Welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Sunday afternoon Bible study. This is our study in the Book of Jonah, study #4. To remind us, this is after Jonah went on board the ship and a storm has arisen, threatening everyone on board the ship. They cast lots to see for whose cause this had happened and the lot fell on Jonah. It says in Jonah 1:10-17:
Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of JEHOVAH, because he had told them. Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them. Wherefore they cried unto JEHOVAH, and said, We beseech thee, O JEHOVAH, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O JEHOVAH, hast done as it pleased thee. So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared JEHOVAH exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto JEHOVAH, and made vows. Now JEHOVAH had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
I will stop reading there. In our last study, we discussed the lot that was cast. We saw how the Bible teaches us that God is the determiner of the lot and where it falls and how it falls. We saw that this related to the Lord’s determinate counsel and His determination that the Lord Jesus Christ had to die for the sins of His people and He had to demonstrate that in time when He entered into the world.
We also saw that when Jonah was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, it said in verse 10: “For the men knew that he fled from the presence of JEHOVAH, because he had told them.” This had to do with what we read in Genesis, chapter 3 after Adam and Eve fell into sin and they hid themselves from the presence of JEHOVAH. It is very similar wording to what we find in Jonah. That is where mankind has been found down through history and right up to today. What direction is the world going? It is the same direction away from God or from the presence of JEHOVAH. That is something that has never changed since the fall. The world is always going in the opposite direction than the way of the Lord Jesus Christ and the way of the Bible’s commandments.
We talked about Jonah being a type of Christ as He came the first time and He went with them from the presence of the Lord. Jesus entered into the human race and became a man. And where was mankind going? It was away from God. And, therefore, Jonah went with them from the presence of the Lord. As Jonah is traveling with these mariners he is going away from Nineveh where God had commanded him to go.
Then the Lord raised up a storm at sea and this tempestuous sea is a picture of the wrath of God or the judgment of God upon sin. It is sort of like the Law of God is rising up and demanding justice or satisfaction and the sea typifies the Law of God that is desirous to destroy everyone on board the ship because it pointed to man’s sin. We are sinful and we are all under the wrath of God and subject to the Law’s demand for death: “The wages of sin is death.” Every time a wave would come over the bow of the ship and threaten them, it was as though the Law was reaching up to grab mankind and pull him down into the sea to kill him because it is what we deserve, is it not? According to the Bible, the penalty of sin is death and that is why we all die – our bodies die. It goes back to the sin that with Adam and Eve committed and the sins we have all committed. It is only through God’s mercy in His salvation program that anyone escapes that death, so the mariners were fearful and they said, in Jonah 1:11:
Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.
The sea was raging and threatening them and they had cast lots to determine what the reason was for this strange storm at sea. It must have been more calamitous than a normal storm at sea because it was shocking to these seasoned mariners. Of course, they could have been superstitious and idolatrous men, but they drew lots and they discovered the cause was Jonah. And Jonah does not deny it. He admits it and he told them the truth. They said to him in Jonah 1:8-9:
Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou? And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear JEHOVAH, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.
Jonah responded that he was “an Hebrew.” That was his occupation. What is our occupation? We could rightly answer, “I am a Christian.” Jonah referred to JEHOVAH and all people know deep down that the only true God is the God of the Bible, so these men reacted this way: “Then were the men exceedingly afraid.” But Jonah was a man that was a prophet and identified with the true God of the Bible. People had heard tales and they had heard stories of the true historical accounts of what the God of Israel had done in different situations and that He was certainly one to be feared. They had heard of God delivering His people out of Egypt and His mighty deeds. These would have been well-known stories that would have been shared at that time and it produced a fearful reaction in the mariners. Then they said, “What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us?” Later when Jonah told them to take him up and cast him into the sea, it is interesting that the men do not want to do that, but they tried to row harder and bring it to land, but they realized instinctively (because the Lot had fallen upon Jonah) that they had to do something to him. Jonah told them what they had to do: “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea.” What is interesting is that later after they finally did throw Jonah overboard, it says in verse 16: “Then the men feared JEHOVAH exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto JEHOVAH, and made vows.” They became true believers. They were not offering a sacrifice to idols or false gods, but it was to JEHOVAH, so these men were a picture of God’s elect and, yet, they were thinking, “I have to do something. What do we have to do to Jonah in order that the sea be calm to us?”
Normally, in the Bible when men think they must do something, it is a “work” and God quickly puts that idea down, as He does in Galatians 2:16: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.” Yet, here in this passage they are being encouraged by Jonah to do something. Jonah did not jump overboard and do it himself, but he said, “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea.”We wonder why God is encouraging the people of God to “do something” and at the same time He tells us we can do nothing to contribute to our own salvation. I think the answer is found in verses like we find in Revelation 1:7:
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
This speaks of when Jesus would come in the clouds at the end of time and “every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him.” So, does that apply to the Roman soldiers that pierced His side with a spear when He was on the cross and blood and water came out? Does that mean there would be two (or more) of these soldiers that would see Him? The answer would have to be, “No,” because those men were likely unsaved. The Roman soldiers that mocked Christ and put the crown and purple robe upon Him, as they were laughing and joking, gave no indication they were saved. What have we learned from the Bible? When an unsaved individual dies, he ceases to exist for evermore. Except for their bodies that is in the ground, they have no conscious existence and no more awareness. When Christ would come at the very last day and let us say that when He comes that people can actually see Him and there is a “resurrection to damnation,” does it mean that they are alive again and have the ability to see and to think? No, in the day he dies an unsaved individual is like a beast and his thoughts perish forever, so it is not possible that “they which pierced him” could be any unsaved individual from 33AD. Let us go to Luke, chapter 23 where we find the word “they” used twice in the same verse and we will find it relates to the soldiers, but it also relates to God’s people. It says in Luke 23:34:
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
If you read the commentaries of some theologians (and there were some good theologians in the past, but some of them were natural-minded men), they would see a verse like this and they saw the word “they” as applying to the same group. In other words, in the first part of the verse, it says, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” and in the second part it says, “And they parted his raiment, and cast lots,” and these theologians thought it was referring to the same group of people, but that is not possible. Why is it not possible? It was not well-thought out by most theologians when they think that Jesus can forgive a particular sin of certain individuals that had sinned against him, like the Jewish people that cried out, “Crucify him!” Or, there were the Jewish leaders that turned Him over to the Romans or the sin of Pilot or the Romans that mocked Him and nailed Him to the cross and pierced His side. All the things that were done to the Lord Jesus Christ were (probably) done by unsaved people. Yes, there may have been one or two people that God could have later saved, but for most of them it is not possible that God could say, “I forgive them for their part in the crucifixion, whether it was scourging the Lord, nailing Him to the cross or sentencing Him; I forgive those sins, but they are unsaved people and I am not going to forgive the rest of the sins in their lives.” God does not forgive partially. How does God forgive anything? They have the idea that God can just wave His hand and dismiss a group of sins without overlooking other sins. First, God cannot just dismiss any sin. He is too just, pure, holy and righteous. He cannot forgive sin apart from Christ dying for those sins. If Jesus died for a person’s sins, He did not die for 9% of a person’s sin. Let us say there were 1,000 sins involved with the cross and God would say, “I am going to pay for 1,000 of this person’s overall total number of sins.” That would be ridiculous. What would be the point? It goes contrary to the Bible. So, when Jesus says, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” it has to refer only to God’s elect because only God’s elect have their sins forgiven and it is all their sins.
As far as the men that played a part in the crucifixion, they committed sins prior to the crucifixion and after the crucifixion, so God did not forgive those sins at the crucifixion unless they happened to be elect people, so we know that those that pierced Him are the same ones of whom Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” In other words, God is laying the blame for the crucifixion of Christ at the feet of the true believers; He was not focused on the Romans or the Jewish leaders. We can understand that on another level because God had foreordained this to happen and He made sure the Jewish leaders would turn over Christ and He made sure the Roman leaders would do what they did. Even when Pilot wanted to let Him go and said, “I find no fault in him,” it was the will of God that had determined it. It was the perfect will of God that insisted that Christ must die for the sins of His people, even though it was not the actual payment for sin but a demonstration of the death He had died in making payment for sin from the foundation of the world. So, it was we, the true believers, that did not know what we were doing when we “pierced Him” and brought Christ to the cross as He demonstrated what He had done for us at the foundation of the world. It was our fault because of our sins. If we were not sinners, would Christ have had to suffer what He suffered? The answer is, “No.”
So, I think God wants to make sure that we get the point in Jonah, when they said, “What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us?” Jonah responded in Jonah 1:12:
Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.
The circumstances of the storm were for Jonah’s sake. The circumstances that God set in motion in time in 33AD were to bring Christ to the tableau of the atonement. Therefore, Jonah said, “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you.” If the “sea” is calm, it means no more wrath and no more anger of God against all that have transgressed His Laws reaching from the “sea” to bring everyone down and destroy them in order to have satisfaction. Jonah was going to provide the satisfaction. He would be the substitute for everyone else on board the ship.
Then it says in Jonah 1:13:
Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.
There was no other way – no alternate religion and no other gospel. There is only one way and that is through the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then it says in Jonah 1:14:
Wherefore they cried unto JEHOVAH, and said, We beseech thee, O JEHOVAH, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life…
Do you see the substitution? There is a reason given now: “Let us not perish.” I miss those days when we used to encourage people to cry out, “O, Heavenly Father, have mercy!” We are still permitted today to say, “Dear Lord, having had mercy, have mercy.” But at that time, it was still the day of salvation and we did not truly appreciate the wonder and the glory and the tremendous grace of being able to cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me!” And back then people would try to tell some, “Do not cry out so much for mercy.” But, like blind Bartimaeus, they cried out the more, “Lord, have mercy!” Bartimaeus did not listen to the people that wanted him to be quiet and he continued to beseech the Lord for mercy. In that day, one could go boldly to the throne of mercy and cry out and that is what these mariners were doing: “We beseech thee, O JEHOVAH, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life.” They were asking that they not perish for the reason of this man’s life. That is exactly what every prayer for mercy was saying whenever we went to God and said, “O, Lord, save me! O, Lord forgive me. Have mercy on me.” Whether we realized it, or not, it was always a request not to allow us to perish for the reason of this man’s (Christ) life, the Lord Jesus Christ and the payment He made on behalf of all His elect people at the foundation of the world. The wonderful thing is that the payment was completed, but we did not know for whom He had died, so any person could have gone to God and said, “Do not let me perish for this man’s life. Do not let my family perish for this man’s life.”
This is what the mariners were also doing. It goes on to say in Jonah 1:14:
… and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O JEHOVAH, hast done as it pleased thee.
If we turn to Matthew 27, Judas had betrayed Christ and it says in Matthew 27:4:
Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
The Lord Jesus was the “innocent blood” because He was without sin. He was (and is) sinless. Of course, Jonah was a man and he had sin, but what is true of Christ becomes true for the believers. It says in Psalm 51:14:
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation…
We are “blood guilty” because we are conceived in sin, born speaking lies. We are of the line of Adam. We are sinners by nature, so (in a sense) it is as though we have guilt in our blood, but when we become saved, we are delivered from “bloodguiltiness.” Even though we cannot bring the clean from the unclean, God can make us clean. God can cleanse sinners and make us clean. We cannot be clean in ourselves in our own blood, but God can cleanse us. This is why the Lord says, in Jeremiah 7:5-6:
For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow…
The “stranger,” the “fatherless” and the “widow” are spiritual references to God’s elect. Then it goes on to say in Jeremiah 7:6:
… and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt:
When they would harm the fatherless, the widow and the stranger, it was like shedding innocent blood because God’s elect have become saved and their blood has been cleansed. They have become born again and there is no sin upon God’s people, so it is as if our blood is innocent.
Let us go back to Jonah, chapter 1 and read Jonah 1:15-17:
So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared JEHOVAH exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto JEHOVAH, and made vows. Now JEHOVAH had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
The Lord prepared a great fish. You know, God is amazing with His preparation and His ability to control events and circumstances. This reminds me of that New Testament incident in Matthew 17 when they asked, “Doth not your master pay tribute?” Christ told Peter to go to the sea and it says in Matthew 17:27:
Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
Is that not incredible? That is incredible. I have probably read that many, many times in the past when I was younger and I just did not take the time to stop and think about it. They needed money for taxes, so Jesus tells him to go down to the sea. Did He tell him to go to a particular spot by the sea? No – He just told him to go down to the see, so Peter could have gone to any location by the sea. The Lord told him to cast a hoot into the sea. How many fish are in the sea? I do not know. There could have been schools of fish, but how many fish would have had a coin they had swallowed? There was just one in a whole sea of fish that had no coins. So, Peter went down to the sea and cast a hook. How long do you think it took? It was immediately and it was the first fish. If it were me, it would have been a few hours. [Laughter] The first fish he reeled in has a piece of money in its mouth. It was not only a piece of money, but it was sufficient for whatever the tax was and it was enough money. It is just astounding how God controls all things, including all circumstances and events.
When we think of this world of seven and a half billion people and all the cars, the trains and the planes and everything is just “zooming by,” God is in complete control of every single movement taking place all over the face of the earth for every second of the day. It is incredible to think of the enormous mind of this Being, just to keep tract of the thoughts everyone is thinking. It is just amazing.
It is the same situation with Jonah. Here is Jonah and he is ready to die. As far as we know he was thinking, “I have done wrong. I have not been faithful. God told me to go to Nineveh, but I went to Tarshish and God raised up the storm and the lot fell on me. It is my fault.” You can almost hear it in the way he is speaking to the mariners: “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you.” He is thinking that it is all his fault and not their fault, so, finally, the mariners realized that they were going to die and the ship was being destroyed. The storm was fierce and unrelenting and their only hope was to throw Jonah into the sea. That is exactly what they did and the sea ceased from her raging, instantaneously. Right then and there, the sea was calm. That was the mariners’ perspective, but what about Jonah’s perspective? He is flying off the ship and into the raging, stormy sea and he goes down into the waves and begins to sink, descending further and further until a great fish came along. It says, “JEHOVAH had prepared a great fish,” so it was all according to the preparation of God as the Lord maneuvered that fish into the vicinity of the ship during that storm. Maybe the great fish had been quite far under the water so it would not experience the storm like it would on the surface. Jonah was sinking and sinking and he is certain he will die and the next thing he knows the great fish swallowed him whole. God did not prepare a shark. A shark could swallow you, but it would not swallow you whole – it would take some bites out of you. This was a fish of an enormous size that could swallow you whole. Is this possible? Well, with God, it is possible and that is exactly what happened. God prepared an enormous fish that swallowed him whole. We do not know if that was typical of this type of fish or if God just prevented the fish from making “mincemeat” out of Jonah, but the fish swallowed him whole and now he is in the belly of the fish.
Now it is not that Jonah is “home free” at this point. He is in the belly of a great fish. What does a belly do when you swallow something? When Mr. Camping did a study in Jonah, he spoke of the “gastric juices” that would want to go to work. Jonah was not dissolved then or at a later point, so God was doing something miraculous and it was all predetermined by God as He prepared this great fish to swallow up Jonah.
It says in Jonah 1:17:
And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
What is interesting is this word translated as “belly” is translated as “womb” in Ruth 1:11:
And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?
The Strong’s number is #4578 in Strong’s Concordance. It is the same word translated as “bowels” in a Messianic Psalm, in Psalm 22:13-14:
They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
The word “bowels” is the same word translated as “belly.” Let us look at a reference in Psalm 71:6:
By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother's bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee.
It is synonymous with “womb” in this verse. But what is the point in knowing that this word can be translated as “womb” and is identified, from time to time, with the womb or with the bowels from which someone is born? Let me go to one other place in Isaiah 49:1:
Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; JEHOVAH hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.
This is another time it is synonymous with womb and bowels. The interesting thing is that we know that Jesus said in Matthew 12:40:
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly…
By the way, in the New Testament they say it was a “whale,” but it is rather hard to find out where they came up with that understanding. It could have been a whale.
Again, it says in Matthew 12:40:
For as Jonah 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.
Christ was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the great fish’s belly. The interesting thing is that we know that after three days and three nights, Jonah will be vomited out alive on dry ground and we know that after three days and three nights, Christ rose from the dead when He was resurrected. The “heart of the earth” is another term for “hell” or the “grave.” It even says in Jonah 2:1-2:
Then Jonah prayed unto JEHOVAH his God out of the fish's belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto JEHOVAH, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I…
We know the “heart of the earth” identifies with hell. Jesus was declared to be the Son through the resurrection of the dead, so He died. He went into the grave and then He rose in the resurrection at the foundation of the world, declared to be the Son of God. It is a picture of a “birth.” It is an illustration of a birth because that is when you have a son – you go to the hospital and there is a son born and you give him a name. Christ was declared to be the first begotten Son of God or the “first begotten from the dead,” as it says in Colossians, chapter 1. It was through the resurrection. So, the grave identifies with the “womb” and the “belly” of the fish identifies with the “womb.”
Let us go to our last Scripture reference in Psalm 139:13-15:
For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
This is David and he is talking, in one sense of a birth, but it does not apply to an ordinary birth, does it? He is talking about God knitting him together and forming his body in the womb, but does that take place in “the lowest parts of the earth”? No, it does not, but it says here that he was curiously made and wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Then it says in Psalm 139:16:
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
What book is that? What “members” are written in that book? It is the elect. It is the body of Christ that is “knit together” and formed like a child in the “lowest parts of the earth.” On one hand, we have Christ Himself declared to be the Son as He goes to “hell” and He comes out of the belly of “hell” as He rises and the declaration is made that He is the Son of God, but He is the firstborn of many brethren. He is the firstborn from the dead and the first to rise from the belly of hell, but many brethren followed. As we have been learning, the world has been turned into the condition of hell or death and we are making an appearance before the judgment seat of Christ. All the elect have come together as the body of Christ and we are presently going through the world that is in the condition of hell and, at some point, there will be our resurrection. There will be the rising of all God’s elect. It is following the same pattern as the Lord Jesus Christ. We are coming out of the belly of hell and we have been curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth; and then we are declared to be sons of God, as Romans, chapter 8, verses 27 through 29 declare when it says that Jesus was “the firstborn among many brethren.”