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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, June 5, 2016

First, a word about the sea monster.  Look at Jonah 1:17.  "The Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah."  The Hebrew word for "prepared" is "manah." It means "to constitute," "to prepare." It was especially constituted and prepared.  None like it before, and none after.  It was prepared by the Lord God.  Then the fish itself.  The Hebrew word is "dag."  It means a sea creature - a huge one, capable of swallowing a man whole, without chewing.  And that brings us to our text,

"I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God” (Jonah 2:6).

Commenting on the Book of Jonah, the great Reformer John Calvin said,

…that in this [Christ] would be like to Jonah, for He would be a prophet brought to life again… as Jonah converted Nineveh, after having returned to life. This then is the simple meaning of the passage. Hence Jonah was not a type of Christ, because he was sent away unto the Gentiles, but because he returned to life again… (John Calvin, Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets, Baker Book House, 1998 reprint, volume 3, page 21).

Notice Calvin’s words – Jonah was “a prophet brought to life again.” Jonah’s resurrection from the dead was a type of Christ’s resurrection on the third day. 

Dr. M. R. DeHaan also said, “When the prophet Jonah was cast into the sea and was swallowed by a great fish, he became a clear type of the death and resurrection of Christ” (M. R. DeHaan, M.D., Jonah – Fact or Fiction?, Zondervan Publishing House, 1957, p. 80). Dr. J. Vernon McGee said the same thing in his Thru the Bible Commentary.

Dr. Murphy Lum taught Hebrew at a seminary in Southern California. Dr. Lum said to me, “Jesus gave us the best commentary on Jonah in Matthew 12:40.” In that verse, Jesus said,

“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the [sea monster’s] belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).

Three lessons come from Christ’s statement:

1.  Jonah is a picture of the death and resurrection of Christ.

“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the [sea monster’s] belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).

2.  Jonah is therefore a picture of salvation by grace.

“And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead…” (Ephesians 1:19-20).

The resurrection of Christ is then applied to the convert.

“And you hath he [made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

And, again, we are told,

“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together…in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5-6).

These verses show that the unconverted person is dead in sin and must be made alive in Christ. The “death to life” experience of conversion is connected and energized by the death and resurrection of Christ – and is therefore pictured by what happened to Jonah (cf. Matthew 12:40).

3.  Jonah’s resurrection is also therefore a picture of the baptism of a convert by immersion. Romans 6:3-4 says,

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).

By faith, the convert has been immersed into Christ, united with Christ in His death and resurrection. Dr. MacArthur correctly says, “Certainly water baptism pictures this reality…” (ibid., note on Romans 6:3). Thus, the experience of conversion, pictured by water baptism, points to the death and resurrection of Christ, which was typified by Jonah (cf. Matthew 12:40).

To recapitulate,

1.  Jonah pictured the death and resurrection of Christ.

2.  Jonah pictured the spiritual death and resurrection of conversion.

3.  Jonah pictured believer’s baptism.


Was Christ really dead? Yes. Is an unconverted person really dead in trespasses and sins? Yes. Is a converted person really raised from death? Yes. An experienced preacher can even see a change in their faces and expressions.

Was Jonah really dead in the great fish? I think the answer is obvious! As Dr. Lum said, “Jesus gave us the best commentary on Jonah in Matthew 12:40.”

“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the [sea monster’s] belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

Jesus was really dead – so His comparison shows that Christ believed Jonah was really dead. That settles the argument! Jonah made it clear when he said,

I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption” (Jonah 2:6).

The Hebrew word for corruption is "shachath." It means the "grave," and it signifies the death of Jonah. 

The first two chapters of Jonah also picture conversion. In many ways it illustrates my own conversion. God spoke to Jonah’s heart and told him to go preach in Nineveh. God spoke to my heart and told me I would be a witness to Him. Jonah ran away from God’s presence. He got in a ship and sailed as far away from Nineveh as he could. I left the church in Huntington Park and walked the streets of Los Angeles in darkness and in fear. I fled from God as Jonah did. But God sent a great storm to Jonah in the ship. I was tossed back and forth and felt that I had no hope. Jonah was cast into the sea and was swallowed by a great sea monster. I went to a Chinese church and tried to go to college. I was swallowed up in depression and hopelessness. I couldn’t get to the college because I had no car. I had to take a bus for several hours to get there and back. I had to work when I got back from the college. I had no time to study. I knew I was failing my classes. I felt that I was being swallowed by the Devil. There was no light. There was no hope. There was no peace. I felt like Jonah inside the stomach of the great sea monster.

“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 [its] bars was about me for ever...” (Jonah 2:5, 6).

That’s the way I felt. I didn’t realize it, but God was showing me the vanity and hopelessness of this life. And my sins were ever before me!

I felt like one of our young men, Sergio Melo. When under conviction, Sergio said, “I can’t hold this burden any longer. I was troubled heavily...I was under a terrible turmoil, and the guilt of my sin...Nothing could have made me laugh or pull me out of this trouble...I said to myself, ‘What if I die now?’ ‘I can’t die right now, not in this state.’ Then I kept looking at the faces of every person that passed by, and it reminded me of what Dr. Hymers said in a sermon that he saw people walking like zombies, without any concern for their souls.” This was Sergio, walking home at one in the morning, under deep conviction of sin, like Jonah deep in the ocean.

John Cagan had a similar experience. John said, “Those weeks [before] my conversion felt like dying; I did not sleep, I could not smile. I could not find any form of peace...I rejected all the thoughts I had about God and conversion, I refused to think about it, yet I could not find any peace...I could not stop feeling so tormented...I began to hate myself, to hate my sin and how it made me sins became endlessly worse and worse.”

Soriya Yancy said, “Dr. Hymers preached strong and hard on sin...I remembered all the wrong things I had done. The sin of my thoughts, lying, and many [other] sins. I felt ashamed and I could not face God...I cried. I thought, ‘I will never find Christ’... I cried and cried. I thought I would never have Christ as my Saviour.”

Jonah said, “The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head... all thy billows and thy waves passed over me” (Jonah 2:5, 3).

That was the way I felt until Christ came to me, and Christ poured out His love on me, and I sang out, “Amazing love, how can it be that Thou, my God, should die for me?” And Jonah cried out and said, “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9).

“And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (Jonah 2:10).

Praise God! The moment you trust Jesus you will be “vomited out” of your sins! You will be vomited out of the Devil’s clutches! You will be vomited out of death – into a new life in Jesus Christ! My dear friends, if you turn to Jesus you will find that Jonah was right – “salvation is of the Lord.” As a modern translation puts it, “salvation is from the Lord.” It is a free gift from God in Christ.

Do you see your need of salvation? It is normal not to feel the need. Humans in their natural, normal state do not feel that need at all. It takes a miracle for anyone to feel as Sergio did, or as John Cagan did, or as Soriya did – or as Jonah did – or as I did as a young man of twenty, walking the streets of Los Angeles alone. It takes a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit to bring a person under conviction. Only an act of the Holy Spirit can make a person say in their heart, “My sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3).

Have you examined yourself? Have you really looked at your own heart? There is no hope for you if you don't do that. Most people are running away from that – as Jonah ran away from the presence of God. People fill up their time to keep from thinking about their sin. Some people watch almost endless video games to keep from thinking, to hide from God. Others are always running around doing things – to keep from thinking. Others plunge into work or study, or seeking a career, or almost anything to keep from thinking about their sin. Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “You have to fight for your life and you have to fight for your soul. The world will do everything to prevent you from facing yourself” – to keep you from thinking about your sin (“The Sinner’s Confession”).

You have to think about your transgressions. Transgression means rebellion, a desire to have your own way, a desire to do what you know is wrong. It means doing something that your own conscience knows is wrong. It is a deliberate act of sin. Your conscience said “no” – but you did it anyway. That is a transgression!

Then you must think of your iniquity. That means you thought or did things that are twisted, perverted – evil thoughts, bent, twisted, ugly, foul – iniquity in your heart and in your life!

Then there is the word “sin.” It means “missing the mark.” It is like a man shooting at a target, but missing it. It means that you are not what you should be. It means you are not living the way you were meant to live. It means that you have missed the target. You have not lived the way God wants you to live. No wonder you are so unhappy! 

When the Spirit of God brings these things into your mind, don’t push them away. Then you will come under conviction. Make sure you don’t push those thoughts away. If you do, you may never have another chance. God may never bring you under conviction again. And if God doesn’t do that you are doomed, eternally lost, even if you continue to live in this world.

We pray that the Holy Spirit will make you dissatisfied with yourself, that He will make you feel utterly lost, disgusted with yourself, lost – without hope! Then will you be able to say, “Mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me” (Psalm 38:4). Only then will you feel that Jesus is the one who can help you. Only then will you feel that nothing can make you clean but the Blood of Jesus, shed on the Cross. Only then will you stop playing games with yourself. Only then will you hate your sin and turn to Jesus, and trust Him alone. Only then will you be able to say with Jonah, “Salvation is from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). Only then will you be able to do what that song says,

I am coming, Lord!
Coming now to Thee!
Wash me, cleanse me in the blood
That flowed on Calvary.
   (“I Am Coming, Lord” by Lewis Hartsough, 1828-1919).

If you would like to speak with us about being made clean by the Blood of Jesus, please leave your seat and follow Dr. Cagan and John Cagan to the back of this auditorium. They will take you to a quiet room where we can talk and pray. Amen.

If this sermon blessed you Dr. Hymers would like to hear from you. WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Jonah 2:1-9.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I Am Coming, Lord” (by Lewis Hartsough, 1828-1919).