OT # 33 Sharing the Gospel with the World
Jonah 1-4; Micah 2, 4-7
Note: The Savior taught we should search the Old Testament for its witnesses of Him. And He specifically said that the story of Jonah bore such witness. That testimony should not be ignored.
(Preparation: ask someone or arrange for class to sing select verses from “Master, the Tempest Is Raging.”)
How Jonah Bore Witness of Jesus Christ
I. Christ established a clear connection between Jonah and Himself.
He responded to those seeking a sign, “… there shall no sign be given to [this generation] but the sign of the prophet Jonas, For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:38-40).
But Jesus’ statement was simplified. The connections between Jonah and Jesus are much deeper than that. Even those negative elements in Jonah’s story had some relationship to the Savior and His gospel. Here are the parallels.
- Jonah was on a ship in a tempestuous sea. While others trembled in terror, Jonah slept peacefully below. When the Savior came, he personally underwent a similar experience, sleeping below while His disciples experienced great fear among raging waves (Mat. 8:23-27). Those threatening waves themselves bore witness here and in the incident when Peter tried to walk but sank into the seas, of the threats of destruction by death and Hell. Christ healed the waves, as witness of His powers, not just over the waters, but of death and Hell itself.
- In Jonah’s case, lots were cast to determine a sacrifice to save others on the ship; the lot fell on Jonah. Jonah yielded to his fate and its purposes: “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you” (Jonah 1:12). Jonah, then, was cast into a watery grave that death would be overcome for others.
- In doing so, he taught of Christ, who would really overcome the rages of death when He was cast into an earthen grave to overcome death for all others. Jesus confirmed the deliberate timing of both internments --- three days and three nights.
- Jonah’s descent seems deliberately overstated: “out of the belly of hell cried I” (Jonah 2:2). But such a statement clearly fits its prophetic witness of Christ, who did descend into the very depths of Hell.
- Jonah’s coming up out of the watery grave was also a witness --- of Christ’s future resurrection. And Jonah’s success “after his resurrection” in bringing repentance to the Ninevites was a witness that Christ’s real and wondrous resurrection would bring repentance and conversion to many, many Gentiles.
“The sign which this generation shall see is like Jonah’s --- my sacrificial death and my resurrection out of the tomb. But while the people of Ninevah repented at Jonah’s return from death, like many Gentiles will of mine, this generation has not, nor will not repent, though a greater rising from the dead will occur.”
Though Christ returned from the dead, as did Jonah, in spite of the witnesses of His resurrection, that generation as a whole refused to believe.
The Rest of the Story
However, through the rest of Jonah’s story, Jonah actually becomes a witness of Israel itself. Remember that Jonah did not feel joy but anger at Ninevah’s salvation. The Lord then taught him a great lesson. He prepared for him a gourd vine for shelter. But Jonah saw that vine eventually die, leaving Jonah to experience the “vehement east wind.” The Lord taught Jonah that just as he was sorry because of the death of the gourd vine, so would the Lord be deeply grieved if all the people of Ninevah had perished.
These things witnessed of future happenings in Israel after Christ. Even those who accepted Christ as the Messiah did not rejoice at Gentiles coming into what they considered their sacred place. This attitude, and conflicts regarding the circumcision of Gentiles, etc, contributed to the eventual disinheritance of many Jews. Eventually, like Jonah, those disaffected because of the Gentiles’ conversion, were left destitute of God’s continued protection, and victim to the many future scourges which thereafter befell them.
As Latter-day Saints we must remember these truths and ask ourselves whether we are as welcoming as we should be, as persons from all nations have come into the church. (See President Uchtdorf’s recent general conference plea for the Saints to make sure all persons, regardless of background, are fully welcomed into the church)
(* Notes: These understandings of Jonah can be found in early Christian writings, in early Reformation writings, and among modern writers, including Latter-day Saints.)
Insights into Micah
Those who have truly tried to read the Old Testament with its levels of prophecy will now be rewarded, as they begin to read the writings of the prophets. Because the prophets can only be understood as we recognize their different levels of reference.
To the untrained eye, the prophets seem to skip mercilessly around. But to the trained eye, we understand that the skipping is not so meaningless. Rather the prophets refer to similar events in more than one dispensation, because they are patterns of each other.
For example, Micah begins by lamenting the destruction of the wicked by the Lord in Chapter 1 using imagery pertaining to the Lord’s ultimate Last Day’s destruction. (See verses 3-4). Yet as he continues to move on, his writings move back to the time that ancient Israel and Judah are destroyed by the Assyrians and Babylonians, (v. 5-16. We definitely know it is ancient Israel spoken of because of the reference to Lachish in v. 13). While to us this seems disjointed, it really is not. Because to the Lord, the wicked of all ages are patterns of each other, and the Lord’s destructions in each dispensation are also patterns of each other.
Micah begins to speak of the Lord’s merciful re-gathering, in spite of past wickedness, in Chapter 2:12. There the focus is on the Jews being re-gathered from Babylon in ancient times, but in 4: 1- 13, and 5:6-15 he moves on to the ten tribes being re-gathered from the many lands into which they are scattered in the last days. Because these re-gatherings are patterns of each other, the prophets often skip back and forth in their references.
Apostasy, particularly the apostasy when Christ’s Church became corrupted, is also a vital part of the pattern. It is found most clearly in Chapter 3. Again, earlier times of apostasy among Israel are patterns for this fuller apostasy occurring after Christ. Chapter 3 especially notes this greater apostasy, and significantly references are made to it just prior to the last days re-gathering spoken of in Chapter 4.
While even with these pointers the reading of the prophets is not easy, readers of the Bible will be rewarded as they continue to seek to understand how the Lord has used patterns. He used patterns for times of wickedness and apostasy, for times of being cut off, and for times of being re-gathered.
While these events have happened more than once in the story of Israel, it is important to remember the ultimate of all patterns occurs in the coming of Christ: His being rejected by most people, His Church falling into apostasy, and the Church being restored again in the Last Days just prior to the destructions preceding His Second Coming.
All other patterns point to these, the most essential events!