I. THAT CALAMITY HAS COMPELLED HIM TO THINK. The sinner is seldom logical. If he were, he would be a sinner no longer. There are no valid premisses to which a sinful act will stand in the relation of a conclusion. If Jonah had reasoned out the matter before he started on his flight, he would not have started at all. He adopted on impulse a course the folly of which a single moment's consideration would have shown. And he avoided this consideration as long as he could. It was only the impossibility of getting further that compelled him to face the question, "Why did I come so far? And was it wisely done?" It is almost invariably the practical results of a line of conduct that lead us to examine as to its intrinsic wisdom. We consult our taste in the first instance. What promises immediate pleasure or profit comes to our judgment so highly recommended by the fact, that few questions are asked. No one supposes that the drunkard takes the moral, economic, or hygienic measure of his disastrous habit before he forms it. He has a lively feeling that it is pleasant, and suits his taste, and he waives the consideration of other points till a more convenient season. It is only when his habit has brought misfortune that he really faces the question whether it is a good one or not. With his month full of the bitter fruit, be naturally begins to form an idea of the character of the tree. If the fruiting had never come, the appraising would have been left undone. There is to every sinner a day when he cannot but think. He is happy if the needs be overtakes him at the outset of his straying ere yet return has become impossible.
II. THOUGHT HAS CONVINCED HIM OF SIN. We can read a sense of guilt in every word of the arrested fugitive. His mind has awaked. In thought he has faced the situation. And his thought has not been barren. It has brought forth conviction. It would have been weak indeed if it had not. The fact of sin is patent to ordinary intelligence. And so to a certain extent is its demerit. To declare its existence and quality is the function of natural conscience; and what is conscience but reason dealing with moral truth? Of course, its diagnosis of sin is inadequate. The awful demerit of sin done against an infinite and holy God cannot be reached by mere force of thinking. It takes an enlightened eye to see it as it is, an opened heart to realize the whole truth regarding it. You must know God, in fact, in order to know sin, which is an offence against him. This, no doubt, Jonah did. There was a mote for the time being in his spiritual eye, but it had been opened once for all to see God. He came, therefore, to the contemplation of his sin with a measure of spiritual insight. And all may come to it similarly furnished. Obey the call of Scripture to "consider." Make a sincere attempt reexamine yourself. Turn your eye inward, desiring honestly to know yourself as sinful in God's sight. You won't be left to your own unaided efforts and to failure. God awaits the beginning of such action to strengthen it. He awaits the attempt at such action to help it. He waits the aim at such action to move to attempt it in the strength of grace. It follows from the connection between wanting and getting in the spiritual sphere - "examine, and you shall know;" for the Spirit convinces the world of sin, and that by guiding into all truth the searchers after its hidden treasures.
III. CONVICTION HAS DRIVEN HIM TO CONFESS. There is a natural egoism in men that is unfavourable to confession. You get it out of them only by a difficult process as men get water out of a still. And the reasons of this are obvious. One is that men are more or less unconscious of their own moral state. They do not realize sin. They deem it an outrage to have guilt charged home. In the impudence of their unconsciousness they would bandy words with God himself (Malachi 3:8). Here is evident failure to discern the sinfulness of sin. And failure is due as much to pride as to incapacity. Men are naturally prejudiced in their own favour. Faults that others see well enough they ignore, or weakly disapprove what others utterly condemn. They abide in darkness because they hate the light (John 3:19). Given a man who cannot see his sin if he would, and who would not if he could, and you have a case in which confession need not be named. Even grant a measure of conviction, and confession does not necessarily follow. When sin is realized in a certain degree, the sinner's tongue is unloosed, and he tells it out with shame to God. But it does not follow that he will do it before his fellow men. That means a great deal more, is harder to do, and more reluctantly done. It is greater humiliation. It involves stronger reprobation. It implies deeper self-abasement. When it is honestly done conviction may be held to be at its intensest; in fact, to be true and adequate. Jonah's repentance had now come to this advanced stage (vers. 10, 12). "When the whip of God and the rod of his justice had overtaken Jonah, so that be now sees heaven and earth to he against him, down comes his proud heart: the sleeper now awaketh; the runaway crieth, Peccavi; contrition and confession come now tumbling upon him" (Abbot). Confession of our faults is an essential part of true repentance. To deny them is to lie, to conceal is to bolster up. When a transgressor is either sullenly silent or volubly apologetic, he has not broken with his sin. He could bear to speak the truth about it if he had definitely cast it off. Hence God makes confession a criterion of sincerity and a condition of pardon (Leviticus 26:40-42; Jeremiah 3:12, 13). Hence, on occasion of sin, Aaron (Numbers 12:11), and Saul (1 Samuel 15:24), and David (2 Samuel 12:13), and Josiah (2 Kings 22:11, 13, 19), and Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 12:6, 7, 12), and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:12, 13), and Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:26), and Peter (Mark 14:72), and others whose sincerity Scripture certifies, whilst it records the fact of their pardon, made free and heart-stricken confession of their fault before God and men. Sin confessed means sin discovered and reprobated and disowned. The man flings it off in the very act, declares himself at once its victim and foe. There is philosophy, therefore, and the fitness of things in the Divine deliverance, prescription and promise hand in hand, that "whoso confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall have mercy."
IV. HIS NEW ATTITUDE TOWARD SIN INCLUDES WILLINGNESS TO SUFFER FOR IT. The world is sometimes surprised and puzzled by a voluntary confession of murder. The self-accused criminal has been hitherto undetected and secure. People may have had their suspicions, and drawn their inferences, but it was impossible to trace the crime home. Yet at last, when investigation had been given up, and the very memory of the crime died out, the murderer comes of his own accord, confesses his crime, and delivers himself up to justice. And, the wonder and puzzlement of shallow people notwithstanding, the act is perfectly logical. The anomaly is not that he has delivered himself up at last, but that he did not do it at the first. There is an instinctive sense of justice in a man, that recognizes the unfitness of a sinner going scot free. He feels that sin produces a moral derangement which cannot continue, and which it takes punishment to readjust. He feels at war with the nature of things until this has been done. He thinks if he had once endured the penalty the balance of things would be restored, and a foundation for future peace be laid. And he actually finds it so. The very fact of telling out his guilt has already lightened the load, and there is a new restfulness in the thought that now he is going to make some amends. It is to this principle that the doctrine of the cross appeals. In Christ crucified the demand of our nature for punishment proportioned to our sin is met. We see our transgressions avenged on him, in him our penal responsibilities met, and our full amends made. Our faith in Christ is, in one aspect, our instinctive clutching at the peace of the punished minus the preliminary pain. The same principle disarms and softens chastisement. Humility feels it is deserved. Intelligence sees it is necessary. And godly sorrow for sin welcomes it as a key to the dwelling of peace from which transgression had strayed. A willingness like Jonah's to accept the need of sin is no mean criterion of our attitude towards it, and of our whole moral bent.
V. HE THOUGHT THAT THE EVIL CONSEQUENCES OF HIS SIN COULD ONLY BE REMOVED BY HIS ENDURING ITS PUNISHMENT. There was a feeling among the sailors that some action must be taken in reference to Jonah (ver. 11). Their present relation to him had involved them in a storm; what but a new relation to him could bring the calm? And the prophet himself is of the same opinion. He considers himself the mountain which attracts the storm, and that, if he were cast into the sea, its great occasion would be gone. What is this but the practical application of a revealed principle, "He that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done"? The axiom applies to the righteous and the wicked alike, if in a different sense. The sin of wicked Saul is visited with punishment as final rejection and ruin. The sin of righteous David is visited with punishment as fiery trial eventuating in a contrite heart. Heathen Philistia and chosen Israel sin in almost equal degree, yet "the remnant of the Philistines" perishes (Amos 1:8), whilst "the remnant of Israel" is by suffering saved (Isaiah 1:8; Romans 9:27; Romans 11:5). And among natural and spiritual men alike the principle holds, cutting this way and that, with double edge: for believing sin, "the rod;" for unbelieving sin, "the sword;" for all sin, wrath in God and anguish in man (Romans 1:18; Romans 2:9). A recognition of this fact would solve some mysteries of suffering, and put an end to many "offences" and complaints. A man sins in his youth against God, and others, and his own body. By the grace of the Spirit he is brought in a little to repentance and the higher life. Is, therefore, his wrong doing undone? By no means. In some physical ailment, in some raked up imputation, in some injured fellow creature, it rises before him when his hair is white. And he is surprised at this. He thought that, after repentance and pardon, his sin was done with forever. But it Is not so. Sin once done cannot be undone. It leaves its mark on the sinner - in mind, or body, or estate, or social relations, but leaves it inevitably somewhere. The wood from which a nail has been drawn can never be as if the nail had not been driven. The nail hole is there, and there remains, do what we will. When, as with Jonah, the sin is against God directly, it has no physical concomitant, and the punishment in its physical aspect can show no connection with it. But it is neither more nor less the doing of God and the result of sin on that account. And, although in regions out of sight, a radical and natural connection still exists between penalty and crime. Its moral necessity and significance and tendency remain the same. Hence the certainty of its coming and the folly of striving to evade its stroke. Not till law natural and moral has had its amends, and all injured interests been recouped, can escape for the law breaker come. Come then it fitly and fairly may, and come then, and only then, it will (Psalm 89:30-33).
1. It is not enough to confess sin in general, we must confess it in particular. There is a kind of impersonal guilt which many will freely acknowledge, by whom personal guilt is altogether ignored. If we say generally, "Your nature is corrupt," they will own it without hesitation and without emotion. If we say, "Your conduct is bad," they will deny the impeachment and resent it. That was not Jonah's way. He unaffectedly confessed guilt as to the matter in hand. And it is not the way of true conviction. You confess and deny in one breath; deny in the particular what you confess in the general; which amounts to saying that a certain number of whites will make a black. But the fact is your acknowledgment is mechanical and formal, and therefore worthless. The denial, on the other hand, is intelligent and in earnest, and the deliberate expression of your mind and feeling. Accordingly, your confession as a whole means just what it says, and that is - nothing.
2. Mercy should move us to confession of sin as strongly as judgment. Who will say that it was altogether the severity of God in punishing at last, and in no degree his goodness in refraining till now, that led the prophet to repentance? Not so speaks the Scripture (Romans 2:4). Mercy touches a bad heart and breaks it, a cold heart and warms it, a closed mouth and opens it. That is its normal, and ought to be its actual, effect on you. Your mercies have been neither few nor small They supply a basis for the inspired appeal, "We beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God" etc. They supply an impulse more than adequate to bring you to the kingdom. If you have resisted them, what will persuade you? The resources of grace have been well nigh expended. God's time of striving has almost ran out. Strive to enter while you see the gate ajar, or the clang of its closing bolts may be the knell of your immortal soul. - J.E.H.
Now the Word of the Lord came unto Jonah.
I. IN ITS SOURCE. It is —
1. Supreme, as the Word of the Lord.
2. Peremptory; it is absolute, imperative, final.
3. Honourable. As associating the commissioned with the commissioner.Investing him with royal rights, privileges, honours.
II. IN ITS RECIPIENT. Jonah.
1. In his filial relationship: the son.
2. In his official capacity: prophet. Learn —(1) That in the economy of moral purposes God makes use of creature agency.(2) That appointments in this economy are specific and sovereign.(3) That the rewards of faithfulness in Christian service will be promotion here, and coronation hereafter.
III. IN ITS PURPORT. "Arise, go to Nineveh." It is —
1. A summons to activity. Shake off dull sloth. Rouse thee from careless ease.(1) The physical plays an important part in the execu tion of Divine purposes.(2) The will too must give its sanction, or all the activ ities will be held in restful subjection. Where there is no will-power a man is a mere tool in the hands of others.
2. A call to arduous duty. Note —(1) Its sphere. "Nineveh, that great city." In God's great busy world there is a definite sphere for everyone.(2) Its spirit. "Cry against it." Energy was to rise to its highest point. To cry requires energy of soul; a vivid realisation of sin, and moral courage.
(J. O. Keen, D. D.)
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)
(H. J. Foster.)
1. The first point at which the narrative may be said to touch the personal character of the prophet is the flight to Joppa. Here is a man, conscious of special inspiration and authority, doing direct violence to the Word of the Most High! We must begin our study with this conviction — Jonah meant nothing throughout like determined rebellion against God. From the first he seems to have understood the mission to have been one of mercy, and not of destruction. The man had laid hold of the thought of Divine goodness and compassion. Jonah's sin was not apostasy from God. He simply shrunk from the mission. The struggle in Jonah's mind must have been the result either of personal feeling or of mistaken ideas. It may have been personal feeling that lay at the root of his conduct. There was personal danger. He did not care to preach to heathen. But his feelings were founded on false ideas about God, and about the people of God, and their vocation. Another view may be taken of Jonah's mind. He anticipated the result of his mission, and did not like it. His prediction would be falsified in the result. And a mission to the stronghold of heathenism seemed quite a new departure in the religious history of Israel. It seemed to Jonah a change in the Divine action, so stupendous that he could not drive out of his mind doubts as to the authority of the message.
2. Look at another point, — the sleep into which the prophet fell instantly that he went down into the ship is quite consistent with a state of perplexity and fear. He was so wearied with the mental strain and struggle, so burdened with the weight of a reproachful conscience, that he gladly hid himself from the faces of his fellow-men, and sought the darkness and solitude of his sleeping place, where nature asserted its demands, and he was soon wrapt in unconsciousness. When he was awakened he had no crime to confess, such as heathen men would understand, and condemn by the light of moral law. Jonah's character was defective rather than corrupt. Like the Apostle Peter, he needed a great deal of teaching, but the root of his piety was sound and deep. He put himself at once into the hands of the chastising Jehovah.
(R. A. Redford, M. A.)1. In his solemn discovery and apprehension. Sin hath entered among us, and the Creator is angry. Some victim is awanting to pacify His just indignation; but where is the sacrifice to be found? At length a merciful Heaven interposes, and the sacrifice is revealed.
2. In the generous self-devotement of the prophet. Applied to the doctrine of substitution, everything is plain, everything is instructive.
3. In his descent to the place of the dead. Two circumstances in the descent of Jonah.
(1) (2) 4. In the doctrine of Messiah's resurrection. 5. In the mission of Jonah to the Gentiles. His was just the commission of Jesus. To the lost sheep of the house of Israel He first turned His eyes; then He sent His disciples to the four winds of heaven, saying, "Preach the Gospel to every creature." (James Simpson.)
(2) 4. In the doctrine of Messiah's resurrection. 5. In the mission of Jonah to the Gentiles. His was just the commission of Jesus. To the lost sheep of the house of Israel He first turned His eyes; then He sent His disciples to the four winds of heaven, saying, "Preach the Gospel to every creature." (James Simpson.)
4. In the doctrine of Messiah's resurrection.
5. In the mission of Jonah to the Gentiles. His was just the commission of Jesus. To the lost sheep of the house of Israel He first turned His eyes; then He sent His disciples to the four winds of heaven, saying, "Preach the Gospel to every creature."