Dear Brethren Editors: – Sister Utterback, of Virginia, requests me to write for the Signs, on these words of our Lord: “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.” – Matt, xii. 40.
“Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth,” here teaches that the prophet Jonah was a sign or type of the Son of man and the Son of God; and the solemn and wonderful lesson of this figure or sign is, that the “wonderful “antitype of Jonah must of necessity die, be buried, and the third day rise again. Therefore, as a sign to the Hebrew nation, the people of the covenant, the Hebrew prophet Jonah was a very wonderful person, showing the infinite wisdom and immutable purpose of our covenant God, and the glorious redemption and deliverance that should be accomplished in the delivering up of both Jonah and Jesus, to which let us turn our attention.
First, the sign of Jonah. He was on hoard a ship, against which a great storm arose, which threatened the destruction of all on board. In the inspired history of this event we read, “But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them.” They thus put forth their best efforts to save themselves and the ship from being lost, but it all failed. This shows the inability of men to deliver themselves from the storms of God’s wrath or judgments, and it proves that his purpose shall be accomplished in his darkest providence, and his mercy shall be made known and his holy name glorified. In this fearful storm and peril Jonah said, “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.” Let us lay this solemn lesson to our hearts. The impotent man at the pool had no man to help him, and was himself helpless, when Jesus rescued him. So deliverance to all in the ship from the fury of the storm which was about to engulf them, should come to them through Jonah only, and this servant of God must go down into the depths of the storm-tossed sea and perish, (as it seemed to them) to give them life and peace. As they would have saved Jonah, so would the little band with Jesus have held him back from going down into the depths of death; but vain and futile were the wisdom and best efforts of men to turn away the cup which God had given, or to devise means of escape.
“Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, 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.” How wonderful! The sacrifice of this servant of God stilled the fury of the sea, and saved the lives of all in the ship! Is it not strange that the Bible-taught Jews, who said to Jesus, “What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee!” did not see this sign, receive this lesson, and believe! Is it not even more strange that millions of professed christians, taught in the letter of the Now Testament and the Old, do not see and believe the lesson of this sign!
Now see the result: “Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows.” Thus they were not only saved through the sacrifice of Jonah from going down with him into the depths of the sea to perish, but they were also saved from idolatry, and brought to know and worship the true God, who had thus manifested his rich mercy toward them. And all this came upon them for Jonah’s sake.
“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” “And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” This is the completion of the sign of Jonah, as a type of the Son of man, and, as do all of God’s lessons, it teaches a wonderful truth, showing his omnipotence and mercy in salvation.
Second, “The Son of man,” of whom Jonah was the “sign.” “So shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” The holy Son of God spoke this long before its accomplishment, but yet he said it imperatively: “So shall the Son of man be.” From this awful baptism there was no escape for him. It was God’s purpose and appointment. As Jonah must be rejected and sink into the depths, that all in the storm-engulfed ship perish not, “so” must the “greater than Jonas” be delivered up and go down, down, Down into “the belly of hell,” “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” As the lot fell upon Jonah, not by chance, but by the decree of the Holy One, and he said to all who were in the same peril with him, “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you;” so did the unresisting Son of man say, “I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way.” “I am the good Shepherd: the good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” For as all in the ship were saved by casting out Jonah into the deep, deep sea, so all who were in the covenant with the Son of man were delivered from so great a wrath, and from the storm of destruction, when the devoted servant of God went down into the heart of the earth. There was no other way; hence for him there was no escape. The lot fell on Jonah; so the decree had gone forth upon the Deliverer of Zion, saying, “In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the Lord hath spoken it.” Yes, the storm ceased; the burden of sin and guilt and awful fear were cut off, and fell into oblivion, when Christ was taken down from the cross, and laid in the heart of the earth. Then were the redeemed delivered from going down into the pit, for the Lord had provided a ransom. How strange now that, after Jesus of Nazareth, “a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,” was laid in the tomb, none of the Jews, not even his disciples, remembered this “sign” of Jonas. Therefore they were as greatly astonished when the buried Redeemer came up out of the heart of the earth, “after three days,” as they were overwhelmed with awe when he was “brought as a lamb to the slaughter,” “and went down into death.” The chosen apostles could not understand what the rising from the dead should mean, of which the devoted Jesus spoke to them, “and they were afraid to ask him.” O how fearful, dark and solemn, was this time! It seemed as if all must perish. The fearful disciples lost all hope. Two of them sadly said to the now risen and living Son of man, “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel.” This shows how utterly at fault are the wisdom and judgment of men, even godly men, in reference to the purpose and way and power of God. “The Lord answered Job, and said, Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it. Then Job answered the Lord, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.” We should all do well to receive the Lord’s reproof of Job, and then manifest the humility and godly reverence of Job. The trial of Job was a very dark and painful providence, it is true; so was the trial of Jonah and all in the ship with him; and greater still was the trial of the Son of man and his fearful disciples, when he was “despised and rejected of men,” and the rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and crucified him. For there was a fearful convulsion of nature; darkness covered the earth from midday three hours, the mountains and earth were shaken, the rocks were rent, and the graves were opened, as if the final doom had fallen upon them; yet it was all controlled by the omnipotent hand of God, and was ordained of him for the destruction of sin and death, that his people should be saved from their sins and idolatries, and death itself. For the Redeemer had said, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.” In fulfillment of this, the blessed Lord said to his sorrowing disciples, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away.” But O, how dreadful and dark the trial! It was expedient for those in the engulfed ship that Jonah should be cast out, to go down three days and nights in the depths of the sea. It was expedient that Joseph should be sent down into Egypt, “to save much people alive;” yet the trial and consequent sorrow, humiliation and deep repentance, were very great. The wisdom and power, goodness and mercy of God were in all these fearful and wonderful events, and in them all his name was made known and glorified. Stormy winds and roaring tempests, warring nations and devils, yea, all creatures and things, sin, death and hell, can do no more than our God has purposed and gives them leave. His holy Son said as much to Pilate: “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.” Were it not so, all things would be uncertain, liable to failure, and there could be no safety anywhere, in anything, for any one.
“Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” It was with these glorious words the angels of God greeted the devout, sorrowing women, who hastened to the sepulchre of Jesus early the third morning after he cried, “It is finished.” Finished, the storm of wrath, the powers of darkness; finished, the transgression, the warfare; finished, the cup of woe, the baptism of death; finished, the redemption-price, the justification; finished, the sting of death, the victory of the grave; finished, the captivity, the legal bondage; finished, “the sign of the prophet Jonas,” the short triumph of “the last enemy.” Now, to those that sat in the region and shadow of death, light is sprung up. Jesus says, “I am the Resurrection, and the Life.” “Because I live, ye shall live also.” Sorrow and mourning flee away. O, with what great joy the believing women now hasten to tell the glad tidings: “Now is Christ risen from the dead!”
Signs Of The Times
Volume 67, No. 11
June 1, 1899