Rescued from the Depths

It seems to me that when we discuss the story and book of Jonah, we very often miss a key element.  There is much talk of the first chapter, which features the well-known Bible story of Jonah’s stubborn disobedience of God’s command to cry against Nineveh and the ensuing stormy voyage, as well as the detail of Jonah being swallowed up by a fish prepared by the Lord.  We also spend much time on chapters 3 and 4, in which Jonah does go to Nineveh and preach to them a gospel of repentance for sin, and Jonah becomes angry at God’s will for the city.  However, we seem to frequently glaze over chapter 2.  This chapter contains the words of Jonah while in the belly of the fish.  It is a very beautiful prayer, and we would do well to study it as much as the other chapters for its instruction regarding our prayer lives.  It also serves as a preparation for worship of Jehovah.

Verse 2 sets the tone for the prayer.  In it, Jonah acknowledges that he cries out to God “out of the belly of hell” and “by reason of [his] affliction.”  He also makes mention of God’s ability and willingness to hear him.  This is a good way for us to formulate our own prayers, as well as to approach the house of God tomorrow – in total admission that we are sinful creatures worthy of hell and unworthy to be heard by Him apart from His grace, but also recognizing that that grace is present for us and that He does hear us.  Proper reverence is vital in worshipping God, and reminding ourselves that we need Him for all things is a good way of obtaining that reverence.

Verses 3 and 5 are closely related, describing the horrors of drifting into the depths, suffocated by weeds.  The literal nature of this part of the prayer is obvious, but it has a symbolic component as well.  When we become ensnared by a besetting sin, we are Jonah, trapped by seaweed and pressed on every side by the increasing burden as we continue to sink further and further into the depths of sinfulness.  At times, we, as did Jonah, can feel as though there is no escape, and we destined to drown in our wicked way.

However, there is hope for the child of God.  Verses 4 and 7 both mention turning to God’s holy temple.  It is the natural reaction to attempt to swim to the surface on one’s own power, but we know in our hearts this is foolishness.  Our only salvation is in God, and to obtain it, we must turn to Him and own that we are sinful.  This too is mentioned by Jonah; in verse 8, he says that others “observe lying vanities,” and in so doing “forsake their own mercy.”  However, he makes a beautiful confession in verse 9, stating, “But I will sacrifice unto Thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.”  As we come into the holy temple of God tomorrow, let us do so with hearts full of sorrow for our sinfulness, but also filled with thanksgiving, remembering that “Salvation is of the Lord.”

God’s answer to the prayer is seen in verse 10: the fish vomits Jonah out.  There is much practical instruction for us here.  His prayer is answered because it is a true prayer, the only kind God heeds.  May we come to Him on Sunday with a pure heart, prepared to rightly worship and petition Him, as Jonah did.

A good summary of the prayer is found in verse 6: “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me forever: yet hast Thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.”  Remember tomorrow morning when you go to the house of the Lord that in the past week, you have truly descended to the bottoms of the mountains and have become imprisoned in your sinfulness.  But remember too that God, through Christ’s work, lifts you out of the depths of sea, removing you from the ensnarement of your sins.  As we sing in Psalter number 29:

“My soul in death’s dark pit

Shall not be left by Thee;

Corruption Thou wilt not permit

Thy holy one to see.

Life’s pathway Thou wilt show,

To Thy right hand wilt guide,

Where streams of pleasure ever flow,

And boundless joys abide.”

Matt Koerner

What Does Salvation Mean to You?

As Christians, we spend a lot of our time talking about salvation, yet we sometimes we really  don’t know how to describe it in all its beauty to someone who might ask what it means. All throughout this earthly journey, we use that word ‘salvation’  as a summation of what God has given us. While salvation is the biggest gift and greatest gift our Almighty God has given us, it represents so much more than just that one word. So, I would describe it as follows.

What does salvation mean to me? It means that God is my God. It means that no matter how many times I commit treason against His kingly Name, He still offers me His mercy. It means that no matter how many times I hurt Him, He remains my best and strongest friend. He says that no matter how often I betray Him, I can still come running back to Him like the prodigal son, and He will welcome me because He is my Father and I am His child. Salvation shakes and comforts the sinner. I sin and sin, and yet Jesus says, “Drop the stone.” Salvation says, “Father, please forgive them, for they know not what they do” as I scream out, “Crucify Him!” Salvation dwells in me after the pouring out of the Holy Spirit into my heart on Pentecost, and I have the witnessing of that same Spirit as I walk my earthly path. Salvation says, “Yes” to the questions of Baptism and Confession of Faith as the tears of comfort, joy, and perfect peace fill the eyes of my parents and grandparents. Salvation brings me to my knees and the Judge declares me innocent when I deserve to be beyond condemned. Salvation carries me through the streets of gold and gates of pearls as I hear the angels and saints greeting me home.

So what does salvation mean? What does it mean to you? The truth and significance of that word ‘salvation’ is far greater than its nine letters. Salvation represents my entire story. What is yours?

Ariel Bosman

Saved by hope

In our sufferings on this earth, we look with hope towards the resurrection of our bodies and the life eternal. In this hope we are saved! “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” (Romans 8:24).

Before Christ ascended into heaven, Satan was allowed access to heaven. He constantly accused the brethren there (Rev. 12:10) because as of yet, payment had not been made for their sins. What could their answer be to such an accusation? There answer was that God had promised that payment would be made. God always keeps his word, so when he promised payment for sins it was as if it was already reality. Their salvation was in their hope that the blood of the Lamb would save them and overcome Satan (Rev. 12:11).

So with us today. Our hope is in the resurrection of our bodies and the life everlasting in heaven. This is not a reality for us yet. We cannot see it yet. It is hope. A hope in which lies our salvation. God is always true to his word, therefore his promise to us gives us assurance of our salvation and a confidence to face the devil. Through this work we are given patience and contentment with the fact that we are not in heaven yet. More on this next time.

RK