In the text Jonah appears to be in a despairing condition, — “I am cast out of thy sight”; and still he has hope, for he resolves, “Yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.” Everything seems lost, and yet as long as a man can look to God nothing is lost. God cannot see him, so he thinks; yet he talks about looking towards God. Faith in the child of God, whatever may be his circumstances, still comes to the front. If we have faith, there is that in us which overcomes the world, baffles Satan, conquers sin, rules life, and abolishes death. All things are possible to him that believeth. Faith triumphs in every place notwithstanding that her life is one of continued trial. Sense is broken like a potter’s vessel, and reason is frail as a spider’s web; but faith abideth, and groweth, and reigneth in the power of the Most High.
Jonah was in a position altogether unique and yet faith stood him in good stead. Now, it sometimes happens that singularity gives a sting to sorrow. When a man believes that nobody ever suffered as he is doing, he concludes his case to be well-nigh hopeless. Dear tried friend, you cannot say this with any certainty, I am sure; for you have comrades with you in your every grief; but Jonah could say it with absolute truthfulness: he was where never man had been before, and where never man has been since, to be alive. His trial was all his own; no stranger intermeddled in it: in his affliction he had no predecessor, and no successor; he was the first and the last that for three days and nights had dwelt in the belly of a fish. He was singular to the last degree, and yet— here is the blessedness of it— his faith was equal to his position. You cannot banish faith, her home is everywhere. Get a firm confidence in God, and you need not enquire what is going to happen,— all must be well with you. Winding or straight, up hill or down dale, or through the fire or through the sea, if thou believest, thy road is the King’s highway. If faith does not fail, nothing fails.
What you sometimes feel
“I am cast out of thy sight.” Did it not seem so? Jonah had tried to get away from God, and God had pursued him with a tempest, and almost broken the ship to pieces in order to be at him. If he judged by his feelings, he was shut up to the conclusion which he expressed. There remained nothing to him but bare life, and that in such a condition that one could hardly desire to have it continued. He reckoned with abundant show of reason that he must be cast out of God’s sight. Yet it was not so; and therefore I invite those of you who have begun to judge your God by what you feel, and by what you see, to revise your judgment, and in future to be very diffident as to your power to come to any just conclusion as to God’s dealings with you. Thank God, you will be wrong if you despair. It is much better for you to show your faith by relying on your God than to display your folly by saying, “I am cast out.”
One sharp part of Jonah’s misery was that God’s hand was so evidently in his misery. He sees it and trembles. Observe how he ascribes all to God,— “Thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas.” If the messenger of grief be commissioned by Jehovah himself, and we know it, mere carnal reason concludes that all is over finally, and that henceforth all we can do is to sit down and die. Faith thinketh not so; but this is after the manner of flesh and sense. Oh, you that are the people of God, you may sometimes in your wilfulness wish that you could get away from the all-searching eye; but if you could do so it would be hell to you. If you are a child of God you must dwell in the presence of God; it is your life, and you cannot be happy anywhere else. If thou art not happy in thy God thou art doomed to be happy nowhere. The light of His countenance must be light to thee, or thou must walk in darkness.
It was not true
I want you further to notice that it was not true. What, alive in the sea, Jonah; alive in the deep! alive in the belly of a fish! and say that you are cast out from God’s sight! Surely if God was anywhere in the world, it was in that great fish. There was a constant standing miracle for three days and nights; and where there is a miracle, there is God most visibly seen. I do not suppose you ever will be buried alive in a fish literally; but you may spiritually sink as deep as the prophet did. Poor Jonah! the mariners cast him out, but God did not; he was cast out of the ship, but not out of the sight of God. The Lord of old was faithful, and it was His rule never to cast away His people. Mark the text I quoted from our Lord’s own lips: “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Never question this sacred word. He will never, never cast out a single one that trusts Him. So that if ever you should be in a condition which seems to you quite as forlorn as that of this prophet in the midst of the sea, you may yet be sure that you are not cast off, nor cast out. Even if all things in earth and hell should swear that the Lord has cast away one of His own believing people, it will be our duty to disbelieve them all; for it is impossible that He should cast out any believer, in any wise, for any reason or motive whatsoever.
THE RESOLVE OF FAITH
Jonah was a man of God when he was in his worst state of mind; at no time was the eternal life quite extinct within him. This faith put him upon prayer. The chapter begins, “Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly.” Jonah had not prayed when he went down to Joppa. He had taken the management of himself into his own hands, and referred nothing to God as to that rash voyage. He prays, and one of the surest evidences of a living faith is prayer. If thou canst not do anything else, thou canst pray.
Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord HIS God.” There is a mint of meaning here! If you go upstairs and pray to God, as everybody’s God, you have done what every Jack, Tom, and Harry may do; but to go to your closet and cry to the Lord as your own God, is what none but an heir of grace can do. This laying hold upon God as our own God is a business which the outer-court worshipper knows nothing of. Have some of you got a God at all? “Oh,” you say, “I know there is a God.” Yes, I know there is a bank; but that does not make me rich. What is your God to me? I want to say “my God,” or I cannot be happy. Have you a God to yourself, all to yourself; for if it be so, you will pray the prayer of faith when you draw near to Him, and this will prove that whatever your condition may be, you are not cast out from the sight of the Most High.
There is one thing about Jonah I want you particularly to notice, that as his faith made him pray, and made him pray to the Lord his God, his faith made him deal familiarly with holy Scripture. Evidently he loved the Book of Psalms, for his prayer is full of David’s expressions. When a true child of God is in trouble, it is wonderful how dear the Bible becomes to him,— aye, the very words of it. I think you will find that tried saints are the most biblical saints. Give me the faith which loves the Scriptures. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, and true faith always loves the Word from which it sprang; it feeds thereon, and grows thereby. By every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God shall man live, and upon such meat Jonah lived where others must have died.
Jonah said, “Yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.” Faith in her worst circumstances trusts to God. O God, I trusted thee once when I was but young, and I felt my need of a Saviour; I came to thee then and I looked to Jesus, and I found peace at once; but then I did not know the evil of sin as I know it now. What then? Why, with this new knowledge yet will I look to Jesus. I did not know then the depravity of my heart as I know it now, but yet with this fresh sense of guilt I will look as at the first. I did not know then thy great and exceeding wrath against sin as I know it now; but yet with this fuller discovery I will look to thee. I did not know the burden of life then as I know it now; I did not know the power of Satan over me then as I know it now; yet will I look again unto thy holy temple. With all these new weights and fresh incumbrances I do to-day what I did many years ago; I throw myself on Thee, my Lord, and trust in Thy matchless plan of salvation through the precious blood of Christ.
Faith looks to God only. Faith comes alone to her God, and seeks no company to keep her in countenance. When we were first saved it was by faith only, and we must be saved in the same way still. In Jonah’s case all props were knocked away; he had nothing to look to in the whale’s belly at the bottom of the sea; but then and there he trusted God, and that was all. How could he tell in which direction to look for the temple when all around him rolled the dark sea? His look was inward and spiritual, and he was content to do that, and that only. His state was looking, looking — only looking. Be it ours to believe, to believe, and yet again to believe. Jonah looked again to the place where God revealed himself, and we look to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
We will add nothing to our look, our look to Christ; He alone is our stay and our comfort. It is a blessed thing to get clear of all secondary hopes, and to live by faith alone. Mixtures will not do in the hour of trial. A single eye is what is needed: the least division in your trust is painful and dangerous. If you have lost some of your first light, look again; look toward His holy temple at once, and the light shall surely return to you.
There are several grades of faith; and when you cannot reach the higher grade it will be wise to enter fully into the lower one. Remember, the lowest form of faith will save, and even the smallest measure of faith is effectual for salvation, though not for consolation. Look! Look to Jesus! “There is life in a look.” There is heaven in a look. “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.”
We must believe anew each day; yesterday’s believing will not do for to-day. Let us now look to Jesus Christ upon the cross, and trust him this morning as if we never trusted him before. “I will look again toward thy holy temple.” It will do each man good to look anew to that cross which is the sole hope of his soul. There is nothing more sweetening to the spirit than to confess sin and accept mercy in the original style, and to go to Jesus anew just as we went at first.
Let us do so at this moment.
Excerpted from the sermon titled “Jonah’s Resolve, or “Look Again!” (Jonah 2:4) by CH Spurgeon dated 14 December 1884. You are encouraged to read the full text of this sermon from The Spurgeon Library | Jonah’s Resolve, or “Look Again”!