Salvation Belongs to the Lord

February 5, 2017
Jonah 1:17-2:10
Abraham Hong

 

Jonah deserved to die. God commanded Jonah to go and deliver a message to the city of Nineveh. But instead of doing that, Jonah ran away from the presence of the Lord. He disobeyed God. He sinned against him. And it was personal. So God drove Jonah away from his sight and cast Jonah into the deep.

Think of the fear and the hopelessness that came with such a judgment. Imagine Jonah’s distress as he sunk into a cold darkness. Imagine the weight of everything pressing into Jonah’s body and soul. Imagine slimy weeds wrapped about his head. Imagine Jonah dying alone in the world at the very bottom of the world where no one could hear him or help him. This is perhaps the worst way to die.

It took Jonah a deadly storm and a scary drowning to knock some sense into him. You could say that death made things very clear for him. When Jonah was about to die, he didn’t think about his mother. He didn’t feel regret. His whole life didn’t flash before his eyes. Instead, when Jonah was about to die, he thought of one thing. There was only this one thing that mattered: the temple… or to be more precise, the presence of the Lord. The temple was a special place and symbol in the Old Testament. It was a symbol of heaven. It was a symbol of having a face-to-face relationship with God. The temple was God’s dwelling place and home and throne. And Jonah realized that having God was more important than running away. And so Jonah repented and believed and turned and said, “I am driven away from your sight, yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.”

Brothers and sisters, is there anything in this world that matters more than being with God? The answer is no. In life and in death, nothing else matters except the presence of the Lord. If there is something in your life that matters more to you than God, then that person, place or thing is an idol, and you’ve basically left your heart in Tarshish. Do not forfeit or run away from the presence of the LORD. Do not buy tickets to Tarshish. Turn back to God and remain in his mercy and grace and steadfast love.

And so as the waters and the bars of Sheol closed upon Jonah, Jonah remembered the Lord. Jonah cried out to him. And Jonah prayed.

And the Lord answered. The Lord did not have to answer Jonah. But he did.

Why?

Because the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with Jonah according to our sins, nor repay him according to his iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward Jonah; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove Jonah’s transgressions from him. This was why the Lord answered Jonah. This was why the Lord saved him through the great fish.

Brothers and sisters, this is who our God is. The only reason why you are going to heaven is because God had mercy on you. Salvation does not belong to you. Salvation belongs to God. You are not going to heaven because you are good to God. You are going to heaven because God is good to you. Because God has forgiven you through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Jonah was cast into the sea to die and save the mariners. Jesus was cast upon the cross to die and save us. The deserved judgment of water closed in over Jonah. The undeserved wrath of God flooded over Jesus. While it was seaweed that wrapped about Jonah’s head, it was a crown of thorns that wrapped around Jesus’. And while Jonah cried out to the LORD and received an answer from him, Jesus the Son of God cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But Jesus did not receive any answer from God the Father. Jesus was driven away from God’s sight at Calvary. And all of this happened because God loved you and God forgives you.

Brothers and sisters, don’t forget this. Do not forget about God’s grace when you get into an argument with your spouse. Do not forget about God’s compassion if you get sick or injured. Do not forget about God’s mercy the next time you don’t get what you want in life. Do not forget about God’s steadfast love at the funerals. And do not forget about God’s salvation when you sin or run away from God. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

End