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May 5, 2021 12:01 am
God did not send the great fish to punish Jonah for his disobedience, but to save him from the death his rebellion deserved. Today, R.C. Sproul clears up some common misconceptions about Jonah's story, showing that it is ultimately one of redemption.
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We all have a number of assumptions about the prophet Jonah. The first assumption is that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. The Bible does not say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. It simply says that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish.
What else do we have wrong about Jonah stay with us Renewing Your Mind is next story is well known that there are clear misconceptions about was he really swallowed by a warm sea creature.
After all, he couldn't possibly have survived in its belly for three days were cleaning today. Dr. RC Sproul separates fact from fiction when it comes to this Old Testament prophet remember an experience I had when I was a seminary student shock and perhaps I'm still not over it and that's why I remember it, but when I was a senior in seminary, I was required to write a term paper for Hebrew exegesis class I was taking.
And so I did my paper on the literary genre of the book of Jonah and I made the argument that the book of Jonah was basically written in the literary form of historical narrative, with the exception of course of chapter 2 which is the record of Jonah's famous prayer which is written in a poetic meter, but the rest of the book is written in a normal historical narrative style and I took that position in light of the debate historically over how the book of Jonah is to be interpreted. Some scholars have seen Jonah simply as a myth, or alleging or a parable or an extended poem, and I was taking the position that it was substantively historical narrative and my professor called me in the see him after he had read my term paper and he was all excited and he wanted me to submit my term paper for publication in some scholarly journal that specialized in this kind of research and I was flattered but I was also amazed because the reason the professor was so excited about my paper was that the thesis of it was so radically novel. He thought that this was such a startling position and that he had never considered the possibility that there could be any historical narrative element to the book of Jonah. And I said to him, Sir, acidify published this article I'd be sued for plagiarism, not because I copied it verbatim from some other source. But the shoe repair class at the position that I'm taking here is the classic Christian position on this book and he had never heard of it. This was an exceedingly liberal seminary and my professor was about ready to retire. He was in his mid-60s he had gone to a liberal college for liberal seminary and a liberal graduate school and in his whole life he had never exposed himself to any conservative scholarship and it stunned me because at that time it was the past time of liberal scholars to make fun of conservative scholars and call them obscure ancestor. That is, people who refuse to look at various ideas other than their own, and I said at the time was impossible for conservative to get a PhD in theology. In those days without being widely exposed to higher critical theories because they were so dominant in the academic world. Yet it was possible for a person to go all the way through his education and teach for 30 years in a liberal environment and never expose themselves to anything of the conservative nature.
And that's why it shocked me to such a degree and stuck out in my mind, but it is an important question for us because the book of Jonah tells the story of a historical event that borders at least on the miraculous, and it captures the attention of people when they sail you. I believe these fairytales of a man being swallowed by a whale like Mont Stroh and Pinocchio and and actually surviving for three days and then being vomited up safely on the dry land.
As we read in the book of Jonah.
And I remember my professor even in that day showing us articles that were ridiculing the book of Jonah because of investigations that have been done on the largest kinds of whales existing in the world today and arguing that if a man were inside the belly of that whale for three days that the juices that are secreted in the stomach cavity of that fish would kill the person and all those kinds of debates are being carried out all that was interesting in the 60s there was a news report out of Japan of a person who was swallowed by a whale. We don't know how long he was inside the whale, but he actually survived the experience but then I also remember our professor saying that the book cannot be taken as historic information seriously because of some of the details that are found in Jonah's description of his adventure, particularly in chapter 2. If we look at chapter 2 of Jonah. We read in verse two out of the belly of sealable. I cried and you heard my voice for you cast me into the deep into the heart of the seas, and the floods surrounded me all your billows and your waves passed over me and then I said, I've been cast out of your sight, yet will I look again toward your holy temple. The water surrounded me even to my soul.
The deep closed around me and weeds were wrapped around my head in our professor triumphantly been declared. This has to be a myth because we know that the waves of the ocean do not flow back and forth inside the belly of whales and the crowning point is that whales ballets do not contain seaweed and so he said here to have this picture of this Jonah inside this whales belly sitting there in the chambers of the belly of the whale composing this lengthy prayer, her hand and describing his dangerous situation of the all this water passing over him and having his head snarled with the Seaway while I pointed out at that time that the assumption that so many people make when they read this text and, incidentally, is the assumption that Melville makes is one of the errors in Melville's sermon that I read in our last session, the assumption is that the whale is an instrument of threat to the life and to the well-being of Jonah. And sometimes we even think that the whale is sent as divine punishment on Jonah for having disobeyed the command of God to go to Nineveh to preach to that people in this further assumption is that Jonah in his prayer of desperation is crying out to God to save him from his captivity in the belly of the whale.
While there are some assumptions here that simply are not some the first assumption that is made may be sound and may not. The first assumption is that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. The Bible does not say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. It simply says that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish though obviously we jump to the conclusion easily that if he was swallowed by a fish would have to be a great fish in order to accommodate the size of a human being in its stomach and the biggest fish that were aware of is the whale and so it's easy to draw the inference that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Even though the Bible doesn't say that now the other salient point. There is may have been whale. We don't know for sure but it says that God prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah so this could have been a whale that God in his providence directed to this place. At that time to swallow Jonah word could've been a special act of creation.
He could've created a unique fish for that opportunity. We don't know all we know is that the Scripture say that God appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah. The second assumption is made that should not be made is the assumption that the whale is an instrument of destruction when if you look at the text. You don't even have to be that careful. The cursory reading of the text should reveal that in this book the whale is the instrument of redemption. The whale is not sent to punish Jonah or to destroy Jonah the whale is sent to rescue Jonah. The threat to Jonah's life is not the way it's the sea. Jonah is thrown into the sea and he is about the parish in the sea until he is rescued by the whale that will scoop him up and then delivers him to the dry ground affecting Jonah's salvation, but the most significant false assumption about this text is that when Jonah is praying for deliverance. The assumption is that he is praying for deliverance from the belly of the whale, because after all, the word belly is used here where in verse 17 of chapter 1 we read now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
There is the word belly, and so we have a reference to Jonah's being in the belly of the great fish but in chapter 2. When we have the record of Jonah's prayer we read in verse one, Jonah prayed to the Lord is God from the fish's belly, there's the second reference to the belly, and he said I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction and he answered me out of the belly of sealable. I cried.
Now we have the third reference to belly, and since the first two references to belly clearly refer to the belly of the whale. It is natural to assume that the third reference to belly would also refer to the belly of the whale's not what Jonah says or the belly of the great fish. Rather, he says he cried out of the belly of Sheol now. One place where we know Jonah is not is in seal because seal is the place of the dead where in the Old Testament categories people went after they died to that shadowy place of darkness beyond the gray Jonah is alive and he is on this planet and he is not in seal and yet in the prayer he says he cried out of the belly of Sheol, so obviously he is using the phrase belly up should feel all in a figurative sense and member everything up until this verse is written in the historical narrative prose. Now the prayer that he writes is composed in poetic meter and he uses the phrase belly of CO in a poetic manner that the question is if it's a figurative use of the term belly here that distinguishes it, at least from a literary perspective. From the first two uses which are clearly historical narrative that clearly refer to the location within the great fish's stomach. But you see how easy would be to just slide into the third reference to belly and assume he's crying for deliverance from the belly of the whale. No, the whole content of his cry for deliverance is a prayer that he is praying to be rescued from the sea and the sea is Jonah's belly of hell or belly of Sheol that is about to engulf him and destroy him. That's the point we have to see or the prayer won't make any sense at all. The beloved waves do go to and fro in the sea, and there is seaweed in the sea. That's why it's called seaweed cuts belongs in the seed. Now let's look at this prayer, and assume for a moment with me if you will, that when he says, out of the belly of sealable. I cried. Assume that the belly of Sheol refers to the sea and not to the stomach of the great fish and you heard my voice for you cast me into the deep others.
No doubt that to which the deep referrers doesn't refer to the belly of the fish. It refers to the water into the heart of the seas and I'm saying to you that there's a parallelism here and we have two organs of the human body that are used in a poetic sense, in a figurative sense in close conjunction here in this prayer the belly of seal the heart of the city, belly and heart refer to the same place just as Sheol in the sea do in this poetic parallelism, and the floods surrounded me all your billows and your waves passed over me visualize that. Is this a man inside a fish or is this a man thrashing about for his life in the midst of the ocean is clearly referring to his plight, of which he is about to drop. Then I said, I've been cast out of your sight yet. I will look again toward your holy temple. The water surrounded me even to my soul. The deep closed around me again. He's crying about his predicament in the water. We were wrapping around my head. I went down to the moorings of the mountains and the earth with its bars closed behind me forever. Yet you have brought up my life from the pit. Oh Lord my God. How does God bring up his life from by means of the great fish. It is the great fish that God sends but saves Jonah from certain death in a watery grave in the fast pit of the ocean when my soul fainted within me. I remembered the Lord and my prayer went up to you, into your holy temple and those who regard worthless idols forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice to you with the voice of Thanksgiving.
I will pay what I have filed salvation is of the Lord. And so the Lord spoke to the fish and vomited Jonah onto dry ground.
So the first of all, prayer is a prayer for deliverance from the sea the end of the prayer is a prayer of thanksgiving because Jonah is rescued from the sea and from the certain death that threatened him by this instrument of redemption, that God prepared in his providence to send to rescue his disobedient servant from the sea and so he says, with the voice of Thanksgiving. I will pay what I have filed now is not only thankful but in his gratitude. He is repentant and he is resolved now to do the bidding of God. He is resolved now to obey the mission on which God has sent him. He's going to pay his file and he says that on the basis of one of the most important cyst sink statements about redemption in all of Scripture.
Salvation is of the Lord. Other nations perhaps would've responded differently. I can just see pagans in that day if they encountered what Jonah encountered coming out on the dryland and then making an idol in the form of a whale or of a great fish and saying, salvation is of the God of the fish.
Salvation is of data gone the full listing God whose image was a fish and who was regarded as the fish God, but Jonah understands that the fish is not his ultimate deliver the fish is simply the means by which God himself intervenes to rescue Jonah.
And Jonah makes the declaration that every Christian should make every day salvation is of the Lord. Jonah did not save himself. Jonah was utterly powerless to save himself.
Jonah's doom was sure and certain.
The only possible way he could be rescued was by divine intervention by divine initiative by God reaching down and doing for Jonah. What Jonah could not do for himself. This is a masterful lesson in our utter dependence upon the sovereign grace of God to save us, body and soul from clear and certain destruction salvation is of the Lord.
Jonah couldn't save himself from the ocean waters but God could and did the same is true for you and me when it comes to our sin is a powerful lesson on salvation from Dr. RC Sproul your listing to Renewing Your Mind on this Wednesday and a portion of Dr. RC Sproul series on the reluctant prophet Jonah play with us. RC will be back with some final thoughts in just a moment, as we heard today. Yet many of the things we thought were true. But Jonah aren't necessarily so, but with his keen biblical insight. Dr. Strohl helps to separate fact from fiction. He also addresses several key questions like why did Jonah disobey God's call to preach to the Ninevites. Why was Jonah angry when they repented and what lesson did God teach Jonah in response and what does all of this have to say to us today. Dr. Strohl answers those questions in this series on Jonah and would like to send it to you for your donation of any amount to look at her ministries. Call us today with your gifts and receive the MP3 CD. Our phone number is 800-435-4343.
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Teaching fellows so check it firstname.lastname@example.org seen in the past that when God brings redemption the end of his plan is our salvation.
And he uses means to that end, that would be a mistake for us to confuse the means with the end it would also be a mistake for us to confuse the means of salvation, with the ultimate source of salvation. For example, the New Testament makes it clear that we are saved by faith. Faith is not the end of the Christian life. It is the means to the end of our salvation but also faith is not the grounds or the source of our salvation, but rather it is the Lord God who gives us the face that is the ultimate basis for our redemption if we confuse the source and the means will walk around with expanded chests, bragging to others and boasting within ourselves of what we have done to bring about our own salvation, forgetting that even the faith that we exercise is the gift of God. It is a benefit received at his hand and by his grace and by his mercy, and so every Christian who is a believer should look to God as the author and the finisher of their salvation and say without hesitation. My salvation is of the Lord is so much to think the Lord in our salvation is something we learned today from the prophet Jonah. And there's more to come tomorrow is Dr. scroll examines the final chapter of this Old Testament book. I hope you'll join us for the Thursday edition of Renewing Your Mind