Wednesday, December 18, 2013

God Heard, God Forgave, God Delivered

Yesterday, sharing from the book of Jonah, I talked about how our decisions and choices affect not only ourselves, but those around us as well.  Today, I want to share more of Jonah's experience. 

After rebelling against God, and openly admitting it, Jonah was thrown overboard a ship and into the tumultuous sea.  God brought forth a giant fish to swallow Jonah.  Chapter two records Jonah's thoughts, which was actually a prayer:

1From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:
“In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
    and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
    into the very heart of the seas,
    and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
    swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
    from your sight;
yet I will look again
    toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
    the deep surrounded me;
    seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
    the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
    brought my life up from the pit.
“When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
    to your holy temple.
“Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”
10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

There are several things that I see in this prayer that I want to share with you:

First, Jonah says his "distress" he "called to the LORD" (verse 2).  I can't think of anything more hopeless than sinking into the depths of the sea with no life vest, no air tank, no one above willing to pull me back into the boat.  Yet, Jonah still "called to the LORD".  Even though Jonah willingly rebelled against God, he still knew that if he called out to Him with a repentant heart, God would hear

Second, I want to point out that Jonah realized it was God who allowed this to happen (see verses 3-6a) .  Because God is a holy, righteous, and just God, Jonah knew that God had to bring punishment for his open rebellion.

Third, Jonah still had hope.  In verse 4 he says, "I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple." (emphasis mine)  I'm no Bible scholar, but this verse says to me that even when we sin against God, we can still look to Him and hope in Him. 

Fourth, in verse 8, Jonah claims that those who "cling to worthless idols turn away from God's love for them."  Hmmm. What worthless idols did Jonah have?  Was he talking about himself, or generally speaking?  I had the thought, and of course I have no way of knowing for certain, but I wonder if Jonah's idol was his work.  He was a prophet.  Prophets, for the most part, were held in high esteem.  He was in the belly of a fish because he didn't want to use his God-given office of prophet the way God wanted him to.  Just something to think about.

Fifth, back in verse 7, Jonah says, "I remembered you, LORD."  This sort of lines up with my thought on what his idol might have been.  Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we are doing in the name of the Lord, that we forget the Lord Himself.  It took an extremely drastic event to get Jonah to remember his Lord. 

And finally, after Jonah cried out in repentance to the LORD, we see that God "commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land." (verse 10)  God heard, God forgave, God delivered. 

Child of God, God desires for you (and me) to experience His forgiveness and to live in His deliverance!

1 John 1:8-9  

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Peaceful in Rebellion

I started reading the book of Jonah this morning.  I actually felt a bit reluctant, I guess perhaps it's because I'm familiar with Jonah and resemble him more than I'd like to admit. For those of you who are not familiar with Jonah, I encourage you to read (or listen) to the book here.

Jonah rebelled against God. Plain and simple.  God told him to do something very specific and Jonah refused.  Instead of going where God told him to go and doing what God told him to do, Jonah ran in the opposite direction.  He bought passage on a ship, and while on that ship God caused a huge storm to come upon it.  The storm was so severe that the sailors were dumping their cargo and crying out to their gods.  Finally, the captain realized that Jonah was nowhere to be found, so he went below deck to look for him.  Would you believe that Jonah was sleeping?  He was so peaceful in his rebellion that he was able to sleep through a major storm while on the sea!    WOW! Child of God, have you ever been, or ARE you, in rebellion to the point that it no longer bothers you? Do you realize that your rebellion not only puts you in the middle of a storm, but also those around you as well?  Jonah was not the only one of that ship! Other men, who were going about their daily lives, shipping cargo from one place to another, were right there in the middle of the sea being tossed and battered by the waves that were brought on because of Jonah's sin. 

Sin has consequences.  

The choices we make affect us AND those around us.  Galatians 6:7 warns us: 

"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." 

 Not only will you, Child of God, reap the consequences, but those closest to you will as well, in one way or another. 

I speak from personal experience.  I admitted earlier that I was reluctant to read the book of Jonah.  It's because I once was Jonah.  I lived in out-right rebellion of God's will for me.  I lived for self, and boy, did I pay the price!  I hurt myself, I hurt my family, but worse - I hurt God.   

Sin has consequences.  There is always a ripple effect.

Child of God, if you are living in rebellion - REPENT!  Reader, if you cannot honestly say that you are a child of God - REPENT!  

If you continue reading the book of Jonah, you will see that all God wanted was for people to be restored to Him.  His greatest desire is to have fellowship with all men.  He moved heaven and earth in order to restore our relationship to Him, as we so clearly see in John 3:16:

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in Him, will not perish, but have everlasting life." 

Call on the name of the LORD today.  Confess, repent and live! 


Friday, December 13, 2013

For those who love Him

This morning I was writing in my journal, recording something that has been bothering me. I have found that writing things out often gives me a sense of relief/release. Anyway, the last thing I wrote was a prayer to God to work things out for our good. After I wrote this, I looked at the bottom of the page where there is always a Bible verse, and what do you think was there? Romans 8:28! I just had to smile and shake my head in wonder. God continues to be ridiculously good to me! He is so faithful! Why do I, even for a moment, let things of this world discourage me?

Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."