Archive for the ‘jonah’ Category

Word for Today – Jonah 4:1 and 9

Angry Enough to Die

Throughout the book of Jonah I have described the prophet as a wayward guy with a bad attitude. And he was! I love some of the lessons J. Vernon McGee  pulls from this book despite the cranky main character:

  • “Salvation is not by works, but by faith which leads to repentance” –  (see the Ninevites in Jonah 3:10)
  • “God’s purpose of grace cannot be frustrated” –  (see Jonah’s words in Jonah 4:2) 1

There are so many lessons in this small, power-packed book, but today I’d like to focus on why Jonah had such a rotten attitude. Ninevah was a great city in Assyria. During Jonah’s lifetime the Assyrians constantly attacked his homeland, the northern kingdom of Israel. Jonah probably heard tales of or even witnessed the attacks against his people.

The Assyrians were brutal. They perpetrated cruel tortures against those they took captive. History records that entire cities committed mass suicide rather than fall into the hands of these awful invaders. The Assyrians were not above raping women while slaying men and children.

Having this background information explains Jonah’s intense hatred toward the Ninevites and why he didn’t want to herald God’s life-saving message to them. Can you understand his desire to see them suffer at the hands of God for their acts of sin? I can.

As chapter four progresses, the Ninevites were spared God’s judgment, and Jonah was not happy:

“But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry” and “Yes, angry enough to die” (Jonah 4:1 and 9 NRSV).

Jonah and God had an encounter that included a bush, but by the end of chapter four (and subsequently the book) it is still unclear if Jonah ever had a change of heart in the way he viewed God’s mercy toward the Ninevites. I wonder if he ever released the bitterness that was firmly rooted in his heart?

Are any of you plagued with bitterness? Are you like Jonah and want to die? (Now I think this can include both spiritual and physical death.) I have friends who have endured awful things during the course of their lives. Some have been molested and abused. Others have had abortions and/or alcoholic parents. I even have a relative whose perceptions cause her to resent the way she was raised despite the normalcy of her upbringing. All these things can cause a bitter root to invade one’s heart, mind, and soul, just like the Ninevites planted bitterness into Jonah.

But, in the midst of these sad, sad happenings, I’ve witnessed overcomers! Despite their awful pasts, most of these people are productive citizens, great parents, and faithful Christians. Believe it or not, the one who is bitter despite a normal upbringing is the one who has not let go of bitterness. Like Jonah, this individual recognizes God, but is crippled in many areas because she has chosen not to overcome.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed between the ones who overcame and the one hindered by bitterness, is that bitterness creates a perennial victim. Maybe that is the road Jonah walked all his life. We will never know for sure, but from personal experience it is a crooked road that prevents complete freedom for those who decide to nurture a bitter root.

I hope everyone, whether they are victims of real abuses or their own perceptions, will find the freedom that God so graciously offered Jonah and the Ninevites. It’s not worth being angry enough to die physically or spiritually.

Word for Today: Be an overcomer; don’t be angry enough to die.

1. Are you bitter?

2. If so, what do you need to release?

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1 McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume III, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1982), 742.

 

 

Posted by on October 8th, 2010 No Comments

Word for Today – Jonah 4:2

You Are a Gracious God

Jonah was not only wayward, but he had a bad attitude. Although he didn’t have the right spirit when proclaiming God’s message to the Ninevites, at least he was obedient. But, chapter four of Jonah opens up telling us that the prophet was displeased and angry:

“O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing” (Jonah 4:2 NRSV).

As Christians we are to be loving. We are to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Anything else is, well . . . unchristian. But how often, in the dark recesses of our mind, does a bad attitude creep in just like Jonah’s?

How often do Christians harbor ill will toward others? Honestly, I’ll bet we’ve all done that at some point. We rarely use the same standard when comparing what God does for us and what he does for others.

In Matthew 20:1-15, Jesus tells a parable about a landowner who hires workers at various times of the day (early morning, noon, and three o’clock). Everything is fine until, at the end of the day, the boss pays all the laborers the same wages. The early-morning hires were “displeased and angry” when those hired later received the same compensation for less work.

The early-morning hires lost sight of the arrangement they made with the landowner; they agreed to their wages, and it really wasn’t any of their business what the boss paid others. It was the same thing with Jonah; it’s the same with you and me. God gives all of us grace and mercy, and it isn’t our place to judge how God dispenses it. God spoke directly to Jonah about his attitude:

“Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4).

These words are as applicable today as they were when Jonah heard them. Is it right for us to be angry when God showers his grace and mercy on someone we think is undeserving? Does the root of bitterness sprout in our hearts when God’s favor rests on someone other than us?

Although we have a hard time applying the same standard to ourselves and others, we need to remember that we are just as undeserving as the next guy. We are all blessed that God is gracious and merciful.

Word for Today: Next time you talk to God be sure to tell him, “You are a gracious God.”

1. Think of time, past or present, when you’ve been displeased or angry because God showed mercy to someone you thought did not deserve it.

2. Is there a time you received God’s grace and mercy when others may have thought you didn’t deserve it?

Posted by on October 5th, 2010 No Comments

Word for Today – Jonah 3:9

Turn and Welcome Change

I love this part of Jonah. I once read a commentator who believes the event recorded in this section is the biggest miracle in the book – even over the more well-known fish episode. I tend to agree.

Jonah preached God’s message to the inhabitants of Ninevah. When the words reached the king, he responded. Sackcloth became the latest fashion craze, and the ashes of repentance settle over the great city. A great fast slowed the entire city as human and animal alike refrained from food and water. After telling the city they must turn from their evils ways, the mighty king ended his public degree with these words:

“Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so we do not perish” (Jonah 3:9 NRSV).

The greatest miracle is that the entire city turned from their wicked ways. Ever the gentleman, God does not force himself on man. He will put desires in our hearts, but the last step into God’s presence is mans to take. All the Ninevites took that step and repented. It was a miracle!

“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it” (Jonah 3:10).

OK . . .I know, many people get hung up on God “changing” his mind here. How can God change his mind if he is the never-changing God? To understand this turn of events, let’s ask this question instead: Does God punish a repentant heart?

Of course he doesn’t. There may be natural consequences as a result of what we do BEFORE we repent, but forgiveness is immediate and ever-lasting. The Ninevites repented from their wicked ways, and God’s forgiveness allowed him to shower the people with grace and mercy.

He does the same for us. When we turn from (and experience heart and soul change) God will, as it says in Jonah 3:10, “change” his mind, thus ushering grace and mercy into our lives.

After turning from sin, that change doesn’t end with God. After he forgives a repentant heart, that heart also changes. Every time we truly repent we grow a little more like Christ. That’s change we can believe in.

Word for Today: When we seek God’s forgiveness we turn and welcome change.

1. When have you experienced this type of change?

2. Do you need this change today?

Posted by on October 3rd, 2010 1 Comment

Word for Today – Jonah 2:8

Stay Loyal

Most of us are familiar with the old adage, You are what you eat. But have you ever pondered this thought: You become like what you worship?

The most famous part of Jonah’s story is how he became an oceanic hors d’oevre and ended up in the belly of a big fish. However, I was struck by the words he uttered as he flirted with death:

“Those who worship vain idols forsake their true loyalty” (Jonah 2:8 NRSV).

Worship lavished on anything else other than the One True God is a waste. Not only is it a display of disloyalty, but it turns us into something that God never intended.

Those who worship money often become cold and calloused. Plus, they get greedy. They chase wealth more than personal relationships. When people bow at the feet of power, they become drunk on the authority of its caustic cocktail; they become bossy and dictatorial. When people pursue fame with anything but an unselfish attitude they sacrifice the wrong things. Many have given up their morals and healthy loyalties instead of keeping it real with hard work. They play Russian Roulette with their lives, often falling victim to the bullet of glitz and glamor that lured them in.

The problem of idol worhip has been around so long that even the Psalms speak of their effects:

Psalm 115:8 – “Those who make them [idols] are like them, so are all those who trust them.”

Psalm 135:18 –  “Those who make them and all who trust them shall become like them.”

When our loyalties shift to something other than God, we start to connect with that “thing”, no matter what it is. Money, power, and fame are just a few examples. The world has no shortage of things to worship. However, the purpose of Christianity is for believers to become more like Christ, the object of our worship. That becomes difficult, though, when we allow something or someone to take a more prominent place in our lives.

What is the remedy? Worship something of value – worship Christ! No one, not even God, can dictate what people choose to worship in their hearts. But, the traits displayed by someone who worships Jesus are far superior to those  displayed by someone idolizing the wrong things. Money, power, and fame can ruin people with the best of intentions. It just happens. Look at our those with an unhealthy approach to money, whether they are rich or poor. Look at the corruption cocktails that government officials sip on in the dark corners of our capitols. Look at the people who are the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. But, don’t overlook the idol worship in our own neighborhoods and homes. The remedy is Jesus: keep him on the throne of your heart.

Only when our loyalties lie with the Savior will we become like him: kind, compassionate, living a godly existence, and secure in our identities. I don’t think it is wrong to enjoy a position of authority, to be famous, to be blessed materially, pursue academics, or participate in sports, but to have an unhealthy/idolatrous love affair with these types of things is wrong. We must keep them in a proper perspective and keep Jesus on the throne. We will become like what we worship, so let’s be loyal to Jesus and become like him.

Word for Today: Stay loyal to Jesus.

Ponder This:

1. Have you ever let Jesus be replaced by something in your life?

2. How do you stay loyal to Jesus?

Posted by on September 27th, 2010 2 Comments

Word for Today – Jonah 2:1

From the Belly of the Fish

Yuck! Can you imagine sloshing around in the belly of a fish? I think Jonah did the right thing when he cried out to God. I would have cried out as I wept in disgust and pity. However, when I read this part of the Jonah, I noticed something interesting. Prior to this moment, no where is it recorded that Jonah sought God.

Here we have a wayward prophet attempting to flee from God, because he does not want to preach redemption to the Ninevites. No where in the book of Jonah does the prophet seek God’s direction on this matter. Conversely, Jesus asked for the “cup” he faced to pass from him, yet he sought God’s will as he faced death on the cross (Matthew 26:36-42).

I guess Jonah finally decided he needed a little one-on-one time with God, when he found himself all soggy in the belly of a fish along with other sea hors d’oeuvres, stomach acids, and other gross stuff.

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish saying, “I called to the Lord out of my distress and he answered me.” (Jonah 1:1-2 NRSV)

Although there have been recent accounts of people being pulled from the bellies of sea creatures, I doubt that will ever be the average persons reality. But, most of us have probably been in the “belly of a fish” in some form. Belly of the fish can be synonymous with:

  • Hitting rock bottom
  • In the gutter
  • I’m in trouble now
  • Living the “worse case scenario”
  • Uh oh…..

How many of us don’t utilize prayer until we are churning around in the belly of our own fish? How many of us are faithful prayers before tough times hit? Well, the good news is that, no matter the frequency of our communication with God, he answers our prayers just like he did for Jonah. Of course, he wants to talk to us on a regular basis, but he also is kind, compassionate, and loves to help us through our trying times.

Whether the “bellies” we face are a traumatic event beyond our control or the consequences of our bad choices, God is there. No matter what belly engulfs us, we need to pray. If we’ve been praying previously, that is great, but God listens even if our chats with him are infrequent.

When God saved Jonah and had the fish spit the undigested man out on dry land, I doubt Jonah had the same appearance before being gobbled up. Many scholars (backed up by actual, modern-day accounts) think that Jonah had a strange appearance after all the stomach activity he encountered. It’s possible that his skin was blotchy when he entered Ninevah.

His appearance may be what caused the Ninevites to sit up and listen to his words. Despite the prayers we lift up during time spent in a “belly”, we will have scars. But, sometimes those scars help us reach others; much like Jonah touched the Ninevites. God hears our everyday prayers, and he hears the prayers we speak from the “bellies” of our own life experiences. There may be some scars, but trust that God will use them to help others.

Word for Today: God hears our prayers from the belly of the fish.

1. Do you pray on a regular basis?

2. Think about the results from a time you prayed to God from the “belly of a fish.”

Posted by on September 23rd, 2010 No Comments

Word for Today – Jonah 1:12

Everyone Needs the One True God

Reading along in Jonah, I was struck by the sailors who shared Jonah’s get-a-way boat when he ran from God. The wayward prophet did not want any part of preaching repentance to the sinning society of Ninevah.

What was he thinking when he hopped on the Tarshish-bound boat to get away from God? Surely he forgot that his Creator was the best hide-and-go-seek player in the universe. Well, the headstrong prophet found himself  in the company of a bunch of pagan mariners.

As recorded in the Bible, a fierce storm churned the seas, battered the boat, and challenged the seasoned sailors confidence. After much discussion and consternation, Jonah suggested that they throw him overboard because his disobedience to God triggered the tempest.

I love the response from the pagan sailors as they tried to avoid throwing their passenger into the swirling sea:

“Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more stormy against them” (Jonah 1:13 NRSV).

Sometimes non-believers can be pretty stand-up people. As Christians we sometimes think, whether consciously or unconsciously, that we are the only ones capable of being societies “good” neighbors. This stretch of Scripture really gets me to thinking.

A few years ago I caught an episode of a television show that followed the escapades of two families that traded mothers for two weeks. Space prevents me from going into as much detail as I like, but the producers always do their best to partner two families that are polar opposites.

This particular episode paired a conservative, Christian family that home-schooled, with a liberal, lesbian couple with a lax parenting style. By the end of the show I was embarrassed by the attitude displayed by the Christian couple. (As a note, I must say that I am not unaware of the editing process to capture the most explosive parts of the switch, but the overall rigidity of the Christian couple seemed genuine.)

When all the dust settled, the kindest person involved in the televised shenanigans was one of the lesbians who, at one point, was reduced to tears by the calloused and unloving comments hurled at her by the other couple. I’m not so sure that is what Jesus would have done had he been the one sitting across the table. (Yes, I know . . . sometimes the truth hurts when revealed, but I think a different approach would have been more prudent under the circumstances.)

Bottom line, no one is perfect. No party involved in this TV show displayed perfection. But, what a great example that not all Christians act Christ-like, and not all non-believers are terrible. Actually, they have something in common – both groups need a Savior to help them overcome their flesh.

Back to the sailors in the story: After heeding Jonah’s instructions and throwing him overboard, the seas miraculously calmed and they recognized the power and authority of the One True God: “Then the men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows” (Jonah 1:16). They became believers!

Word for Today: Christian are not always kind; unbelievers are not all mean, but everyone needs Jesus.

Ponder This:

1. Do you know some kind unbelievers?

2. Do you minister to them? How?

Posted by on September 21st, 2010 1 Comment

Word for Today – Jonah 1:2

You Be the Judge

God’s Word tell us not to be judgmental. Boy, do we have a field day with that one. It seems that Christians, and I repeat Christians, are some of the worst offenders when it comes to judging.

I see two approaches to the concept of what we think of others and their actions; I think believers need to heed both.

Judgmental Attitude

I’ve been guilty of this. I rarely act on it, but in the dark recesses of my mind I can judge with the best of those who pound gavels in their courtrooms. It’s human nature. But, as I mature as a Christian, instead of allowing my mind to hide under the dark veil of judgment where others would never guess it lurks, I try to let the light of Truth and love illuminate my thoughts. It is a skill that takes time to develop, but it is doable.

Aren’t we blessed that Jesus, even though he had the authority to judge, let the light of Truth and love shine on the world when he was crucified?

An Attitude of Accountability

So, we are not to judge, but God does indicate that there is nothing wrong with holding people accountable. In the Old Testament, God gave Jonah this command:

“Go at once to Ninevah, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come against me” (Jonah 1:2 NRSV).

People often construe the premise taught in this passage as a judgmental attitude, but God is telling Jonah to “cry out” to the wicked Ninevah. Most of us know that, in the end, the entire city was saved from God’s wrath. That is not judgment – that is accountability. Because Jonah shined the light on the darkness of Ninevah, the entire city repented, changed their ways, and was ultimately saved from God’s judgment.

Conclusion

What can we conclude from this episode from the annals of history? Holding people accountable saves them from God’s judgment. Two things to remember:

  1. God is the judge; we are not.
  2. We don’t need to bounce around like Nosey Nelly Christians looking to point fingers and for victims to hold accountable. God will provide us an opportunity if he needs our assistance. Just like he gave Jonah a  mission, God will provide the opportunity and/or prompting if we are needed. (However, if you are a pastor or similar, you must always be shining the light of Truth.)

Jonah starts off with a bang and the entire book explodes with truth and light. I encourage you to immerse yourself in this wonderful book that holds so many timeless messages like today’s word.

 

Word for Today: Study and learn what God teaches about judgment and accountability, then with Truth as your foundation, you be the judge of how to apply it.

Consider….. (would love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment if you’d like)

1. What dangers do you see in judgment?

2. What dangers do you see in a lack of accountability?

 

Posted by on September 19th, 2010 No Comments