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Have mercy

But Jonah went out from the city and sat down east of the city. There he made himself a hut and sat under it, in the shade, to see what would happen to the city. Then the LORD God provided a shrub, and it grew up over Jonah, providing shade for his head and saving him from his misery. Jonah was very happy about the shrub. But God provided a worm the next day at dawn, and it attacked the shrub so that it died. Then as the sun rose God provided a dry east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint. He begged that he might die, saying, “It’s better for me to die than to live.” God said to Jonah, “Is your anger about the shrub a good thing?” Jonah said, “Yes, my anger is good—even to the point of death!” But the LORD said, “You ‘pitied’ the shrub, for which you didn’t work and which you didn’t raise; it grew in a night and perished in a night. Yet for my part, can’t I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than one hundr…

God provides

Then the LORD God provided a shrub, and it grew up over Jonah, providing shade for his head and saving him from his misery. Jonah was very happy about the shrub. But God provided a worm the next day at dawn, and it attacked the shrub so that it died. Then as the sun rose God provided a dry east wind. Jonah 4:6-8a

Jonah's story tells us that God provides. At moments in the story, we are told that God provided. Here, it is a good thing: a shrub for shade. Then, God provided something that was not good or rather what it did was not good: a worm that killed the shrub and took away Jonah's shade. Then another thing was provided by God that did not feel good: a dry east wind.

Does the Lord provide good and bad weather? Does the Lord provide a good parking spot, on the one hand and a rude person on the other hand, who cuts in front of you? In these instances, Jonah believed that God provided these good and bad happenstance things and here it is written for us.

Does this mean th…

Standing back

But Jonah went out from the city and sat down east of the city. There he made himself a hut and sat under it, in the shade, to see what would happen to the city. Jonah 4:5

Jonah was angry that the Ninevites were repenting. He told God, "it's not fair". God questioned Jonah as to whether he was getting carried away by his anger.



Jonah response was to:
Go out from the city. Get away from what God was doing. Detach. Withdraw. Get his space. He didn't run away, but pulled back.He sat down and made himself a hut, for shade. He sought comfort on a perch.Watch and see what would happen. He already knew what was happening.Jonah did not:Go into the city, to minister to the people. He did not help them connect further with God.Rejoice over Nineveh's repentance and salvation and begin celebrating with them.Proclaim that he was wrong about his prejudices towards Nineveh and repent himself.We might have neighbors we don't like. We might have people in our city …

Good King Wenceslas (re-post from 1-3-07)

The Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas" tells the story of a king who goes out with his page to give alms to a poor man on the day after Christmas. Wenceslas is a real person, born in 907. His father was converted to Christ through the work of two Greek brothers Cyril, known as Constantine; and Methodius in the 860's. These brothers became known as "the apostles to the Slavs". Wenceslas' father died when he was only thirteen and his grandmother, Ludmila, raised him as a Christian. His mother, Drahomira, remained pagan as did his younger brother and arranged Ludmila's murder in 921 and regained control over raising Wenceslas. History is sketchy on what happened during the next 5 years, but when he was 18 years old, he assumed the throne and had his mother exiled. He then promoted Christianity throughout Bohemia. The nobles did not like the Roman influence that they saw coming in through Christianity and plotted to kill Wenceslas with his pagan …

Angry man

The LORD responded, “Is your anger a good thing?" Jonah 4:4

God usually does not need information, when he asks questions. He enters our space and seeks to communicate with us. God wants our hearts revealed to us, so he asks us questions to draw us out. God is asking, "is it right (a good thing) for you to be angry that I am a gracious, forgiving, merciful God?"

God gives Jonah a chance to explain how his anger is good or right. Perhaps God is addressing the anger because Jonah did not pass through his anger. The Psalmist and then Apostle Paul echoes, "be angry without sinning", (Psalm 4:4 and Ephesians 4:26). Anger is something we feel, go through, or express; then we move on. What is beneath the anger? Sometimes it is hurt or loss. If this is so, we need to get past the anger and feel the hurt or grieve the loss.

Jonah was angry about what was happening before his eyes in Nineveh. He expressed his anger to God. That was good. Now, it seems, that he…

"It's not fair" prayer

He prayed to the LORD, “Come on, LORD! Wasn’t this precisely my point when I was back in my own land? This is why I fled to Tarshish earlier! I know that you are a merciful and compassionate God, very patient, full of faithful love, and willing not to destroy. At this point, LORD, you may as well take my life from me, because it would be better for me to die than to live.” Jonah 4:2-3

We have here, an angry prayer and a sinful prayer. Recall the prayers that came out of Jonah when he was trapped in darkness, facing a certain death. They seemed so pure, but were they just pious scripture quoting by a man in desperation?
"Anger is a short fit of madness."It is a bit shocking that he would get angry with God, when something wonderful is happening! What kind of a model is Jonah for someone that God called to the highest level of Old Covenant ministry?

But Jesus does not shy away from Jonah's prophetic preaching ministry, but endorses it. We are seeing here again, that thi…

Desert Song

Have you been through the desert in your journey? If you are new to your journey, get ready for the desert. If you have been on your journey for any length of time, you have been through several or many deserts. Deserts are a normal, necessary, and useful part of your journey; just as winter is an integral season each year.

Between leaving and arriving is the desert. God invites each one of us to do something better and to be someone better. God knows we are not ready and so He takes us through a desert of discipline to get us ready. In the desert, we ask hard questions. In the desert, we learn new things about God: our consciousness of God is enlarged. We get revelation knowledge. Things we believed in and read in The Book, but never experienced happen for us and to us in the desert. Something is built up inside us that was not there before. Forced out of our former comfortableness, we learned to receive comfort from God.

Death and tranquility exist side by side in …

Angry at God

But Jonah thought this was utterly wrong, and he became angry. -Jonah 4:1

Jonah didn't get it when God changed his mind. Maybe he liked preaching the message of destruction? Maybe he wanted Nineveh to be destroyed. And he was furious when the Nineties repented and God decided to not destroy them.

Have you ever watched something and assumed an outcome, based on your own calculations? We might believe that someone or something is beyond remedy, beyond hope. We might believe someone or something or some situation is too far gone.

God does not think the way we do. Someone may speak for God, but not know God. Someone might know God's acts, but not know God's ways. While God is the judge and judges purely and is completely wise, God also abounds in mercy and has the ability to extend forgiveness beyond beyond the abilities of the human heart.

We are taught simple forgiveness by God as a way of life, but we also have to practice hard forgiveness; forgiving inconceivably: for…

God changes His mind

God saw what they were doing—that they had ceased their evil behavior. So God stopped planning to destroy them, and he didn’t do it. Jonah 3:10

The Ninevites made real changes and then God made a change. He changed his mind. God stopped the plans to destroy Nineveh. There was nothing in God's word that Jonah declared that was conditional. God did not say, "if you repent, I will relent." I read the word as saying, "it's over, but I'm giving you forty days."

The king on Nineveh imagined out loud when he said, "who knows? God may see this and turn from his wrath, so that we might not perish." Having not been schooled in how prophecy works and in the face of ruin, this king of a people who have a track record of evil is suddenly optimistic; while at the same time, being gravely certain of the truth of Jonah's word and leading his people in sincere repentance.

But why 40 days? Even the 40 day warning was merciful. The question would be…

Repentance

The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” Jonah 3:5-9

They simply believed God. Polytheists and idolaters suddenly became monotheists, listening to the one true God. When the real God speaks, it is different; and he spoke through Jonah. Jesus said, "they changed their hearts and lives in response to Jonah…

The Message

Jonah started into the city, walking one day, and he cried out, “Just forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown!” Jonah 3:4

In his assignment to go to Nineveh, given a second time, God had told Jonah that he was to, "declare against it the proclamation that I am commanding you.” As promised, God gave Jonah the proclamation he was to proclaim, “Just forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown!” This is what he preached on the streets of Nineveh. God had given Jonah a word to deliver to a group of people and he delivered it.

Jonah, "just did it". He didn't write it, he didn't look for key people, he didn't whisper, and he didn't try to be contextual in assimilating to the culture and finding a way to sugar coat this hard word. No, he just did and said what God told him to do and say. Was Jonah smiling or frowning, stern or genteel? We don't know.

Prophetic preaching is when God gives you a word concerning the future of a people and you pro…

Simply obedient

And Jonah got up and went to Nineveh, according to the LORD’s word. (Now Nineveh was indeed an enormous city, a three days’ walk across.) Jonah 3:3

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord. He did what God said to do this time. He got up and went. God specifically told him do do something and he did it. It's the same thing that God told him to do before, that he did not do, which he got in so much trouble for not doing. God gave Jonah a second chance and he is taking that chance now.

Jonah exercised his faith. Faith is an action. You say you have faith. Good, now show me. That's action. Faith is not just a belief, but belief acted upon. If you act upon it, it's real faith. When you act on faith, you also risk. John Wimber said that faith is spelled r-i-s-k. Jesus asked various people to do something often and complimented others who did something to express their faith like the guys who lowered the man through the roof to get to him (Mark 2:4). Remember when Jesu…

Get up and go (again)

Get up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and declare against it the proclamation that I am commanding you.”
-Jonah 3:2 (CEB)
The Lord's second word to Jonah was almost identical to the first word he gave him. The first time, the Lord said, "Get up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it, for their evil has come to my attention.” God had patiently taken Jonah through the "hard way" and now again offered him the "not as hard way".

Jonah might have thought to himself, "remember what happened last time when I didn't go to Nineveh?" Obviously, Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh the first time, for some reason. We don't know what that reason was at this point. We do know that there was an evil in Nineveh that had come to God's attention. Something bad was going on with the Ninevites and Jonah previously had a strong aversion to them. Was it fear, prejudice, dislike, anger, or all of these?

Notice that both times, …

God of the second chance

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time. Jonah 3:1

Did you know that God is God of the second chance? The Bible is filled with the stories of people who got second chances and Jonah is just one of them. Jonah deliberately disobeyed God's assignment and some negative consequences followed.

Jonah repented and sought God. Then providence struck. Jonah was expelled out of the giant fish and found himself on dry land, breathing fresh air again. Then Jonah's life went on.

We can imagine that Jonah went on with his life. We can imagine that Jonah returned home. Perhaps he told his friends what happened. He had a testimony. God had saved him from death. Was he ashamed of himself? He had been one who spoke God's special messages and he had failed to do his unique job. He had failed to deliver a special message from God to Nineveh.

Life went on for Jonah. Did he feel like a failure? Was he thankful to be alive, but became the "former Prophet"?…

Back from the dead

And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. Jonah 2:10

Jonah had been saved from drowning and for that he was thankful. But, "what was next?", he might have thought. He didn't know, but he thought about God. He prayed to God, thanking him and worshiping him from that place of a living death. Jonah repented.

There is a time to get right with God and that time is always now. But to shake us awake, God provides awakening experiences for us that are rude and uninvited. If you are walking close to God and something bad happens in your life, you might cling to God and receive comfort from him. But, if you are distant from God, the pain is pointing you back to God. To be in need of God is good and normal. The crisis brings us into needing God and into coming home to the Father.

Jonah came to the end of himself and sought God. Jonah died to himself. Jonah's plans died. All he had left was God and to God he prayed to God he gave himsel…

Prayers of a man facing death

“I called out to the LORD in my distress, and he answered me.
From the belly of the underworld I cried out for help; you have heard my voice. You had cast me into the depths in the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounds me.
All your strong waves and rushing water passed over me.
So I said, ‘I have been driven away from your sight. Will I ever again look on your holy temple?
Waters have grasped me to the point of death; the deep surrounds me.
Seaweed is wrapped around my head at the base of the undersea mountains.
I have sunk down to the underworld; its bars held me with no end in sight.
But you brought me out of the pit.’ When my endurance was weakening, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, to your holy temple. Those deceived by worthless things lose their chance for mercy.
But me, I will offer a sacrifice to you with a voice of thanks.
That which I have promised, I will pay.
Deliverance belongs to the LORD!” -Jonah 2:2-9 (CEB)


Jonah's prayer is present focused. He is…

Prayer time

Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish.
-Jonah 2:1

Jonah finally comes to the place of prayer. Jonah finally comes to the place when he will turn to God. Jonah finally comes to the place where he turns to God. Jonah comes to the place where his faith is quickened. He may be in pitch dark, but he gets clarity about God.

Sometimes it takes confinement by life's circumstances to get us to pray and for our faith to rise up into clarity about God. God may let us get boxed in so that we will cry out to Him and express faith that says, "you are my only hope and I am your child who puts his or her faith entirely in you".

There is no better time to start praying than now. It's never too late to start talking to God. Jonah waited until his circumstances went from bad to worse to terminal. God kept him alive, God saved him with the giant fish; so that he could pray, so that Jonah could reach out to God.

Jonah was headed towards death and God delayed and …

God saves Jonah

Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.
-Jonah 1:17b

Jonah's story looked like it was coming to an end with his drowning at sea and then something unusual and unexpected happened. A great fish swallowed him and he was kept alive. He was saved by an USV, an unidentified swimming vehicle. Why three days and three nights? Three is one of the Bible's most often used numbers. Scholars have surmised that three means divine completion. Jewish sages, in their Talmud and Midrash literature, concluded that this scriptural phenomenon (of the third day motif) reveals a divine principle: God will rescue Israel, or a righteous person, on the third day of some great crisis. Also, Jonah's experience points to Christ and Jesus points back to Jonah.

Jesus talked about "the sign of Jonah" in Matthew 12:39-40 and in Luke 11:29-30: But he replied, “An evil and unfaithful generation searches for a sign, but it won’t receive any sign except Jonah’s sign. Just as…

Why all the sad songs (psalms)?

"My whole being is filled with distress; my life is at the very brink of hell. I am considered as one of those plummeting into the pit. I am like those who are beyond help, drifting among the dead lying in the grave, like dead bodies— those you don’t remember anymore, those who are cut off from your power. You placed me down in the deepest pit, in places dark and deep. Your anger smothers me; you subdue me with it, wave after wave.
Selah
You’ve made my friends distant. You’ve made me disgusting to them. I can’t escape. I’m trapped! "
Psalm 88:3-8 (CEB)

This is one of the most depressing portions of scripture. It's hopeless. There's no faith in it. But why are scriptures like this in The Book? Because the experience told by the writer is real and it's endorsed by God. What? Words like Psalm 88 are deeply comforting to the person on whom calamity has struck. If you hear your own voice in the words of Psalm 88, you are comforted to know that it is okay …

God prepares ahead to save us

Meanwhile, the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah 1:17a (CEB)

The original Hebrew language says that Yahweh, The Lord; numbered or appointed or assigned or ordained; a great fish to swallow Jonah. This was a very unusual fish in that it could swallow and house a man, with enough air for three days. What is amazing and wonderful is that this was God's plan. God had a plan for Jonah, in Jonah's disobedience. God's plan defies human logic. A human plan might have had Jonah stay on the ship and repent there.

Maybe Jonah was not repentant on the ship. To me, repentance means to turn around and go the other way. To admit one's fault is only a step. Sometimes a person will admit fault, but not be willing to change their ways.

God selected a special vehicle to keep Jonah alive. God had an ordained plan for this large fish. The fish was numbered in that God had that fish's number, meaning that God always had this assignment on this fish's life…

The terrible price of sin

They said to him, “What will we do about you so that the sea will become calm around us?” (The sea was continuing to rage.)
He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea! Then the sea will become calm around you. I know it’s my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
The men rowed to reach dry land, but they couldn’t manage it because the sea continued to rage against them. So they called on the LORD, saying, “Please, LORD, don’t let us perish on account of this man’s life, and don’t blame us for innocent blood! You are the LORD: whatever you want, you can do.” Then they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased its raging. The men worshipped the LORD with a profound reverence; they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made solemn promises. -Jonah 1:11-16 (CEB)

Jonah has been found out and he admits it is his fault. He has progressed from hider to confessor. Those found to be guilty do not always admit guilt. Jonah finds mercy for others in …

The unbelieving believer and his God

And he said to them, "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land." Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, "What is this that you have done!" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. -Jonah 1:9-10 (ESV)

Finally Jonah speaks. His self-disclosure goes straight to the point of why he is the cause of the storm. His 'people group' is Hebrew. He says that he fears the creator God. Most less literal Bible translations have Jonah instead saying that, "I worship the LORD". Jonah is saying that in the midst of this calamitous storm, in which you believe that someone has upset a god and the lots pointed to me as the one who has caused it; here is the information about me and my God.

But, the sailors had asked him, "what is your occupation, and where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?" Jonah simply ans…

Tell us about yourself

So they said to him, “Tell us, since you’re the cause of this evil happening to us: What do you do and where are you from? What’s your country and of what people are you?” -Jonah 1:8 (CEB)

The finger of God had pointed to Jonah in the lots and now the sailors gathered round him and began to question him. When we go on a journey in a vehicle with strangers, we don't always get the chance to become acquainted, but sometimes we do. In the story of Jonah, the other passengers and crew members were happy to let him remain anonymous. He was just "passenger x" to them. But, the crisis that arose and the determination of the lots that pointed to Jonah brought up the question of, "who are you?" "We would not have asked, we would have let you remain anonymous; but now your problems have become our problems", the sailors might have said.

The sailors and the author of Jonah are illustrating a communal cause and affect of sin. One person's sin or diso…