God’s Word for You
Jonah 2:4 toward your temple
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, September 29, 2018
3 I said, I have been banished from your sight,
Yet I will look again toward your holy temple.
Here is where punishment is overwhelmed by faith. The key to understanding this verse, where almost all the words in Hebrew are plain and clear and easy to understand, is the first word of the second line, ach. This word means “surely,” or even the correct definition of the Old English “howbeit,” which today is “however.” Man’s intellect cannot understand how an overwhelming tragedy could possibly work out for his good, and yet God invites us always to look to him for good; never evil. “We are to be,” Luther teaches, “expecting from him only good things; for it is he who gives us body, life, food, drink, nourishment, health, protection, peace, and all temporal and eternal blessings. It is he who protects from evil, he who saves and delivers us when any evil befalls. It is God alone, I have often enough repeated, from whom we receive all that is good and by whom we are delivered from all evil” (L. Cat., First Commandment, par. 24).
Jonah includes these thoughts in his prayer as he combines the fear of Psalm 31:22 (“I have been cut off from your sight,” a thought repeated by Jeremiah, Jeremiah 7:15) with the confident faith of verses like Psalm 66:13 (“I will come to your temple…and fulfill my vows to you”), Psalm 138:2 (“I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name”), and Psalm 5:7 (“In reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple”).
Jonah does not say that he is certain that he will ever see the temple in Jerusalem ever again, but that he will look again “toward” the temple. The Hebrew preposition ’el means “toward, the direction toward.” Jonah knows that he will continue to worship God, thinking of everything that takes place in God’s temple and putting his faith in God’s promises and therefore worshiping with his heart, and perhaps his physical body, oriented toward the temple. Daniel did this while in exile in Babylon. “He went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God,” Daniel 6:10. We’re not commanded to do this, but the example is outstanding. Jonah didn’t know whether he would return from Nineveh or from Assyria, but he would never give up his faith. God would work good through Jonah, and for Jonah—he was confident of this.
We look to God for good things, even when we don’t see any good at all. Good will come from what troubles us, because God cannot give us evil. Put your faith in him and know that he has your good at heart always.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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