Spurgeon on the Prophet Jonah

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Tonight, I’m sharing from a sermon of Spurgeon about God’s dealing with Jonah.  In the life of Jonah we distinctly see God working in Jonah’s sanctification.  What kind of Loving Father would not?

“And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.”—Jonah 4:6-8.

In Jonah’s life, we meet with God continually. The Lord bade the prophet go to Nineveh, but instead of going there, he took ship to go to Tarshish. Quick as thought, at the back of that announcement, we read, “But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.” God hurled out the wind as if he had been throwing a thunderbolt after his servant who was seeking to escape from him, and there was such a terrible storm that the shipmen were compelled to cast Jonah overboard. Then we read, in the 17th verse of the first chapter, “The Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” God began by preparing a storm, but he went on to prepare a fish. We do not know what fish it was, and it does not matter; it was one that God made on purpose, and it answered so well that Jonah lived in the fish’s belly for three days and three nights, and then he was landed safely, a better man than when he went into the sea, though none too good even then.

You may have found, dear friend, that God has prepared a storm in your life. There was a tempest which checked you in your career of sin. You had determined to go to destruction, and you had “paid the fare thereof;” but there came a great trial, something or other that stopped your ship, and threatened utterly to swallow it up. After that, there came delivering mercy; you who were cast into the sea were, nevertheless, not lost, but saved. What you judged to be your destruction turned out to be for your salvation, for God had from of old prepared the means of saving you; and he sent you such a deliverance that you were compelled to say with Jonah, “Salvation is of the Lord.” Since that time, I should not wonder if you have seen the hand of God in many very singular ways, possibly in much the same form as Jonah did, not literally, but spiritually. Especially if you have erred as Jonah did, if you have fallen into ill-humours as he did, you have probably had to bear the same kind of discipline and chastisement…

In my text, we have God very conspicuous in the life of his servant Jonah; and I want to bring out this truth very prominently, that we may also see God in our lives in similar points to those in which he manifested himself to Jonah. So, we will notice, first, that God is in our comforts: “God prepared a gourd.” Secondly, God is in our bereavements and losses; “God prepared a worm.” Thirdly, God is in our heaviest trials: “God prepared a vehement east wind.” Then, fourthly, what is not in the text in words, but is of the very essence of it, God prepared Jonah: and these three things—the gourd, the worm, and the east wind, were a part of his preparation, the means of making him a fitter and a better man for his Lord’s service. He learned by the gourd, and he learned by the worm, and he learned by the vehement east wind; they were a sort of kindergarten school to which the childlike spirit of Jonah had to go. He needed to be taught as children in their infancy are taught by object-lessons, and things that they can see; so Jonah went to God’s kindergarten, to learn from the gourd, and the worm, and the east wind, the lessons that he would not learn in any other way…

Yes, fierce troubles will come to us, and they may bring us no benefit in themselves. It is a popular notion that trials sanctify those who have to endure them; but by themselves they do not. It is a sanctified trial that sanctifies the tried one; but trial itself, alone and by itself, might make men even worse than they are. Here, for instance, is Jonah; his gourd is gone, and the sun’s fierce heat beats upon him, and makes him faint; and even to the Lord himself he says that he does well to be angry, even unto death. The trial was not sanctified to him while he was in it; and it often happens that “nevertheless afterward” is the time in which trials benefit us: “No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” You may have ten thousand trials, and yet be none the better for them unless you cry to God to sanctify every twig of the rod, and to make the fury of the east wind or the burning rays of the sun to be a blessing to you.

It seems that, at the time, this trial only revealed Jonah’s folly, for it appeared to make him pray very foolishly, and talk very foolishly. His trials were like the tossing of the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. This vehement east wind threw up great masses of black seaweed upon the shore of Jonah’s character, and made the great sea of his heart roll up the foul mass of corruption that else might have been hidden and still. Brethren and sisters, unless the Spirit of God comes upon us in power, we shall not grow holy through our trials. Though we were washed in a sea of fire, we should not lose an atom of our sin by suffering. Nay, the very flames of hell shall never purify a soul, or purge away a single sin; he that is filthy shall even there be filthy still. There is nothing in suffering, any more than there is in joy, in and of itself, to make a man holy. That is the work of God, and of God alone; yet God overrules both our joy and our grief to accomplish his own divine purpose by his Spirit. It is God who sends the wind; so, once again, I want you to pause, and bow your heads before him who sends all your trouble…

I am probably speaking to some who are not yet converted to God. You have not yet believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, yet you have a world of troubles. You think that God is so angry with you that he means to destroy you, for ever since you have begun to think of divine things you have had nothing but trouble. You have lost one dear friend after another, you have yourself been very ill, and you often feel very low-spirited and sad, and you say to yourself, “Ah, I am doomed to perish!” Now, I do not come to that conclusion at all. On the contrary, I thank God for your trouble, for I think that, as God dealt with Jonah to teach him a lesson, he is dealing with you to bring you to himself. It was a good thing for Jonah when he had finished that quarrel with his God, for no good ever comes that way. What a blessed thing it would be for you also to finish your quarrel with God! Finish it soon, I beg you. How can you be reconciled to him? Only by the death of Jesus, for God has given his Son to die for sinners. That ought to end your quarrel with God. Remember that blessed verse, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Turn to him, then. Let the God of love end your discussions, and end your questionings; may his blessed Spirit come and sanctify your troubles, and bring you to himself!

God bless you all, dear friends, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.