Thursday, November 06, 2003

Insights to Lesson 6 - Qtr "Jonah": “Salvation Is of the Lord

Dear Readers of Sabbath School “Insights”:

As this Quarter began we wondered how Jonah could hold our
interest for 13 weeks. But now we can see how its message is present
truth. One serious question looms over all that we have studied thus
Why was Jonah as an inspired prophet of the Lord so confused in
his heart-attitude toward the people of Nineveh? Why was he so
reluctant to preach the message to them? Hadn’t Christ given His blood
for them? Why did he run away and why was he so unhappy when they
finally repented and God forgave them?
Was his heart right with the Lord--he an ordained prophet?
Probably our Sabbath School attendees will agree that there was
something wrong in Jonah’s thinking about the Gentiles, especially the
Assyrians. (And if we really knew what the Assyrians were like--could
they be as bad as al-Qaida?--we might find ourselves sympathizing with
Jonah in his petulance.)
Jonah was very likely the best man the Lord could choose from all
of Israel for this mission. His heart-attitude was not unique to him.
It was like Israel’s attitude toward the Gentiles. It was a national
But how did it originate? Their “father” Abraham had no such
heart-attitude, for the Lord had promised him that his descendants
would be a “blessing” to all people, including the Gentiles: “In you
[that is, Israel] all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen.
12:3). The promise was at last fulfilled in Christ; but God’s plan was
for Israel to “bless” all those “families of the earth,” not just their
own selfish selves. The Lord wanted Jonah to be a “blessing” to the
greatest city in the world--an evangelistic campaign that would have
been the grandest of all history, more so even than ours in London,
Moscow, or Los Angeles. The entire city was to be “blessed” with
repentance-results that should extend through all the rest of Assyrian
These world/blessing promises that the Lord had made to Abraham
were the essence of God’s New Covenant. At Mount Sinai, the Lord
proposed to renew it to Israel, but they chose as a nation to carry on
under the Old Covenant.
Jonah was a creature of his Israelite milieu. He could preach the
law, the law, until he was “as dry as the hills of Gilboa,” as Ellen
White said “we” were prior to 1888. [1] And the Lord blessed--He has
always blessed Old Covenant ministry. The Old Covenant was good; the
laws that govern our civilization are good and necessary--based on fear
of penalty. But the New Covenant is based on “better promises.” [2] It
is yet to be fully realized by God’s people. The wonderful “Loud Cry”
message that is yet to “lighten the earth with glory” will be a
beautiful New Covenant message of how the grace of Christ is much more
abounding than all the sin the devil can invent. The “most precious
message” which “the Lord in His great mercy sent to” us in 1888 was
pure New Covenant truth--refreshing, heart-moving, motivating. For
example, in the initial months when the people gladly received it
before opposition confused them, Ellen White says the results were
phenomenal. Tithe flowed in, for instance, as never before. [3] The
youth were motivated as never since the Midnight Cry of 1844. [4] Ellen
White confessed that the “latter rain” had begun--for the first time
What would a New Covenant presentation of the gospel have done
ancient Nineveh? We don’t know of course; but it would have depended on
a New Covenant nation of Israel to back it up, else those who “came out
of Babylon” could not have known where to go, and would have become
confused by Israel’s backslidden condition. (Which may illuminate our
evangelism work today. Ellen White says the Lord would bring many more
from “Nineveh” into the church today if we would proclaim the New
Covenant message and we were ready to receive them.)
Another question that arises in this week’s Sabbath School
When Jonah prayed in the fish’s “belly” did he taste a tiny bit of what
the second death will be like? As our Quarterly emphasizes, he went
“down, down, down.” But not just physically, his soul went “down.” He
was in “hell” (Sheol; 2:2). The language of his prayer in this chapter
suggests that death “encompassed . . . [his] soul.” He felt “cast out”
“forever.” But unlike Christ on His cross who cried, “Why have You
forsaken Me?” the Lord responded to Jonah’s cry before he actually
could die the second death.
But why did Jonah need to go to “hell” (Sheol) before he could
repent and accept his mission?
Thus chastened and enlightened, and with a heart-felt gratitude for
being saved from the second death, he chose to consecrate himself to
the Lord’s service. When Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ,” he
must have had much the same experience. He also did not die the second
death (only one Man has ever done so!), but his whole soul appreciated
that Christ had died that death for him. That’s how “the love [agape]
of Christ constraineth us” to live “henceforth” not for self, but unto
Him. [5]
Would you like to sense that “constraint” that realizes the “much
more abounding grace of Christ” (Rom. 5:20), the “power” that is in the
gospel (1:16) to set you free from all paralyzing egocentric concern?
Join with Christ on His cross as the repentant thief did; understand,
appreciate, “comprehend,” [6] how He died your second death. Spend a
“thoughtful hour with Him” there. [7] The results of simply “beholding”
will be wonderful.
--Robert J. Wieland

[1] “As a people we have preached the law until we are as dry as the
hills of Gilboa, that had neither dew nor rain.” Review and Herald,
March 11, 1890; January 31, 1893.
[2] Hebrews 8:6.
[3] MS. 22, 1890 (Feb. 3). quoted in L. H. Christian, The Fruitage of
Spiritual Gifts, p. 238.
[4] Review and Herald, March 5, 1889, “Meetings at South Lancaster”
[5] 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15, KJV.
[6] Ephesians 3:18, KJV.
[7] The Desire of Ages, p. 83.

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