God’s Business

Jonah 3-4

Yesterday, we saw Jonah’s reluctance to God’s call for his life. Actually, “active rebellion” against God’s call is more accurate! However, we saw Jonah pray to God during his time in the belly of the great fish. We were left asking the question, “Will Jonah finally answer the call to proclaim God’s message?”

He does. In 3:1, the word of the LORD comes a second time to Jonah. In 3:3, “Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh.” As the story goes, which so many of us learned in our childhood Sunday school, Jonah preaches that Nineveh will be destroyed, and so the Ninevites repented. And our happy ending occurs in 3:10: “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” 

But wait. There’s more.

Why was Jonah SO reluctant to preach to Nineveh? Why did he run in the opposite direction to avoid God’s call on his life? Why did it take a great storm, being thrown overboard, and three days in the belly of a fish to learn his lesson? And why did Jonah scoff at the mercy of God in 4:1? 

The truth is, we will never be able to see Nineveh or Assyria in the same way Jonah did. We didn’t grow up witnessing the brutality and evil that Assyria committed with every passing year, and we will never experience the same wars and terrible things that it did to Israel. But Jonah was very close to the evil that Nineveh did. In fact, Jonah had some really good reasons to really, really dislike Nineveh. Jonah didn’t want to see God’s mercy extended to his enemies. He actually wants to see the destruction of a city with 120 thousand people because he dislikes them so much! In fact, he camps out at the edge of the city hoping that their repentance doesn’t last.

And so God decides to teach Jonah a lesson. He grows a plant that gives shade and comfort to Jonah, and then kills it. Jonah reacts with anger once again. And finally God teaches Jonah the lesson he needed all along: Nineveh is like the plant in this story. God grew it and has concern for it (see 4:11). But on the other hand, he scolds Jonah for caring about a plant he never grew in the first place. In other words, just like the plant, Jonah has no right to be angry about a people that are actually God’s business all along.

So what do we learn here? There are a lot of lessons that come out of Jonah: God’s ways are far higher than our ways. His sense of justice and mercy will sometimes be at odds with our understanding of justice and mercy. We are challenged to lay down our prejudice and serve others in the name of God. And when God calls you to Nineveh, don’t run away– just go!

-Levi Salyers

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Jonah 3-4 and Revelation 7

Running from the Lord

Jonah 1-2

The story of Jonah is one of the most well-known stories in the Bible. However, the book of Jonah is one of the least read books in the Bible! Let this devotion serve as a challenge to read this book with fresh eyes this week.

Jonah is perhaps the most unique prophet in the Bible. Isaiah, Daniel, Elijah, and so many others serve as intensely righteous men who carry about the Lord’s message with great zeal. Habakkuk shows shocking honesty and transparency in his prayer life. Amos, as we just read, shows us that the most humble people– yes, even the shepherds– are called into ministry of some kind. But what about Jonah?

Jonah shows that rebellious streak that runs within all of us at some time or another. God has called him to preach to the city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, and Jonah does not listen. It’s understandable; Nineveh is nearly 700 miles away from Jerusalem. That would take well over a month to travel there in his time! But wait– Jonah doesn’t just say no to God. He actually runs away in the opposite direction!

So Jonah runs away and God lets him know that there’s no running from God. In fact, throughout Jonah’s refusal to minister to the Assyrians, it still brings glory to God. The sailors he’s traveling with tremble with fear when they discover who Jonah’s God is. Notice that, in 1:11, the sailors want to please Jonah’s God, and instead of saying, “Let’s turn this ship around and head to Nineveh,” he says, “Just throw me overboard.”

But God wasn’t done with Jonah. Jonah’s saved. But more importantly, Jonah experiences a spiritual reckoning: Jonah has a moment of complete clarity and offers up a remorseful, prayerful praise to God. He recognizes that God is the one in control (2:3). And he recognizes that salvation comes only from the LORD.

So here are a few questions for us to consider in all this:

Do we listen for God’s voice like Jonah does? 

Do we reject God’s call like Jonah did? Probably more than we realize.

Do we expect God to call us to the “Nineveh” of our lives?

Do we learn from our mistakes like Jonah did, and pray about it? 

Will Jonah learn from these events, and change his ways? We’ll have to find out tomorrow.

-Levi Salyers

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Jonah 1-2 and Revelation 6

Jonah

Jonah 1-4

Jonah 4 11 NIV sgl

 

The story of Jonah is a strange one, isn’t it? Never mind the whole getting swallowed by a whale thing, Jonah himself is not a particularly estimable character, yet we have a whole book in the Bible named after him. I love the VeggieTales song “Jonah Was a Prophet” from their first theatrical movie Jonah. The chorus sums up the story quite nicely:

Jonah was a prophet

oo-ooh!

but he really never got it

sad but true!

and if you watch it you can spot it

a-doodley-doo!

he did not get the point!

 

Jonah just might be the world’s most famous hypocrite. He was shown mercy from God and rescued. He later rebukes God for being too merciful towards the people of Nineveh. I usually read this story with a sort of warning, “Don’t be like a Jonah,” someone who misses the point. But what made Jonah do these things? I don’t believe Jonah was just simply unintelligent. We are told he was a prophet. He must have been somewhat learned or at least skilled in communication for God to have chosen him to be His mouthpiece. So, while Jonah acts stupid throughout most of this story, he surely must not have been stupid.

What is it that changed for Jonah? What made him become so blind to God’s truth. Looking over the story, I think there are two things: pride and disappointment. In the final chapter of the book, when it becomes evident God is not going to destroy the city of Nineveh, Jonah becomes angry with God. He basically tells God he knew God wasn’t actually going to destroy the people and accuses God of wasting his time by sending him there (verse 2).  It seems Jonah forgot his place as God’s servant. In the following verse, Jonah expresses disappointment. Jonah had hoped the Ninevites would be destroyed and becomes so wrought with this lost hope he fades into depression. Jonah’s pride and disappointment blinded him from seeing the truth about God’s compassionate mercy.

Are you a Jonah in your own life, right now? Has your pride or disappointment prevented you from seeing God at work? Our lives have undergone many changes over the last several months. With so much cancelled and shut down, disappointment almost seems like the new normal. Pride can also take hold during these pandemic times as we can become jealous of those whose lives seem to go on relatively unscathed. I have felt both these things, especially the disappointment. It can be blindsiding and out right devastating when something we have hoped and planned does not happen. While I have not the magic words to make the pain disappear, I do know I must not let it blind me from God’s truth. Remember where our hope and treasure truly lie, in the coming Kingdom of God. Fix your gaze upon those everlasting promises and don’t be a Jonah.

 

Emilee Ross

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jonah+1-4&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Stop Running from His Call

God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

We’ve all heard the story of Jonah and how he tried to run away from God. Of course, we know that didn’t work out too well for him. He had to sit in the belly of a giant fish until he decided that he would listen to God. We all have our Nineveh. It’s that one thing in the back of your mind that you know you need to do but it’s the last thing you want to do. Jonah ran away because he was scared and often we do the same thing. 

 

For a while, my Nineveh was mission work. I heard God speaking to me through the people at my church calling me to get involved but that scared me. I haven’t even graduated high school yet God was calling me to leave the country and do His work. That seemed much bigger than I thought I was able to do. So I just ignored the nagging in the back of my mind for as long as I could. Obviously, I didn’t end up sitting in the literal stomach of a huge fish. However, I always felt drained and never quite right. Eventually, I got the hint and I talked to someone from my church who had decided to sell all her stuff and move to Guatemala for mission work. By the end of the conversation, we were making plans for me to come down and do missions with her for a week. After that God had opened my heart and I felt joy for the first time in a while. This then led to the opportunity to join the LHI team in going to Peru. Both opportunities have been nothing short of a blessing. 

 

The amazing thing is that if God calls you to do something He’s not going to send you into the situation unprepared and empty-handed. I felt unqualified for what God was calling me to do, but all I had to do was open up my heart to what God was trying to show me. So today as you think about what God is calling you to do, whether it be a huge project or just a random act of kindness, let God guide you, without trying to run from Him. 

 

-Maggie Gallagher 

Don’t Be That Guy

Obadiah and Jonah

obadiah

Sunday, April 16

Don’t worry, God hasn’t forgotten.

Obadiah is the shortest book among the minor prophets, yet it’s message is anything but minor or insignificant. To grasp the content of Obadiah we have to go through a brief history lesson. History was my favorite academic subject in school, so other history nerds, you’ll enjoy this. Also, understanding the historical context of the books of the Bible is one tool used in hermeneutics (the study of how to interpret biblical texts). In other words, to be responsible interpreters of the Bible we should always attempt to reconstruct the historical context of the passage.

Though Jeremiah attempted to convince the people of Judah to surrender to the invasion of Babylon of 586/587 BCE, they refused. The context and content of Obadiah is situated in the aftermath of the destruction and exile brought on by Babylon. Verse 1 tells us that God gave Obadiah a vision concerning the nation of Edom. Edom is the cousin nation to the people of Israel. The patriarch of Edom is Esau and Jacob is one of the patriarchs of Israel. From the time of Jacob and Esau being in the womb to long after their deaths, they and their people have had rocky interactions, including the one described in Obadiah. Verses 2-9 describe judgement and wrath awaiting the nation of Edom, however we’re not told why until verse 10.

The first line of verse 10 says “Because of violence to your brother Jacob…”. Then from verse 11-14 the phrase “on the day/in the day” shows up nine times! When Babylon ransacked Judah, the Edomites, the cousin nation of Israel, just stood on the sidelines watching and did nothing. God is telling the Edomites they will be judged for what they didn’t do “on that day!” They didn’t come to the aid of the Israelites and instead enjoyed and gloated over their doom. Obadiah is writing to those who have been left behind to encourage them and remind them that God has not forgotten the wrong done to them.

There are two lessons we can take from Obadiah. First, just as God had not forgotten the wrong done to his covenant people Israel, likewise God doesn’t forget the wrong done to you. We serve a God who takes action in the present. And even if a wrong is not vindicated in this present evil age it will certainly be reversed at the return of King Jesus. Second, we see that God equates ignoring justice and not taking action as doing “violence”. Are you someone who shies from standing up for what is right? Do you stand by idly while injustice occurs? The New Testament places a great emphasis on taking care of other believers in the body and being there for them. Do you do this? Edom didn’t take care of their family and it displeased God greatly. Shoutout to God for having a significant message tucked away in a tiny unsuspecting book.

 

 

Don’t be that guy: The Story of Jonah

            The story of Jonah we have all heard in one capacity or another. Whether it be in Sunday School, a sermon, or just having a superficial awareness of Jonah and his short yet interesting story. The four chapter story can be summed up fairly easily: Jonah is called by God to bring Nineveh, a great terrible city, to repentance. Jonah then runs away but is swallowed up by a great fish-spewed back onto land and again given the charge to preach repentance to Nineveh. He preaches and Nineveh repents and as a result God does not smite the Ninevites. Meanwhile, Jonah stews about how they were saved not demolished.

Consensus about the purpose of Jonah among Old Testament scholars is that there is none. There are a bevy of interpretations concerning the purpose and point of the book. However, there is one thread that stuck out to me the most that connects the story of Jonah to our own contemporary world. We see Jonah as someone who knows the true God and thus is part of the people of God. God gives Jonah a mission to preach repentance to the Ninevites, so that they may turn from their life of pagan idolatry and a life without knowing the true God, to living lives in a manner that is reflective of the truth of the God of Israel, the one true God. But Jonah isn’t down with this plan and flees the opposite direction.

In a parallel manner, you and I have been called to evangelize to those who do not know the truth of Jesus and the kingdom of God. Be honest with yourself, as a disciple of Jesus, do you share the gospel with those who do not know it or have not accepted it? We can think of many reasons why we can’t or we shouldn’t, but is this being faithful to the call Jesus has given us? It’s uncomfortable, I get that. It can be awkward, you’re absolutely right. It’s scary, exactly. But let’s not be Jonah and run away from the message we have been given to proclaim.

Pray for boldness, confidence, and opportunity. Get the gospel message embedded in your heart and mind so that you know where to take someone when you dialogue with them. You got this, you can do it. Don’t be Jonah, be faithful.

-Jacob Rohrer

Bio: ABC (Atlanta Bible College) grad.  Ohio native. Kingdom citizen

 

Selective Listening – or Worse?

Jeremiah 42-43

Jeremiah 42-3 Pray That The Lord May Shoe Us The Way gold

Sunday, March 12

 

I’ve witnessed an oft-recognized-but-rarely-diagnosed illness called “selective listening.” I’ve charted an epidemic of the disease mostly among strong-willed toddlers, but it expands among all ages, genders, and cultures (even to Dads and, dare I admit it, Moms too). This “selective listening” regularly manifests as an inability to hear or acknowledge commands or requests given loudly a few inches away, followed by an ability the next minute to overhear a whispered conversation about dessert behind closed doors three rooms away.

 

Have you ever demonstrated selective listening? Or, even worse, have you listened and heard clearly, but deliberately chose to go the other direction? Often, selective listening becomes so selective that it leads to disobedience – we only let ourselves hear or believe that which aligns with our desires, and then we follow our desires even if they lead us away from God’s truth.

 

In this passage, the people went to Jeremiah for some advice. What should they do – should they stay in Judah or go to Egypt? Jeremiah consulted with God, who revealed to him that the people should stay in Judah. Jeremiah told the people about his revelation from God, but did they listen to this very advice (for which they had asked, mind you)? NO! They decided to head to Egypt and took Jeremiah with them. (We’ll explore the repercussions of this action over the next few days!)

 

I’m reminded of many Bible characters who had “selective listening” – or shall I say, outright disobedience – of which one of the most prominent examples was Jonah. God told him to go to Nineveh, but Jonah boarded a ship in the exact opposite direction! He soon learned that he could not hide from God, though! (You can get that whole story in the Old Testament book of Jonah).

 

Pray with me about any areas of our lives that we need to be more open to listening to God and obeying him, even if it is contrary to what we want to do. Ask God to change our hearts to make us desire to listen to Him and obey His will. May we be people who DO the word of God, not just HEAR it (James 1:22).

-Rachel Cain

 

Rachel Cain is a follower of Jesus, wife to Dan, and stay-at-home homeschooling mommy to three precious Blessings. She enjoys reading (children’s books by day and non-fiction by night), eating ice cream, hiking, and writing devotionals about what God has been teaching her. 

 

(Photo Credit: http://images.knowing-jesus.com/i/jeremiah-42-3-pray-that-the-lord-may-shoe-us-the-way-gold)

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