Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Sign of Jonah the Prophet

There was a period in my life that occurred about a year ago (4/9/10) wherein I found myself seeking a new or more profound experience with God.  I found myself unwittingly calling my search: “a need for an epiphany.”

Then I looked up the meaning of epiphany:

  1. A Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth-day.
  2. An appearance or manifestation, esp. of a deity.
  3. A sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.
  4. A literary work or section of a work presenting, usually symbolically, such a moment of revelation and insight. 
It was to explanation/definition #3 that my thoughts were aligned with; I was simply desiring to have fresh revelation or new experiences with God.  I didn’t know about definition number one.  But number two, as pertaining to a manifestation of God in human form—specifically to the gentiles—was the primary definition of epiphany.
Epiphany literally means (in Greek) “appearance” or “manifestation.”  Jesus, as an adult, indicted the Jews because they failed to recognize the time of their visitation.  In other words, he appeared to them (he was their epiphany), yet they did not discern it.

In fact, the Jews (and everyone else for that matter) need a revelation of Jesus Christ.  Who he is, in relationship to us, is critical; we must have a proper realization of his personhood.  We become Christians only by believing in him and his substituting role in our redemption.  Our revelation of who he is grows until the morning star rises within our hearts and we see his fullness.  We place our faith in him because we have been given enough evidence to do so; our faith is complete or settled upon his nature.
Increasing enlightenment is for our enrichment and fellowship, not to provide further proof (because we have already cemented the matter).  When the disciples asked Jesus: “Increase our faith,” he replied: “if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed” you can do great things.  No more faith or evidence is needed to convince a convinced soul.  Matter of fact, Jesus indicts those who continually ask for more evidence by calling them “evil and adulterous.”  Note how the faith is already established even before the revelation of Jesus Christ (actually seeing him) in Peter’s following words:
“In this you greatly rejoice…that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:6-8 NASB).  In other words, enough evidence is supplied to know Him, therefore Christ demands obedience and perseverance with or without further enlightenment.

“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.’  But He answered and said to them, ‘AN EVIL AND ADULTEROUS GENERATION CRAVES FOR A SIGN; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:38-40).

“The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven.  But He replied to them, ‘When it is evening, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.”  And in the morning, “There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.”  Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?  AN EVIL AND ADULTEROUS GENERATION SEEKS AFTER A SIGN; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.’ And He left them and went away” (Matthew 16:1-4).   

Earlier, in Matthew 11, Jesus rebuked many of the cities He performed miracles in, and even denounced them to the degree that He said if He’d have done these miracles in Sodom, Sodom would have remained a city even to His day.  Then He praised Father God and declared the eyes of the wise and intelligent to be blind, whereas infants understood these things.

Understanding lying vanities

“Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly, and said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.  For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.  Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.  The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me forever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.  When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.  THEY THAT OBSERVE LYING VANITIES FORSAKE THEIR OWN MERCY (the epiphany!).  But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.  And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (Jonah 2:1-10 KJV).

“Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.  I have hated them that regard LYING VANITIES: but I trust in the LORD.  I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities.  And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a large room” (Psalm 31:5-8 KJV).

“Thus says the Lord, ‘Do men fall and not get up again?  Does one turn away and not repent?  Why then has this people, Jerusalem, turned away in continual apostasy?  They hold fast to deceit, they refuse to return.  I have listened and heard, they have spoken what is not right; no man repented of his wickedness...How can you say, “We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us?” (Jeremiah 8:4-6, 8 NASB).
“They have rejected the word of the Lord...WHAT KIND OF WISDOM DO THEY HAVE? From the least even to the greatest everyone is greedy for gain; from the prophet even to the priest everyone practices deceit.  THEY HEAL THE BROKENNESS OF THE DAUGHTER OF MY PEOPLE SUPERFICIALLY, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace” (Jeremiah 8: 9-11). 

“Harvest is past, summer is ended, and we are not saved...IS THERE NO BALM IN GILEAD? Is there no physician there?  Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored?” (Jeremiah 8:20, 22).

It took being in the fish’s belly and a trip to the roots of the mountains at the depths of the sea to make Jonah realize that paying attention to LYING VANITIES (human nature) results in forgetting God and His mercy.  God reveals Himself to infants in Christ, not to those raised up into the matured stature of their natural man.  “You are just a vapor (a vanity, and a lying vanity if trusted) that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).  It’s as if we have already given up the ghost!  “Men of low degree are only vanity and men of rank are a lie; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than breath” (Psalm 62:9).  “The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are a mere breath” (Psalm 94:11).  “STOP REGARDING MAN WHOSE BREATH OF LIFE IS IN HIS NOSTRILS; FOR WHY SHOULD HE BE ESTEEMED?” (Isaiah 2:22).

This is the root problem, and Jonah personified it.  Yes, he prefigured the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection from the dead, but it was only there in the fish’s belly (representing the bowels of hell) that he realized he had placed his trust in LYING VANITIES, his OWN HUMAN BREATH or NATURE.  Unfortunately, many will only come to the realization of their need for a redeemer in the bowels of hell.  Those who are healed superficially are those who do not understand the utter gravity of their situation.  They have no revelation of their poverty of person, how vaporous they really are.

My searching for an epiphany was grievously wrongheaded, even pharisaical-like; it is asking God in unbelief, not fleecing Him in faith.  Signs and wonders are to follow them that believe, and for unbelievers.  When a believer continues to seek them, his heart is not right with God.  One who wishes to be further enlightened before one obeys initial enlightenment cannot possibly be seeking truth because truth is inherently a verb—it implicitly requires obedient action; rationalization is the only motive one could possibly have for pretending to be a seeker of truth when one already knows the truth and knows what to do but is unwilling to do it.

Finally, when God asks: “IS THERE NO BALM IN GILEAD?”—what does he mean?  Well, Gilead is a city within Israel that was known for its medicinal balm.  And “Gilead” is a Hebrew word that means “perpetual fountain” or “heap of testimony” or “witness; a mass of testimony.”  So, in other words, is there no healing virtue (balm) in a perpetual flow of evidence (Gilead)?  Do you recall how the Lord chided with his disciples about believing?  If the Lord was ever to lose his cool, it would have been over the disciples’ unbelief; nothing angers our Lord quite like unbelief in the presence of heaps of evidence.  Without faith it is impossible to please Him!  He is not pleased, indeed, He is angry, with those of His children who refuse to BELIEVE Him.  Like Jonah, who heard but did not obey God’s word (superficial faith), those who obey their own inclination rather than God, are those who are paying attention to, and looking to themselves; they are those who forsake their own mercy.  God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, nor does He cause anyone to be wicked; THEY DESTROY THEMSELVES!  Why aren’t we healed?  Simple: belief in self and unbelief concerning God, who He is, and what He promised us.

I finally had my epiphany: my epiphany was that I didn’t need epiphany.  I already had the revelation, THE epiphany.  Now all I needed to do was wait on God to perform His word to me.  No miracle, however great it might be, can convince me any further.  I KNOW God’s word is not only true, but true for me, and WILL come to pass.  Amen and amen!!