Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jonah 3:1-4

Nineveh Repents
1Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,

2"Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you."

3So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days' walk.

4Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown."

Do you feel as though you have heard these words before? The first two verses of Chapter 3 are almost the same as the first two verses of Chapter 1. God's word comes to Jonah, telling him to arise and go to Nineveh. And, this time, Jonah "arose and went."

[Tee hee!]

In Chapter 1, Jonah is told by God to "cry against it [Nineveh]" because of the city's sinfulness before the Lord. In Chapter 3, Jonah is told to "proclaim a proclamation." Not only is he told to proclaim something, but he is told that God will tell him what it is (vs. 2). God will accomplish His purposes as He wishes. Jonah is not going to misunderstand His purposes this second time around, and being handed the words from God Himself will certainly make his task slightly easier.

According to my study Bible, Jonah is the only prophet sent by God to preach repentance in a foreign land. This is not an easy calling. That Jonah ran away from Nineveh the first time is something that cannot be undone. It's also a memory that could easily come back and maybe hamper his efforts. Reading into things, perhaps, but it seems that God is continuing to bolster his messenger with exactly what he needs--physical strengthening, mental fortitude and the words to speak. Isn't it just like God to do that when we are faithful?!

Just standing at the door to Nineveh must have been a fearful sight. Not only was Nineveh a city of influence, but it was a big city, requiring a three-day journey to see it all 60 miles of it (vs 3). Still, Jonah begins his preaching on day one with one message: 40 days and Nineveh will be overthrown. Tough message to have to share when you're the out-of-town prophet with bad news!

"But you shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious.
--Ezekiel 2:7 (cross-referenced verse)

"Exceedingly great." (vs 3) I definitely would not have thought that this meant more that just the size of the city. More literally, in translation, the phrase means "a great city to God." This speaks volumes of God's tremendous grace, mercy and love, shown both to Jonah and to Nineveh. God surely could have destroyed Nineveh for its wickedness, but, there was something which made it a city of greatness to the Father. Or, God could have left Jonah at the bottom of the Mediterranean and brought in a more confident and faithful prophet to handle His work. But, He had a much bigger plan in mind. Not on the scope of Nineveh's size. Much more personal and influential!

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him."
--I John 3:1

Jonah discovered, again, the great love of his Father. And, again, he had the opportunity to let more in the world know that same love--even as he had to point out the sinfulness that was keeping Nineveh separated from that love.

And, Nineveh responds.... 'Til next Wednesday!

Photo:,r:10,s:0; and,,r:0,s:0

* * *

Next week: Jonah 3:5-10

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Jonah 2:5-10

5"Water encompassed me to the point of death
The great deep engulfed me,
Weeds were wrapped around my head.
6"I descended to the roots of the mountains
The earth with its bars was around me forever,
But You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.
7"While I was fainting away,
I remembered the LORD,
And my prayer came to You,
Into Your holy temple.
8"Those who regard vain idols
Forsake their faithfulness,
9But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving
That which I have vowed I will pay
Salvation is from the LORD."

10Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.

How close to death was Jonah? Not sure you could be much closer! As we continue to look at Jonah's prayer to God, we come across a very detailed description of Jonah's plunge. He had fallen into the depths of the sea, for sure. Figuratively, Jonah also fell about as far as one can go. Blinded by his pride (weeds) and left at the roots of the mountains (as opposed to the top of the mountain in a relationship with God), Jonah recounts his plight--and his redemption.

"But you have brought up my life from the pit...." (vs. 6)

Jonah was rescued by being swallowed by a God-appointed fish and kept in safety within this fish for three days and nights. It is this fact and somewhat similar circumstance that Jesus would use in preaching to the Pharisees about signs in Matthew 12.

"Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.' But He answered and said to them, 'An evil and adulterous generations craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.'"
--Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 12: 38-41

It's not that asking for a sign is a sin. If you have faith, then a sign confirms that faith which you already have. The Pharisees did not have that kind of faith, and, thus, their asking for a sign was condemned by Jesus, although the Lord did reveal quite a bit about what was to come in this passage [even going a bit beyond where we are in the study, at the moment!] As truthful as it is that the facts of the three days and nights are the same, that Jonah would move on from that moment to speak to a nation, and to cause a nation to repent are facts not to be missed. Yet, as Jesus says, something greater than Jonah is here. Are we missing something?....

I think this says a lot about hope--believing in the God of creation, being faithful in following the purposes laid out by the God of creation and knowing that, even when we fall to the greatest depths, there is mercy, redemption and another chance waiting to follow and fulfill His will.

"Jonah's deliverance may be considered as an instance of God's power over all the creatures; as an instance of God's mercy to a poor penitent, who in distress prays to him; and as a type and figure of Christ's resurrection. Amidst all our varying experiences, and the changes scenes of life, we should look by faith, fixedly, upon our once suffering and dying, but now risen and ascended Redeemer. Let us confess our sins, consider Christ's resurrection as an earnest of our own, and thankfully receive every temporal and spiritual deliverance, as the pledge of our eternal redemption."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

I love verse 8--the expressed honesty and transparency of Jonah's mistake: "Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness." Truly, this time in the fish has allowed him to fully see the error of his ways. Whether Jonah was after treasure in Joppa or just an escape of his own, he allowed himself to put a "vain idol" before his first call, which was to answer God and to fulfill the mission God had placed before him. As soon as he went down the path of vanity, he forsook his faithfulness in God, and discovered every consequence short of death for his choice.

Jonah finishes his prayer in similar response to the sailors who encountered the mighty God--with thanksgiving for their lives ("Salvation is from the Lord," and only from the Lord!) and with vows to follow through on God's ministry for him. Although Jonah doesn't directly say in the prayer that he is returning to Nineveh, the next chapter confirms his next move.
The chapter closes with God commanding the fish to vomit Jonah back up onto the land. My study Bible says that he ends up on a shore near Joppa. God, obviously, satisfied that Jonah's heart was back in its right place would renew his strength and restore him to the mission field.

"When my soul fainted upon me [crushing me], I earnestly and seriously remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple."

--vs. 7, Amplified Bible

Jonah's second chance to get to Nineveh.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Jonah 3:1-4

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Jonah 2:1-4

Jonah's Prayer
1Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish,
2and he said, "I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me.
I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice.

3"For You had cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me.
4So I said, 'I have been expelled from Your sight.
Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.'"

Chapter 2 of Jonah opens not with a description of his current "housing" but with his prayer to God. His tone is different than it was on the deck of the ship. Through this prayer, we are finally starting to hear the heart of this servant of God, and it is a heart that has been broken.

Can you even fathom putting yourself into this story...literally? For Jonah to say he was distressed was putting things mildly. I like how the King James Version puts verse 2a: "...out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice." I realize the fish has been called by God to fulfill a saving role here, but I side with Jonah in feeling about as low as one can be, belly of a fish or lower.

But, twice in this same verse, we are encouraged in reading that God heard Jonah and answered Jonah.

"No place is amiss for prayer. Men may shut us from communion with one another, but not from communion with God."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Perhaps this is why God ordained that the chapter open with Jonah's prayer, rather than more third-person narrative. Because when we are facing desperate times, no matter where we are, we need turn only to the Lord. Jonah should have recognized this in chapter 1, thus saving himself this perilous journey on which he put himself. But, isn't it all too true that when we find ourselves in trouble that we might just move instead of be still? Run away instead of pray?

In verse 3, Jonah recounts God's response to his sinfulness. If he hadn't thought about where that storm originated, time in the fish would certainly afford him that now. Jonah is pounded by breakers (heavy waves) and billows (a surge of the sea). My fascination with words and their roots continues to be spurred in this study. Our English word billows comes from an older root word meaning "to anger or provoke"; also "to swell" (as in 'belly'). I would not have thought that 'billows' would tell the story of Jonah, but.... [cool!]

God cast out every storm element possible and then cast all the elements of the sea to completely envelope Jonah. Where the NASB uses 'expelled', the King James uses 'cast out', only this time, it doesn't mean to reel out or throw. It means to drive out, as in "divorce or expatriation." [Strong's] That's a pretty powerful statement--a pretty powerful action. The covering of the waves over Jonah figuratively represented God's separating himself from His servant, and His servant from his place of service.

The gravity of his situation fully weighing upon his head, Jonah continues to pray:

"Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple." (vs 4)

Here is the point where redemption starts. No matter where we have been or what we have done, "nevertheless".... Jonah could have mumbled on about lots of things, but he has sobered up to the reality that even though he has messed up, the One to turn to is God! Even when it would seem that God has totally pulled the plug on us, we need to seek His light for our salvation.

Closing today with a long cross-reference from II Chronicles. But, after you read it, you'll understand why I chose to include it. To quote lyrics from a song on the VeggieTales' soundtrack of the movie Jonah, "God's love goes overboard for you...Mercy goes overboard for you."

"When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to a land far off or near, if they take thought in the land where they are taken captive, and repent and make supplication to You in the land of their captivity, saying, 'We have sinned, we have committed iniquity and have acted wickedly';

if they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, where they have been taken captive, and pray toward their land which You have given to their fathers and the city which You have chosen, and toward the house which I have built for Your name,

then hear from heaven, from Your dwelling place, their prayer and supplications, and maintain their cause and forgive Your people who have sinned against You.

Now, O my God, I pray, let Your eyes be open and Your ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place."

--II Chronicles 6: 36-40

More from Jonah's prayer and what Jesus had to say.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Jonah 2:5-10

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Jonah 1:13-17

13However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them.

14Then they called on the LORD and said, "We earnestly pray, O LORD, do not let us perish on account of this man's life and do not put innocent blood on us; for You, O LORD, have done as You have pleased."

15So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging.

16Then the men feared the LORD greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.

17And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.

Last time, Jonah offered up an answer for stopping the raging seas that were pounding his Tarshish-bound boat into pieces. "...Throw me into the sea," he said. (vs 12) Just wanting it all to be over, Jonah resigned himself to bringing resolution to the situation.

But, looking back to the sailors, these men who were faced with the presence of God all around them and His messenger before them, what would they do? They decide not to accept Jonah's response but rather attempt to row back to shore. I can't help but feel that these guys were completely overwhelmed with their circumstances. Obviously, they wanted the storm to stop, God to not be angry and Jonah to not be fish bait. This verse suggests that they wanted to take the matter into their own hands, once again, and to try to settle things on dry land. [Can anyone relate?]

"All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, 'What have You done?'"
--Daniel 4:35

I like the phrasing in this cross-referenced verse from Daniel. No one can say, "What have You done?" No one can speak this of God, yet this is the phrase that the sailors used in questioning Jonah about His dealings with the Lord. Don't mess with God, right? The sailors, though, find themselves in the same boat [pun, sorry!] as Jonah, trying to make a better way than what God has provided.

As altruistic as the sailors' plan might have been, God did have another plan in mind, and Jonah was on the right track. God turned up the sea, which was all the sailors needed to see to change their minds. "Then they called on the Lord...." (vs 14)

In a united effort, the sailors pray. Very uncomfortable with the prospect of throwing Jonah overboard, they ask God to spare them, and to not hold them responsible for what they are about to do. Yet, even as they pray this, they follow up this request with a strong statement of understanding and belief: "...for You, O Lord, have done as You have pleased."

"Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps."
--Psalm 135:6

The sailors clearly acknowledge that God is in control of their destiny and that His will is being accomplished before their eyes. They are at a point of human helplessness--at the point of witnessing God's mercy and grace, strength and power! There are no more words recorded from either the sailors or Jonah. Just as God cast a storm upon the sea, the men cast Jonah into the sea, and the waters immediately calm. Again, out of their budding faith and witness of the Almighty, the sailors are in awe, and offer a sacrifice and vows to God.

I am completely captivated with the story of these sailors. I'm not sure we pay as much attention as we should to what these men experienced. As I was sharing with a friend who read last week's blog, these men came to a saving knowledge of the one true God through Jonah's words and actions, and the mighty presence of the Lord Himself.

"He has made His wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate.... The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom...."
--Psalm 111: 4 & 10a [thanks, KS]

If Jonah only had understood his purpose as a walking, breathing presence of the Lord and His wonders to those who did not know Him. If Jonah only had the faith to know that God would be present with him, even in the midst of life's "storms." But Jonah is now tossed into the sea. Yet we know this is not the end of the story.

As the chapter closes, we read that Jonah is swallowed by a great fish. Plenty of debate over this part of the story. What kind of fish? We know that the Hebrew word for whale is not used in verse 17. Some commentaries suggest a shark, which would have been common in the waters of the Mediterranean. It may have been some type of sea monster. We know it was large enough of a fish to swallow an entire man and to house him in its belly (which, in the Hebrew comes from "an unused root word probably meaning to be soft." [Strong's] The soft prophet is now in soft shelter.

Let's not miss how significant verse 17 is. Jonah is not dead! His sheltering fish is one "appointed" by God. And Jonah remains here, safe for three days and nights. Yes, grace can come when we're in the bowels and the depths! Perhaps here, Jonah will discover what the sailors far above his position had already come to know.

"Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water.
Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea...."
--as sung by Canadian Gospel pop band, Ocean, 1971

Chapter 2, and Jonah's repentance.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Jonah 2:1-4

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).