need have no fears at to the truthfulness of the whale swallowing
Jonah. No matter if no one now living has ever seen a whale with a
throat so large, yet it remains that the One Who can make a whale can
make one that can swallow a man. Only one such whale has ever been
The prayer of Jonah, while he was in the whale, is full of instruction.
It consisted more of affirmations and thanksgiving, than of requests.
While in the monster the prophet said, "I cried in my affliction to the
Lord my God, and He hearkened to me---to my cry out of the abdomen of
the unseen". He said this, mind you, before he made any request. He was
so sure of being heard and answered favorably, that he affirmed this
fact before it came to pass.
In this we may learn a lesson. Faith takes it for granted that the
petition will receive a favorable answer. And, in praise, the one who is
praying claims the answer before it has actually been manifested.
The prophet recited how he came to be in the whale, and how deep down in
the sea he had sunk when he was cast out of the ship. He was still
talking to the Lord, since there was no one else to whom he could speak
at the time.
Then came the request: He asked the Lord to restore his corrupt life.
He realized that he was a sinner---that he had made a grevious mistake.
But he had no idea that the corruption was too great for the Lord to
heal. He fully expected that he would be lifted out of his predicament.
He had observed lies and vanities in supposing that he could get away
from the Lord. In doing so, he had failed to be merciful to himself.
Even so he had not gone beyond the mercies of the Lord, and he knew it.
The answer had not yet been manifested, but he was so full of confidence
that he said, "I will sacrifice to Thee with the voice of praise and
thanksgiving". Most of us treat God as we would a hired man. We say to
the man, "if you will do this job I will pay you." So we, in effect say
to God, "If you will grant my request I will praise You". We, in most
cases, do not love Him enough to praise Him before the answer comes.
We may have made mistakes until we feel corrupt---we think our life is
ruined. But it is well to remember, as did Jonah, that no state of
corruptness or sinfulness can ever be beyond the mercy of God. Jonah was
as confident as if he had made no mistake.
And let me emphasize the fact that before the prophet had requested
anything of the Lord, he claimed a favorable answer, and was speaking
words of praise. How we do need this lesson!
The answer came and Jonah found himself on dry land, and hurrying to
Ninevah. And notice how simply he gave the message! There was no
flourish. He did not try for elegant speech. He simply said that in
three days the city would be destroyed. I am using the Septuagant
Version. The A. V. says forty days.
The reader is familiar with the fact that the people of Ninevah
repented. That is their mind was changed, and they repudiated the
wickedness and lawlessness that has been their practice.
Also it is well known that God repented of the evil that He had said He
would do, and He did it not. He spared the city.
We make mistakes often by bringing in something that is not in the
passage under consideration. We might argue profoundly and learnedly
that God knew beforehand just what He would do---that He really had no
intention of destroying the city. But such argument has no place in the
story. God had said that he would destroy the city, and when the people
repented, God repented of the evil He had mentioned, and did it not.
That is all we need to know, in order to get the lesson of this story.
We should not be more careful than are the sacred writers. If we are
discussing a passage in which it is said that all is of God, we must
bring that in. But if the statement is absent from the passage,
evidently God does not want it there, and we are showing ourself too
careful when we bring it in. If God omits it, let's honor His omission.
The same is true of other doctrines. Let us not put predestination in a
passage where God has not put it. If we are discussing faith, and God
has not said in that passage the faith is God's oblation, let US not say
it. But when we are discussing Eph. 2:8, where the writer inserted this
passage, let us insist that it is true.
So we leave out all matter that are foreign to the Book, Jonah, and
simply believe that the people of a wicked city were spared because they
repented although God had said He would destroy it. This is the lesson
that we are supposed to learn from this part of the word of God.
Jonah believed, before he started on his journey of escape from the
Lord, that God is merciful and would spare the city when the people
repented, no matter if he HAD said He would destroy it. It is unworthy
of Jonah that this was the reason he did not want to go to Ninevah. But
this admission in the story shows the frailty of man. It does not take
from Jonah the admirable points he had. Neither should we condemn him
about the gourd episode, even though he acted very childishly. Let us
take into account the good points of the prophet.
In the story of Ninevah we find a lesson that should be heeded. Right
now the world is facing what looks like calamity, because of lawlessness
and wickedness. And we have the word of God concerning the rate of the
world. But let us remember that there is always a possibility that God
will repent of the evil He has said He will do. Grace is so powerful
that it can easily set aside threatened calamity when the people repent
of that which is bringing evil. There is no scarcity of mercy.
Jonah was honoring God by saying that he knew Him to be merciful. If God
has promised good, He will never repent of that. But He has been known
to repent of evil that He has said He would bring on mankind.
It is hardly honoring to Him to believe that He is so unyielding that
prayers and tears and repentance cannot turn Him from an evil that He
has threatened. This may be true of a hard-hearted MAN, but not of a
Statesmen are afraid that World War III is coming. They don't want it,
but they are doing that which is calculated to bring it---they are
talking about it and predicting it. But Paul tells us how to act if we
would live in peace. We are to make prayers, thanksgivings, etc., for
all mankind, and he specially mentions those who are in superior
positions. We are to do this in order to live a mild and quiet life in
all devoutness and gravity. See I Tim. 2:1-3.
There is not a day when I do not pray for Stalin, Truman, Attlee, and
all the heads of the various nations. I am not depending on the United
Nations. I am depending on God to bless mankind with the gift of
repentance, so that the world will be spared another blood bath worse
than any we have known hitherto.
I ask my readers, Will you do your part in this repentance? Is there
any lawlessness in your life, that may be a contributing factor in the
downfall of civilization? Will you seek to do the will of God? Will you
set the example of honesty, sobriety, chastity, devoutness? Until you
do, you cannot be a factor in helping straighten out the thinking of
In all your contact with mankind, will you try to inculcate into them
the principles of citizenship that made this a great nation in the past?
If you have access to the public prints, will you try to let your
influence be felt for good?
And will you pray for the man whom we believe is trying to engulf the
world in Communism and Atheism? You know that I refer to Joseph Stalin.
If we can't reach his case by prayer, we certainly cannot do it by
Will there be a world-wide return to sanity? Which is to ask, will there
be a world-wide repentance? Will you do your part toward it?
Have you learned anything from the Book of Jonah?