Category Archive: Sign of Jonah

Jonah’s Central Theme

 

A crown of thorns is placed on Jesus head

Gustave Dore, Photo by Ivan Burmistrov,Courtesy of iStockphoto

There’s another aspect of the sign of Jonah that most don’t realize. The holiest day of the Jewish calendar is the Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur. It’s the day that God atoned for their sins by placing them on a scapegoat.[1]

  • On this day, the priests read “The Book of Jonah” to the congregation.[2]

It was their belief that if God forgave the vilest of Gentile sinners (the Assyrians), then most assuredly He’d forgive His own nation – that is, if they repented.

  • Their assertion’s true.[3]

God forgives all who’ve identified with the atonement provided by the Scapegoat. We know Him as Jesus.

  • The problem was the leaders in Jesus’ day refused to repent.

They rejected His atonement. The very ones whom God intended to preserve His teachings became hardened to His work.

  • Instead, they sought the Scapegoat’s death.

They did so for sinful reasons – not to atone their sins. They became like Jonah.

  • Jonah brooded on a hill, desirous for the annihilation of men, women, and children.

He hated God’s mercy toward the Ninevites – so much so that he wanted every one of them to die. We’re talking one million souls or more. The prophet had more concern for his own comforts than he did for his fellow man – even helpless children.

  • The enemies of Jesus did far worse.

They plotted the murder of the Christ, paying for His arrest. The Sanhedrin wrongly accused Him; then, they abused Him. The Temple priests called for His execution and for Barabbas’s release. All of these enemies disdained the Messiah as they watched Him scourged to near-death. They blasphemed the Son of God while He agonized on the cross.

  • Like Jonah, they pursued the annihilation of every man, woman, and child’s soul – even their own.

The devil sought to destroy the only Redeemer mankind has – the One who saves from damnation. As Satan’s pawns, they became their own worst enemies, and their darkened minds couldn’t discern it. But they didn’t care.

  • These hardened men even tried to prevent the full sign of Jonah being completed.[4]

Their attempts failed despite doing everything in their power to ensure God’s promises went unfulfilled. Just like Jonah, their frustrations only led to them drowning in the depths of their sin.

  • Their hearts became like Jonah’s.

They had more concern for their earthly way of living than for God’s eternal purpose. Their prejudices blinded them to God’s plan of salvation – just like Jonah.

  • They hated Jesus’ name, but they couldn’t escape it.

When the priest read “The Book of Jonah” on the holiest day of the year, he proclaimed Jesus’ name annually – and, still does. We’ve discussed this before, but the central phrase in Jonah’s story is: Salvation is of the LORD.[5] It’s the Hebrew term Yeshua – Jesus’ name.

  • Jonah provides us with two opposing world forces.

There are those who’ve hardened their hearts to God’s grace. There are those who proclaim Jesus’ name to the ends of the earth. We choose one side of this story or the other.

  • Jonah’s book ends with a question.

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry…?”

And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”

But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made grow, which came in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left – and much livestock?”

~ Jonah 4:9-11, NKJV

  • It’s a query that should stir every follower of Christ.

It’s why we’re here on this earth. If God’s intention were for us just to live in heaven, He’d translate us there at salvation. Yet, He leaves us here to continue the work of the One who atoned for mankind’s sins … for our sins!

 

What’s our plant – that which we treasure over those who’re Ninevites to us?

 


[1] Leviticus 16:1-34.

[2] Jonah 1 – 4.

[3] 1 John 1:9.

[4] Matthew 27:62-66.

[5] Jonah 2:9, NKJV.

Bearing the World’s Sins

… Judgement and condemnation follow sin as night follows day …

 ~ Donald Grey Barnhouse

"Atlas," photo by Sabine Schulte, courtesy of iStockphoto

In James Cameron’s movie The Abyss, Lt. Hiram Coffey suffers from High Pressure Nervous Syndrome.[1] He sweats profusely. Tremors ensue. He cuts himself to numb the stress that the ocean’s great depths have on a human being.

Coffey succumbs to the constraints. He goes mad. His failure to escape the warnings of his symptoms doomed him. He’s crushed by the water’s weight in the end.

  • Jonah would’ve endured a similar strain in the belly of that fish.[2]

Listen to his desperation:

“I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction…

The waters surrounded me, even to my soul;

The deep closed around me…”

~ Jonah 2:1, 5 NKJV

  • Jonah was in great distress.

The Hebrew term for affliction (tsarah) means to be in a narrow tightening, undergoing crushing pressures. It primarily indicates severe cramping and pangs.

  • Jonah’s sin followed him into the depths, compressing him on all sides.

The disobedient prophet’s life followed Barnhouse’s truth.[3] And he had to endure the vice-grip of his choices as they squeezed his body one breath at a time.

  • The high pressures of the deep exhausted him.

Excruciating headaches. Difficulty breathing. Constant bombardment from the contracting muscles of the fish’s digestive system trying to consume him. Struggling to stay alive. Not capable of sleep.

  • Jesus suffered from such a heavy burden as well.

While the disciples slept, He assumed Himself the condemnation for our sin. A troublesome darkness enveloped Him all night. In Gethsemane, Jesus conveyed the severity of His anguish:

“My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.”

~ Matthew 26:38, NKJV

  • Jesus proclaimed that His agony was so intense that He was near death.

His words indicate His torment in Gethsemane alone was sufficient to kill Him. That’s profound if we understand that He hasn’t undergone the physical traumas of the Passion yet to come.

  • The Gospels indicate He was bearing a taxing burden – even before His arrest.

The Greek term used to describe what threatened Jesus’ life is the same from which we get periphery. What this usage means is that the sin burden He had assumed weighed on His life, from all directions.

  • Every part of Christ’s being was taxed.

Our sin’s judgment enveloped Him just as night’s darkness smothers out the light of day. He was like Atlas, bearing the world on His shoulders.

  • He had to prostrate Himself before the Lord.

He poured out His life before His Father. It squeezed the blood and water from His flesh. Great drops fell to the earth beneath Him. A world not worthy of such gifts swallowed up His sacrifice in that garden.

  • Gethsemane means oil press.

It was there the burden squeezed the oils of His body. And it was there His Passion began with a vengeance – in full force as He faced God’s vengeance on our behalf.

 

What burdens weigh you down? Give them to the One who bore them for you.

 


[1] James Cameron, The Abyss (Los Angeles: Lightstorm Entertainment, 1989).

[2] J. Shan Young, The Fish Tale of Ichthys: the Never-Ending Story of Jonah, Jesus, and the Human Epic (Orlando: Xulon Press, 2011).

[3] Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Wrath (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968), 1.

 

Prepared to Die

If we have been pleased with life, we should not be displeased with death, since it comes from the hand of the same master.

~ Michelangelo

Photo by Robert Pears, Courtesy of iStockPhoto

When Michelangelo went to carve his statue of David, he took a discarded slab of marble that others had neglected. He created a masterpiece that is now known the world over.

The Lord took the Messiah whom the world rejected and created His own Master peace – using a hammer, three nails, and two pieces of wood.[1]

God looked down upon our hopeless separation from His holiness.[2] He saw that none could save us from the condemnation of our sin-guilt. And when there was no other hope but Him, the Lord acted:

I looked, but there was no one to help,

And I wondered

That there was no one to uphold;

Therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me;

And My own fury, it sustained Me.

~ Isaiah 63:5, NKJV

  • To ensure His wrath was satisfied the LORD prepared the Messiah’s body for His sacrifice.

God especially predisposed Jesus’ flesh for the Passion. That’s not to say His tissues were any less human than ours. Instead, it means that His body had to endure the full extent of God’s wrath. An early apologist wrote of Christ’s fulfillment of a messianic prophecy:

Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,

But a body You have prepared for Me.[3]

  • This fulfilled a Messianic prophecy of David.[4]

The forerunner of Christ had written of the Redeemer’s willingness to give His whole life in service to the Lord. And He did. Jesus understood that He was born for this sacrifice.

  • Understanding what hematidrosis did to His flesh enables us to see how God prepared Christ’s body for judgment.[5]

The hematidrosis worsened the effects of God’s ire that Jesus endured in our stead. More excruciating pain. Greater hemorrhaging. More significant marring. His body bore God’s full wrath for our sin.

  • What pleased God was the crushing of His Son.

Isaiah used a Hebrew term (daka’), which described the most severe inner and outer anguish that’s possible.[6] His death on the cross was no light punishment.

  • It was the most severe it could be.

Crushing Him. Inflicting the most excruciating torment that a human body could tolerate. That’s why His own arm wrought so great a salvation. Only He could.

  • Anything less wouldn’t satisfy God’s indignation against any sin.

When the executioners offered Him narcotics to numb the anguish somewhat, Jesus refused them.[7] He understood the redemption price necessary to pay for our sin debt. He wanted nothing to lessen its effects. The full penalty had to be paid. The suffering had to be severe. His agonizing death had to occur. It was the only way.

  • Jesus bore the sign of Jonah.

Jonah’s body was a sign of God’s judgment to the Ninevites.[8][9] Jesus’ marred frame was to His generation … to all generations.

  • The ungodly Asssyrians looked upon the sign of Jonah and repented.[10]

The people of Jesus’ day did not. That’s why the Ninevites will rise up on the Day of Judgment to condemn the unbelievers of Jesus’ day … and ours.[11]

 

We never, therefore, move on from the cross of Christ – only into a more profound understanding of the cross.

~ David Prior

 

Does understanding how God prepared Jesus’ body to pay for our sin give us a more profound understanding of what transpired on the cross?

 

 


[1] Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:6-7.

[2] J. Shan Young, “CRUSHED!” www.jshanyoung.com, posted 04/04/12.

[3] Hebrews 10:5, NKJV.

[4] Psalm 40:6.

[5] J. Shan Young, “Son-burned,” www.jshanyoung.com, posted 04/02/2012.

[6] Isaiah 53:10.

[7] Mark 15:23.

[8] J. Shan Young, “Preaching Without Words,” www.jshanyoung.com, posted 03/25/12.

[9] J. Shan Young, “Wartime Propaganda,” www.jshanyoung.com, posted 03/28/12.

[10] Jonah 3:3-10.

[11] Luke 11:29-32.

CRUSHED!

Yet the LORD was pleased to crush Him severely.

~ Isaiah 53:10, HCSB

"Cristo amputado," Photo by Eduardo Luzzatti Buye, courtesy iStockphoto

My parents say that I told them I wanted to be a doctor before kindergarten. I don’t recall when I first determined medicine was God’s calling on my life, but even non-family members often treated me as if I were a physician before I finished high school.

At a softball tournament, someone expected me to splint a broken limb. At a baseball game, my coach called time out so that I could assist a man having a seizure. Once, in church, a deacon requested I evaluate a woman who’d fainted. All before I was sixteen. Little did they know that I didn’t know any more than they knew.

When Uncle Tommy Gene questioned me on what Jesus suffered on the cross, I lacked the ability to tell him more than the Sunday school answer … that’s when I began my query into the Passion of Christ. And I’ve done exhaustive research since.

For years I taught on what I’d learned. Then, Dr. Derek Staples enlightened me on the above verse.[1] He suggested I call my teaching … Crushed![2] And that’s what I’ve done.

  • It astonishes me to think that God was pleased to crush His Son.

I have two sons myself, and I can’t stand to see them suffer. Yet, the Lord was pleased to crush Jesus severely. To understand why is very alarming.

  • Our sin is so intolerable to God’s holy nature that its penalty must be paid.

Every human who has ever walked this earth except Jesus of Nazareth is guilty of sin’s vileness.[3] Even our little white sins offend the Lord. Thus, we all stand in judgment as unholy people. A wise mentor has taught: we are but refugees in need of refuge.[4]

  • The whole sacrificial system pointed to such a necessity.

The Mosaic Law foreshadowed the Messiah’s work to come.

  • Even the pagan rituals acknowledge man’s understanding of the need for propitiation.

Since ancient times, there were adulterated attempts to transfer sin-guilt onto someone or something else. Every culture performed such rites of purification. They dedicated animals and possessions – even other humans. These other systems were but misguided attempts to achieve what God set in motion for our salvation.

  • God required a Perfect Offering.

Only a sinless Sacrifice could atone for iniquity. And that’s why Christ alone had to pay the redemption price. Only His death could ever do that. Only His death did.

  • But God required more than His death.

If death alone were enough, then God would’ve killed the Savior instantly. God could’ve taken His life without pain or torment. He didn’t.

  • There were quicker methods of capital punishment used in those days.

Beheading. Stoning. Drowning. Poisioning. There were numerous others. Yet, these forms produced either instantaneous death or, at least, imminent demise. Only crucifixion did not.

  • That’s why God chose to crucify His Son.

He kept pointing to this manner of execution for the Messiah – this manner of suffering judgment for sin. He even foretold of Christ’s crucifixion in the Garden of Eden.

  • God’s holy wrath against sin required an agonizing sacrifice.

If that weren’t so, then Jesus would have died instantly. He didn’t because only His being crushed for our iniquity would please God’s indignation against sin. That’s why Isaiah foretold of God’s plan to crush His Son:

Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, 
and He carried our pains; 
but we in turn regarded Him stricken, 
struck down by God, and afflicted. 
But He was pierced because of our transgressions, 
crushed because of our iniquities; 
punishment for our peace was on Him, 
and we are healed by His wounds.

~ Isaiah 53:4-5, HCSB

Have you ever considered that God’s plan was to crush His Son – not just kill Him?


[1] Visit Dr. Derek Staples: http://www.twitter.com/@harleydreamer.

[2] J. Shan Young, Crushed: a Physician’s Analysis of Jesus’ Agony (Manuscript prepared for publication). Please visit the Writing Page to view endorsements.

[4] Boyd Lee Bailey, www.wisdomhunters.org, retrieved 04/01/2012. Please visit: http://www.twitter.com/@WisdomHunters.

Son-burned

And being in agony … His sweat became like drops of blood falling down to the ground.

~ Luke 22:44, NKJV

 

"Sunburned blisters," photo by Mr._Jamsey, courtesy iStockphoto

At 10:30 AM, my skin felt as if it were on fire. The sky was overcast. We’d been on the beach for just two hours, but my feet were killing me.

I’d put the 60 spf sunscreen on, applying it liberally. But I had waded into the water with my son for a short while. It must have washed away the protection.

The longer I stayed outside, the worse my legs burned. I had to go in.

Within a day, my feet swelled with pitting edema. They looked like an elephant’s legs. Large blisters overtook the top surfaces of my ankles and feet. Elevating them, placing ice, and doctoring with ointment offered no relief; trying to walk made things worse. And, it took weeks to fully recover from the severe burns.

Three months later I found out why. A medication I had taken caused me to get “sun-poisoning” (as the company rep described). Others had the same reaction, and they had pulled the drug from the market.

Even now, my legs are sensitive to hot and cold extremes. Scars still remain. Hair won’t grow back. And each time I think of it, my mind goes back to Jonah … and to Jesus.

  • Jesus suffered a similar condition as I did – only worse.

Luke tells us that Jesus sweat blood. While many question this phenomenon, it is a known malady called hematidrosis – literally meaning, bloody sweat.

  • Hematidrosis occurs in rare cases of agony.

Aristotle wrote of it before Christ’s birth, and many have documented it even in the last century. (I’ve reviewed those cases elsewhere.)[1]

  • This condition causes changes in the victim’s flesh.

These alterations are important to know if we’re to understand Christ’s Passion.

  • Hematidrosis contributes to dehydration, weakening its victims.

If one understands the whole process of Jesus’ agony, then it’s easy to recognize that He suffered from dehydration. At one point, He even cried: “I thirst!”[2] Hematidrosis certainly played its part in that process.

  • Hematidrosis makes the skin hypersensitive.

Jesus’ body became like one who is sunburned. Just touching Him created anguish. But the abusers did more than pat Him on the back. As tormenting as the scourge normally was, hematidrosis made it far worse for Jesus.

  • Hematidrosis softens the flesh, making it easier to tear.

Scourging was so severe in biblical days that eyewitnesses wrote of people being disemboweled. The lashes cut deep enough to expose the sufferer’s bones. Hematidrosis enabled the whip to cut open Jesus’ body like the sacrifice He was.

  • Hematidrosis disrupts the blood supply, inducing greater blood loss.

People normally hemorrhaged from the scourge. The blood-letting in Jesus’ Passion shortened His life.

Dehydration. Hypersensitive skin. Disrupted flesh. Hemorrhaging wounds.

And the very ones who He promised to give it are the very ones who helped to produce it.

Can you imagine Christ suffering as He did with hypersensitive skin?

A Thriller: the Inside Story

I used not to look at myself. I’d hide my face in the dark. I wouldn’t want to look in the mirror…

~ Michael Jackson

 

1985 St. Vincent postage stamp of Michael Jackson, Ken Brown, courtesy of iStockPhoto

 

Michael Jackson and I shared a common bond … Vitiligo.

This dermatological condition causes areas of a person’s skin to lose their pigment, creating white patches next to tanned skin. The variegated flesh is easy to spot because some areas darken, while others remain ashen white.

To hide this malady, Jackson wore a white glove on his affected hand. The single glove became his iconic symbol. He wore makeup to conceal the pale areas on his face. He ventured outside with an umbrella to reduce darkening of the uninvolved skin.

Vitiligo thus contributed to him being considered eccentric.

  • Jonah’s impaired condition made him a public oddity.

The prophet suffered from skin impairment similar to vitiligo … only far worse. And its effects made him stand out to the Ninevites. Let’s explore how.

  • Acids bleach human skin.

The Ninevites were a dark-skinned people. They had flawless features and tones. When the pale-skinned prophet of doom walked in looking like a ghost, he warranted notice. And he got it.

  • Acids cause significant hair loss.

The Assyrians had almost no baldness recorded in their history. The ancients considered baldness to be a sign of shameful condemnation. Again, Jonah’s appearance with only scant patches of hair remaining on his body garnered negative attention.

  • Acids make the skin hypersensitive.

His skin was irritated much like one who’s sunburned. Wearing clothes would’ve aggravated his flesh, but Jonah’s exposed skin couldn’t withstand the vexation of the desert sun and the blistering heat.

  • Scripture hints that Jonah suffered from these effects.

In the last chapter, we find Jonah hiding in the shade to ease his discomfort.[1] When he lost the natural umbrella, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he almost fainted.[2] The suffering prophet wanted to die, saying: “ It’s better for me to die than to live.”[3]

  • How horrible it must have been for this man who survived being swallowed by a great fish.

He lived to tell about it, but the ordeal marred him. It made his flesh vulnerable to pain and misery.

  • His rebellion made him to suffer in these ways.

But God used Jonah’s agony to bring glory to His name.

  • Jonah was a sign of judgment to those destined for God’s wrath.

As we’ve covered in the previous posts, the people couldn’t overlook this freakish man. His body was a sermon unto itself. His devastated flesh warned of God’s coming judgment.

  • God used Jonah to point us to Jesus.

As we continue in this journey, we’ll see just how much Jonah foreshadowed Christ’s Passion. And we’ll see why Jesus said it would be the only sign He’d give the unbelievers of His day … and ours.

 

Can you think of other times that God used a person’s appearance to relate a message?

Wartime Propaganda

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.

~ Kahlil Gibran

World War I Gas Mask, Berman Museum, Anniston, AL

I was busy with my own chemistry experiment when someone screamed the words no one wants to hear: Watch out!

Her glass beaker exploded on the counter in front of me. The hot sulfuric acid scalded my skin before I could turn to see what had happened.

The caustic chemical burned through my sweat pants and through my shorts underneath those – through my underwear in places, creating gaping holes that exposed the underlying skin. Even dousing myself immediately in the lab’s shower failed to prevent the feverish wounds of burned flesh that took weeks to heal.

As a college student, I became a sign that warned of what acids do to human tissues. And my teacher paraded me around, demonstrating the wounds that result from a lab mishap.

If one only begins to consider what effects acids have on the human body, we can glean what he endured.

Gastric acids are in the pH range of 1 – 3. They require such levels to activate the chemicals that digest food.

Burning, discoloration of the skin, blisters, ulcerations, tissue necrosis, and blindness develop. Inhalation of acidic fumes strips away mucus membranes and produces edema. External and internal hemorrhaging occurs. Such damage induces nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, and death.

Over 6000 British troops died from the effects of these exposures; almost 200,000 suffered from casualties related to them.

  • One army nurse wrote what she witnessed in these soldiers:

Great mustard-colored blisters, blind eyes, all sticky and stuck together, always fighting for breath, with voices a mere whisper, saying that their throats are closing and they know they will choke.[1]

  • Adolph Hitler suffered similar wounds and temporary blindness when the British retaliated with chemical weapons.

The future Fuhrer employed his injuries from the war as propaganda in his political campaign to gain power and to build his Nazi empire.

  • Hitler used his scars from those corrosive wounds as a sign of his experience in military service.

And Jonah’s appearance provided a visual image of his sermon to the Ninevites.

  • Jonah’s body was seared with fresh wounds from his ordeal.

Ulcerations blanketed his frame from head to toe. Oozing sores. Hemorrhaging lesions. Scalded skin. Necrotic flesh. His wounds became propaganda in the spiritual war that ensued in the fish and continued in Nineveh. He experienced the same symptoms and wounds that the British nurse related from chemical warfare.

  • His raspy voice, struggling to breathe, provided an ominous warning of God’s coming judgment.

Though not necessarily loud, his message was clear … His skin was not.

 

Would someone bearing such wounds grab your attention in public?


Preaching Without Words

Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.

~ St. Francis of Assisi

photo by Radu Razvan, Courtesy of iStockphoto

Have you ever wondered what happened to Jonah while he was inside that fish?

Most people just assume he sat inside an air chamber awaiting his fate. But I would argue this wasn’t what happened. And I want to use Scripture to make my point.

Jesus said that Jonah became a sign. [i]

When most look at His proclamation, they assume that Jesus meant that Jonah’s emergence from the fish was the lone sign. Certainly, it was a miracle. But again, I would argue it was much more than that.

  • Jonah’s body was a sign of God’s coming judgment.

If we consider the effects his three-day encounter in the great fish had on his body, we can glean an understanding of what the Ninevites saw … and heeded.

  • Jonah’s body was a sermon.

The three days in the fish marred the prophet’s flesh. When the idolaters of Nineveh saw Jonah, they listened to his message. What did he preach?

  • Jonah’s discourse wasn’t a call to repentance.

It wasn’t some long diatribe. Jonah’s message was only eight words:

.”Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

~ Jonah 3:4, NKJV

  • His oration didn’t sound evangelistic.

Yet, something in that message resonated with the pagans. I don’t want to downplay the convicting work of the Holy Spirit here, for I know first and foremost that He was at work in this Great Awakening. Without God’s grace, what happened in Nineveh could never have happened.

  • But we see throughout the Bible that God uses extraordinary events to demonstrate Himself.

For Moses, God used a burning bush, snakes, and plagues to get the people’s attention. With the Ninevites, He used Jonah’s body as a sign of what was sure to come – His judgment for sin.

  • The Lord had prepared the Ninevites to hear His message.

Prior to Jonah’s arrival, God had sent previous warning signs to these idolaters. Two different plagues (in 765 BC and 759 BC) had ravaged the city, affecting almost every family. A solar eclipse over the entire land in 763 BC only further intimidated these pagans.

  • The city was on edge.

Then, a man bearing every sign of judgment staggered into the city, speaking an ill omen of yet a greater devastation to come. They only had to look at his grotesque frame to know they should listen. And they did.

  • Jonah’s body served as a sure sign of God’s wrath against all that is ungodly.

Indeed, Jonah was a sign of warning to them of the coming judgment against sin.

  • Jonah was the sign they needed to hear God’s message loud and clear.

Jonah’s body preached the message of the Lord’s wrath before he ever said the first word.

 

What signs among us give us dire warnings of God’s sure judgment to come?


To Hell and Back

Death is the king of this world: ‘Tis his park where he breeds life to feed him. Cries of pain are music for his banquet.

~ George Eliot

© Maxim Loskutnikov, courtesy of iStockphoto

Audie Murphy entitled his autobiography To Hell and Back.[1] The title fit the gut-wrenching struggles he faced that made him the most decorated soldier of World War II. The scrawny teen overcame deadly encounters to become an iconic figure in American history.

The public hailed him as a hero. His baby face made him a Hollywood star. Hidden were the physical scars of his war wounds. Very few knew the psychological toll the path to his fame took. He suffered from what is now known as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And, he died without recovering from it.

Such it is with anyone who goes through such anguish. Even in Greek mythology, only five men ever completed the journey to Hades and back. Each one emerged scarred from the ordeal. None were the same afterward.[2]

  • What was true of these men was true of Jonah.

Over the next few blogs, we’ll see how his adventure into the deep affected him.

  • Jonah described his descent into the abyss as a visit to hell.

Jonah didn’t actually enter into the Jewish torment known as Sheol, but he felt as though he did.[3]

  • The Hebrews believed Sheol was a deep, dark netherworld.

A place where the doomed suffered while awaiting eternal judgment. Jonah described it as a place of great affliction.

  • Jesus gave us a more informed insight about its reality.

Read the story of the rich man and Lazarus the beggar.[4] Christ related that Lazarus went to heaven; the wealthy fool, to Hades.

  • Jesus said the unbeliever suffered torments in this Sheol.

Luke used the Greek term (basanos) for torturing someone using red-hot stones to scald one’s flesh. The afflictions extended from the head to the base of the foot. And the agonies were multiple (plural term).

  • Jesus said the unbeliever suffered from an unquenchable flame.

So much so that the condemned soul cried out:

“’… send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame!’”

~Luke 16:24, HCSB

  • Jesus indicated the unbeliever burned throughout his body.

He was in so much misery that even just a drop of cool water on the tip of his tongue would provide only the false hope of a temporary relief to one small part of his frame.

  • Jesus indicated that the man’s conscience accused him of lost opportunities.

Abraham reminded him of these sins as he agonized.

  • Jesus indicated that a great gulf separated him from all that was good.

Jonah certainly recognized this in his lament.

  • Jonah experienced each of these forms of torment in his Sheol.

In Jonah’s case, his suffering was not eternal. Yet, his imprisonment in the belly of the fish reminded him of a trip to hell and back. He wouldn’t leave it unscathed. Please continue to follow these posts to see how.

  • Have you ever thought about the suffering of those in hell?

[1] Audie Murphy, To Hell and Back (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2002).

Becoming Our Own Worst Enemy

The face of the enemy frightens me only when I see how much it resembles me.

~ Anonymous

Relief from Nineveh Palace, photo by Anthony Baggett, courtesy of iStockphoto

Hitler. Stalin. Caligula. Vlad the Impaler.

Notorious names. Synonymous with evil. Mass murders. Basking in innocent blood. Building empires on victims’ skeletons for their own sadistic ambitions.

Their legacies invoke nightmares. Their crimes kindle disdain. Yet, they weren’t the most despicable villains in history. Their inhumanity paled in comparison to the monstrosities of the Ninevites.

 

  • Historians have documented the Ninevites’ wickedness.

Their depravity was an acceptable way of life for their whole society. Abusing the helpless with abandon. Back-stabbing. Torturing. Raping. Murdering for sport. From the oldest to the youngest, all were guilty. Even their animals were ferocious.[1]

  • Archeologists have found archives detailing their atrocities.

Their bloody hands preserved their brutality in writings, architecture, and art. Carved displays depicted their various methods of inflicting torments. Impaling. Enslaving. Plundering. Mutilating. Killing … without shame.

  • These weren’t good people; they lacked any morality.

The vilest of the vile; the evilest of evil. Cold-blooded. Hard-hearted. And proud enough to boast of it.

  • Yet, God commanded Jonah to go to sinners such as these.

That’s why the prophet refused. He could’ve stayed put and sulked. Instead, he ran as far in the opposite direction as he could … because he hated these enemies with passion.

  • Jonah’s stubbornness led to rebellion.

God’s man became guilty of the very sins that led to Nineveh’s need for salvation – rejecting God as Lord. Like those he was called to reach, the prophet chose an unholy lifestyle.

  • Jonah’s rebellion tossed him into the Lord’s tumult.

God sent the tempest to get Jonah’s attention. Still, Jonah continued to reject the Lord.

  • Jonah lost any compassion for his fellow man.

When one loses his passion for God, the natural result is a self-centered thinking that neglects others’ needs.

  • Thus, Jonah was unconcerned that others would die … and spend an eternity in hell.

His sin doomed all those aboard his ship. Still, God’s man didn’t care.

  • Even worse, his omission placed in jeopardy countless unknowns.

There were those aboard other ships trying to survive the hurricane. How many would die for his sin? How many innocent children were there in Nineveh that he had no concern for?

  • Jonah refused to repent – even when faced with annihilation.

Jonah had taken upon himself the very sins for which God had judged the Ninevites. And Jonah didn’t care.

An ancient Chinese proverb states: He who seeks vengeance must dig two graves: one for his enemy and one for himself. Jonah’s tomb was a fish. He described his plight as one condemned to a desolate grave, forsaken by God.

  • Jonah suffered for his sin.

If Jonah could’ve seen his face in the darkness of the abyss, then he’d have seen just how much like his enemies he’d become. And it wasn’t until he became so distressed by his agony that he finally repented.

Have you ever realized how much your actions were not unlike someone you hated?