Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Resilient Hope

Devotion: Jonah 2:8-10

Human beings are remarkably resilient. A few months back I became somewhat obsessed with reading the horrific first-hand accounts of living in ISIS-occupied Mosul by the Mosul Eye. A particular entry from June 2016 talked about the high cost of living and the low wages. As I read through the entry I kept expecting the journalist to report that people were simply giving up, yet the final lines speak of people working longer hours to survive. In the midst of atrocities, violence and horror, in the midst of starvation, destruction and war, in the midst of persecution, oppression and injustice, people were simply trying to find a way to live. The good news is life is returning to Mosul--and the Christian witness there is back. I believe this resiliency is born of our innate sense of hope.
There is something in human nature that holds out hope. Whether we are in financial straits, in the midst of war or, perhaps, in the belly of a monstrous fish, we hold out hope that things will improve. Spiritually-speaking, our hope derives from a sense of alienation from God. Something in the sin of Adam creates a longing for what was lost, namely, an intimate, personal relationship with God. The Good News of the Gospel is that God desires to restore that relationship with us in Jesus Christ. While our petty hopes in our current circumstances may vary, the true hope of the Gospel is firm. Our hope and resiliency aims and prepares us for the Good News. This is exactly Jonah's point at the end of his prayer:
"Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land." -Jonah 2:8-10 ESV
Jonah knows there is only one true God, YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who delivered Israel out of Egypt. We know that this same God, the Triune God (Father, Son, Spirit) is the very one who raised Jesus from the dead on the third day. To worship any other god, giving devotion and allegiance to that which is not YHWH, is to actually forfeit and abandon the real hope of God's steadfast, faithful, covenant-fulfilling love.
While we may not bow down to carved, graven or other physical objects as the manifestation of a deity, we still bow down to ideas and concepts. Instead of trusting the Lord, we hope against hope that we will pull ourselves up by spiritual bootstraps and fly right. Instead of surrendering to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, we try really hard to be good moral agents who can get it right if we just put in enough effort. Instead of connecting with God in His Word as He ordains we attempt to find God in nature or thought and pretend that it makes no difference. God is sovereign (hence Jonah is cooling his heals in the belly of a fish) and He ordains His own revelation and worship. Jonah understands this and so he vows in prayer to worship God in the way God ordained (prayers of thanksgiving, sacrificial animals marking the fulfillment of his vow). As Christians, we understand that the old covenant system of worship came to a final and dramatic conclusion with the death of Jesus (see Hebrews 9:11-12), ushering in a new era of worship the relies upon the faithful self-sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross. Regardless, we too are to worship God as He commands and find our relationship with Him is restored and strengthened in that worship.
At any rate, Jonah finally concludes and understands that if he is to live, it will be by the Lord's own salvation. No one else can help him. Jonah knows enough of God's character (this will come up again in chapter 4) to understand that God does not desire the destruction of His creatures, but their salvation. Jonah knows first-hand that God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. His prayer concludes with the declaration that salvation belongs to YHWH, implying that outside of Him there is no real and lasting hope. Jonah's faith is well-founded as the Lord causes Jonah to be deposited on dry land. On a humorous note, I cannot imagine how bad Jonah stank and how long it took him to wash that stink out of his hair.
We are created for a intimate, personal relationship with God. When we all fell in Adam, we lost that relationship. God has moved in history, culminating in the ministry of Jesus Christ, to re-establish that relationship. Our hope, misplaced or well-placed, is an artifact of that desire for God that ultimately and only is fulfilled through salvation in Christ Jesus alone.

Our song this week is "Your Love" by Chris Howland featuring Sajan Nauriyal. Admittedly, it is a little different than what many are used to hearing, but the lyrical content is spot on.

News for You:

  • The new youth director position is ready for applicants. If you know of anyone who is qualified for the position, please contact the church.
  • For the month of April, we will be doing a diaper drive for Care Net. Please bring in size three diapers if possible, thank you!
  • All men are welcome to join the Men’s Bible Study on Mondays at noon, they will be reading from Judges!
  • Are you interested in hosting a small group? We are gearing up to launch our next small group session and could use your help. Please contact Pastor Bill if you are interested.

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