Saturday, January 7, 2012
Jonah Chapter 3
vs. 1-2: SECOND CHANCES
- God of second chances...
- “Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach. Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time. “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.” (2:10-2:2)
- God saved Jonah's life... and then gave him another chance to do what was right.
- Which is exactly what He does with us as well...
- When Adam sinned... he cursed all of his descendents to enter this world as sinners... When we are brought into this world, we are born unclean. We are born with blood on our hands. Accursed people.
- But God gives us a chance at new life. Even when we walk away... He gives us another chance...
- There's a song by Stellar Kart that has a line that says: “There will always be second chances, and you'll always be on your first try.” That SO speaks about our God. The God who never gives up... And is always willing to give you another shot at things.
- I mean... when Adam and Eve sinned... yeah sure, there was punishment... actions are always followed by consequences... but He didn't kill them off... and He didn't leave them without hope. He didn't just cast them out of the garden with no way to get back... He provided a way back. And not in a way that we as humans could mess it up... HE came to finish the work so that it would be a perfect sacrifice... a perfect way to get back to relationship with God. So there are no excuses. No way to say “well I'm just not good enough...” Because God, through Christ provided a way so that ALL could come... no matter what. Despite our being born into sin... despite all the mistakes we make... despite our rebellion... He can still take us back. (If we humble ourselves and come back...)
- So this is Jonah's second chance. He has run away from the voice and call of God... endured terrible things. Been taken to the end of himself... The edge of sanity. The depths of sorrow and despair... and now... God calls him again to do the work that is asked of him.
- And this time... Jonah goes...
- II Corinthians 7:8-16
- Luke 24:46-49; 5:31-32
- Colossians 1:24-29
vs. 3-6: THE MISSION
- “This time Jonah obeyed the Lord's command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds; “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” The people of Nineveh believed God's message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow. When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes.”
- Jonah obeyed... gave the message... and WOW what a response from a city that was supposedly like the worst, most evil city of it's time. They were known for cruelty. They were the scourge of land...
- And yet their hearts were ready to repent of it all...
- Timing is everything...
- You know... people do not accept God unless they're ready. You can't force a heart to be repentant.
- I have a friend right now that... isn't ready... if we start a conversation on religion... it turns almost instantaneously into an argument... because his heart's not willing to look at God through faith. And it's not just that he's waiting on God to prove Himself... He's not looking for proof so much as he's just not willing to accept Who God is... or that God cares... because he's still a little mad at God over some things, and he's built up some walls that he's just not willing to tear down yet.
- Nineveh... as terrible as they were... were ready to repent and come to God. So there had to be some heart preparation there somewhere...
- And who's to say... that this was THE TIME to go to Nineveh. If God hadn't sent someone RIGHT THEN to the city... what's to say that they would have moved past their heart's time... and become even more hard and more terrible...
- And had Jonah not gone to speak... it could have meant that he was causing the further destruction and terrorizing of his own nation and people...
- As I said before... our actions always have consequences... and this could have caused some pretty major consequences.
- When God opens doors for us to speak... we have to walk through and speak. We can't just... sit back and hope someone else does it. Sure God CAN raise up someone else... but if we all sit back and think that someone else will do it... MAN! No witnessing would ever get done!
- Timing... is God's... not ours... and if God says to speak... we had better speak... because imagine if we didn't... and that was literally the only chance that person was going to have... What if they're heart was only in that place for a moment... What if we miss the chance and send our friend, or our family member, or some complete and total stranger... to an eternity in hell... just because we were too proud, or too afraid, or too caught up in our own lives...
- The people of Nineveh were definitely ready... There was no beating around the bush... they believed on God, called a fast, and put on their sorrowing clothes... no time lost. And the KING? When he heard the message... he did the same thing. BUT! He went a step further. He called the whole city to repentance. There was no question about it. From the greatest to the least... there would be repentance for what they had done.
- Job 11:13-20
- Psalm 51
- Romans 5:1-11
- John 7:6-8
- Isaiah 49:8-13
vs. 7-9: REPENTANCE
- “Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city: “No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat of drink anything at all. People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change His mind and hold back His fierce anger from destroying us.”
- Not only did the king demand repentance from the people... he demanded it from the animals... wow... that's a little harsh...
- So I was reading through some commentaries to try and figure out the purpose behind the fasting of the animals... They all pretty much said the same thing, so I'm going to summarize.
- The sackcloth on the animals was an Eastern tradition in times of great mourning... such as when great leaders died. It was a removal of their decorated trappings for ones more suited to solemn occasions. It also served as a visual reminder to the people of Nineveh... everywhere they looked, they saw something to remind them of their humbleness before God.
- The people were told to earnestly pray and seek God in this time... because fasting in and of itself... would not be enough... So can you imagine the noise? In times of drought, or just when animals are hungry in general, they make A LOT of noise... So can you imagine animals bawling, babies screaming, people calling out to God in their sorrow and desperation for salvation? There was nothing that you could do in that city that did not exude repentance.
- And so God did hold back His anger...
- footnote- “The pagan people of Nineveh believed Jonah's message and repented. What a miraculous effect God's words had on those evil people! Their repentance stood in stark contrast to Israel's stubbornness. The people of Israel had heard many messages from the prophets, but they had refused to repent. The people of Nineveh only needed to hear God's message once. Jesus said that at the judgment, the people of Nineveh will stand up to condemn the Israelites for their failure to repent (Matthew 12:39-41). It is not our hearing God's word that pleases Him, but our responding to it.”
- Isn't that the truth? God wants us to follow. He doesn't need us to sit and read the Bible day in and day out. He doesn't need us to go feed 1,000 people a day. He doesn't need us to give up everything we own. He just wants us to be obedient. If that means doing all of the above... that's one thing... but to just do... STUFF... and never actually respond to what God wants us to do?
- If Jonah had gone to another land, continued to spread the word of God, continued to live a pretty good life, continued to pay his tithes and give to the poor... would it have been enough? NO! Because he still wouldn't have done what God REALLY wanted him to do!
- Acts 26:20
- Proverbs 16:1-4
- I Samuel 15:22-23
vs. 10: ANGER WITHHELD
- “When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, He changed His mind and did not carry out the destruction He had threatened.”
- Now destruction did eventually come... but it was about 170 years later. The prophet Nahum prophesied the fall of Nineveh about 100 years after Jonah had come... But this time... the people didn't listen... and about 50 years after Nahum gave his prophesy... the city of Nineveh (the capitol of Assyria) fell... and about 3 years later... the mighty nation of Assyria completely crumbled.
- Small timeline:
785 (approximately)- Jonah speaks to Nineveh
740- Isaiah prophesies that Assyria will be destroyed (more than once...)
701- Jerusalem falls to Assyria
663- Nahum again prophesies to Nineveh
640- Zephaniah prophesies against Nineveh
612- Nineveh falls
609- Assyria is conquered
- Man... every few years... God sent somebody else... with the same message. The first time, they repented, turned away from evil, and God turned away His anger... but within 100 years... Nahum said this: “And this is what the Lord says concerning the Assyrians in Nineveh: “You will have no more children to carry on your name. I will destroy all the idols in the temples of your gods. I am preparing a grave for you because you are despicable!” (1:14)
- Ouch... and double ouch...
- It's easy to fall away... it's hard to be good... easy to be bad... and sometimes... well... we fall...
- However... the people of Nineveh and Assyria, hardened their hearts. They turned away from God and refused to look back. God used Assyria as judgment for the Israelites... and they may have even been obedient to God for a while... but eventually... they fell back into their old habits and traditions... back to their idols and evil things... So they were destroyed...
- Looking at this... I think about my own nation... The US is terrible. We have more preachers on TV and radio than probably any other country. (granted not all of them are great... but they are there...) We have tons of churches... in every community. Christianity is part of our very foundations... and yet... we mock God. We throw Him out of our public places. We throw Him out of our schools. We don't allow the mention of His Name in public gatherings. We allow the murder of children. We watch while our leaders pass laws against God's laws.
- How many times have we had great revivals? Only to go back into our old sins? How many chances do we get? How many times will God call out to us for repentance before His judgment finally comes? Because come it will... Our repentance might turn away His judgment for a time... but eventually... judgment does come...
- So... are you praying earnestly for the salvation of your nation? Do you sorrow over the sin in your cities? Will you seek the face of God? Pray that your countrymen will repent and turn from their evil?
- *sigh* It sounds like an impossible task... It sounds... useless to even try...
- However... Jonah was one man. An unwilling one at that... but that one man's voice, brought about the salvation of capitol city... and a king who demanded it of his subjects.
- God only needs one voice. If that one voice is obedient... other voices will follow. Maybe in 40 or 50 years... but they will follow. Will you join me in crying out to God for revival? And will you join me in praying for the salvation... of our individual nations? I know some of the readers are from other countries... I know some of you... may not be praying for revival in the US... but rather... in Germany, or the UK, or India, or Russia, or any number of other nations in the world... But will you join me in praying for your country, and mine.
- Even if only one voice... that voice will fall upon the ear of God...
- Hebrews 6:4-12
- Isaiah 30:8-18
- II Peter 3:3-15
- Jeremiah 15:1-9
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Jonah Chapter 2
- “Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his god from inside the fish.
He said, “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and He answered me. I called to You from the land of the dead, and Lord, You heard me!
You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath Your wild and stormy waved.
Then I said, “O Lord, You have driven me from Your presence. Yet I will look once more toward Your Holy Temple.”
I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me. Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever. But You, O Lord my God, snatched me from the jaws of death!
As my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord. And my earnest prayer went out to You in Your holy Temple.
Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God's mercies.
But I will offer sacrifices to You with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.
Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.”
- One thing that I notice in this passage that I find interesting, is that Jonah is speaking in the past tense. As if he had already been rescued from the deep. “Snatched from the jaws of death.”
- So either Jonah expected God to move on his behalf when he cried out... OR he was speaking in the spiritual sense.
- As we look at this, I want to look at both possibilities.
vs. 1-2: Crying Out
- “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and He answered me.”
- Oh the grace of God... Jonah turns and runs in the opposite direction from God's will... and when he gets into trouble... and calls out to God... God comes to the rescue.
- But notice... Jonah had to take the initiative. It doesn't say that God called out to Jonah and Jonah answered God... no... JONAH had to call out first.
- God doesn't force Himself on us... but when we call out... He is always happy to answer. Sometimes He even answers when He knows our motives aren't even completely what they should be. But God sees our hearts. He knows what's best for us.
- In this case... Jonah has been brought to his lowest point in order for his heart to be in the right place to call out to God. Had Jonah not ended up in the belly of the fish... I don't know that he would have been in a place to call out to God. Jonah showed himself to be a stubborn and selfish man. When someone like that gets called out by God to change something in their lives... such as forgiving someone we are verging on hating... if not completely hating... well... we as humans... we're gonna bolt at that one.
- So sometimes God has to break our hearts. That may mean He allows us to get ourselves into some pretty big messes before we're willing to turn and accept what He has for us.
- God is the perfect Gentleman. He doesn't force us into anything... so when we turn and walk away, He'll let us go... but not without a fight. He will hunt us down and do whatever it takes to get us to turn around and come back to Him.
- But when we're finally ready to call out... He's just waiting so He can rush in to take us back in His arms.
- “I called to you from the land of the dead, and Lord, You heard me!”
- “The land of the dead.” Physically... Jonah was dying. He's being eaten alive in the belly of the whale... He's heading for death. Spiritually, when we turn away from God... we die Spiritually.
- If Jonah dies now in his sin and rebellion... he will most definitely die spiritually... for eternity.
- Even when we think it's too late... when we already feel like we've gone too far... God will still hear our call.
- Psalm 77; 18
- Zechariah 7:11-14
vs. 3-4: END OF US
- “You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath Your wild and stormy waves. Then I said, “O Lord, You have driven me from your presence. Yet I will look once more toward Your Holy Temple.”
- God allowed Jonah to get to his absolute lowest point... sunk down to the bottom of the sea...
- Jonah is kind of blaming all this on God... “You drove me away from Your presence...” But... Jonah was the one who ran away... It wasn't so much God driving Him away... as letting Jonah go... and working to get his attention in the meantime.
- But when Jonah finally realized he was close to death... He chose to look towards God again. Why? Well... where else was he going to look? Who else could come to his rescue?
- When we come to the end of ourselves... we have nowhere else to look. God is our only option. And when we keep looking at things outside God for answers... we're just going to keep falling further away... So a lot of times... until we come to the end of our options... we don't choose to look at God for our answers. Sometimes it's just because we're stubborn... or want to maintain our independence. Or maybe we just don't really like the way God has things planned out... we'd prefer our own way... lol
- The final word is always that God is our only choice. Even if there are other choices available... there is only ever one right choice...
- I Corinthians 8:1-6
- Mark 12:29-31
vs. 5-7: HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?
- “I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me. Seaweed wrapped itself around my head. I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever. But You, O Lord my God, snatched me from the jaws of death!”
- Now this is prior to the whale spitting Jonah out onto the shore... so how was Jonah saved from the jaws of death already? Again, I think this speaks of a Spiritual death.
- Jonah had walked into darkness. He had walked away from God and run in the opposite direction... Well the opposite of God... is... Satan. Pure Holiness contrasted with Pure Evil... To walk away from God... is to walk into everything He's not...
- “To the very roots of the mountains... imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever.”
- That's about as low as you can go... locked away in the earth... and still God was there... Still God went after Jonah. When Jonah cried out... God came running...
- Another author also had a similar story...
- “I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me. You refused to let my enemies triumph over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored my health. You brought me up from the grave, O Lord. You kept me from falling into the pit of death... I cried out to you, O Lord. I begged the Lord for mercy saying, “What will you gain if I die, if I sink into the grave? Can my dust praise you? Can it tell of your faithfulness? Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me. Help me, O Lord. You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!” - Psalm 30:1-3; 8-12
- David also felt that falling away feeling... fell into the grave... and God came to the rescue. But yet again... notice that God came after David called...
- “As my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple.”
- Earnest prayer. Not random. Not a grocery list. Not nonchalant speaking with an unknown god... Earnest prayer to a God Who cares... Who listens... Who desperately wants to come to the rescue...
- God is waiting! Call out! He will come to help!
- Sure... prayers... even earnest ones, don't always get answered the way we think they should... I mean... I'm pretty sure when Jonah was praying for God to help him... he probably wasn't thinking about becoming whale puke in order to save his life...
- But regardless of what answer comes... God always has our best interest at heart.
- Psalm 116; 139
- Romans 5:1-11
vs. 8-10: CHOICES
- “Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God's mercies. But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.”
- Again... to oppose God... is to walk into everything He is not... thus... those who are worshiping false gods... have turned their backs on all God's mercies... there is no hope without God.
- But just as Joshua said to choose this day Whom you would serve... we have a choice in the matter. We can choose to worship the false gods of the earth... or to follow after God. For from He alone comes our salvation. There is no other way under heaven.
- When we finally realize that there is no other way to gain our salvation... God will save us... Just as He ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach... He will bring us up out of the muck and mire and into new life with Him... we just have to ask...
- You know... I remember a story of the blind man...
- In Jewish or Palestinian culture of the time... the blind man had no meaning to society. They were nobodies. The blind man, Bartimaeus, had no definition. The prefix “Bar” meant “son of”. His name literally meant “the son of Timaeus.” He had no name of his own.
- But when Jesus stretched out His hand to pick the blind man up out of the dust and dirt... He not only opened his eyes to see the wonders both of heaven and earth... but He also gave Bartimaeus societal definition.
- He not only gave Bartimaeus new life in the Spiritual... but also in the physical.
- When Christ reaches out and offers an invitation to join Him... He offers us a definition... He takes us from having a life of nothings... to having limitless life in Him... it just takes us being willing to follow the call wherever it leads...
- Romans 10:5-17
- Revelation 3:15-22