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."