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<< Discover the Book, with Dr. John Barnett

Discover the Book - Nov. 8, 2008

  • 2008 Nov 08
  • COMMENTS
 

Worship Our God of Mercy and Righteousness

 

Jonah Says to Worship Our God of Mercy

 

Should I not pity Nineveh … in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”

Jonah 4:11

 

Jonah (793-753 B.C.) was a contemporary with Joel (853-796 B.C.) and Amos (760-750 B.C.). Our Lord God Almighty is both a chastening and a merciful seeking God (Jonah 1:1-2a). Out of the countless lives that have crossed the pages of time, we find two blips on the radar screen of eternity—seemingly insignificant to all but God. Eight centuries before Christ, a great storm swirled around a nameless boat somewhere in the Mediterranean. By all counts, it should have swamped that boat and sent the nameless mariners to the black depth of the sea to await judgment day.

Amazingly, these sinking sailors did not perish. Rather, they were miraculously rescued from harm by the Master of the ocean, earth, and skies. Of all places—sleeping in the dark, creaking, hold was an evangelist. Shaken awake by the terrified captain, questioned by shouted words over the fury of the storm, he spoke. And in Jonah 1:9 the disobedient rebel showed his heart. Asked to go east, he turned west. Told to rescue inland Ninevah, he sought the sea route to the furthermost western city known in his day—Tarshish, in western Spain.

In Jonah 1:3-9, we learn that there is folly in running from God, but power in speaking for God. It is almost humorous that, in spite of his persistence in disobeying the Lord and the breach of divine fellowship that it must have produced, Jonah gave a powerful testimony. Though Jonah’s actions were wrong, his heart couldn’t hide the Word of God for long—it just came out. And in all His power, God spoke to them. You see, the Scriptures are God speaking. When you share them, the voice of God is unleashed. The Bible is the unsheathed sword of the Spirit. So 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” (v. 9). Nine words that strike harder than the gale howling about them. It penetrates deeper than the cold sea spraying their faces and stinging their eyes. For you see, the Word can penetrate the very soul of mankind. He may have been endeavoring to resign his commission, but he could not change his heart, which remained that of a true prophet. So he pointed these mariners to the only Lord God.

The God Who Will Not Let Go: After Jonah gave his testimony (1:9), the sailors were “exceedingly afraid” (1:10). We have already been told once that the men were frightened of the storm. But why were the men so frightened at this point—apparently more than they were of the storm itself? They knew about Jonah’s God. These men had traveled from port to port around the Mediterranean Sea, hearing many stories of other people and their gods. Are we to think they had never heard of the Hebrew people, or of the Hebrew God, Jehovah? Of course, they had heard of Him!

The sailors had probably heard these reports: Jehovah was the God who brought down the plagues on Egypt so that His people might be led out. He parted the waters of the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape into the desert, and then closed the waters on the pursuing Egyptian forces. He led the Hebrews in the wilderness for forty years, protecting them by a cloud that spread out over their encampment. By day, that cloud gave them shade, but at night it turned into a pillar of fire to give them light and heat. He provided manna to eat and water to drink. Jehovah parted the waters of the Jordan River to enable the Israelites to cross over into Canaan, and He leveled the walls of Jericho for them. Amazingly, He also caused the sun to stand still at Gibeon so that Joshua would have time to achieve a full victory over the fleeing Amorites. On and on the stories could have gone … It is no wonder that these sailors feared Jonah’s God!

The Great God of the Hebrews: A weak god was not pursuing this boat and its hapless mariners; it was the great God of the Hebrews, and for the sake of Jonah. Oh, how they were terrified! … “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”for the sea was growing more tempestuous (1:11). They were unable to escape the fury of the storm, so they cried out to the Lord in fear: “We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You” (1:14). After the men threw Jonah into the sea, they … feared [reverenced] the Lord exceedingly and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows (1:15-16). The mariners were gloriously converted by our merciful God.

What happened after that? After a whale of a journey (2:1-10), chapter 3 shows Jonah arriving in Nineveh, preaching God’s message. Then “the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them” (3:5). The king decreed that everyone was to turn from their evil ways in the hope that God would turn away His fierce anger, and He did (3:7-10). Jonah, however, was displeased with God’s mercy, and became angry.

The Danger of Anger and Hasty Decisions: When we get angry at God, we often make the same serious mistakes Jonah made. What were they? He quit; he made a private retreat and became a spectator. In 4:9-10, God rebuked Jonah for his lack of compassion for the people of Nineveh. Jonah 4:11 reveals the heights of God’s mercy when he had pity on that great city because of its 120,000 small children—those “who cannot discern between their right hand and their left.”

We need to understand this truth: what God is going to do, He will do. If He has determined to save Mary Jones, God will save Mary Jones. If He has determined to save John Smith, God will save John Smith. Moreover, those whom He saves will never perish; neither will anyone pluck them out of Christ’s hand (John 10:28). But note that God can do this through the obedience of His children, as He does later with Nineveh through Jonah, in which case they share in the blessing. Or He can do it through His children’s disobedience, as we see here through Jonah’s selfishness, in which case they miss the blessing. Either way, God blesses those whom He will bless, but the one case involves happiness for His people while the other involves misery.

Which represents your case? Are you resisting Him? Are you refusing His Great Commission? Or are you obeying Him in this and in all other matters?

Perhaps you are not yet a Christian. If not, learn from God’s wonderful grace to the sailors. You have not yet perished in your godless state because God, who made the sea around you and the dry land on which you walk, preserves you. But do not remain indifferent to Him; turn to Him on the basis of the perfect sacrifice for sin made once by His own Son, Jesus Christ. Then follow Him throughout your days.

 

FRIDAY: Micah Says to Worship Our God of Righteousness

 

What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

—Micah 6:8, emphasis added

 

Micah (742-687 B.C.) was a contemporary with Hosea (753-715 B.C.) and Isaiah (740-681 B.C.). Although Micah was a contemporary with the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah was a court poet, but Micah was from a small village. Isaiah was a statesman, a herald to kings, but Micah was an evangelist and social reformer. He was God’s messenger to the misfortunate, oppressed common people. Micah’s message, however, like Isaiah’s, is one of hope. Both speak of the birth of the coming Messiah and the salvation He would bring. And in two of the most remarkable passages in all Scripture, both speak, almost word for word, of Israel’s future and the coming glorious earthly reign of the Messiah (Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-3). Only seven chapters long, Micah’s message contains some of the most familiar passages in all of Scripture. For example, the prophet announces the place of the Messiah’s birth: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (5:2).

One deeply impactful truth Micah points out is that as the leaders go, so go the people. He says that Jerusalem’s leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for pay, and her prophets divine for money (3:11).

Micah points to Jesus Christ as the only answer to the world’s problems. The poor, the oppressed, and the misfortunate have the “one who breaks open [and] will come up before them …” (2:13). Christ the Messiah breaks through the obstacles in the path ahead. In the future He will do this for Israel, when the remnant is gathered into the fold. But today He helps us through our perplexing paths, as we trust in Him.

Messiah’s kingdom will come (4:1-8), and Jerusalem will be its center (4:1-2). Peace will reign. Nations … shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore (4:3). Prosperity will abound, each will … sit under his vine and ... fig tree … (4:4). God will be central as … we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever (4:5). The same God who brings heaven to earth can bring solutions to our problems today.

What does God want from us in exchange? Micah answers that we are … to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with [our] God (6:8). No one is exempt. We are to be clothed with Christ, according to God’s expectations of us. We are to live the truth and look to Jesus!

 

 

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