In the end, when we have done all that we could (which is really probably less than we imagine) we must come to the same conclusion that Jonah did as he prayed from the belly of the fish, “Salvation is of the Lord!” That is, if we are to be delivered, it will not ultimately be by our own intelligence or strength. This applies to situations both temporal and spiritual. It is especially true of our salvation from sin. Jonah is a remarkable picture of that.
Aware of his own rebellion, informed by the Word of God, and sensing the impending doom of his choices, Jonah looks with the only hope that he can muster to the symbol of God’s covenant faithfulness, the Temple. As an Israelite this is a pretty big deal. Jeroboam I had separated them from Jerusalem and the Temple when he lead the northern kingdom away from Judah. He had established sites of worship using golden calves to maintain that separation. But in the Old Testament economy, the Temple, the dwelling place of God’s covenant Presence, was the only place to go. Being a “man of God,” Jonah knew that much and in his prayer that is exactly where his mind went.
Jonah 2:4 Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’
When it comes to man’s salvation from sin this is a great picture of what it is like. Though we do not like to admit it, we are in much the same place as Jonah with regard to what we can do for ourselves in this situation. Romans 3:10-12 tells us, “As it is written: ‘THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE; 11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS; THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS AFTER GOD. 12 THEY HAVE ALL TURNED ASIDE; THEY HAVE TOGETHER BECOME UNPROFITABLE; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, NO, NOT ONE.’ “ We also see that God asks through Jeremiah, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23). We are helpless and hopeless unless and until the Lord intervenes in our situation.
Ephesians 2:1-3 And you who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
We are born in sin and bound to walk with the world under the power of the devil. The evidence of this is that we live to fulfill our personal desires. We are therefore, “by nature children of wrath,” as are all in the world who have not felt God’s converting grace…
Ephesians 2:4-9 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
It is God who makes the dead alive. It is God who comes to us in our need and rescues us from our hopeless situation. It is the demonstration of His great mercy and love. After all, we are rebels, just like Jonah. We are rejecting God in everything that we do. We are running from His presence. We deserve His judgment. If He was to send us all to hell, it would only be right. That is what makes His grace so amazing! He saves men not because we are good, but because He is good. He does not aid us in our own ability, but overcomes our rebellion and makes us alive when we are dead in sin.
Men do not like to believe this because our pride is such that we want some credit for the deliverance of ourselves. This is just another proof of our selfish depravity. We need to be like Jonah in one other important way. We need to acknowledge our sin and our helplessness and look to the sign of God’s Covenant faithfulness and mercy. For us today that is the Cross of Jesus Christ. It was there that the Lord made the ultimate sacrifice for sin. The fulfillment of the promises that He had made beginning with the curse of the serpent in Genesis 3:15.
Galatians 3:7-9 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.
As we understand our helplessness and look to the Lord’s gracious supply of mercy in the Cross of Jesus Christ, He makes us alive. He forgives us of our sin and fills our hearts with the desire to serve Him rather that self. By His grace, He imparts to us the very faith to believe the promises that He has made to redeem sinners. I encourage you today to look to Him and acknowledge your own inability. To seek His rescue instead of trying to save yourself. To trust in His ability and faithfulness instead of your own.
Audio of this sermon is available by clicking on the link below.