SALVATION – AN ARK OR A WHALE?
BY: ROMEO CORSINI
Tidal waves, it turns out, are not a threat to large ships at sea. The ships are carried by the rise of the waves and ride out the storm. Again, it is not that the storm is weak, but that the ship is designed to weather it! We are much the same way except that we are designed to know it; yet, we, many times, drown in our own ignorance of so much that God has fashioned in us. We do not remember during times of crises that we are designed to withstand the onslaughts, mainly because our focus is on the trouble and not on the voice of the Lord.
Can it ever be that God is not in charge of anything in this world that occurs? Is it possible for God not to be aware of anything that we are involved in? He is all-knowing and all-loving. His perfect love is such that no matter the disobedience, he cares to set us aright, to help us become better; not kick us while we are down. This is a difficult concept for so many to grasp because it somehow translates in their minds as giving people the liberty to do as they please because, after all, (they reason), God is only interested in our progress. But the grace of God does not abound so that we can continue to sin. God forbid. That would only mean that the individual who thinks like that has need of much more work in his heart to become more and more like the Christ. God is not mocked. Who could possibly fool him? No. The grace of God abounds because the price of sin has been exacted already in Christ. Those who seek Him to become more and more like Him need only “wash their feet” to grow in Him. Yet, it does take strength of Spirit to believe that I can pull myself up from having fallen and continue to walk forward, head held high towards the Lord because I should know, all the while, that God was there, even in my miserable mess, knowing everything, even what was in my heart.
There are two things I have been learning from Noah and Jonah that relates to this. In the first case with Noah the ark was built to be entered into. But being in the ark wouldn’t have served its purpose without the storm. And even the storm, that is, the rains, had to reach a certain level before the ark could serve its purpose. The storm had to last long enough for the water to rise enough for the ark to serve its purpose: to withstand anything! And then I discovered that there is a difference between the end of the storm and its departure. That the rain stopped did not immediately release Noah from the ark. There was time involved in the subsiding of the waters. The entire event required the trust and confidence from the occupants to know that their God was with them all along.
Sometimes we get in a hurry. We get impatient when the rains take too long to rise to their level of effect; we get impatient with the waters to subside to stand on land; in short, we many times ignore the fact that God is there with us the entire time. We need to learn to allow Him to be God even in our times of disobedience!
Jonah was running from God when a storm rose at sea and the sailors found out it was because Jonah was being disobedient so… they humbly threw him overboard and Jonah was swallowed by a whale.
Did you ever stop to think that the reason the whale swallowed Jonah was to save him from drowning in the sea and to deliver him to the shore so that he could proceed with God’s purpose for him? That would make the whale a good thing! Are you misinterpreting your whales to be evil things in your life? Jonah was there just long enough to remember His God.
Jonah 2:2 says “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.“ Psalm 139:8 reads “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.”
How many times God has permitted certain things to come our way to save us during our disobedience, seeming to be great monsters but being the only things that could handle the storms. The whale might have seemed, at first, like punishment to Jonah, but it was SALVATION FROM GOD!
Noah was in a condition to hear the Lord tell him to build an ark and go into it. Jonah, on the other hand, was not. He hardly would have responded to: “Jonah, the first big whale you see, I want you to let it swallow you!” Notice that one does not learn anything about Noah despising or being resentful of the sinners he was leaving behind. My hunch is that he was silently humble about it knowing their fate. Jonah, rather, was just the opposite. None of this would have occurred at all if Jonah had been more eager for Nineveh to repent and be forgiven, than for Nineveh to be punished.
And that is the revelation I see. Even for ourselves, we must learn to accept the gracious free forgiveness God has provided for us and not live as though there were still a bloody price to pay for sin. God cannot be mocked. Hebrews 10:31 says “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.“
You cannot walk about unrepentant and think to be getting away with it. God knows exactly what to do to straighten you out. If you can hear his voice or if you won’t hear his voice, it’ll either be an ark or a whale. Take your pick. I guarantee you, if you won’t get into the ark, a whale is on its way! It seems that God sends the storm ahead of his deliverance. The difference is that one man remains conditioned to hear the voice of God and obey it, which assures him his safety; while the other man is more concerned of his own preconceived notions about how things ought to be and what ought to happen to others and totally overlooks the greatest, kindest thought of God’s mind: “… shall not I spare Nineveh… that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand…?” (Jonah 4:11) What a thought! “Shall not I spare Ninevah?”
Matthew 10:15 says “Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city” (that city being the one to whom they are to be freely giving what they freely received… namely, healing and deliverance!)
We are to be freely giving that which we have freely received without determining judgment. Imagine that! Jesus said that Sodom and Gomorrah would receive a more tolerable judgment than the city that rejects the message and the messenger. There are many that are rejecting the message and the messenger by virtue of the fact that they require the message to meet with their approval first because their hearts cannot suffer the “indignity” of forgiving those that have been worse than they! They like to think that they forgive, but not without punishing! Jonah 3:10 says “And God saw… that they turned from their evil way: and God repented of the evil, that he had said he would do unto them; and he did it not”.
Glory to His grace and mercy. May we always be prostrate before his kind feet and his perfect love that seeks only to finish that good work which he began in us… to make us in the image of His Son JESUS.
There is an irony in the fact that God required Noah to build the instrument of his own salvation… the ark; very much like the believers building up the body of Christ. Another irony is that, while the water of the flood was to the many – destruction, it was simply an intermedium that would carry the one who had found grace in the eyes of God to his deliverance, accompanied by those who belonged to him. The Body of Christ is being built up to carry the obedient during a time when the earth will be filled with the Spirit of the Lord – that to many will be a fire that will try every man’s work. If Noah had known about the impending flood and reasonably had decided to build the ark on his own, it would not have withstood the onslaught. We are told that the Lord shut him in. Noah followed the instructions of the Lord to the letter and then boarded the ark to be sealed in by the Lord. Those that belong to Him enter the body of Christ and are sealed in by the righteousness of Jesus and the Holy Spirit rises and lifts the body above the earth as it tries, by fire, all the works of the flesh. Noah’s own hand could not shut and seal the ark’s entrance and it is not any of the righteousness of man that seals him into the body of Christ; but it is the righteousness of the Son of God.
Could Noah have built the ark if he had not listened to the voice of God? Can the believer build the body of Christ without listening to the voice of the Spirit of God? Can you develop in the image of the Son of God if you can’t recognize his voice? How do you know what He looks like? Until you learn through obedience to enter into Him and allow Him to shut the door between you and the rest of the earth, your ark was built in vain and you too will drown in the cleansing. You may say, “At least I’ll end up clean;” but I’d rather ride it out on the cushion of the water and in the safety of the ark. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Again, let “the earth” in this instance refer to your self, the better to demonstrate what it is really that we ought to be steadily leaving behind as the Holy Spirit continues to pour out to reach the level where it will lift up the ark I am in and bring me into union with the promise of God… His glory!
The difference between Noah and the rest of all flesh is the difference between faith and religion where faith is exercised through obedience and religion is exercised through opinion. Who is there among any who can tell another what the voice of the Lord is saying to that individual? There is no one. Imagine Noah listening to any one of the rest of all flesh regarding what he was doing. He would surely have drowned, himself. If any person is not leading another to learn to hear the voice of God for himself but rather erroneously proceeds to tell him what God is saying to him, that includes “leaders” of any groups, he or she is not worthy of the calling, if a calling it be and not a profession.
In the case of Noah’s situation, it repented the Lord that He had created the flesh in man. “And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth.” This was the great and glorious plan: to abolish the enmity between the flesh and God, by destroying the flesh of His own creation, Jesus Christ, His Son. The Lord’s repenting here is the Lord’s grieving over the destruction He would inflict in order to secure the salvation of His creation. How marvelous is His wisdom!
Jonah, on the other hand, was not required to build anything. In fact, it seems he had no intention of being involved; therefore, the Lord sent the whale, not as a punishment, but as an instrument to encourage Jonah to obey Him. How merciful He truly is! And once again there is an impending destruction and again a repenting from the Lord; but now it is a repenting to spare Nineveh from the destruction that Jonah was sure would occur in forty days. Matthew 10:15 tells us that it would be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment than for the city that rejects the message and the messenger, which Nineveh did not. So, rather than destruction they receive forgiveness for their repentance. Many leaders still preach fire and brimstone and doom and do very much discredit the perfect victory of Jesus over the enmity of God, the flesh. There is much too much talk about what ought not to be done and less about all that ought to be done. Are you yourself preaching, “This is wrong to do and that is wrong to do,” and not, “Let us do this and let us do that unto the Lord”? While there is a place to discourage misbehavior, there is no substitute for praise and rejoicing about the victory won by Jesus. The truth is that God inhabits the praises of His people. Where there is God, there is power; power to overcome, power to forgive and be forgiven, power to love. Perhaps what Jonah lacked was the vision that God loved the Ninevites. If he had allowed it, he might have realized that God’s interest for His creation is to see it to it’s good end. After all, had not God called it good when He made it? If anything, now, with the enmity between God and man reconciled through Jesus Christ, it’s even better. But one will never truly be a right instrument of the Lord if he cannot, see, first, the love God has for all creation, and secondly, that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was made on behalf of that same “all creation”. Every one. Without preference or prejudice. Jonah may have been a man of religion, one who behaved by opinion. He should have taken lessons from Noah, who obeyed God, seeing the need for salvation.
If your heart has grown callous, unawares as it regards the place the rest of mankind holds in the kingdom of God, the message is to you, not to the Ninevites, that the whole purpose to having destroyed the flesh of the earth was to spring it back to a newness of life, this time covered by the insurance of God’s own covenant by His own mouth… no deductible!
How else can one understand grace from God? What else can unmerited favor mean but that the one giving it loves you? And if you, why not your neighbor? Those who ignored the wounded man in the parable of the good Samaritan were a priest and a Levite, a learned man and a man with a “calling”. Yet it was the one with whom the Jews were not to mingle who reached across the great divide of prejudice, arrogance and haughtiness because he recognized that the issue was not whether the wounded deserved to be saved but that the wounded needed saving. God will not only use those that mouth His name, He will use any creature that He, the potter, created, and no one will tell Him different!
“This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people, who shall be created shall praise the Lord. For He hath looked down from the height of His sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth; to hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death; to declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem; when the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord.” (Ps. 102:18-22)
How hateful it must truly seem in the Spirit when ignorance instead of compassion is permitted to determine whether one will ever see the glorious eternity that God has prepared for His creation. If the horizon of your vision in the Lord does not change, you have not grown toward perfection; you have been growing blind by a hardened heart. The Spirit of God, the love of God, must be permitted to increase continually in our lives, else it isn’t love. If love isn’t growing, it isn’t loving. Love never fails; it never fails to lift its heart and eyes toward God in any given situation, very much like a flower that will rise and face the sun to receive the sun’s reflection. All things must point to the will of God if they are to have any purpose to their existence. It grieved God’s heart to bring about the end of all flesh because of the price he had to exact from it. Yet the flesh served its purpose in the will of God, which was to give way to the promise from God’s own word of eternal life. After all, “…the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:20-21)
The questions that the Spirit of God puts forth most prominently deserving of a “yea” or “nay” answer are these:
“Did Jesus come to save the world?” Answer: “Yea.” “Did He accomplish His mission?” Answer: “Yea.” Is there any doubt? If so, what is the disagreement based on? On the doctrines and precepts of men?
“…because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.” (I Tim 4:10).
“…Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” (Rom. 5:18)
Who will dare to say that he is more worthy to receive this free gift of grace and faith from God than any one else? There is no one. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)
Religion will teach that one is greater than another. (Witness the various religions and factions.) Faith will simply rejoice in the free gift of glory and want it for the fellow man.
In a world filled with the force of human dramas, the agonies, the anguish, the futilities, the vanities, even in this world where God in so many places barely is acknowledged, where is there room in God’s plan to be selective except as the selection reflects the will of God to direct all creation back to Himself? There can be no other purpose for God to have selected to reveal Himself unto you except to use you as an instrument of His will in His plan for all mankind.
“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Rom 12:3)
The believer has been given the ministry of reconciliation; “to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:19) Because of this, Paul urgently encourages us to be reconciled to God ourselves. (2 Cor 5:20) (If we are not convinced that God has sealed us into His salvation by His own hand, so that we would not have any way out of it except through the Spirit of God, how could we possibly be impressive to anyone else?) The dove that Noah would release at intervals is significant in that it represents the Holy Spirit who always goes before us and prepares our way, guiding us and leading us into all truth, letting us know whether to or whether not to. (John 16:13)
The revelation of the Lord is at hand: He is gloriously abiding in us and in due time He reveals Himself unto all. Such is the power of His grace. It is simply important that those who know Him demonstrate Him so that all those others will know to witness Him within themselves. He will not be rejected for He is more able to convince and convict the heart of man which wants only to be one with its creator. (Rom. 8:19-23)
While on the one hand we deserve, as sinners, nothing of the mercies He has bestowed on us, we do experience the inheritance as sons of the Most High, which is the demonstration of the righteousness of Jesus Christ through us as changed creatures, to honor the power of His grace. Amen!
In brotherly love,
SALVATION – AN ARK OR A WHALE, Parts 1-2 [Romeo Corsini] 1