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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Relentless Pursuit

I purchased a new Bible study today on the life of Jonah.  Many of you remember we spend two years in Sunday School studying the book of Jonah.  Well, to be honest I can't get enough of him.  This will be my third book to read regarding his life.  This small book of four chapters shares so much in the life of a believer.  It is a picture of rebellion, grace, mercy and salvation.
 It is a picture of Christ as He cast Himself into the sea of His own wrath, entering the bowel of death for three days,so we could be saved.  It is a merciful story of How God relentlessly pursues those He loves. 

So let's get started, shall we...I want to give you a small bite of Jonah as God PREPARES the fish to save Him. 

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

There is much history and truth in this first verse that I'm struggling to condense it to my thoughts for this blog.  But here goes...God gave Jonah a word to share with a lost nation, with a people whom were the enemy of Israel, to a people who were the enemy of Jonah.  He gave Him a simple message GO and share my love and truth. But Jonah refused because he believed God was being unfair.  Jonah really thought he knew more than God.  Friends, we may not verbalise it but when we are disobedient we are saying the same thing.  God, my way is better.  You do not know what you are doing.  Not only are we Jonah in this story but we are also Nineveh.  We are the ones so wicked that no one could fathom why, or how, God would show mercy on us.

We see Jonah ran away from the Lord.  Somethings we physically run away from the presence of the Lord as well but most often we run away in our hearts. We distance ourselves from God and His word, from His people, from His will.  I see this truth in my self and as I was studying this lesson God graciously reminded me that even today, now, I am running.  You see, we are moving.  We are moving out of Alma and going to another state.  We are moving away from people I love and care so deeply for.  We are moving away from friends that I have grown to love as family. 

We see Jonah running.  He went DOWN to Joppa.  He went DOWN in the ship and later we learn that he went Down to sleep.  Jonah went down in his running.  I tend to hide emotionally in mine. God has given us all a ministry of reconciliation.  We all have a story and God intends us to share that God story with others.  He has called each of us to ministers of His new covenant.  He has called me to do a specific ministry at Southside.  Yet, I find now that we will be leaving I want to hide.  It is so much easier to stay home and not deal with emotion.  It is easier to hide out in my self protection than to get close to others.  It is easier to do my own will instead of God's. Even Monday, I had a fit and throw my fist at God, telling Him never to ask me to do ministry again.  Yep..I did and I seem to run and quit in my heart daily. I am positive though that God is not finished with me here in Alma.  There are other lives that need to hear my God story and there are others whose stories I desperately need to hear.  Friends, we need each other even if there is pain on the horizon.  I don't need to come up with an empty escape plan filled with false promises of fulfillment.  I need to stay obedient to what God has called me here to do.  I am here until the selling of my home.  Pain is coming and God's grace will be available for that at that specific time.

Not back to Jonah...God sent a great storm. This storm was not sent because God was angry at Jonah.  Nope, it was sent because God loved Jonah!  This storm was an act of mercy not only to get Jonah's attention but the sailors as well.

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.
10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)
11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

Long story short...God used Jonah's rebellion to bring salvation to the sailors.  It is also funny to me that the pagan sailors had more fear of the one true God and respect of others lives than Jonah did.  The sailors were concerned for Jonah and did not want to toss him over into the sea, yet Jonah had no regard for these sailors as he chose to run from God. As God was getting Jonah attention with the storm these men were in danger of the winds and the damage to the boat.  Our disobedience ALWAYS affects others.

We see God in His graciousness and mercy prepare a fish for Jonah.  This fish that swallowed Jonah was not an afterthought.  It was not punishment it was a provision for a rebellious man.  This fish was prepared to house Jonah and protect him from the sea.  There are symbolism here as well regarding Christ in the bowels of death for three days. 

But in short the book of Jonah is a story of God's plan to reconcile people of all nations to Himself.  This story is about God who loves His rebellious children and is relentlessly pursuing them to bring them back to Himself.  What a gracious and loving God. 


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