Wednesday, March 14, 2018

To Tell the Truth

Devotion: Jonah 1:7-9

As a kid I remember spending time watching old episodes of "To Tell the Truth." If you are not familiar with the program, it features three contestants who all claim to be a particular person with a particular story, usually with some unusual or fantastic twist. A panel is tasked, then, with asking the contestants questions and determining who is telling the truth. To my surprise, the program was revived in 2016 and is currently running on ABC. At any rate, what fascinated me as a kid was the moment of truth, that point when the real person would stand up. I remember when the panel was completely wrong and when the panel got it just right. It is the moment when truth is revealed that mattered though, regardless of how well the panel did.
In our passage from Jonah this week we have the moment that truth is revealed. It comes about through casting lots (throwing dice or other objects to determine who was the odd-one-out) in the midst of a raging storm. The lot falls on Jonah and it comes time to tell the truth:
"And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, 'Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?' 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.' " -Jonah 1:7-9 ESV
Jonah only really answers one of the many questions he is asked. He tells the other passengers and sailors about his people, saying, "I am a Hebrew." He then goes on to bear witness about his God. Jonah tells them the name of his God, YHWH, here written as "the LORD," and that his God is the one who made heaven, the sea and the dry land. What Jonah cannot bring himself to do is to tell them why this calamity has fallen on the ship bound for Tarshish, namely that he is fleeing from God's call.
Also, Jonah, to his credit, does not ascribe 'evil' to his God. Jonah knows full well that the storm has come upon the ship because of his own disobedience to the call of God and he will shortly move to remedy that disobedience in a self-sacrificial way (that will be next week). Therefore the storm is not evil, but rather a time of suffering to serve the good purpose of God, delivering his prophet to Nineveh to proclaim the word of his judgment. At present, in the midst of a raging storm Jonah tells the truth about his God and this is a witness that will bear fruit shortly.
I think we lose sight of the setting for this passage too quickly. This casting of lots and discussion is not a calm discussion after dinner while everyone pokes at a piece of pie. Instead, the storm continues to rage all around them and the need for truth, quickly and succinctly stated, is paramount. The storm is unnatural and with the supernatural worldview of the ancients, they know it must come from some divine force. The pagan sailors are sure it is because someone has displeased a god/goddess, and, in a way, they are right. Yet, it is not a fickle pagan deity, but the Lord, the maker of heaven of earth that has brought the storm upon them. The storm is not intended for evil, but for good. The storm is intended to call God's man, Jonah, back to his senses and to the Lord's service.
We need to see and tell the truth in our own lives. When suffering, tragedy and crisis come upon us, are we more apt to shake an angry fist at heaven or plead for deliverance than we are to receive the suffering as a reminder of our finitude and our need for God? I think too often we simply want the suffering to end rather than asking how God is using suffering for His own good purpose. To tell the truth about suffering is to acknowledge that suffering often serves God's purpose of calling us back to Him and to His service.

The song is "Prodigal" from Tina Boonstra.

News for You:

  • Thanks for all the support and donations to our Sanctuary Sound fund. We have reached our goal, ordered equipment and will begin the project very soon!
  • CPC member Marian McClanahan recently published a book about her life, titled “Vignettes of an Ordinary Life.” If you wish to support Marian and her book, you can find it on Amazon!
  • Maundy Thursday, March 29th, at 7pm will be a service of scripture, prayer, and the Lord’s Supper.
  • Community Good Friday Service will be on March 30th at 7pm at CPC!
  • Sonrise Service will be at the Omak Memorial Cemetery on April 1st at 6:30am.

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