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God’s Word for You

Jonah 2:7 your holy temple

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, October 13, 2018

7 When my life was fading away,
I remembered you, LORD,
and my prayer rose to you
in your holy temple.

At this point of Jonah’s psalm, we might ask: is this still something prayed in the belly of the huge fish, or is this something he recalls later as he puts pen to paper? Since the prophet is quoting from several Psalms (Psalm 5:7, 11:4, 18:6, 77:1), it’s likely that this was still a part of Jonah’s prayer. As in verse 4, he is thinking about the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem. Is he thinking of that same temple now, or of heaven?

If he means the temple in Jerusalem, then he must be thinking of his prayers rising with the incense of the priest in the temple. “The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God” (Revelation 8:4). The wisps of smoke coming from the incense “are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:8). If this is his thought, then Jonah is comforted by the knowledge that God still hears his prayers and that he is still a part of God’s holy Church on earth, even though he is cut off from the ceremonies of the temple by distance and circumstance.

If he means the temple in heaven, then the meaning is much the same, but he is picturing the arrival of his prayer from God’s perspective. Prayers did not have to come from the temple to be acceptable. “In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name” (Malachi 1:11). Even as Jonah’s life seemed like it was within a few breaths or heartbeats of ending, he knew that he was still God’s child, and that he had forgiveness for his rebellion.

Too often Christians focus on the outward signs of repentance when we think of one another as sinners who have been changed: a changed life, going to church, and other things. But the primary goal of spiritual renewal is, as we see in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the glory of God and the salvation of human souls. Jonah, deep in the belly of the whale, had no way to show his change of heart, no more than the thief on the cross who turned to Jesus for forgiveness (Luke 23:42). But both men, close to death, knew that they were forgiven. When my hour of death comes, I will know the same thing, because this is the message of the gospel, the point of the Scriptures, and the assurance of God’s word for you.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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