Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Jonah 1:9 "He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.”
Introduction: What Christians can learn from a reluctant prophet regarding the subject of origins and creation
In reading through the opening chapters of the Book of Jonah, one discovers a statement made by the reluctant prophet Jonah in the middle of a great storm. The text sets the scene of a ship full of men on a storm tossed monstrosity of water. God is the one orchestrating the Providential scene to get Jonah's attention, but instead the pagan sailors are quaking in their shoes. After crying out helplessly to their mythological deities, the men arouse a sleeping Jonah to divulge to them the cause of the storm. Lots had been cast and the sailors discovered that Jonah had been fleeing from God. The first words recorded to have come from Jonah's lips was an affirmation of God's Sovereignty and creation of the dry sea and land in Jonah 1:9.
What would you had told those sailors in the heat of such a moment? They all worshipped various deities whom they believed could be manipulated or who had jurisdiction over local areas. They had denied what the creation around them had told them of the Sovereign and creative power of God in exchange for deities of their own manufacture. (compare Romans 1:18-25) Jonah's affirmation came deep from a heart that though in rebellion at the time, still affirmed by faith what he knew to be the case. Jonah 1 reminds us that the God who created all things on both the dry land and sea is God of Heaven and earth. Such an affirmation is crucial to communicating to people the fact that He is the One to whom all creatures are accountable.
Furthermore, the fact that Jonah proclaims the name of "LORD" or "Yahweh" reminds us that this One God is the Only Savior. He is God of creation and the Lord of redemption. Following the men's casting of Jonah in to the angry waves, we discover that the storm ceases and Jonah ends up spending three-days and nights in the belly of the great fish in Jonah 1:17. Such an event truly took place due to the fact that Jesus uses it to point to what would be the event of His death, burial and resurrection in Matthew 12:40 & 16:4. In reflecting on this first chapter of the Book of Jonah, I believe we can come away with the following principles to guide us in knowing what to affirm about creation and origins of the universe, life and humanity:
1. Affirm your Christian identity.
In Jonah 1:9 we read Jonah saying: "He said to them, “I am a Hebrew....". Jonah was affirming his identity as a covenant believer in the God of Israel, which includes affirmation in the revelation of the scriptures, God's salvation promises and exclusivity of hope in God and God alone. As Christians, we must not apologize for who we are. We affirm and adhere not merely to a set of worldview commitments, but commitment to the One who frames our worldview - Jesus Christ, and the book that is Divinely inspired and discloses the truth about Him - the Bible.
2. Affirm the Divine origin of the universe, the earth and life
As we move on in Jonah 1:9 we see Jonah stating "I fear the Lord God of heaven....". Theologian and author R.C Sproul has summed up quite nicely that there are only three options when it comes to the subject of origins: either the universe is eternal, the universe created itself or God created the heavens and the earth. Amazingly when one surveys the current catalogue of secular and religious viewpoints on origins today, all positions fall under one of those three categories. A Biblical view of origins must affirm without question the Divine origin of the universe, earth and life. Furthermore, the particular God we claim to be behind all things is a specific God that has a unique identity. To affirm anything less is to swear allegiance to something else other than Biblical view of origins. So we need to affirm our Christian identity and the Divine origin of all things, but notice the third major principle we learn from Jonah and the scriptures about what we should affirm in the origins discussion....
3. Affirm the historicity of God's creation of all things
This last point comes from how Jesus Himself came to treat the book of Jonah and the event of Jonah being swallowed by the great fish. If Jonah's circumstances were nothing more than a myth or moral tale meant to impart some well-meaning lessons, then we must conclude that Jesus' own mission and identity fits in the same category. However when you consider Jesus referring to His impending death, burial and resurrection as the "sign of Jonah" in Matthew 16:4, we see that everything that occurs in Jonah's record must be regarded as historical fact.
Do we include such theological statements as Jonah's affirmation of Biblical creationism? Absolutely! Why? Because Jonah's subsequent actions and the calming of the sea are framed within the context of that affirmation. God's creation of the heavens and the earth and continuing providential maintenance of all things is a pivotal part of the account. Unless God is the Creator, he cannot be the One who is also the Source of salvation, as states later in Jonah 2:9-10.
This affirmation of the historicity of the creation event includes taking at face value the six-day creation week spelled out in Genesis 1 and the other details surrounding what God did in that week found throughout the dozens of other scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments.
To deny the historicity of the creation of the universe, the earth and life is to affirm less than what the scripture clearly reveals. Only a consistent historical belief in a literal creation can be the proper foundation for affirming belief in a literal and historical salvation once and for all accomplished by God in human flesh - Jesus Christ. As Jonah 2:9 states - But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the Lord.”