THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JONAH (3) GOD’S CHASTISEMENT OF JONAH
During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled ‘The Gospel according to Jonah’ (3) God’s Chastisement of Jonah. Her main text was taken from the Book of Jonah chapters 1 and 2, and Luke 15:1-7.
The story of Jonah is more than a children’s tale. It is more than an adventure about a great fish. It the revelation of God and His Grace towards men. It is the testimony of King Grace. Simply said, Grace means unmerited favor, undeserved Kindness for the sake of Christ! In the Book of Jonah, we shall find the Gospel of Christ Crucified and Resurrected. The study of this Book from the Old Testament will help us see that the Bible is One. In the Old Testament the Gospel is revealed in symbols and shadows. In the New Testament, we see reality of the Gospel. There are many deep revelations here, about salvation and the call of God to ministry. All people can gain wisdom and strength from the study of the Book of Jonah, but in particular the backsliders. Praise the Lord!
WHO IS JONAH?
Jonah was the son of Amittai. In Hebrew, the name “Amittai” means Truthful or Faithful. Jonah comes from a good Hebrew family. The Name “Jonah” means “Dove”. It is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Jonah was a true Prophet of Jehovah God. God wanted to use him as an ambassador of peace. He prophesied during Jeroboam II, a wicked king of Israel. Jonah lived in a small town called Gath Hepher, located at the north border of ancient Israel. It was part of the inheritance of the Tribe of Zebulun (Joshua 19:13). (Today, the town does not exist. There are some ruins there, and a stone said to be Jonah’s tomb. The ruins are five Kilometers north of Nazareth). Jonah must have lived between 800 and 750BC. Assyria was Israel’s neighbor in the north. At that time, the Kingdom of Assyria was the greatest power in the world. Its capital, Nineveh, founded by Nimrod, was at its peak. (The Kingdom of Assyria was conquered by Babylon in 600 BC). Jonah’s ministry started immediately after the prophets Elijah and Elisha. It is possible that Jonah was a disciple of Elisha.
THE THEME OF THE BOOK OF JONAH – SALVATION IS OF THE LORD!
The Book of Jonah is not a prophecy. It is the Prophet’s miraculous story, his testimony, and his relationship with Jehovah God. Jonah’s story reveals the way The God of all Grace deals with His people, even when they rebel against His commands. The greatest revelation in the Book of Jonah is that “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). In Jonah we discover the Gospel, the power of seeking Grace. It is not man looking for God but God seeking and finding the lost! “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai,,,” (Jonah 1:1). This is how the Book of Jonah starts. It is not Jonah’s word that matters. It is God’s Word that starts the story. God is always first! The Gospel is not man’s work but God’s. Grace always ignites the fire. But Jonah struggles with the Grace of God. He loves to experience grace for himself, but he does not what to extend that grace to others. The story of Jonah helps us to understand and appreciate the irresistible Grace of God in salvation and redemption. Throughout the story of Jonah, we see that God is all-powerful, kind, patient, and faithful. For not good reason, God loves Jonah from the beginning to the end! There is no other explanation for this love except the Grace of God!
GOD CHASTISES JONAH
Jonah was running away from God. He took a ship that was going to the opposite direction. Initially, Jonah was not interested in anything concerning the ship or the mariners. This was not a vacation cruise. Having nothing to do, exhausted from all his rebellious plans, Jonah went to sleep. He knew that all the mariners were sinners and pagans. Soon, in the middle of the storm, Jonah realizes that God is chastising him for his rebellion. The revelation of God’s chastisement ended his desire to run away from God. Jonah does some things that are right: He openly confesses that He fears Jehovah God. He also openly confesses his sin. He tells them that he is running away from God. He takes the blame and wants to take the punishment for the tragedy. That is why Jonah tells them to throw him into the sea. He prophesies that the sea will be calm, and it was. The mariners believed that he was a true prophet. All these things Jonah did are good things. But his repentance was not complete. These are some things Jonah did not do: he did not pray for forgiveness, and he did not change his actions. He did not become obedient to God. He should have told the mariners: ‘Let us turn the ship and go to Nineveh! Let us serve Jehovah God!’ When a child is disobedient, it is not enough that he confesses his sin to his parents. He is to assure them that from now on, he will obey them. That is true repentance. Jonah fell short of the standard of true repentance. But God was making progress in the process of chastisement. Once Jonah fell into the depth of the sea and a great fish swallowed him, he finally broke down and truly repented. He ‘remembered God!’ He prayed to God! He finally declared that all salvation, from beginning to the end is of God! He now understands that even the times of chastisements are under the control of the sovereign God. The chastisement of God manifests God’s sustaining Grace.
Jonah is the only man who is a believer in that ship. He is like the church sleeping in the midst of a troubled world. Selah! Once the mariners understood God’s love for Jonah, even coming in the form of chastisement, they too acknowledged Jehovah, Jonah’s God. Initially, they all prayed to their little gods who were not able to help them. Now they know that Jonah’s God is God Almighty, the Creator of the universe. The fear of God came upon them. That was the beginning of their wisdom. When Jonah told them to throw him into the raging sea, they did not want to do that. They looked at it as an act of murder. But the storm increased in power. At last, they prayed to Jehovah for mercy, and they surrendered Jonah to his God. The storm stopped immediately as a sign that God has received their ‘sacrifice’. They offered a sacrifice to God and made vows, possibly to serve Him from now on. This can be taken as a sign that became saved thru the witness of God’s chastisement, a revelation of God’s love for His child. Jonah behavior reveals that he was truly a child of God. That is why he repented. An unbeliever in the middle of a storm becomes more stubborn, more silent, and totally careless of the lives of others. In other words, troubles drive a believer to God and the same troubles drive unbelievers to the worlds.
THE DOCTRINE OF GOD’S CHASTISEMENT
The word chastisement is defined as verbal strong rebuke combined with corporal punishment (flogging). It comes from a Latin word that means ‘to make pure’. God’s chastisement is the peculiar painful process by which God punishes rebellion among men until it ends, and obedience is restored. This is how a parent disciplines his disobedient child, for his own good. God is the Father of all believers in Christ. The purpose God teaches and trains His children is so that they become like Jesus. Chastisement is God’s way to work with His rebellious children. This peculiar work is done for His glory and for their own good. Chastisement is never pleasant. It is painful. But the effect is that the rebellious child repents of his sins and comes back to God the Father with a new heart and a new attitude. Chastisement leads to godliness, humility, and wisdom. God only chastises His children. It is a sign of fatherly love. It is a proof that the child belongs to the family of God! But God deals differently with the unbelievers. God punishes the wicked unbelievers to restrain their evil works. Even after the punishment, the unbelievers will not repent. Their punishment does not lead to salvation. But they stop doing evil work for fear of more punishment. In other words, God chastises His children and punishes the unbelievers.
In the Old Testament, we see God chastising His people each time they become rebellious. Often, God chastises disobedient people thru men. For example, if a man slanders his wife for no good reason, he must be punished by the elders of the city. They shall flog him in public. He must pay compensation to his father-in-law, for spoiling his daughter’s name. The marriage is now permanent. He cannot divorce her all the days of his life (Deut 22:13-19). As you can see, discipline for sin is necessary. If the sin is not punished accordingly, the man will become a bad example as a husband, and many will imitate him. This will pollute the whole city morally. God is a disciplinarian!
There are many examples of chastisement in the Bible. The Lord chastises Jacob while in service to Laban. Joseph chastises his brothers in Egypt. The Lord chastises David for his sin with Bathsheba. The most powerful example of chastisement in the Bible is the way the Lord chastises the nation of Israel over the course of its history. The Lord’s discipline eventually leads Israel back to faithfulness at the end of the age. In the Book of Leviticus 26, you see how God warns His people against rebellion. He promises that He will chastise them with greater intensity if they refuse to repent. “And after all this, if you do not obey Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins” (Lev 26:27, 28). In Hebrew, the word ‘chastise’ means to discipline and instruct, to teach and guide a people back to God. This painful instruction can involve some very hard lessons. It can even mean physical punishment, such as flogging. It always comes with verbal correction. God uses men to rebuke His stubborn child with words and deeds. God promised to chastise His people with plagues, incurable diseases, poverty, bareness, affliction or loss of children, defeat from enemies, constant stress and anxiety of life, and loneliness. If God’s people refuse to repent, the level of pain in chastisement increases, until it become ‘seven times’, which is the perfect number. If sickness, poverty, and loss of all good things do not work, and God’s child refuses to repent, God takes His child home. Untimely death is a form of chastisement. This is a fact: God never loses. God always wins in this matter because God is the perfect and excellent Father! Remember that God can use His Word to chastise us!
Wrong doctrines: Some say that God chastises His child all the time, just to make him to obey. They say that God chastises His children even when they are obedient, to prevent them from committing sins. Others say that God punishes His child for sins committed by others, or for sins committed in the past, before becoming saved. These teachings show God as a Father who is always angry and impatient with His children. These are wrong doctrine creating doubt and anxiety when thinking about God. These false doctrines hinder faith in the assurance of salvation.
Right doctrines: There are consequences for sins committed in the past. But these consequences are not God’s chastisement. God is the Perfect Father. He is longsuffering. He loves His child. God “does not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men” (Lam 3:33). Generally, He leads thru the Word and the Holy Spirit. Once the child rebels against His leading, God talks to the child to convict him of sin, to repent. If the child becomes stubborn and refuses to listen to the voice of God and the warning of his conscience, then God intervenes and chastises His child.
God always makes a difference between His children and other men. He deals differently with the rebellion of His children and the rebellion of the unbelievers. God is the Greatest Gardner. He knows how to cut off unfruitful branches and how to prune the fruitful ones. The result is a greater harvest for His glory! “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (Jn 15:1,2)
To understand God’s ways, you need to know the basics of salvation. A sinner becomes a child of God by His Grace and thru faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. None is saved thru good works. Salvation is not a reward. It is the free gift of God to men because of the sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross. Christ took the punishment and the guilt of sins on the Cross. If you believe that Christ shed His Blood for you, then you are saved. You become a child of God. From that moment, there is no more condemnation for you. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:1, 2). This is fact. God has justified the believer in Christ! This is the work of Grace alone! Because the believer is justified by faith in Christ Crucified, there is no more condemnation for him. The child of God will not meet God as the Judge. Even if he rebels, God’s child will never meet God in the court room. He will always meet God in His house, as his Father. Even when he disobeys, the believer will be chastised in God’s House and not in God’s Court room. The punishment for his sins was placed on Christ on the Cross. The sacrifice of Christ was accepted by God on behalf of the believer. God will never ‘punish’ His child for sins. But God retains the right to chastise His child when he rebels, to bring him back to Him.
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him” (PV 22:15). “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell (Sheol)” (PV 23:13, 14)
“Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor 5:5)
The unbeliever is punished by God to restrain evil behavior. He does not repent to become saved, but he will stop doing that evil deed. The unbeliever always meets with God as his Judge, in the court room, The unbeliever does not meet God as his Father, in His house. Both chastisement and punishment look the same outwardly, but they are not the same in the heart of God. God punishes the unbeliever in His anger and chastises His child in love. The effects of chastisement and punishment are not the same. The believer has godly sorrow and the unbeliever manifests worldly sorrow. The first leads to life and the second leads to death. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor 7:10). After his chastisement, the prodigal son returns home to his father, but the unbeliever remains in the world to the end, and then he goes to hell. The believer is always grateful for the discipline of the Father. But the restrained unbeliever remains bitter and ungrateful, holding grudges against God and the men He used to punish him.
THE HUNGER FOR THE WORD OF GOD
One of the greatest forms of chastisement is God sending the hunger and thirst for the hearing of the Word of God. The preaching of the true Gospel will become rare. People will attend churches where they are not saved. The people who cling to their religious idols and refuse to repent will become weaker and weaker. For those who hear the true Gospel, their hunger and thirst has been satisfied. That blessing is life!
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, And from north to east; They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, But shall not find it. “In that day the fair virgins And strong young men Shall faint from thirst. Those who swear by the sin of Samaria, Who say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan!’ And, ‘As the way of Beersheba lives!’ They shall fall and never rise again” (Amos 8:11-14)
“Therefore, whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks [g]in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason, many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor 11:27-32). Knowing that God chastises His disobedient children, we should examine ourselves constantly. This does not mean we live in fear, but it means to be wise in our walk with God. You should know that the devil desires us to rebel against God. Separate yourself spiritually from unbelievers. The word of God says that if we humble ourselves and repent of any known sin, then we shall not be chastised by God. This warning is given especially as we take the Holy Communion. We should take the bread and wine in a ‘worthy manner’. It means to be sober and grateful as we remember the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Taking the Holy Communion carelessly, jokingly, ignoring a known sin, or without the fear of God, it is dangerous. God shall chastise His rebellious child with weakness of the body, sickness, and even untimely death. The believer shall go to heaven, but he may not have fulfilled God’s plan for his life! Selah!
THE TOUGH LOVE OF GOD
“You have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb 12:5-11)
God made a covenant of mercy and grace with David and his descendants. This covenant applies to all believers in Christ. This is God’s promise to us, His children: “I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you” (2 Sam 7:14, 15). God treats King Saul as an unbeliever, but He treats David as His child. To an unbeliever, mercy is given temporarily. To the believer, mercy and grace are eternal gifts. There are two warnings given to believers who pass thru God’s chastisement: despising the rod and discouragement during the process. Both these wrong attitudes are rooted in stubborn pride, anger, doubt, and foolishness.
*To despise it means to look down on something; to hate something because you think it is a bad and useless thing. The believer may despise the hand of God who holds the rod in different ways. Men may chastise him with the rod. But behind the scenes, it is God that holds that rod. How does a believer despise the rod? By complaining about the chastisement, that it is useless. He complains that God is not fair to him. Like a naughty child, he says that the stripes are not painful, or that God does not know what He is doing. The rebellious child may refuse to repent and make amends with men. He may feel ashamed of his Father and His ways. He may reject the household of God. He may despise others who are disciplined too, trying to discourage them. Despising the rod of God will only prolong the chastisement. Repent and thank God for the rod! Say with the Psalmist: “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep Your word… I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me” (Ps 119:67, 75).
*To be discouraged it means to faint, to become weak, to abandon the faith, to let go of God during trials. Do not be discouraged like Jonah who wished to die rather than repent! The believer should not be discouraged when His Father rebukes him. Many believers choose to backslide especially during seasons of discipline. They stop praying or coming to church. Jesus said: “we should always pray and not faint” (Lk 18:1). Others lose their assurance of salvation. They now believe that they have lost their salvation. We are commanded not to become worse in times of chastisement but to repent and come back to God. Many listen to the devil’s lies who tells them that God’s chastisement will last forever. They lose the hope that one day, it will end. You need to appreciate God’s care and love for you, especially when you go astray. God is a good Father. He will use chastisement to bring you back to Him. Do not be discouraged! Pray for grace and strength, trusting God to perfect the good work He has started in you! Encourage yourself in God! Learn to be grateful! Thank God for all things, for the sweet and for the bitter. Never doubt His love for you. Nothing shall separate you from the Love of God in Christ Jesus! Remember God! Remember Jesus! Go and stay at the foot of the Cross. The pain is not forever! Once God’s child repents of his sin against God, he will be free. “I have borne chastening; I will offend no more; Teach me what I do not see; If I have done iniquity, I will do no more” (Job 34:31, 32). The purpose for the discipline has been fulfilled! Praise God!
“He sent a man before them—Joseph—who was sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with fetters, He was laid in irons. Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him. The king sent and released him, the ruler of the people let him go free. He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his possessions, To bind his princes at his pleasure, And teach his elders wisdom” (Ps 105:17-22). Do you remember Joseph? God allowed him to pass thru much pain. He was betrayed by his brothers. He became a slave and a prisoner. This painful process was under the supervision of God. The pain lasted some years. But at last, the pain was over. God has purified and trained His man to stand for Him in a wicked world. Joseph became the Prime Minister of Egypt. In that great position, he was now an ambassador for Christ. He saved his family who became a nation. He gained enough wisdom so that he could lovingly chastise his brothers.
Never forget, once you are a child of God, trust Him always, even when you do not understand His ways. God uses pain to bring out praise out of you. “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself: ‘You have chastised me, and I was chastised, Like an untrained bull; Restore me, and I will return, For You are the Lord my God. Surely, after my turning, I repented; And after I was instructed, I struck myself on the thigh; I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated, Because I bore the reproach of my youth.’ Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; Therefore, My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord” (Jer 31:18-20)
“I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up, And have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried out to You, And You healed me. O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave; You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning” (Ps 30:1-5).
THE LOST AND FOUND SHEEP
“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Lk 15:1-7)
The religious leaders opposed our Lord. They hated that Jesus was caring for the religious outcasts. They called the thieves, prostitutes, drunkards, and tax-collectors, ‘sinners.’ Because they were religious, they thought that they are not sinners in need of a Savior. Pride made them reject Christ. That is when our Lord spoke this parable of the lost and found sheep. His purpose was to say that all men are sinners, and all men need Jesus Christ, the only Savior and Lord. Jesus revealed His amazing grace and love of His sheep.
There was a man who had one hundred sheep. It means he was a wealthy man. Most wealthy men hire poor shepherds to take care of their sheep. But this man, took care of his own sheep by himself. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who knows each sheep by name and is ready to die for them (Jn 10:11, 14). One day, a sheep got missing. She left the fold and went into the wilderness. Sheep are born foolish. They get easily confused. No sheep can find its way back to the flock. If the shepherd does not go to look for her, she will die. This wealthy shepherd could have forgotten about one sheep. If it is just money, the loss is small. But the Good Shepherd cannot abandon a sheep, no matter how little or cheap the sheep is. He leaves the ninety-nine sheep in the care of a helper, and he goes into the wilderness to find his lost sheep. The shepherd knows the sheep is a grave danger. The wild animals can kill her; she can fall in a deep valley, or she can die of starvation. A lost sheep is a dead sheep. The Good Shepherd searches for the sheep until he finds her. Please observe the patience and love of the shepherd. He does not give us until he finds his sheep. At last, he finds the sheep, dirty in the bushes, lonely, thirsty, hungry, and shaking with fear. Immediately he becomes happy. His joy starts with locating the sheep, that is still alive. He then carries the sheep on his shoulders. An adult sheep weighs about 100 pounds. It is not easy to carry her. But she is too weak to walk. The shepherd takes the burden of the sheep and carries her back home. The reason why the Shepherd sacrifices himself to seek and find the lost sheep, is one, for his joy and secondly, for the encouragement of the other ninety-nine. The remaining sheep now know that the shepherd loves them enough to save them even when they go astray. From now on, they will have peace of mind and assurance of their safety. They will be careful to obey and stay in the fold. Once home, the shepherd celebrates his victory with family and friends. The sheep on his shoulders is his reward! Jesus said that His purpose of coming to earth was to save sinners. He said: “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk 19:10). Appreciate the Grace of God in your salvation! Worship the Lord!