Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 14 December 18:
1. Jonah 3:1 – “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time….” From Henry T. Blackaby — Jonah didn’t like the assignment God gave him. God directed him to leave his homeland and go to the enemy city of Nineveh, a hostile and evil center of idol worship. There Jonah was to warn the people of God’s impending judgment and urge them to repent. The Hebrews hated the people of Nineveh, so the rebellious prophet fled in the opposite direction, hoping for a different word from God that was more to his liking. Instead, God was determined that his word to Jonah would be obeyed (Isa. 55:11). He spoke to Jonah again. His second message was the same as the first. However, during the interval, Jonah had been buffeted by storms and had traveled in the stomach of a fish for three days. This time, he was prepared to hear God again and do His bidding. God also spoke to the prophet Jeremiah two times (Jer. 33:1-3). But Jeremiah accepted God’s word to him the first time. The second time God spoke to him was to give him a fuller revelation of what He had first told him. What God says to us next will depend on how we responded to His previous word to us. If, like Jonah, we disobeyed His earlier instructions, God will give them a second time. If we obeyed His first directive, as Jeremiah did, He will give us a fresh and deeper expression of His will (Matt. 25:23). If you have not received a fresh word from God, return to the last thing God told you and examine your obedience. Is the Lord still waiting for your obedience? Seek to be like Jeremiah, and properly respond to your Lord’s instructions the first time.
2. Jonah 3:5-9 — “And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.’”
– God wants all to come to repentance and wants none to perish. God is ready to forgive any who will humble themselves, repent, and have faith in His Son, Jesus.
– Leaders should lead the way in humility, repentance, and submission to God. The strongest and greatest leaders are the humblest before the Lord.
– Religious awakening stirred Nineveh when they believed God’s word, expressed sorrow openly, prayed, and changed their way of life. Jesus said it: “Repent, and sin no more.” Notice that Nineveh did not presumptuously take God’s mercy and grace for granted.
3. Jonah 3:10 – “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” God changed His announced plans when Nineveh repented.
4. Jonah 4:1-4 — “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Do you do well to be angry?’”
– We often want God to give mercy and grace to us but justice and judgment to those who offend us. Our unforgiveness and resentment hinder our relationship with God and puts our desires at odds with His desires. Unforgiveness and resentment are very powerful and self-destructive emotions that hurt us more than the object of our hate. We have no right to stand in the way of God’s mercy and grace for others. On the contrary, we are called by God to be His instruments of mercy and grace to those who might terribly hurt us.
– Jonah was so bitter he wanted to die because God had blessed Jonah’s enemies though they didn’t deserve His mercy and grace. Here again we see the pattern of how God works in our lives – while He is using His relationship with us to impact others for His glory, He is simultaneously working on us too. Jonah was being used by God to reach Nineveh, but God was also using Nineveh to address the anger, bitterness, and un-forgiveness in Jonah’s heart. Jonah’s resentment of Nineveh was standing in the way of Jonah’s relationship with God and robbing Jonah of his joy. Sure, from a worldly point of view, Jonah had a “right” to hate Nineveh, but from a spiritual point of view, Jonah depended on the grace of God just as much as anyone else, and Jonah, above all else, had been commanded by God to love and to be on the mission of reconciliation. Jonah should have been compelled by appreciation for the grace that he had received from God and by love to desire that same grace for others and to display that grace to others. However contrarily, it was Jonah’s personal knowledge and faith in God’s mercy and grace that inspired him to run from God – He knew that his enemies might receive from God the forgiveness he himself was not willing to give Nineveh. He was add odds with God, and it was tearing him apart. Who is God using today to test your heart and to reveal the ungodly attitudes you are holding on to, attitudes that are standing in the way of your relationship with God and robbing you of complete joy? “Do you do well to be angry?”
BTW: Notice in Jonah’s self-induced misery, God only intentionally increased his misery in order to drive Jonah to surrender. God did this not simply to “win” but to bring Jonah back to a right relationship with Him and to ultimately restore Jonah’s joy.
— Matthew 5:23-24 — So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
– Knowing God’s nature, we should become like Him.
5. Jonah 4:1-11 – Doing God’s work should not displease God’s people.
6. Jonah 4:10, 11 — “And the Lord said, ‘You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?’”
– Our human nature inclines us to care about all the wrong things and to be self-centered rather than selfless. We must strive to have the mind of Christ, to see all of our circumstances and relationships from God’s perspective rather than our own. Remember, we are ambassadors for Jesus, not for ourselves. We must never represent our own interests but only the interests of Jesus. Strive to remove yourself from the situations you are involved in — die unto self and live for Christ alone. Learn to love as Jesus loves. Again, we have no right to stand in the way of God’s mercy and grace for others. On the contrary, we are called by God to be His instruments of mercy and grace to those who might terribly hurt us.
– In review, It can be hard to show mercy and compassion for sinners, particularly those who have sinned directly against us and have caused us pain and suffering. Nineveh was the capital city of the Assyrians who had continually warred against the Israelites. It is impossible for us to understand the pain and suffering the Assyrians caused the Israelites and perhaps Jonah directly. What we do know is that Jonah preferred death over seeing the Ninevites forgiven by God (Jonah 4:3). Even after receiving God’s mercy (admittedly undeservingly) in a miraculous way, Jonah wanted God’s justice, not mercy, for his enemies. God had a mission for Jonah, and I think God’s target for that mission was not only Nineveh but also Jonah. God was working through Jonah but also, simultaneously, on Jonah because Jonah had a forgiveness problem. This forgiveness problem was contrary to God’s character and will and unacceptable for one of God’s ambassadors. At the heart of our faith is forgiveness. It is “the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:7) in which we place our faith and hope. In fact, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” Forgiveness of the undeserving is how God showed His love, and this is how we show our love and reflect the character of Christ before the world. Of course, Jesus had much to say about the requirement for forgiveness, but to me some of his most powerful statements are those that tell us that we should forgive to the same degree we desire to be forgiven by God: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25).” I cannot count how many times in church I have recited these words from the Lord’s Prayer: “forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.” Not only did Jesus teach on unconditional forgiveness, He lived out the ultimate example – “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’” Who do you need to forgive today?
– God’s love and mercy may make Him appear unreliable as He gives mercy, grace, and forgiveness to people we do not accept.
– God loves your enemies. Do you? What kind of love does God expect from us?
— Matthew 5:43, 44 — You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
— Luke 6:27 — But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
— Luke 6:35 — But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
7. Proverbs 14:1 – “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.” Our words and deeds will either build up or destroy.
8. Proverbs 14:2 – “Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises him.” Your actions reveal what you really think about God.
9. Proverbs 14:12 – “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Man’s version of righteousness is doomed.
10. Revelation 12:11 – “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” God uses your faithful testimony to defeat Satan.
11. Revelation 12:17 — “Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” You are in a spiritual battle in a war that has already been won by Jesus. You will remain in a struggle with evil as long as you live, unless Jesus returns in your lifetime. Do not be surprised by the enemy’s actions in your life. You are on a mission and must stand as a mighty spiritual warrior for Jesus. Semper Fidelis Coram Deo — Always Faithful Before the Face of God!
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 14 Dec 18: Who do you need to forgive? From whom do you need forgiveness? Where have you failed to seek reconciliation as commanded by God? Today, forgive those who are hard to forgive because you love Jesus and because He has called you to pour out His love to the unloving and hard to love. Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus in all of your relationships and circumstances. (Jonah 3, 4)