Salvation Belongs to God
The seasons are changing and this fall the Capitol Commission Bible Study began a new study of the book of Jonah. The prophet’s story is filled with fantastic events demonstrating God’s power and sovereignty as well as His loving-kindness and compassion to save. Moreover, the narrative teaches us a great deal about the world we inhabit, the Character of God, the nature of good and evil. We learn about the human condition and the consequences of bitterness. The story of Jonah, like so many of the Biblical narratives, teaches us about people and about ourselves – If we would be willing to listen and to learn.
Jonah’s narrative is extraordinarily poignant in that the nature of Jesus’ death and resurrection as an atonement sacrifice is symbolized in the prophet’s journey into the heart of the sea. And this isn’t a connection we have to go to great measures to make – Jesus himself alluded to this story in Matthew 12:40 – when he said just as Jonah spent 3 days and nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will spend three days and nights in the heart of the earth.
Many scholars discuss how the book is about God’s sovereignty – and his authority and power. Others comment that God’s willingness to save the great city of Nineveh, filled with pagan idolaters who were fierce enemies of Israel serves as an indictment on sinful nationalistic pride – Jonah’s own sinful nationalism which blinded him to the dignity and worth of others – that all people are made in God’s image. That is certainly a lesson that needs to be taught again in our own day.
It’s in Jesus’ own commentary on Jonah’s story that we discover the book’s essential message, the Gospel within which is the Gospel throughout all of the scripture. The story of Jonah presents God to us. Yes, as sovereign and powerful – with authority over all creation. Jonah also presents God as Father, filled with compassion and loving-kindness longing to save humanity deep in need of saving.
Jonah 2:9 –Those who cherish worthless idols abandon their faithful love, but as for me, I will sacrifice to you with a voice of thanksgiving. I will fulfill what I have vowed. The prophet gives a special insight into the Gospel of Jesus – atonement once and for all for sin when he writes this: Salvation belongs to the Lord.
Jonah Chapter 2 is a prayer. Jonah is in the belly of the fish recognizing God’s authority and his own rebellion. How his bitterness against Nineveh, perhaps his own nationalistic pride have become idols and he will serve them no longer – but instead returns to a right posture of worship, offering a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God – wherever that may take him and to whomever God will send him. Even an enemy.
So here is a Gospel thought for you today
Not only is God willing to save, but salvation itself belongs to Him. He owns it. It is not ours to dictate. He determines the means and the methods. And our every effort to appropriate ownership over salvation – as natural as that is for us to do – ultimately robs from ourselves all that God gives in salvation.
Salvation belongs to God – Jonah discovered for himself and declared to God and to us that the one who parted the Red Sea – who opened a singular and narrow path of salvation, dry ground in between two raging walls of chaos and destruction – can extend grace and mercy to whomever He wishes.
And Salvation is not just the promise of heaven… the repentance of Nineveh shows us that God’s redeeming love changes our present condition as well as our future destiny. Trusting in Jesus is the path of dry ground right through the midst of the raging walls of pain in your life and the sinful desires pressing you to rebel against God’s design and redeeming power in your life, as well as the chaos in the world the forces that would suppress the Gospel and inflict injury on the innocent.
In his authorship of salvation – Jesus followed the pattern of three days and nights that we read in Jonah – Jesus freely takes the cup of God’s wrath, spending three days and nights in the heart of the earth and makes possible for any who would trust in His sacrifice – which is the right posture of worship – life everlasting, reconciled to God whose image is now restored in them.
Salvation belongs to God – he doesn’t just forgive but is setting you free from that cycle of sin that you hide so well from those around you.
Salvation belongs to God – he doesn’t just heal but redeems your past, with all its pain and insecurity you’ve suppressed and tried to ignore.
Salvation belongs to God – he doesn’t just restore, but makes you a messenger of reconciliation to the people in your sphere of influence, to reach those you know who have not trusted in Jesus.