. He begins it and He ends it. That is why, when the sinner finally comes to the end of himself, when the sinner sees that he has nowhere else to turn, he will find deliverance in Jesus.

John 1.12-13: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Receive Him as your personal Savior and be saved from your sins.

Do that now.



[1] Uriel Simon, Jonah - The JPS Bible Commentary, (Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 1999), page vii-viii.

[2] Ibid., page x.

[3] Ibid., page xix.

[4] Jonah 1.17; 2.10

[5] Matthew 12.39-40

[6] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver & Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew And English Lexicon, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), page 218.

[7] Simon, page 24.

[8] Ibid.



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