Prayer: The Conflict of Faith and Sense
from Hugh Martin's commentary on the book of Jonah
Martin (1822-1885) was a Scottish Presbyterian minister renowned for
his preaching and literary
works and for his defence of the truth of Scripture in a time of decline in
the Church. Some of his ageless works include The Atonement, The
Shadow of Calvary, Christ's Presence in the Gospel History and a commentary on the
book of Jonah.
Jonah ii. 1-9
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 for
ever: 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. But
I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that
that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.”
calleth unto deep . . . Yet the Lord will command his loving-kindness; .
. . and my prayer shall be unto the God of my life.” – Ps.
xliii. 7, 8.
had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in
the land of the living.” – Ps. xxvii. 13.
prayer of Jonah is an illustrious instance of the conflict between sense and
faith. And it will give unity to
our meditations on it, if we keep this in
view, and use this as the key to its
interpretation; namely, that it discloses the action and reaction in the
prophet’s soul, of sense and faith; – sense prompting to despair; faith
pleading for hope, and procuring victory.
the unawakened soul, that knows nothing of the anxieties and anguish of the
spiritual mind, this whole contemplation may be altogether uninviting.
At best, it will be to such an one merely a very curious theme; but one
in which he can discover nothing in common with his own heart-history or
poor and contrite, on the other hand, who know something of the terrors of the
Lord, the trials of an awakened spirit, the haunting anxieties of their own
disobedience, and the great power of their own sins, will look on this
wonderful prayer with lively interest, and find in it much to encourage, to
rebuke, and to instruct them. The
essential feature of the prayer – as a prayer of faith in circumstances
that, save for faith, were altogether desperate – will commend it to every
exercised believer, as a prayer to the proper understanding of which he will
derive some light from his own experience, and which, when properly
understood, will in its turn reflect light on his own experience back again,
and tend to purify and strengthen that experience too.
this prayer of faith, though in unparalleled circumstances, and spiritually
noble in a marvellous degree, contains in it nothing but the ordinary
principles of all believing prayer; and though we may not equal it in degree,
if our prayers are not the same in kind, they are false.
not this the very trial of faith; namely, to have circumstances to contend
with which appear to extinguish hope, yea, which viewed in themselves, not
only appear to, but actually do shut
out all hope whatever? Take the
case of Abraham, and the character and commendation of his faith.
And do so, bearing in mind that he is the father of the faithful, and
that all believers walk in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham.
And what is the brief view given of the nature and action of his faith?
It is as vanquishing and outliving the contradictory influence of
sense. “Against hope he believed
in hope” (Rom. iv. 18). Appearances
were all against him. Sensible
realities all contradicted, and in themselves alone, destroyed his
expectation. Had his hope rested
on sense, on reason, on nature, on time, it must have failed and sunk for
ever. But he did not rest on
nature; he did not draw upon the region of sense; he did not lean on the power
of reason. He believed.
He did not perceive. He did
not argue. He believed.
“He believed in hope.”
And so strongly did he believe in hope, that his faith destroyed the
hope-destroying power of sense. For
sense would have destroyed his hope; but this hope-destroying power of sense,
his faith destroyed. “Against
hope he believed in hope.”
is the true place and action of faith. This
is the victory which faith has to achieve.
Surrounded by incidents, events, circumstances, influences, powers, all
adverse to your deliverance and salvation; and with your hope, as far as this
region of the things seen and temporal is concerned, utterly cut off; your
faith discovers another region, a realm and kingdom unseen, “the heavenly
places,” the sphere of “the things that are unseen and eternal.” Your
faith draws upon them. Faith finds them
all good and true, precious and powerful, suitable and superior.
For these unseen things are of God.
They are the promises and pledges of God, and of His Word.
For their truth, you have no
evidence of sense. The evidence of
sense is supposed to be all the other way.
But you have the evidence of your Creator’s word.
You receive that as good and sufficient, as the very highest evidence
possible. You receive it as simply
true. You prove that you receive
it as true, by actually proceeding on it, and perilling precious issues on it.
You peril your hope, and happiness, and peace upon it.
You peril your soul upon it for ever.
You believe in hope, when you see
no ground of hope. You believe
in hope, even when all you see is
against your hope. Circumstances,
nature, creation, sight, sense, plead for the giving up of all hope: and their
pleas are strong; their statements, in themselves, are true.
But over against all these you place, in solitary, unapproachable,
surpassing majesty, – God. You
say: “The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken.”
And inclining your ear and hearing Him, you believe
Him, in opposition to all.
“You hear, and your soul doth live.”
You outlive – you live down – your despair.
“Against hope you believe in hope.”
common principle of the conflict between sense and faith, Paul states in a
series of striking contrasts in a passage with which every believer is
familiar. “We are troubled on
every side (according to sense); yet (by faith) not distressed: (as to sense)
we are perplexed; but (through faith) not in despair; persecuted; but not
forsaken: cast down; but not destroyed: always bearing about in the body the
dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in
our body. For we which live are
always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus may
be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. iv. 8-11).
In another passage, he speaks of the opposition to all hope which sense
presents, as designed to compel us to draw on the supports of faith: the
region of sense becoming as it were perfectly intolerable, that the soul may
be constrained to flee into the realm of faith, the heavenly places, as its
own and only congenial home. “We
have the sentence of death in ourselves, that we may not trust in ourselves,
but in Him that quickeneth the dead” (2 Cor. i. 9).
And if any lesson is to be learnt from the matchless story of Jacob
wrestling with the angel, it is this: that God may clothe all circumstances,
and all His dispensation towards us, with appearances of opposition and
hostility, in order that we may flee to the anchor of His pure and simple
Word, and lean on it without any other help, or rather against all adverse
power. The Angel of the covenant
Himself wrestled with His servant and opposed him.
The Lord put forth His strength against Jacob, to refuse him his
desire. If Jacob would believe
nothing more, nothing different, nothing higher, than he saw and felt, and had
experience of, he must have fainted, and failed, and let the Angel go without
leaving the blessing behind. He
must have succumbed; been conquered; been no prevailing prince with God.
But, like his father Abraham, “against hope he believed in hope.”
He felt the pain of the Lord’s opposition.
He saw the resoluteness of the Lord’s efforts against him.
He felt the blow that struck the hollow of his thigh out of joint; and
millions in all future ages would have justified him as having yielded with a
good grace indeed, had he at that point resigned the conflict, giving up the
palm of victory to his opponent. But
Jacob believed. He had ground for
believing. He had the covenant
promise for the ground and warrant of his faith.
That word of God was the authorised exponent and explanation of the
mind of God. It had been given him
that he might read the heart of God by means of it.
Outward events and dispensations are not given for that purpose.
The written Word is. By it,
therefore, we ought ever more to hold. By
the word and covenant Jacob held – the covenant word – “I will bless
thee and make thee a blessing.” Because
of that word did he exclaim “I will not let thee go except thou bless me.”
“And he blessed him there” (Gen. xxxii. 24-29). Thus faith triumphs
over sense. This is the victory
in examining the operation of this in the illustrious case of Jonah, let us first
view his position from the side of sense, and, secondly,
from the side of faith.
On the side of sense.
And was ever a case so fitted to call forth utter despair?
The facts are stated so quietly, and with such simplicity, and with so
little comment, that we are apt to miss the impression which a story so
singular should produce. “So
they took up Jonah and cast him forth into the sea.
Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.
And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”
to acquire some deeper sense of his dreadful condition, let us learn of
himself, as he speaks in his marvellous prayer; and let the three following
things be attended to.
(1.) the case in which he finds himself; (2.) the hand to which he traces it;
and (3.) the immediate effects produced by it on his mind.
Mark the case in which Jonah finds himself.
He calls it generally one of affliction: – “I cried by reason of
mine affliction.” And then, to
specify the affliction, and to indicate its absolute extremity, he uses
unparalleled language like this: – “Out of the belly of hell, or of the
grave, cried I.” Then, entering
more minutely on the description of his awful position, he says: – “Thou
hast 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.”
Nor does he stop at general expressions of the fact that he is
submerged in the mighty deep. His
descriptions become so particular as almost to fill us with horror while we
read them: – “The waters compassed me about even to the soul: the depth
closed me round about, the seaweeds were wrapped about my head.”
Nor hath he rest in his living grave: – “I went down to the bottoms
of the mountains.” And nowhere
in all this matchless monstrous journeying is any path of escape discovered:
all doors of hope are barred: – “The earth, with her bars, is about me for
can imagine the terrors of this unheard-of-grave?
Oh! if he found courage or composure amidst circumstances like these to
address his soul in prayer, and that, too, believing prayer, to the Lord, how
great a marvel or miracle of grace must that prayer be!
But it is far more so, if we consider –
In the second place, that the mere circumstances constitute a very small part
of the hindrance to the prayer of faith which Jonah now had to overcome.
Consider the hand to which he traced his unparalleled calamity.
He saw the Lord’s hand in this judgment that was come upon him; and
he felt that, sore and terrifying as his position was, it was a hundredfold
more so as assigned to him by an angry God.
his present wretched case befallen him by what is usually called accident, or
in the ordinary course of
in a world of trial, it
would have been sufficiently alarming and staggering.
All the dark and dreadful circumstances which imagination finds it so
difficult to realise, might still, without much wonder, have produced a shock
above which his faith might only with the greatest difficulty have risen.
But the matter was far otherwise and far worse.
God had clothed Himself towards Jonah in all the insignia of a judge,
– an incensed judge. He had
followed out, with His erring servant, a solemn judicial process.
He had summoned him to His tribunal, and witnessed against him.
He had sentenced him to death, and seen to the execution of the
sentence. His God was indeed
pursuing him as an enemy. And
though He had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah, the terrified prophet
might naturally in the meantime have preferred death itself to the world of
horrors of the deep, amidst which he was now tumultuously and helplessly
hurried up and down.
mere accident, which may fall on a believer with crushing weight, at the very
time when his soul is prospering and in health, and while the light of his
Father’s countenance is upon him, may be borne.
But alas! when terrors like those Jonah now suffers are inflicted in
the following up of an angry controversy on God’s part with His servant!
“Thou” hast cast me
into the deep: all “Thy”
billows and “Thy” waves are
gone over me, – it is this that aggravates them unutterably.
Terrible in themselves, they are a hundredfold more so, coming as
messengers of the Divine anger, – executioners of the sentence of God’s
displeasure. The soul cannot be
alive to its relation to God, without feeling them to be intolerable when
regarded as proofs of His indignation. The
blow may be very painful in itself; but as the blow of Thy
hand, I am consumed by it. The
stroke may be sore: but as Thy stroke
– oh! remove it. If this is come
upon me, well may I mourn; but if Thou
didst it, I am dumb. “I was
dumb, I opened not my mouth; because Thou
didst it. Remove Thy
stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of Thy hand” (Ps. xxxix. 9, 10).
Consider the effect which all this produced in his soul; the state of spirit
into which all this cast him, and above which his faith had to rise superior.
The dispiriting influence and effect of his dreadful condition is
indicated particularly by two expressions in the fourth and seventh verses:
– “I said I am cast out of Thy sight:” “My soul fainteth within me.”
“I said I am cast out of Thy sight.” Such was the impression, the
despondency, – the almost despair produced in the agitated prophet’s soul.
My heart was hot within me: while I was musing, the fire burned; then
spake I with my tongue: my anguish overflowed whether I would or no, and I
said, “I am cast out of Thy presence.” Such
is the dictate of the flesh, triumphing for a moment in the varying turns of
this sore inward conflict. And
what feeling could be more dreadful? To
be cast out of God’s sight; to be cast away; thrust away from him; how
terrible to a really awakened soul! To
be banished from the light of the sun; shut up in the depths of ocean, among
the roots of the everlasting hills; is terrible beyond description.
Yet if God is still propitious, forgiving, favourable, in due time all
shall yet be well. But if that can
no longer be hoped for; if God is mine enemy; if He and I are separated and
put asunder; if He finally has done with me, and has “cast me out of His
sight;” then infinite darkness begins to settle down on my soul –
irretrievable wreck for eternity is befalling me.
In Thy presence is fulness of joy; out of Thy presence, is the second
death for evermore.
if you are asleep in sin, you may think it no terrible calamity to have to
dwell away from the presence of God; but if you have aught of the light of
life in you, you will feel that to be cast
out of God’s sight is unutterable and everlasting ruin.
Why, it is promised as the only thing that can sustain and support an
awakened soul: – “Him that cometh unto me, I will in
no wise cast out.”
But Jonah expresses the extremity of his despondency in other terms.
He says, “My soul fainted within me.”
Literally, “My soul infolded itself in me.”
Thought rolled on thought. No
outward prop, no sign or token for good could I discover.
My soul collapsed and fell in upon itself; and rolling itself up in its
sorrow and anxiety, having nothing to look to without, and nothing to lean on
within, – “without were fightings, within were fears,” – my soul
fainted in me!
were the circumstances in which Jonah’s agitated soul had to fight the good
fight of faith. (1.) Outwardly he
was begirt with terrors unspeakable. (2.)
These were the tokens of the anger of God.
(3.) His soul under these calamities was brought to the verge of
despair. He had to struggle, first, against horrors in their own nature unparalleled.
He had to struggle, secondly, against these, regarded as the messengers of an angry God.
And he had to struggle, thirdly, against
the faintness, the heart-sick faintness of spirit, which they could not fail
It was in these circumstances that Jonah’s faith rose in its strength and
triumph – that “faith, not of himself, but the gift of God.”
For however tossed and afflicted we may be, even tossed and afflicted
inwardly, which is far the worst, we ought still to pray: to pray of course in
faith, for there is no other kind of prayer binding on us; no other kind of
prayer allowable; no other kind of prayer, real prayer.
The very verge of destruction is ground for prayer – and that not
random exclamation, but believing and assured petition.
And it is expressly in such a case that the Hearer of prayer receives
the true pure glory due to His name, – the glory due to His omnipotence, His
all-sufficiency, His infinite wisdom, His amazing grace, His faithfulness
which is in the heavens.
indeed, what can stand us in any stead in such an hour, but the prayer of
faith? The case is supposed to be
in every light desperate. The
circumstances are altogether hopeless. They
indicate an angry God. They dry up
the soul’s springs of strength. There
is no entrance of any light, any hope, any relieving influence, except from a
new world or region, different from sense, and far transcending it, – yet
equally near, or rather nearer. That
region is the region of faith. Let
it be opened: “Oh! set ye open unto me the gates of it.”
Let it be entered. Let its
truths, and powers, and promises, and hopes, tell upon the soul.
Let the Word of God, in short, come in.
Let God by His word, His believed word, command the tempest of the
soul; forbid the destruction threatened and feared: and a new power comes to
bear upon the case, fitted to carry it almightily through to a happy issue;
fitted in the meantime to sustain the heart, till an issue of peace and of
deliverance comes. Such a time is
the very crisis for faith. It is
of all times the best for making a clear, thorough, unmistakable experiment in
the line and direction of true faith. When
every prop is driven out from beneath your feet; when you see not your signs;
when all you know is that God is infinitely holy and you are wholly sinful;
when your marks and tokens of grace seem to have misgiven, and you are left
without one single trustworthy feature in your case to lean upon, or keep
company with, or draw hope from till the day should dawn; when inwardly all
strength is gone, and outwardly all things are against you: then is the time
for the trial whether God’s solitary unsupported word alone be enough;
whether God’s unattested word, – certificated and countersigned by no one,
by nothing in the world without, and nothing in the world within; yea,
contradicted by trembling conscience within, and by terrific providence
without – whether that word of your God be still true and tried, and to be
depended on. It was easy for you
to believe in Christ’s promise when you did not see the evil of sin; –
when you felt not the rigour and righteousness of God’s law; – when you
knew not the deceit and wickedness of your own heart; – when you had no
insight into, no experience of, the masterful, unconquerable power of your own
corruptions. But now is the time
for faith, for the trial of your faith; and, when assaulted, baffled,
overwhelmed by besetting sin; laden and agitated in conscience, by the guilt
of it; seeing the frown of the Lord’s displeasure, because of it; feeling
the pursuit of the Lord’s anger, in His avenging of it; and reading its
hatefulness in the mirror of God’s pure and holy law, of God’s pure and
holy nature, of God’s dear Son’s pure and holy character and example –
and above all, of that dear Son’s cross.
Now is the time for the proof of your faith’s genuineness, your
faith’s truth and power. Now is
the need for a faith that shall be “not of yourself, but the gift of God.”
was thus that Jonah’s faith was tried, and it stood the test.
hinge of this conflict between sense and faith, and of faith’s triumph in
it, is in the fourth verse: “I said, I am cast out of Thy sight; yet I will
look again towards Thy holy temple.” Here
is the turning point. But let us
trace faith’s victory step by step.
In the first place, then, we see the truth and power of Jonah’s faith in
this conflict, in that he betook himself to prayer at all.
He cried unto the Lord. Not
only so; but “he prayed unto the Lord his
God” (ver. 1). He gave not
up his covenant interest in God. He
still maintained that the Lord was his God.
He knew that the Lord hateth putting away.
Shall we say, he knew that God, on the contrary, was bringing him back?
This indeed was what the Lord designed by His whole procedure: and this
design he was securing. And he
said: “I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord; out of the belly
of hell cried I” (ver. 2).
his affliction constrained him to pray. And
how often after backsliding or disobedience is the true tone of prayerfulness
restored only through the aid of affliction.
For, oh, how grievously does known or special sin derange the power of
prayer and the principle of faith! It
induces hardness and insensibility of heart.
It seals up the heart and lips from God.
It tends to produce coldness, artificiality, distance, and
estrangedness of feeling in the believer towards his Father in heaven.
There is a sort of proud shame that dislikes to come to the point; it
rather deals in vague generalities. Immediately
there is guile in the soul. The
eye of the child falters and quails before its Father’s eye.
There is misunderstanding. Cordiality
is gone. Intercourse is
constrained: the sweetness and refreshing power of prayer is departed from it.
The Spirit of adoption is grieved.
Formality takes the place of living, heart-breathing supplication.
the stroke of affliction comes. Anguish overflows the spirit.
The child cannot, will not, brace up its own strength against a
Father’s rod. It breaks down
rather. Formality now is gone.
Necessity constrains truth and earnestness.
Necessity impels to seek a near approach; a full confession; a free and
thorough reconciliation. Prayer
again becomes real; the cry of the poor and needy; an appeal of exquisite and
touching power that always tells on the heart of the God and Father of Jesus
it was with Jonah. The adverse and
terrific aspect of affairs; the too clearly announced anger of his God; the
fainting of his soul within him; – under all these his spirit at last breaks
down at his Father’s feet. Oh!
then comes the true prayer of faith. Out
of weakness the child is made strong. Back
from unbelief he comes afresh – a believer as before.
Jonah set before himself the certainty of Jehovah’s reconcileableness, his
promised forgiveness, his sure accessibility.
It is this that is twice indicated by the expressions: – “I will
look again towards thy holy temple;” “My prayer came in unto Thee, into
thine holy temple” (verses 4 and 7).
why this reference to the temple? Is
it in the infantile absurdity of ritualism or formalism, building its churches
and saying its prayers – facing to the East?
I trow not. Away with the
carnality that ties the mind down to earth and sense, precisely when only by
rising to the things that are unseen and eternal can any relief, refreshment,
or any re-invigorating power come! Jonah
thought of “the temple;” and why? Because
God had placed His name there. Because
there He gave the symbol of His presence as a God of love, and especially a
God of propitiated favour; a God dwelling between the cherubim, – God on the
blood-sprinkled seat of mercy, on the throne of grace.
Not as confined to temples made with hands did Jonah think of his God.
“I fear the God of heaven, that made the sea and the dry land” (i.
9). But this God everywhere present, Jonah knew, from the revelation of Him in
the temple, as a God of grace; a “God waiting to be gracious, exalted to
have mercy; a God of judgment: giving his blessing to all that wait upon
him” (Isa. xxx. 18).
if the symbol of Jehovah’s reconcileableness was so precious to Jonah, how
ought our faith to rise triumphant over all evil, and amid all affliction, –
now that Christ, by the temple of His body, hath effected the perfect
reconciliation for ever. In that
is now Immanuel, God with
us. There is nothing deeper,
nothing truer, nothing more abundantly, finally, conclusively proved, than
that God is reconcileable, accessible, forgiving; – gracious to all that
will come to Him in the way of His appointment.
He has sealed no other truth as He has sealed this.
He has proved no other fact as He has proved this.
And the proof and seal are permanent.
In the midst of the throne there stands “a Lamb as it had been
slain.” There is “an Advocate
with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is the propitiation for our
sins.” While this is true,
God’s holy temple, the most holy place, is the place of free and open access
to a sinner as a sinner, with all
the weight and all the weariness, with all the guilt and shame and pollution,
that attach to him. “I said, I
am cast out of Thy sight; yet will I look again towards Thy holy temple.”
faith, then, conquer sense: faith, pleading the proved and the eternal.
It has a conflict to carry on. But,
in the treasury of heaven, it has the true sinews of the war.
A few hours of terrific trial; a few years of weary, vexing care; a
limited amount of light affliction, which is but for a moment; a temporary
combination of providences, sorely afflicting my body and my spirit; – these
may be the proof to flesh and sense that God is displeased at mine iniquity,
and will by no means clear the guilty. But
the permanent abiding of the Lamb in the midst of the throne; the ever-living
and unchangeable priesthood of Him who is at the Father’s right hand; is to
my faith the surpassing, all-conquering proof that He forgives
iniquity, transgression, and sin. “I
said, I am cast out of Thy sight, yet will I look again toward Thy holy
temple:” “and my prayer came in unto Thee, into Thine holy temple.”
Let the Holy Spirit only reveal and apply the truth; and, in the
promise of the Father and the righteousness of the Son, there is enough to be
the ground of a faith that shall rise in its unflinching and unbounded triumph
above all billows and floods – above the blazing deluge yet to come, the
final deluge of fire itself.
to be exercised in the holy place within the veil!
Oh, to direct our prayer to God’s holy temple!
“For, seeing that we have a great High Priest that is passed into the
heavens, Jesus the Son of God,” we may well “hold fast our profession.
For we have not an High Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling
of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without
sin. Let us therefore come boldly
to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in
time of need” (Heb. iv. 14-16). Thus
And, thirdly, he did not do this in vain.
For observe how he is answered in the progressive strengthening of his
faith, even while his trial lasts. Hear
the noble language of faith, while he still remains, to the feeling of sense,
in his horrid grave: “Thou hast brought
up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.”
I know nothing more sublime in all the range of recorded human
utterances. What could dictate
assured and triumphant language like this, but marvellous, miraculous faith?
His deliverance is not yet come; yet faith speaks of it as if it were.
O noble faith! it is in thy power to bring in the deliverance that is
still future, with the sweetness of that which is already present, and the
sureness of that which is already past. Weltering
still in anguish unspeakable, in dangers and distresses inconceivable, a soul
in which thy power dwells, gives
glory to God for deliverance from them all.
is not this of the essence of the life of faith?
“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this
death?” Who shall deliver me? The
deliverance is future. It is only
on the way. But it is surely on the way. Therefore,
though the deliverance is future, my gratitude should be present.
Not; I will: but; I do thank
God through Jesus Christ; – “Who shall deliver me?” “I
thank God through Jesus Christ.”
“For we are saved – already saved – in hope.
But that which is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he
yet hope for? But if we hope for
that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it;” – and already do
we with joy give thanks for it.
And now this, in fact, is the last step in Jonah’s victory of faith: “I
will sacrifice unto Thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation
is of the Lord.” Thus Jonah,
delivered from his guiltiness and evil conscience; reconciled to God in peace;
washed from his sins, and made again a recognised king and priest, and so
recognising and presenting himself before God in His holy temple by faith;
offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving. Shut
up still in his darksome grave, in the deep in the shadow of death, we hear
him nevertheless singing marvellously – far more marvellously than Paul and
Silas in the prison – singing in the darkness, as if he said: “God is the
Lord, who has shown me light: I will bind the sacrifice with cords, unto the
horns of the altar” (Ps. cxviii. 27). Light!
What light has Jonah? He
has the light of faith; – the light that shineth in the darkness; – that
lighteth up the shadow of death. And
amidst the light, he cometh to God’s altar to offer the sacrifice of
thanksgiving. He cometh unto God,
– unto God, his exceeding joy.
will praise God joyfully, O downcast and disquieted believer, when once he
shall have given you the deliverance you desire?
Your song will begin when God hath done for you all that you ask? Ah!
your song in that case shall be grounded in sense, not springing from faith.
For observe: while your trial still lasts; while your vexing thorn
still goads you; while your much-loved hope seems plunged in the depths of the
ocean, and no sensible sign yet appears of its being restored; while there is
need of patience, and still there is need of faith; if God give you warrant
for faith, even His promise, is that not ground of immediate
thanksgiving? And if this
warrant of faith beget faith; will your gratitude tarry all the time till the
promise be fulfilled? What would
that mean? You will not praise God
till the actual accomplishment? Why?
Would it be cutting before the point?
Would it be giving vent to your feelings of relief too soon? –
dangerously soon? Ah! what is that
but unbelief? – unbelief, with its maxim, uttered or unexpressed, – a
maxim not known in the
, – “A bird in the
hand is worth two in the bush.” Your
gratitude and praise would be premature! You
distrust the issue! Are you not in
the snare of unbelief?
But, be it that the trial lasts; and that, to sense and reason, all is dark.
Let in the light of faith. Let
Jehovah’s word be true, and every man a liar.
“Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of
His servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light?
Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon His God.”
Let in the light of trust; of faith; of God’s promise – God’s
promise all-sufficient, free, eternal; – and ought not praise to spring up
immediately? Will not praise
spring up immediately? Will there
not be “peace and joy in believing”?
The man that walks by sense can sing when the deliverance has come.
It is faith’s prerogative, and faith’s peculiarity, to sing before
that: – faith’s all-distinguishing peculiarity; faith’s all-surpassing
prerogative; faith’s all-vanquishing power.
O most noble grace of faith! “Thou
art not of ourselves; thou art the gift of God”!
And then, according to our faith – our faith proved by our thanksgiving –
according to our faith it is done unto us.
“And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the
Commentary on Jonah"
by Hugh Martin. Banner of Truth, 1995. pp188-204.