By Irvin Himmel
The life of an unrighteous person is pointed downward. Descent accelerates with each act of iniquity. Sometimes a child of God allows himself to fall into sin and to get caught in the downhill plunge.
God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh and cry against it. The wickedness of that city was terrible. Jonah attempted to flee from duty and went down, down, down.
First, Jonah went down to Joppa. Knowing that there was a port at Joppa, the prophet thought he could find a vessel destined for some far away place. Sure enough, he found a ship headed for Tarshish, and that was the opposite direction from Nineveh. When a man seeks to evade obedience to God, the next step is down. Satan always has a ship ready to carry us away from the direction God would have us to travel.
Second, Jonah went down into the ship. He paid the fare and went down into the boat to go to Tarshish “from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:3). Did the prophet think he could escape God’s presence by getting away from the land of Israel? Whatever he thought, he did not succeed in running away from God. Anyone who supposes that he can escape the all-seeing eye of Jehovah has lowered himself deep into the snare of the Devil.
Third, Jonah went down into the sea. God sent a storm which threatened to sink the ship. Jonah was fast asleep. How easy it is for one to develop a false sense of security while going down, down, down. The sailors awakened Jonah. After casting lots, they decided that he was the cause of the tempest, and at his suggestion they cast him into the sea. God had prepared a great fish that swallowed the prophet. He prayed to the Lord out of the fish’s belly. He acknowledged, “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains…” (Jonah 2:6).
David went down, down, down when he lusted after another man’s wife. Lust led to adultery; adultery led to murder (2 Sam. 11:1-17).
The prodigal son went down, down, down when he left his father’s house. He wasted his substance in riotous living, found himself in want, and finally was down among the swine so hungry that he could have eaten the husks that served as hog food. His descent was rapid; his plunge was into the deepest degradation (Lk. 15:11-16).
All movement away from God is downward. Disregard for a command or warning can lead in only one direction-down! This may be termed the progressiveness of sin. One wrong attitude or act leads to another, and that to another, and the further down one goes into sin the more vile he becomes!
Sin begets more sin. Once a person falls, the pride of his heart may incline him to attempt to cover up his guilt. He lies and he schemes; he sears his conscience; he deceives his own heart. The trail of sin is slippery and the descent is steep.
The Way Back
God delivered Jonah after he had gone down, down, down. The prophet was repentant and God heard his cry. The Lord spoke to the fish and it vomited out Jonah upon dry land (Jonah 2:10).
God was merciful to David after he had gone down, down, down. Nathan the prophet was sent to convict David of his guilt. David confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Although what David had done was punishable by death under the law of Moses, Nathan said to the king, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die” (2 Sam. 12:13).
The prodigal son was restored to his father after going down, down, down. He came to his senses, went home with a penitent heart, confessed his wrong, and was cheerfully forgiven by his father.
God has compassion and stands ready to forgive, no matter how far down into the depths of sin one may have plunged. So long as there is the possibility of genuine repentance, there is a way back. But a word of warning is in order: sometimes people are so thoroughly swallowed up in wickedness and their hearts are hardened to such a degree that it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance. Noah’s contemporaries had gone down, down, down until they could not be brought back. The wicked inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were beyond hope. Peter gave a vivid description of certain people who, after escaping the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord, became entangled therein and were overcome. They went down, down, down until the latter end was worse with them than the beginning (2 Pet. 2:20).
The High Road
Instead of going down, down, down, let us go up, up, up. Let all who are in sin heed the call of the gospel and move up to righteousness. Lot entreated his sons-in-law, “Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city” (Gen. 19:14). They refused to move up and perished in the overthrow of Sodom.
Let us “go up to the mountain of the Lord,” and be taught concerning His ways and walk in His paths (Isa. 2:3). The Lord’s way is the high road.
Let us “offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5), for one day we shall be “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air and to ever be with Him (1 Thess. 4:17).
Truth Magazine XXI: 37, p. 578
September 22, 1977