Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Jonah 2

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verses 1-9

John 2:1-9

And Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God, out of the fish’s belly.

The return to God

The object in setting forth the history of Jonah is to show the nature of his sin, the truth of his penitence, and the way in which he was restored to God’s favour. Turn thought to the change which was worked in Jonah’s soul. Bear in mind what was the nature of his sin It was not that he was separated from God, but that he had abandoned his duty, had shrunk from his mission, had thought more of his own relief from trial than of God’s will. When some wrong has been done which we have not the courage to confess, and the truth is discovered, fixing the charge on one’s self-personality, we know what a terrible shock and deep inward sense of self-reproach is felt. Illustrate by the cases of Achan and David. When the sailors asked Jonah what was to be done, he replied, “Cast me forth into the sea . . . for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.” What do his words prove? Not only Jonah’s personal sense of guilt, but his complete surrender of himself to God, whether to live or to die. “If I die,” he seems to say, “it is my just doom; if I live, it is the pure undeserved mercy of God.” It was the most perfect reparation we can conceive. As before he would not surrender his own will and his own judgment, notwithstanding the command of God, so now he would give himself up wholly for whatever God might will as his deserved punishment. The sailors east him into the sea, but then a yet deeper sense of penitence awoke within him, and a yet stronger expression of profound sorrow and unquestioning childlike faith broke forth from him. Jonah saw, by faith, life restored; he saw Divine mercy working itself out in the midst of the deep darkness, and he acknowledged God as his Father, his Protector, his eternal Hope even then in the midst of his awful doom. Two lessons--

1. We see here an act of purest faith. There is a faith of a soft and easy kind, when everything goes smooth, and we have no anxiety, no fear or distress darkening the path of life. How glibly then do men speak of having their hope in God. There is another kind of faith, which produces resignation, patience, willingness to endure and be brave, and even willing to suffer. But yet it may not be faith that cheers the soul,--not a “rejoicing in the Lord,” not the triumph of a trustful soul. The real saving faith is seen when the soul finds God working in the storm and tempest, and reads the handwriting on the wall, speaking even in the midst of death and terror, and yet can calmly look on the Redeemer on the Cross, and see in the future the immortality beyond the grave, see the brightness of the glory that will one day be” to the faithful the heritage of boundless joy, and so be comforted and gladdened even in sorrow and pain,--it is such faith we see realised in the repentant Jonah.

2. We may learn the reason of trials and troubles which so often disturb the currents of our life. What would it be if we were always in the sunshine, always prosperous? Would there not be, even to the most faithful, a risk of too great confidence of a false assurance? (T. T. Carter.)

Jonah in the sea

1. Objectively, the prophet’s experience was that of one in the belly of hell, in the midst of the seas, entangled in the weeds, and among the caverns worn by the waves beneath the mountains on the coast. Jonah was in the belly of hell--Sheol, the region of the dead. He was in the heart of the seas. He sank at once when cast into the sea. He was entangled with the sea-weeds. Entangled with the weeds which gathered about his head, the prophet drifted towards the coast, and was presently carried into some of its submarine caverns by the current, and there he must have perished but for the Divine mercy.

2. The subjective experience of Jonah beneath the waves was that of a living, conscious, suffering, and suppliant person. It was a miraculous circumstance that the prophet remained alive in such a position. Jonah was not only alive, but conscious while under the sea. The distress he experienced beneath the water appears to have been spiritual rather than physical. His soul was overwhelmed with the consciousness that he was cast out of God’s sight. Jonah was saved from despair by the suppliant mood which possessed him. We need despair of no man while he prays. His prayer was accompanied by a look toward the temple of Jehovah. It was prompted by his remembrance of the Lord. “I remembered Jehovah.” It was accompanied by a vow. It was answered in a remarkable manner.

Observe his reflections when in the fish.

1. “Thou hast brought up my life from destruction, O Lord my God!”

2. “My prayer came in unto Thee, into Thine holy temple.”

3. “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.”

4. “Salvation is of the Lord.” (S. C. Burn.)

Jonah’s prayer

Here we have a very clear and intense history of Jonah’s inward life. Notice some points of it.

1. There was a great and sudden quickening of consciousness.

2. Rapidly this new consciousness became distressful. The reserved sorrow of long sinning comes all at once.

3. Then he began to “look”--upwards to earth, eastwards to the temple where he knew that the lost presence was richly manifested.

4. The look soon became a cry. It may have been an audible cry. But evidently the soul of the cry was this, that it was tim cry of the soul.

5. He began to be grateful.

6. The final state of his mind is a state of entire dependence. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

The imprisonment of Jonah

It is evident from the chapter that, whether a longer or a shorter period elapsed, what befell him, and how he was exercised during his confinement, were things which he distinctly recollected. In verse 1 Jonah gives a summary statement of what was his situation and exercise. The belly of a fish. Clearly his preservation and escape were things altogether miraculous. That was his situation; his exercise was prayer. Let none then neglect secret prayer to God, or think themselves excused because they have not a proper or convenient place to which they may retire. The description given of the object of his prayer is worthy of notice. “The Lord his God.” The God of Israel, the only living and true God, God in covenant. It was plainly the prayer of an appropriating faith. Verse 2 requires but little explanation. Here we have the success with which this exercise of prayer was crowned. His situation had been one of deep distress. He cried unto the Lord out of his affliction. He was in great straits, and very closely besieged. His body and mind were both shut up. The word “cried,” as used in relation with the exercise of prayer, is very significant. It is not here merely a loud voice; it implies close engagements of heart, great fervour, earnestness, and importunity. This is the more strongly indicated as the word is repeated. Our prophet did not direct his cry to one whose ear was shut or averted. Our God is the hearer of prayer. Verse 3 contains an amplified account of the dismal situation of the prophet, and of the utter hopelessness of life being preserved, or deliverance obtained, except by miraculous influence. Without attempting to describe the peculiarly distressing feelings of the prophet when in the fish’s belly, a case which baffles all description, let us direct attention to the piety of the man. He traces the storm to God Himself. In verse 4 we have a short but lively description of that conflict which often takes place, in the case of God’s people, between grace and remaining corruption, particularly between faith and unbelief. This conflict, though incident to the people of God at all times, is specially felt in seasons of distress. The language is not to be understood as referring to God’s natural presence, or as intimating that the prophet was beyond the sphere of God’s omniscience; for he was better taught than to give any countenance to such an idea. But he then felt strongly tempted to say that he was cast out of the Lord’s gracious presence. But he had in him the principle of a true saving faith. He says, “I will look again toward Thy holy temple.” This language intimates that the faith of the prophet embraced God in His gracious and new-covenant character. The following truths may be inferred. That God is jealous of His glory, and frequently manifests this most signally in His dealings with His own people. That it is God who adjusts the kind, measure, and duration of the afflictions with which His righteous people are afflicted. That while God displays much of His sovereignty in the afflictions He sends upon His people, yet some sin is often the immediate precursor. That right exercise under affliction consists in a clear and impressive discernment of this connection. That when afflictions are sanctified to persons they seek unto God by prayer for pardon and restoration. That although the genuine people of God, under this or the other affliction, may be reduced to a very low state as respects their soul-exercise, yet they are always upheld, and in the mercy of God are prevented from plunging into the fatal abyss of despair! (James Clyde.)

The conflict between despair and faith


1. It is the usual lot of the Lord’s children to have not only outward afflictions to wrestle with, but spiritual temptations and sad conclusions, gathered from their troubles, which are sorer to endure than many simple afflictions. For so was it with Jonah when he was in the sea.

2. The children of the Lord in their troubles may be so tossed and divided betwixt hope and despair that faith and unbelief will be talking word about, for so doth Jonah’s experience teach. “I said, I am cast out; yet will I look again.”

3. In a time of temptation, unbelief’s word is generally first out, till faith come and correct it; ordinarily what is said in haste is unbelief’s language, and to be unsaid again, for this comes first out, I am cast out of Thy sight.

4. A child of God may not only be assaulted with fits of despair, but for a time be overcome with it, and yield to it; and yet, for all that, recover his feet again.

5. As it is ordinary under temptation to judge of all God’s respect, care, and love by our sense of His present dealing, so to be cast off by God, as one that He will not favour nor care for nor take notice of, is the sorest of trials, especially to the child of God, who lives by God’s favour, and is made up in all his afflictions when he finds that God thinks on him, and that his troubles endear him to God’s care.

6. It is no new thing to see a child of God, and vessel of mercy, apprehending reprobation and rejection from God, in his sad and dark hour, for this also is Jonah’s temptation.

7. Nor is it strange to see the children of God exercised and sadly afflicted with that which hath never been, nor will be, save in their own fearful apprehensions; for so is Jonah with “casting off.” When we reckon by our own deservings, and by probabilities in a strait, and not by God’s love and all-sufficiency, we cannot but draw sad conclusions, and our own spirits will make us work enough.

8. Temptations, even when they have overcome for a season, are not to be lien with, and given way to, by the children of God, but ought to be resisted and set against, though they should (if it were possible) perish in the attempt, this being the way to honour God and get deliverance,--for vanquished Jonah will not quit it so; “Yet will I look again.”

9. That whereby the children of the Lord must oppose all troubles inward and outward, and resist temptations, is naked faith closely adhering to the covenant of grace made in Christ, and gathering hope of better dealing This is imported in his “looking again toward the holy Temple,” or eyeing God in His covenant, whereof that was a sign. To cast away confidence as useless in a strait, or not to essay faith until we are hired by sense, or to lie by in wilful unbelief, think that is the way to get sense to loose our doubts; or to seek any footing for faith but in God’s covenant and free grace in Christ, is the height of folly.

10. The weakest act of faith may do much good in a day of greatest need; for in all this extremity Jonah had no more but a “looking again” as a poor banished man.

11. Faith in a time of need will find a way through many a dark impediment to find God.

12. It speaks much to God’s praise that when His people are laid by with their temptations yet He will not lose them, but recover them out of their deepest swoons, and make vanquished faith yet again to triumph over difficulties which they had judged insuperable. For this is also recorded to His praise: that not only Jonah persevered crying when his trouble was great, but that he was strengthened, after he had once yielded to the temptation, to believe and “look again.” (George Hutcheson.)

The prayer of Jonah

This prayer, as it now stands, was obviously composed after his restoration. It may be regarded as a compendium of what he uttered in his distress. Notice--

1. The depth of the prophet’s misery. The prophet was in the utmost jeopardy. He knew not but that death might speedily be his portion. His misery arose chiefly from the agony of his soul--the conviction that he had been arrested in an act of wilful disobedience,--in the attempt, vain as that of the first fallen pair, to escape from the presence of the Lord. Many of his expressions are similar to those of the psalmist. David felt the bitterness which is the invariable result of a departure from the living God,--the intolerable anguish which arises from a consciousness of guilt when the conscience, by habitual transgression, has not been seared, and reverential fear of God not rooted out from the heart. When we contemplate the prophet in his dark hours of terror and agony, and behold the inevitable wretchedness which is the natural consequence of disobedience, we cannot but admire the wisdom, while we should seek to follow the example, of that apostle who declared, in the presence of Felix, that he exercised himself to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men. Though depressed and desponding, Jonah did not give way to despair. He called to mind former mercies. His prayer ascended with the incense to heaven. And to whom should we betake ourselves in the hour of affliction, but to that God who dwelleth not in temples made with hands? We should not look to other sources for that comfort which Jehovah alone can bestow. As Jonah looked to the temple, and thought upon the legal sacrifices there offered, so must we, in all our addresses to the throne of grace, have respect to the meritorious efficacy of that great sacrifice by which the Lord Jesus hath averted the Father’s displeasure, and opened a way of access through His blood. The prayer of Jonah was not in vain. He was speedily delivered from his prison-house. No doubt can be entertained of the sincerity of the prophet’s repentance--of the deep humiliation of his soul, of his heartfelt contrition for having disobeyed the Divine command. No sooner was the prophet restored than, like the mariners, he offered praise and thanksgiving, and paid his vows unto the Lord. How overwhelming must have been his feelings on this miraculous deliverance from his strange and fearful prison-house. His soul must have been transported with gratitude and amazement, and his vows were doubtless poured forth with a fervour proportioned to a sense of deliverance. But how often are pious resolutions forgotten when the time of danger is past. “Salvation is of the Lord.” What truth more important to be habitually realised than this,--that all our temporal, spiritual, and eternal blessings proceed from God. What have we that we have not received? Our worldly success we are tempted to ascribe to our prudence and skilful management. We refer to second causes that which should be referred to the great First Cause of all. And we are apt to forget that it is “by grace we are saved.” The great practical lesson for us to learn is--the value and importance of prayer. (Thomas Bissland, M. A.)

The prophet’s prayer

The bottom of the sea was Jonah’s holy ground, and the belly of the fish his consecrated oratory. His gloomy prison was turned into a house of prayer. Jonah evidently retained his consciousness during the term of his imprisonment. We have only the substance of the captive’s prayer preserved for us.

1. The spiritual exercises with which the prophet’s prayer is identified. It is impossible to conceive of a more critical or distressing condition than that to which the servant of God was reduced.

2. The conclusion of unbelief. “Then I said, I am cast out of Thy sight.” An outcast from Divine favour.

3. The victory of faith. “Yet will I look again towards Thy holy temple.” See faith’s realised triumph, “Yet hast Thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.”

4. The ardour of Jonah’s gratitude.

5. His emphatic ascription. “Salvation is of the Lord.” Notice also the evidence of spiritual reclamation which the prophet’s prayer supplies. This is seen in his altered feeling towards God. In the rekindling of the spirit of devotion. In the vigorous action of faith. In the expression of this faith Jonah embodied the sentiments of former saints. The prophet’s mind was evidently richly stored with the Word of God. (John Broad.)

The conflict of faith and sense

The prayer of Jonah is an illustrious instance of the conflict between sense and faith. Sense prompting to despair,--faith pleading for hope and procuring victory. This prayer of faith, though in unparalleled circumstances, and spiritually noble in a marvellous degree, contains in it nothing but the ordinary principles of all believing prayer. It is the very trial of faith to have circumstances to contend with which appear to extinguish hope, which even seem to shut out hope altogether. This is the true place and action of faith. Surrounded by incidents, events, circumstances, influence, powers, all adverse to your deliverance and salvation; and with your hope, as far as this region of the things seen and temporal is concerned, utterly cut off; your faith discovers another region, a realm and kingdom unseen. Your faith draws upon them.

View Jonah’s position from the side of sense. Was ever a case so fitted to call forth utter despair? Mark--

1. The case in which Jonah finds himself.

2. The hand to which he traces it.

3. The immediate effects produced on his mind by it.

He felt to be cast out of God’s sight. His soul fainted in him. Outwardly he was begirt with terrors unspeakable. These to him were tokens of an angry God. His soul was brought to the very verge of despair.

Jonah’s faith rose in its strength and triumph. What can stand us in any stead in such an hour but the prayer of faith?

1. We see the truth and power of Jonah’s faith in that he betook himself to prayer at all.

2. He set before himself the certainty of Jehovah’s reconcilableness, His promised forgiveness, His sure accessibility.

3. He did not do this in vain. He was answered in the progressive strengthening of his faith, even while his trial lasts.

4. Jonah offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving. He cometh unto God--unto God his exceeding joy. (Hugh Martin, M. A.)

Jonah the penitent suppliant

This has been called a “Song of deliverance.” It suggests--

1. The moral significance of adverse circumstances. Circumstances make or unmake, mould or mar us for future usefulness and distinction, according to the spirit in which they are received and utilised. Adverse circumstances are morally advantageous when rightly understood, patiently borne, and rightly used. Adversity ever has a spiritual significance. Whether it be guidance judicial or disciplinary, we cannot do better than acknowledge with reverence the hand that strikes, and supplicate His mercy.

2. The important part prayer plays in the adversities of life. It is indispensable in the trying and troublous experiences of our moral and physical being. Jonah’s prayer was a necessity. He was borne on the wings of strong moral impulses.

3. That the hearer or receiver of prayer is always within reach and approachable. Time, circumstances, con dition, place are no hindrances in themselves to drawing near to God. From every point in the compass of life He is accessible.

(1) Jonah’s prayer was a personal recognition of God.

(2) He was earnest in supplication. Importunity is never unsuccessful.

4. That our prayers to a great extent are moulded by our experience. As the countenance indexes the mind, the eye, the health, so prayer is a pretty sure indicator of the soul’s attitude Godward, its condition in grace, its experience in the faith-life. This chapter teaches the prevalency of prayer. It was answered in complete salvation. Note here, amazing Divine condescension. Great deviation from the Divine habitude. Prompt and perfect deliverance. Prayer is omnipotent, for it prevails with, it conquers God. There is no dilemma in Christian experience that prayer cannot deliver from. (J. O. Keen, D. D.)

In the deep and mighty waters

Some few years ago a terrible calamity occurred in a colliery at Tynewydd, South Wales. The mine was flooded with water, and for several days the miners were entombed, despite heroic efforts to save them. As one of the rescuing parties was exploring the mine they thought they heard singing, and creeping in the direction of the sound, heard the entombed men singing the words of a Welsh hymn, “In the deep and mighty waters there is One to rescue me.” (S. S. Chronicle.)

More of thanksgiving beneath the waters

There is an old legend concerning a golden organ which, when a monastery was being sacked, the monks threw into the rushing stream that hurried past their home; and the story has it that for long, long years thereafter the music of the organ was still heard beneath the waters; for, though they drowned the instrument, they could not drown its song. There is a lesson for us even in an apparently worthless legend. When God’s waves and billows roll over us, let us remember that we are God’s, and that will set the seal. Though the organ beneath the surface may run the risk of being drowned, if the Spirit of God is with us, then the sweet new song will be going on all the same. (Christian Herald.)

Verse 2

John 2:2

I cried by reason of mine affliction.

Troubles and deliverance

The fact of trouble. Jonah is at one with all men in a common experience of trouble. No child of God is born to a heritage of unmitigated grief. Some compensating mercy is sure to throw its mellow light over the angriest storm. Some specimens of trouble. So many hampered lives; so many obstacles to goodness; so many and so powerful temptations; so many apparent contradictions to the truth of an infinite goodness. Jonah’s trouble was his being thrust off into a conscious distance from God.

Deliverance from trouble. The steps toward such deliverance are stated in Our Scripture.

1. Jonah remembered God. Submissive memory of God is the first step.

2. Prayer is the next step.

3. A thankful trust is the next. (Wayland Hoyt, D. D.)

Verse 4

John 2:4

Yet will I look again toward Thy holy temple.

The backslider’s vow

The leading feature of the story is that of one man sacrificed for the rest of the crew: it is the execution of the culprit, in arrest of judgment on the innocent. Lessons--

1. The deepest remorse has its remedy in a return to duty. Jonah’s truant flight was a sudden impulse. The backslider often knows that the sin by which he fell away was the result of sudden temptation.

2. Looking again to the covenant of God in Christ is the appointed way of salvation. It is also useful to consider what it was that cast you out of God’s sight, in order that you may cast that out of your sight. (Joseph B. Owen, M. A.)

Verse 7

John 2:7

When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord.

Jonah an example of sanctified affliction

It is interesting to mark the workings of a soul when struggling with the strong billows of affliction, especially if that affliction has come in the immediate train of backsliding, and appears as the net in which God has caught a wanderer from the fold, or the rod by which He would bring him back to wisdom and obedience.

1. The altered feeling toward God of which Jonah was now conscious, as compared with that state of mind which tempted him to go astray. Now, it is the bitterest part of his complaint that he was far from God. It must be a sanctified trouble which disposes the soul to feel thus toward God.

2. It was but the natural consequence of this state of mind in Jonah, though it may be noted as another mark of his sanctified affliction, that he poured out his heart in prayer: the spirit of Sonship was again revived in him, and it led him to cry, Abba, Father.

3. Mark the workings of faith here, sanctified affliction being always characterised by the degree in which faith is called into exercise.

Notice the peculiar views and feelings which are expressed in this prayer.

1. The exercise of faith in regard to the appointment of the visitation: “Thou hast cast me,” etc.

2. The confidence and hope in God not extinguished, but rather roused into action by the extremity of his distress. Faith always is, in proportion to its clearness and strength, fertile in resources.

3. There is a further manifestation of faith in the words of Jonah, although it lies less upon the surface than those already noticed. It is the use made of the earlier portions of God’s Word, and the recorded experiences of former times.

4. The last thing to notice in the prayer, as a mark of sanctified affliction, is the purpose of amendment it expresses. (Patrick Fairbairn.)

Verse 8

John 2:8

They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

The value of superstitions

Here we learn the value to attach to all superstitions, to all those opinions of men, when they attempt to set up religion according to their own will; for Jonah calls them lying or fallacious vanities. There is, then, but one true religion, the religion which God has taught us in His Word. Men in vain weary themselves when they follow their own inventions,--for the more strenuously they run, the farther they recede from the right way, as Augustine has well observed. But Jonah here adopts a higher principle,--that God alone possesses in Himself all fulness of blessings; whosoever, then, truly and sincerely seeks God, will find in Him whatever can be wished for salvation. God is not to be sought but by obedience and faith; whosoever, then, dare to give themselves loose reins, so as to follow this or that without the warrant of God’s Word, recede from God, and at the same time deprive themselves of all good things. The superstitious do indeed think that they gain much when they toil in their own inventions; but we see what the Holy Spirit declares by the mouth of Jonah. The Lord says by Jeremiah, “They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, and cisterns have they digged for themselves.” (Jeremiah 2:13). There the Lord complains of His chosen people, who had gone astray after wicked superstitions. Hence when men wander beyond the Word of God, they in a manner renounce God, or say adieu to Him, and thus they deprive themselves of all good things; for without God there is no salvation, and no help to be found. (John Calvin.)

The sin and folly of observing lying vanities

The foolish practice of observing lying vanities. Lying vanities may comprehend all kinds of sin whereby men are deceived and led away from the paths of truth and righteousness into error and iniquity. The Hebrew words express the deceitful nature of the vanities here intended. That which is rendered vanity signifies falsehood, rashness, or deceit. That translated lying denotes light, trivial, or airy.

1. Those who follow the delusive practice of sin. Sinful objects and pursuits are all unprofitable and vain, and can never do us any real good. Those who worship and serve strange gods, or pretend to serve the living God in any other way than He hath appointed, follow after lying vanities. By sinful practices you may increase in riches, but your profit will not countervail your loss. By sinning against God you can have no real, lasting advantage.

2. Those who greedily pursue the deceitful enjoyments of this world. The most valued worldly enjoyments cannot so much as alleviate personal distress; how, then, shall they deliver out of spiritual trouble? Need not vilify the things of this world. We speak of present enjoyments, separate from the love and favour of God, when the heart is supremely fixed upon them, and chiefly solicitous to acquire and preserve them. To those who choose them for their portion they prove lying vanities.

3. Those who entertain vain hopes of salvation upon insufficient grounds. We need not speak in disparagement of good works; but they must not be the foundation of our hope. They are the blessed fruits of redemption and renovation,

4. Those who leave the paths of righteousness to walk in their own devices. There are various ways by which men come under this description. Sometimes laying aside a sense of the Divine presence and authority, men impose upon themselves by the most foolish pretexts. Sometimes men desert from their duty on account of the difficulties with which the discharge of it may be attended. Some neglect their duty through wrong apprehensions of Divine dispensations.

The pernicious tendency of such conduct. They “forsake their own mercy.” The words suppose that the tender mercy of Jehovah is communicated to sinners of mankind in various ways, suited to relieve their necessities; and that to this abundant mercy which they obtain from God they may acquire such a covenant right and title, through the Lord Jesus Christ, by closely adhering to God and their duty, as that it may be considered as their own privilege and portion. What mercy, what spiritual benefit or comfort, can a man enjoy in sinning against God, whereby he dishonours his Maker, wounds his own conscience, and destroys his own soul? Nothing is to be acquired by sinful practices that is worth the having. Application. Every one should be deeply humbled in the sight of God, on account of our having followed lying vanities and forsaken our own mercy. A little serious reflection may furnish each of us with many instances of this sort, with which we justly stand chargeable. How many erroneous doctrines and false principles are propagated and supported among us! How many deceitful, ensnaring practices are indulged and followed among us! (W. M’Culloch.)

Lying vanities

It is not enough to show that Christ’s claims are not opposed to our interests, and that therefore we do not sacrifice our true well-being when we submit ourselves to Him; we must further show that Christ definitely proposes to advance our present as well as our future interests, and that these cannot be otherwise safely assured; and hence that we sacrifice our personal interests, and sin against our true well-being when we turn our backs on Him. The prophet only expresses what we may all, if we will, see for our selves. Even in this world the suffering and misery that men bring upon them selves by their own conduct far exceeds all that they would otherwise be called upon to endure. How much of all our sufferings springs directly or indirectly from sin! And all this we might escape if only we yielded ourselves to God instead of flying away from Him. And such suffering is the cruellest of all, because we have to reproach ourselves for it, and because of the painful memories it leaves behind. And we must not dwell only upon the actual miseries that we entail upon ourselves, but also upon the comfort and consolation which we deny our selves amidst the trials which are the common lot of all. “Our own mercy.” Think of what that means. No petition is more common on human lips than the cry for mercy. We feel that we need mercy. Surely man is not only nature’s greatest work; but also nature’s greatest victim, unless there be mercy within our reach, mercy from some Grander Power than nature, who can feel for us. And the great Father is rich in mercy. He brings within our reach such a provision of mercy as He sees to be perfectly adapted to our complex needs, and represents it to us in the Gospel of His Son. It is this provision that men turn their backs upon when they turn their backs on Christ. Verily, it is true, “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.” How comes it to pass that men are so blind to their own interests? Why do men forsake their own mercies? A certain class of persons is here dealt with those who “observe lying vanities.” Satan wins influence over men, and maintains and extends it, by falsehood. And falsehood is a power. The process of blinding is carried on by the great deceiver in such a manner as to induce a false and misleading estimate of the relative value of things, and even of their relations to our happiness and well-being. The objects which Satan exhibits to man’s imagination through a distorted and deceptive medium are described here as “lying vanities.” The phrase suggests specious falsehood, and pretentious inanity. Illustrate by the desert mirage. Who has not at one time or another been bewildered and misled by the vast mirage of life? When we yield ourselves to the great deceiver we become his helpless dupes. “Observe” signifies diligent watching,--the giving up of our mind and attention to a specific object. Compare the sentence, “Who mind earthly things.” All earthly things, viewed apart from their connection with things eternal, are in themselves vanities,--they leave the heart still unsatisfied. When we attempt to find our portion in these things of this world they become not only vanities, but lying vanities,--promising to do what they never can do, and ever leading their votaries, as on a fool’s errand, in quest of that which they are foredoomed never to discover. When once ,man has surrendered his sense to the solicitations of the flesh, you can almost predict with certainty how he will act under certain circumstances. We have but little freedom left when once we have begun to observe--to give our minds to--lying vanities. Our freedom consists rather in our power to decide whether of the two classes of objects we will observe, whether we will yield our hearts to the Spirit of truth, who reveals to us the things that are above--the things of God; or whether we will yield our hearts to the spirit of lies, who spreads out before us earthly things, and endeavours to invest them in our eyes with fictitious qualities and characteristics. (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

Verse 9

John 2:9

I will pay that that I have vowed.

A forgotten vow

I heard of a sea-captain who had been wrecked, and with whose ship most of the crew and passengers were lost. He himself had only saved his life by holding on to a plank, and had for a considerable time been completely at the mercy of the waves, but fortunately had been rescued, and was then travelling in the stage-coach to rejoin his family. He told his fellow-passengers his sad story, and all of them pitied him, but wondered why a man so recently saved from imminent danger should end almost every sentence with an oath. The coach stopped to change horses, and one of the passengers proposed to the captain that they should walk on and let the coach overtake them. As they walked together the gentleman said, “You said last night you lost your ship? Yes.” “And your life was saved by clinging to a plank? When you were hanging on to that plank, did you not vow that if God delivered you, you would lead a very different life from that which you had formerly done?” “That is no concern of yours,” angrily responded the captain. At the end of the day’s journey, as the travellers were about to take supper together, the captain was obliged to decline, saying he had no money. The gentleman who had spoken to him on the way offered him a goodly sum. The captain refused it at first, but eventually, rather ungraciously, accepted the gift. Next morning the captain surprised the gentleman by holding out his hand and saying, “I did, while on that plank, promise God that I would lead a different life if He would, in His mercy, save me. I had forgotten my vow, but with God’s help I shall keep it from this day forth!” Do not many sinners so treat God? They call upon Him in the day of trouble, but when they are delivered they forget all about Him. (J. Hamilton.)

Salvation is of the Lord.

Jonah’s praise of God

In his words we have a particular favour acknowledged. Jonah evidently had an eye to the wonderful and extraordinary deliverance that God had wrought for him; and indeed the hand of God did so eminently appear in it, that it could not be ascribed to any other. And there is a general truth asserted, “Salvation is of the Lent.” This is certainly true in the most extensive sense. Whether the salvation be of a temporal or spiritual nature, it is of the Lord.

What salvation is of the Lord.

1. The salvation of the soul, salvation from sin, and from all that misery which is consequential to it There is a salvation by purchase and a salvation by power, and both are of the Lord.

2. Temporal salvation is of the Lord. God Wrought a temporal as well as a spiritual deliverance for Jonah, and to Him Jonah ascribes the praise of both.

In what respects salvation is of the Lord.

1. In what respects spiritual salvation is of the Lord.

(1) In respect of contrivance.

(2) In respect of purchase.

(3) In respect of the revelation, exhibition, and offer of it.

(4) In respect of the application of it.

(5) In respect of the progress of it.

(6) In respect of the consummation of it.

2. Temporal salvation, or deliverance from outward troubles and afflictions, is of the Lord, as it is He alone who works it; and whatever the distress is, He is able to work it.


1. Believers in the most afflicted condition have no reason to be cast down, as if their case were altogether hopeless.

2. Sinners, however guilty and wretched, have no reason to despair of salvation.

3. Believers are wholly indebted to the grace of God for their salvation, for every spiritual and every temporal deliverance wrought for them.

4. That when any deliverance wrought for persons has been wrought for them in mercy, they will eye and acknowledge the hand of God in it. (D. Wilson.)

Salvation is of God

Observe what happens when the cry rises at sea, “A man overboard!” With others on deck, you rush to the side; and leaning over the bulwarks, with beating heart you watch the place where the rising air-bells and boiling deep tell that he has gone down. After some moments of breathless anxiety you see his head emerge from the wave. Now that man, I shall suppose, is no swimmer; he has never learnt to breast the billows; yet with ‘the first breath he draws he begins to beat the water; with violent efforts he attempts to shake off the grasp of death, and by the play of limbs and arms to keep his head from sinking. It may be that these struggles but exhaust his strength, and sink him all the sooner; nevertheless, that drowning one makes instinctive and convulsive efforts to save himself. So, when first brought to feel and cry, “I perish!” when the horrible conviction rushes into the soul that we are lost, when we feel ourselves going down beneath a load of guilt into the depth of the wrath of God, our first effort is to save ourselves. Like a drowning man, who will clutch at straws and twigs, we seize on anything, however worthless, that promises salvation. Thus, alas! many poor souls toil, and spend weary, unprofitable years in the attempt to establish a righteousness of their own, and find in the deeds of the law protection from its curse. (J. Maclaurin.)

Salvation is of the Lord

Take the word “salvation” in its highest and in its lower senses.

In the deliverance of a soul. Comment upon our state of ruin. Salvation is--

1. Of the Father. In its origin proceeding from the eternal love of God, even before all time.

2. Of the Son. In its meritorious cause. An obstacle to be removed; justice to be satisfied; our need of an atoning sacrifice. Note the willingness of Christ to offer Himself; and the fulness and sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice.

3. Of the Spirit. In its personal application. Our aversion to God to be taken away--in conversion, sanctification, perseverance.

In the lesser deliverances of the children of God.

1. From outward difficulties. Such as Jonah’s case. Jonathan and the Philistines. Children of Israel in the wilderness. David overtaken by Saul. Asa and the Ethiopians. Jehoshaphat and the Moabites.

2. From bodily afflictions. Hezekiah’s sickness. Psalms 102:17; Job 32:19.

3. From soul troubles. Temptation. Desertion. Backsliding. What are the legitimate deductions?

(1) The subject checks the pride and vainglory of man.

(2) Raises the hopes of the desponding. (John D. Lawe, M. A.)

What is salvation?

Let us try to see what salvation means. I take it to be summed up in four things. First, knowledge that God is our Father; second, knowledge of the kind of life we are expected to live; third, reconciliation with ourselves, with our own consciences; fourth, a sense of pardon and communion with God, and knowledge of eternal life within us. If you test these things you will find how true it is that they are not found in any other name or person than Jesus Christ. (R. F. Horton, D. D.)

Salvation is of the Lord

This text announces, in general terms, a truth encroached upon by almost all systems of false doctrine, and repugnant to the natural heart.

Salvation is wholly of God in its origin with the Father.

1. In the will and decree of the Father (see Ephesians 1:4).

2. The Father’s purpose and decree can be referred to nothing but His sovereign pleasure (see Ephesians 1:11).

3. He was under no obligation to save man.

4. In order to receive salvation we must take the position in which it contemplates us. Condemned, as guilty. Hateful, through sin. The enemies of God, against whom sin is. Powerless to atone or obey.

5. We must further acknowledge God’s absolute sovereignty in electing to salvation, and providing a Saviour, and in now saving us.

Salvation is wholly of God in its execution by Christ.

1. Had man been equal to his own salvation, then had Christ not come (Galatians 3:21).

2. Christ had to meet human opposition. Man opposed his own salvation, according to God’s plan, as soon as practicable.

Salvation is wholly of God in its application by the Spirit. Man is dependent on the Spirit for having the truth presented; for being able to understand the truth; for rendering him willing; for faith to receive and rest on Christ; for regeneration; for sanctification; for perseverance unto the end of life in Divine grace. Learn to pray for and rely on the Spirit. (James Stewart.)

The Christian’s rejoicing and glory

In the former part of the verse the prophet expresses his determination to bless and praise the Lord. The ground of his doing so was what the Lord had done for him, notwithstanding his grievous crimes and rebellion. That again embraced a twofold mercy, namely, what had been done, or what was about to be done, for his body and for his soul. The prophet had now been taught a lesson which it would be his wisdom never to forget, and which would the better enable him for the arduous work he was called to perform. Some indisputable facts in Christian experience.

1. That no one knows what salvation means but they who have seen their need of it.

2. That no one can praise the Lord for salvation but they who have experienced its blessing and power.

3. That no one can be insensible to the holy feeling of gratitude and praise to whom the grace of God hath brought salvation.

4. That it is generally through a variety of humiliating and painful discipline we are conducted to such an experience, and formed to such a confession and acknowledgment. This then is the subject of our discourse. Considered in every possible point of view, in its origin, source, revelation, execution, grant, efficiency, continuance, and consummation, “Salvation is of the Lord.”

What does the term “salvation” mean?

1. What the Lord had done, or was about to do, for Jonah in respect of his body. In this Jonah was a striking type of Christ.

2. What the Lord had done for him in respect of his soul, in preserving him from hell, and granting him repentance unto life. The word salvation, as applied to souls, does not mean

(1) Profession.

(2) Privileges.

(3) Attainments.

(4) Names, sects, or parties.

To see what it does mean we must ask, What is the state of man? He is lost, as being guilty, condemned, polluted, and depraved, exposed to many enemies, from which, by his own will and power, be can never escape. Salvation means deliverance from this state of wretchedness and misery, together with an investiture of all the blessings needful for his present peace and everlasting welfare.

Whence does this salvation flow, and by whom is it carried into effect? It does not originate with man. It is not effected by man. It is altogether of the Lord. Consider from Scripture--

1. The source of salvation.

2. The provision of the Saviour.

3. The assignment of His mediating work as the surety of His Church and people.

4. Look at the execution of this great work.

So it is clear that salvation is altogether of the Lord. Consider how, and by whom, the time when, and the manner in which this gracious provision is carried into effect in the sinner’s conversion.

1. The regeneration of the soul.

2. The sinner’s pardon and justification.

3. The believer’s sanctification and adoption.

4. The believer’s succour, support, and safety.

5. The believer’s perseverance unto the end, his safe death, and triumphant glory.

Wherein does it appear that it is indeed the salvation of the Lord?

1. What hath the Lord spoken on this subject?

2. What does the state of the case absolutely require?

3. What does the experience of the people of God abundantly testify and confirm?

4. If salvation be not of the Lord, then how dark, how cheerless is the prospect set before us!

(1) Take a word of instruction. Lay down this doctrine as a fundamental truth.

(2) Take a word of discovery. How much error, delusion, and false doctrine does this subject bring to light!

(3) Take a word of inquiry. In what way are you seeking your salvation?

(4) Take a word of alarm. Is it not sad to consider how the Lord is slighted by some, and dishonoured by others, in this great work of salvation?

(5) Take a word of encouragement. Can anything be more cheering than this assurance, “Salvation is of the Lord”?

(6) Take a word of gratitude and joy. Is the Lord my Saviour? (R. Shittler.)

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Jonah 2". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/jonah-2.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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