THE SIGN OF THE PROPHET JONAH
P.C. Johnson, U.K.
ALMOST everybody knows the story of Jonah and the great fish and how he survived. Many do not believe the story. They also may not know of the words of Jesus the blessed Christ in Matthew 19:26:
"With God all things are possible".
In Matthew chapter 16 we read how the Pharisees and the Sadducees, wanting a sign from heaven, were told by Jesus in verse 4:
"A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall be no sign given unto it, but a sign of the prophet Jonah".
In the book of Jonah we read how God instructed Jonah to go to Nineveh to warn the 120,000 people there, to repent or perish. Jonah 1-2 gives God's words:
"Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and say against it; for their wickedness is come up before me".
But Jonah had other ideas and fled.
If God nominates anyone to do a certain job, there is no escape, that job will be done, as Jonah found out. So he eventually went to Nineveh. God's instructions in verse 4 of Chapter 3 were:
"... Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown".
The people there did repent and so were saved.
But about 150 years later, they again had sunk into evil ways and Nahum conveyed God's repeat warning of impending judgement. In Nahum 1:9 we read:
"..He (God) will make an utter end; affliction shall not rise up the second time".
God (in his mercy) gave them a further 100 years to repent, but there is no other remedy for continuing apostacy and catastrophic destruction followed.
What then is the lesson of the sign of the prophet Jonah? It is that although God is slow to 'anger' and great in mercy, He is also just and will not acquit the unredeemed wicked.
Thankfully we have also the divine gospel of salvation, where God is shown to be just AND ALSO the justifier of those who believe in Jesus the Christ. God's law as quoted by Paul in Romans 6-23 'the wages of sin is death', is vindicated in the cross.
Speaking to Israel in c. 590 B.C., Ezekiel tells them in chapter 33 verse 11:
"...as I live saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked tum from his way and LIVE, tum ye, tum ye (repent) from your evil ways for WHY WILL YE DIE, O house of Israel?"
These words of Paul and Ezekiel apply to everybody today, both individually as well as nationally. We have the freedom to seek and follow God's way, and as a
result live after mortal death, or to follow the way of unrighteousness and not attain the promised everlasting life from God.
Jeremiah, speaking to Israel in chapter 29 verse 13 records God's words:
"And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me WITH ALL YOUR HEART".
Amos confirms the same message in chapter 5 verse 4:
"For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, seek me, AND YE SHALL LIVE".
As we saw in the case of Nineveh above, scripture gives several cases where sin had become so rampant and universal either in nations towns, groups of people or individuals that God in his wisdom, foresight and justice, took necessary action, possibly to prevent further spread of evil:
The Adamic race perished in the flood.
Sodom and Gommorah also perished. Here God had promised Abraham that that if there were at least ten faithfully righteous people in the cities they would not be destroyed. Alas only four were found, Lot and his family.
The Canaanite nations also perished in battle with the children of Israel for the same reasons.
From the holy scriptures it has to be understood that as individuals we MUST repent and believe in the blessed gospel of salvation through Jesus the Christ. The result is the imputation of his righteousness in us. Salvation is the change from self righteousness to the righteousness of God by faith. It is essential to repent (CHANGE OUR MIND) from sinful living and then follow God's principles of truth, honesty, righteousness and mercy.
Coming back to the sign of the prophet Jonah and more particularly to the whole story of the children of Israel in the bible; we see a constant history of their deserting God, followed often by divine chastisement and then repentance time and time again. In Jerusalem Jeremiah constantly warned the house of Judah (which
incidentally consisted only of the tribe of Benjamin and only part of the tribe of Judah) that unless they repented they would be conquered and exiled. But they ignored him, had him imprisoned, and even tried to kill him. His prophecy came true. Nebuchadnezzar subsequently conquered and exiled them to Babylon.
Moses had previously warned all the twelve tribes of Israel of what would happen if they deserted God. In Deuteronomy chapter 4 verses 23 to 31 he prophesies that Israel would corrupt themselves and in verse 27 says:
"... the Lord shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen WHITHER THE LORD SHALL LEAD YOU"
Nevertheless in verse 29 he says:
"But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him if thou seek him with all thy heart and all thy soul".
The prophecy of verse 27 came to pass. Note that Moses said in that verse 'whither the Lord shall lead you'. God has been leading Israel always and ever since, up to the present day and will in the future in spite of their wickedness, and in accordance with his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. One most important point to be remembered is, whereas in the destruction of the Adamic race (except Noah and his family), Nineveh, Sodom and Gommorrah etc. the destructions were total, nowhere in history and prophecy recorded by scripture, is Israel totally destroyed or abandoned. Partial destruction is recorded and prophesied of some, indeed even of many. But always God has maintained a faithful remnant of Israel even as today. The word remnant in relation to Israel, appears over fifty times in scripture. Surely this constant reference must not be ignored. Repetition is frequently used in the bible, probably to attract attention or indicate importance.
That Israel is ever present, even today, is repeated in scripture so many times. Isaiah 11:11 tells us:
"... the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people".
The first time was to rescue Israel from Egypt, see Exodus 12:41. Again in Isaiah 54:7 we read:
"For a small moment have I (God) forsaken thee (Israel) but with great mercies will I gather thee."
Jeremiah confirms the same message in chapter 5 verse 18:
"Nevertheless in those days saith the Lord I will not make a full end with you (Israel)".
Again we read a similar story in Jeremiah chapter 30 verse 11:
"For I am with thee saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all the nations whither I have scattered thee, yet willI not make a full end of thee; but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished".
Even as God made Jonah go to Nineveh and warn the inhabitants, most of the prophets and other writers of the God inspired scriptures also warn or warned the
people of their day and of the future, that if they did not repent and believe, they would not survive, solely because of their sins.
Ezekiel was prominent in this activity, but with a difference. In his chapter 33 verses 7 & 8 God tells him:
"So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel (the ten tribes); therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to wam the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand".
The whole chapter 33 should be read, especially verse 11 which was quoted above. Again, on similar lines in Ezekiel 34:1-10God warns the faithless shepherds of
Israel, because they had not looked after their flock. In verse 10 we read:
"... Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require MY flocks at their hands...".
The term shepherds here and elsewhere in the Old Testament would have referred to the priests and Levites of Israel, and the flocks to the great mass of Israel. The
reference today would be to the hierarchy of all the churches, in the sense that congregations as well as all people of all nations should be warned of the utter
foolishness of committing sin and its resultant almost automatic outcome.
The urgency for such action is very real because of the imminent prophesied second advent of the Lord Jesus the Christ to the Earth. We know that this is indeed
true even only because the majority of the scriptural prophecies which are to occur before the second advent have been fulfilled. The prophesied present universal wickedness is also here as a sign of the times. See 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
In Luke 21:25-28 Jesus himself tells us about the present day troubles we see around us, prophesied for just before the second advent.
"... upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and waves roaring. Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man (The Lord Jesus the Christ) coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh".
See also Matthew chapter 24 verses 27 to 31 with contexts.
In c. 1490 B.C., God came down on to Mount Sinai in His personal presence to give his law of the Mosaic Covenant to Israel. The reaction of the children of Israel
to God's presence, although they did not see him, gives us a faint idea of the tremendous presence of Jesus at his second advent which will be experienced by all
mankind. In Exodus 19:19-21 we read:
"And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mount; and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish".
In Exodus 19 also we read in verse 16:
"... there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled".
In Exodus 20:18, 19:
"and all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, and when the people saw it, they removed and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, speak thou with us, and we will hear,. but let not God speak with us lest we die".
Further in Exodus 24:17 we are told:
"And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel".
Elsewhere scripture gives a vivid account of conditions on the earth at that time. Many people may not survive the unique and loud sound and sight of the Lord appearing in the heavens with his countless angels in almost unbearably bright light and glory. Isaiah chapter 13 gives account of this and should be read. Verse 12 sums up the situation:
"I (God) will make a man more precious (rare) than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir (Possibly a unique treasure at that time)"
I believe that this means that many may perish at that time.
The bewilderment and weakness caused by personal sin in the unbelief of many, may take its toll. God's own righteousness, imputed into all faithful believers in Jesus the Christ, will strengthen them, so that at long last they meet their Lord and King with great joy.
We must all now exercise the power of prayer and earnestly ask our Almighty God to have mercy on mankind's many sinners and grant boundless forgiveness for them and ourselves.
Since Adam, the the earth has been under the curse of the evil one Satan. The bible describes Satan as the prince of this world. He is solely responsible for all evil
and wickedness. Without God's help man cannot resist him, he is too powerful for us. ONLY our divine God can save us out of this iniquity. The meaning of the Son of God's name Jesus is SAVIOUR.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:19:
"For the wisdom of this world, is foolishness with God".
Even if many unbelievers consider that there is no chance of the above events happening, surely it is this utter foolishness to take such a risk, when there could be so much goodness to achieve, against future total personal loss through sin.
Isaiah writing some 2700 years ago came up against the same foolishness of mankind. Try as he did to persuade them, most of Israel refused to reform and repent. So he wrote in his book in chapter 53 verse 1
"Who hath believed our report... "
Who indeed. Since then most of the bible's prophecies have been fulfilled as stated before. In view of the total absolute truth of the bible, what more evidence do unbelievers want?
Isaiah in his writings saw ahead the glorious kingdom of heaven when King Jesus returns to this earth. In chapter 40 verse 31 he writes:
"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint".
Jude's doxology in verses 24 & 25 is appropriate here:
"Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory, and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever".
|"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;" - 2 Corinthians 5:7, 8.
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