Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Plan and Part

Devotion: Jonah 4:5-7

I am glad to be back in the blog saddle this week, but just a reminder that our blog updates will be spotty over the summer months. At any rate, let's continue in our study of Jonah.

We last left Jonah angry with God over his grace for the great city of Nineveh. Jonah preached destruction because he hoped that destruction would befall that city. When the city repented and the Lord was gracious, Jonah was mad. The prophet had a plan and a part for God to play, but the Lord had a different plan.
Frustration is the result of Jonah's plan not aligning with the plan of God. And so this week we find Jonah pitching a tent (i.e. booth) with a good vantage point of the city:
"Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered." -Jonah 4:5-7 ESV
Jonah cannot take God's grace and deliverance of Nineveh for an answer. The prophet is so convinced that Nineveh ought to be destroyed that he camps out and waits. Jonah cannot accept that he was wrong and that God will not play a part in his plan.
To teach Jonah this lesson, God causes a plant to grow and give shade to Jonah. Jonah, camping out to see Nineveh destroyed, is really happy to have some shade. Then, the next morning, the Lord sends a worm to destroy the plant and take away the shade. We will see next week that this upsets Jonah. So what is the point of it all?
The point is this--it is the Lord's plan that matters. We can have days of joy and comfort and days of pain and discomfort. In the end, the Lord is sovereign and it is His plan that matters. God will not play a part in our plans, but, by His grace, we may play a part in His plan. Jonah had attempted to put his will over the will of God and the result was that Jonah grew frustrated, even angry, that the Lord would not capitulate to his desire.
I think we all can learn a lesson from this. Often our frustration, even anger, with God is because the Lord will not do what we want when we want it how we want it. God will not play the role we assign to him and so we get mad at God. Yet, in the midst of it all, God is telling us simply, "You are not in charge." What we do with that lesson will depend on our relationship with God in faith.

The song this week is "Concrete Heart" by Tina Boonstra.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

No Thanks

Devotion: Jonah 4:1-4

The Lord was pleased to save Nineveh from destruction through the preaching of destruction by Jonah and the repentance of the powerful city, from the least to the greatest. Jonah's preaching ministry, from the modern Christian perspective, was massively successful. People and even animals were in sackcloth, fasting was the rule of the day, and even the king sought the Lord's mercy. So why is it the story now takes such a twisted and dark turn?
"But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, 'O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.' And the LORD said, 'Do you do well to be angry?' " -Jonah 4:1-4 ESV
Jonah was angry that Nineveh repented and was saved. To see things from Jonah's perspective we need to understand that Assyria, the superpower of the day, had sorely pressed and oppressed Israel. It is not too far a stretch to see that Jonah had a revenge-fantasy concerning Assyria. Jonah's desired outcome from the brutal and cruel Assyrian empire, represented here by their chief city of Nineveh, was utter, complete and total destruction. To put it bluntly, Jonah wants to see them dead.
We can characterize Jonah's desire as justice, but that is not how the Lord sees it. Sin is the problem and the solution for sin is death. Yet, Jonah correctly observes that the Lord is gracious, merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Sin will lead to death, but the death in this case is not the one Jonah desires. He desires physical destruction and perhaps even eternal damnation.
The death the Lord has in mind, however, in this case is the death to the old self that we call repentance. As Christians we see our repentance in Christ Jesus' death on the cross. Jesus took our deserved death and gave us His unconquerable life in its place. This is all accomplished and applied to us by the Holy Spirit in grace. To be blunt, this is not what Jonah wanted. If this is the way of the Lord, Jonah says, "No thanks!"
Indeed, Jonah states that the reason he denied the call of the Lord at the start was that he knew this was the likely outcome. Jonah so hated Nineveh that their salvation actually led him to suicidal thoughts. His desire for vengeance was so great that when that desire went unmet he actually wanted his life to end. Of course, the Lord intervenes asking Jonah if he is doing the right thing in his anger? The positive question here expects the negative response. The Lord is also telling Jonah, "No thanks," to his crummy attitude.
And this leads us to our understanding of call and service. Unfortunately we too can be caught up in hatred, vengeance and rage toward others. We may even be so angry that we fantasize about destruction, even damnation for our enemies and those who wrong us. But think for a moment if this was the Lord's posture toward his enemies. Recall that all sinners are enemies of God. And then remember, "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8). To say, "no thanks," to mercy is to deny that the Lord has been merciful to you in salvation. We are called to serve the Lord and never refuse the Good News of Jesus Christ to anyone for any reason.

The song is "I Will Serve" by Called Out Music.

News for You:

  • Camp is just around the corner and there's no better way to stay in the know than to become a member of the Camp Chelan 2018 Facebook Group!
  • The Ladies' Walk and Talk Group will mee every Saturday at 8 AM, at Eastside Park through the summer. Fellowship & exercise together. Invite a friend!