Jonah 3:17 When God saw that they had put a stop to their evil ways, he had mercy on them and didn’t carry out the destruction he had threatened. I think this is the essential message of the Gospels, here in the Old Testament. People repent and God has mercy. God doesn’t want to punish people. He just wants us to realize that our way is wrong and follow His way which is better. He wants to show mercy. It’s like with my children. I want them to be obedient and I want to be merciful because I really don’t like having to discipline them. I know it’s necessary because if they don’t obey, they could get hurt. And on that note, Mr. G is up and about….
Jonah 2:7 “When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the LORD. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple.” Why is it that we only turn to God when we’ve lost all hope? When life is goeing along and everything is lovely we think about other things and are preoccupied with our lives. But when we don’t know where else to turn and there’s nothing else we can do, then we turn to think about God. It’s like the post a couple days ago on self-sufficiency. I can do it myself and I don’t need God. Then I realize that I can’t do it! But that’s the problem. I can’t do anything without Christ. Doesn’t Jesus say in John 15:5 that apart from Him we can do nothing? So, all that time we’re trying to do it on our own and trust in ourselves, we’re really just making things worse, withering up away from the vine, and spiraling down – even though we don’t even realize it. So maybe if we turn to God before we lose all hope things will be a little smoother. And speaking of smooth… the littles are up, so I’m off! Have a blessed day!
Jonah 1:19 The sailors were awestruck by the LORD’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him. I’d have been pretty awestruck, too. Imagine! There are 10-20 foot waves crashing around your not-so-huge boat. You’ve thrown everything you can into the boiling, churning water in a desperate attempt to stay afloat. The rain is whipping around like nails, hammering the deck in a thunderous applause. The deck rears up, throwing people and the few objects left from one side to the other, threatening to knock everyone into the deadly sea. The sky is black, and the water is blacker. All hope seems lost. But then, a crazy guy who can sleep through a storm this bad, admits to angering a God you’ve never heard about and offers to be thrown overboard. And the minute his feet leave the deck on his way into the water, instantly the sea is calm, the driving wind and rain become a gentle breeze, the clouds vanish and the sun shines down. Yeah, I’d be awestruck! Even though Jonah disobeyed God and brought a great storm on these guys, there was some good that came from it. No, Jonah didn’t really learn a great lesson because when God didn’t destroy Ninevah he was very upset (You should watch the Veggie Tales version – Jonah and the Big Fish – to get a great illustration of this point). But these sailors, who had just thrown their livelihoods overboard, became servants of the Most High God. Our disobedience affects other people. Jonah’s probably cost the sailors tons of money. But it doesn’t have to be all bad. God used Jonah’s sin to show His power, punishment, and mercy to the sailors who might never have heard of Him otherwise. I’m not advocating sinning just so God can use it for good. I’d imagine that far more good comes from our obedience; but since we are constantly fighting our fleshly, natural natures, sin is inevitable (remember that verse… all have sinned – Rom 3:23….yeah, that would be me and you and everybody on earth). It’s a bit reassuring to know that God can bring good from our stubbornness and selfishness and pride.
Obediah 1 As I’m reading through all the prophets and their messages of doom (and the occasional glimmer of hope) it’s easy for me to wonder what on earth I can learn from it. And then today, as I read a commentary on Obediah, it smacked me in the face! OUCH! The man who wrote the commentary points out that the struggle between Israel and Edom (of whom Obediah speaks) is an ancient one that originated in the struggle between Jacob and Esau! That this struggle is symbolic of the struggle between the Spirit and the flesh. This fleshly part is pride. That’s what the Bible says was Esau’s problem, and it’s ours too. I read that and kept going filing it away as interesting. Until I read: one way it might be expressed is in self-sufficiency… Bam! That caught my attention! This is something I struggle with constantly! It’s also an area of my life that I feel God has been working on for a while through all these financial issues. My first thought when there’s a problem is, “how can I fix this?” And there’s that self-sufficiency rearing its ugly head. I had never connected that with pride until now. So, that right there put the whole thing in perspective. I asked God to speak to me this morning, and man, did He ever! To a great degree, the struggles of the past year make sense. It’s the eternal struggle between Jacob and Esau, Israel and Edom, Spirit and flesh (pride). I am getting a little better about the self-sufficiency thing. Not so much because it’s second nature, but more because God has removed my ability to be self-sufficient. Most times there’s nothing I can do but trust that He’ll take care of things. Self-sufficient is itself an interesting term. Self – that’s me, me, me (the essence of pride). Sufficient – that’s the ability to be enough. God says His grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul hopes that his courage will be sufficient so he won’t disgrace his Lord (Phil. 1:20). 2 Corinthians 3:5 says that “our sufficiency is from God.” So when we believe we are enough by ourselves or in ourselves, we shut out God and make ourselves higher than He is. What a mistake that is! Every time I’ve done this, I’ve found that I’m not everything I’ve made myself out to be, and the consequences of my pride are pretty ugly. So what can I learn from all these prophets? I look for the metaphor. And realizing that I fall victim to pride (my flesh) I can learn to recognize those moments of self-sufficiency so I can stop trying to play God and let God be exalted and sufficient for me. And hopefully, sooner rather than later, I’ll get better at this lesson.
Amos 9:1 (NLT) Then I saw a vision of the Lord standing beside the altar. Interesting commentary from Matthew Henry: Observe with what solemnity the sentence is passed. The prophet saw in vision the Lord standing upon the altar (v. 1), the altar of burnt-offerings; for the Lord has a sacrifice, and multitudes must fall as victims to his justice. He is removed from the mercy-seat between the cherubim, and stands upon the altar, the judgment-seat, on which the fire of God used to fall, to devour the sacrifices. He stands upon the altar, to show that the ground of his controversy with this people was their profanation of his holy things; here he stands to avenge the quarrel of his altar, as also to signify that the sin of the house of Israel, like that of the house of Eli, shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever, 1 Sa. 3:14. He stands on the altar, to prohibit sacrifice. Amos 9:7 “Do you Israelites think you are more important to me than the Ethiopians*?” asks the LORD. “I brought you out of Egypt, but have I not done as much for other nations, too? I brought the Philistines from Crete* and led the Arameans out of Kir. From the Commentary: See how light he makes of the favours he had conferred upon them; they thought he would not, he could not, cast them off, and put them upon a level with other nations, because he had done that for them which he had not done for other nations, whereby they thought he was bound to them, so as never to leave them. “No,’’ says he, “The favours shown to you are not so distinguishing as you think they are: Have I not brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt?’’ It is true I have; but I have also brought the Philistines from Caphtor, or Cappadocia, where they were natives, or captives, or both; they are called the remnant of the country of Caphtor (Jer. 47:4), and the Philistim are joined with the Caphtorim, Gen. 10:14. In like manner the Syrians were brought up from Kir when they had been carried away thither, 2 Ki. 16:9. Note, If God’s Israel lose the peculiarity of their holiness, they lose the peculiarity of their privileges; and what was designed as a favour of special grace shall be set in another light, shall have its property altered, and shall become an act of common providence; if professors liken themselves to the world, God will level them with the world. And, if we live not up to the obligation of God’s mercies, we forfeit the honour and comfort of them.
Amos 8:7 Now the Lord has sworn this oath by his own name, the Pride of Israel:… In Hebrew the name is “The Pride of Jacob.” Remember, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel after wrestling with God. I read a post recently that said, “So much of Genesis is about Jacob’s struggle to make God his God.” This is an interesting point. Why would one of God’s names be The Pride of Jacob if it took Jacob so long to even make God his own God? I suddenly realize how little I know of Jacob. I think that maybe I will go back and study him a little so that I can better understand this name of God. Perhaps this name has something to do with the fact that it took Jacob quite some time to take pride in God and accept his name change. Similarly, it took God a long time to finally punish the nation of Israel. God had patience with both Jacob and his namesake nation. It’s an interesting name.
Amos 4:24 Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living. What a great image this is! A might flood and an endless river! The endless river especially captured my imagination. A river is strong, enduring, wide, and generally pretty deep. It’s not a stream that is shallow, small, and can dry up in a drought. To have an endless river of righteous living is to live righteously enduringly and ongoingly, with strength and depth. Right living isn’t something that should dry up when it’s inconvenient or difficult. Right living should touch every part of our lives, not just the surface. It’s a choice. And it makes God happy. Ultimately it will make us happy, too.