Posts tagged ‘Jonah’

Punishment and Patience

Credit: “Jonah foretells the destruction of Nineveh” by Jan Luyken (1712) / Public Domain

At the end of the book that bears his name, the prophet Jonah is seething. God has just spared city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, which is the arch-enemy empire of Israel. Jonah had seen this coming. In fact, he was so concerned that God might allow Israel’s arch-enemy to stand after God called the prophet to go and try to help Nineveh that he tried to hop a ship sailing the opposite direction from Nineveh to Tarshish. Jonah was not interested in giving any opportunity to God to extend mercy to the Ninevites. And he says as much:

Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. (Jonah 4:2)

Jonah wanted the Lord to be a judgment juggernaut – not a gracious God.

And yet, around 150 years later, God’s judgment does come for Nineveh, but through a different prophet – the prophet Nahum. This is what Nahum has to say:

The Lord has given a command concerning you, Nineveh: “You will have no descendants to bear your name. I will destroy the images and idols that are in the temple of your gods. I will prepare your grave, for you are vile.” (Nahum 1:14)

It turns out that the Ninevites repented of their sin during the time of Jonah, but then fell back into their sin after the time of Jonah. And now God’s judgment will come on them.

So often, like Jonah, we want God’s judgment to come in our way and on our schedule. We want to be judge, juror, and executioner of those who have sinned against us, or even of those who are morally opposed to us. But Jonah’s experience with Nineveh echoes the apostle Paul’s words:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:18-19)

God will judge – but not always in our way and on our schedule. Indeed, as Nahum – the prophet who does announce of God’s judgment – says:

The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. (Nahum 1:3)

The Lord does have power and punishment for sinners, but only after the Lord practices patience – lots of patience – with sinners. And for this, we should be grateful. Because God is not only patient with them, but patient with us. So, let’s be patient with God and allow Him to carry out His mercy and His judgment in His way.

I have a feeling He might know what He’s doing.

August 15, 2022 at 5:15 am 1 comment

ABC Extra – Daunting Decisions

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we kicked off a new series called “Unresolved” where we are addressing some of the biggest issues and struggles which are often left unresolved in people’s hearts and lives.  This weekend, we asked the question, “What happens when you are unresolved as to which direction you should take or which decision you should make for your life?  How do you receive direction from God?”

I have learned that, in general, God gives us direction in one of the three ways.  First, there are some things on which God directs us, “Go!”  These are things we ought to do and directions we ought to take.  For instance, God instructs the prophet Jonah, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2).  Jonah, however, disregards God’s commission and hops a ship to Tarshish, a city in the opposite direction of Nineveh.  Understandably, God is not pleased with Jonah’s rebellion and sends a storm in judgment on Jonah and his sailing companions.  In order to save themselves, the sailors throw Jonah overboard so that God will calm the crazy seas.  When Jonah is cast overboard, God appoints a fish to swallow Jonah and spit him up, poetically enough, right on the banks of Nineveh!  From Jonah, then, we learn that there is grave danger in not heeding God’s direction to “Go!”  In theological parlance, we call a failure to “Go” a “sin of omission.”  That is, when we know what we should do and where we should go, but we fail to do and go, we commit a sin of omission.  We omit God’s direction and instruction from our lives.

Second, there are some things on which God directs us, “Whoa!”  These are things we ought not to do and directions we ought not to take.  For instance, the famous “Thou shalt nots” of many of the Ten Commandments are things to which God says, “No!”  Should I sneak away with a lover and ruin my marriage?  “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14).  Should I tell a lie about someone else?  “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16).  Should I spend my time trying to coax others into giving me their things?  “Thou shalt not covet” (Exodus 29:17).  If we do not heed God’s commands and go where God says “Whoa,” in theological parlance, we call this a “sin of commission.”  That is, we cross a boundary God has drawn and thus commit a sin.  These sins too, like sins of omission, are gravely dangerous and offensive to God.

Finally, there are some things on which God directs us, “Grow!”  These are some decisions that God leaves us to make.  For instance, there are times that God will leave it up to us to choose a job, choose a place to live, or choose the stocks we invest our money in.  God can give us clear guidance on these decisions, but He does not promise to.  Therefore, sometimes He guides us in a specific direction concerning these issues and sometimes He does not.  The times when He does not specifically guide us help us grow, for we learn to make wise, reasonable decisions for ourselves.  The times when He does specifically guide us also help us grow, for they teach us to listen closely and carefully for God’s leading and prompting.

As I mentioned in ABC, it is with decisions like these – where God gives us no clear direction in His Word – that we do well to include three things in our decision making process.  First, we must ask for God’s wisdom and guidance.  Though this may sound obvious, far too many people do not do this!  They do not even consider the possibility that God may indeed have an opinion on a life decision!  Thus, learning simply to take your decisions – big and small – to God in prayer not only allows you to experience God’s guidance, it also strengthens your relationship with Him because you are speaking with Him about the significant and small things of your life on a daily basis.  Second, we should wait expectantly and intentionally for God’s answer.  So often, even when we do pray to God about a decision we must make or a challenge we must face, we do not wait for God’s answer.  We simply continue charging ahead at full speed, expecting God to strike us like a lightning bolt out of the blue with His answer.  But we must not only learn how to ask God for guidance, we must also learn how to listen.  This means taking time in slowness and solitude, seeking God’s direction.  Finally, we should counsel with other Christians.  Just as God can lead and guide us, he can lead and guide others.  Thus, the wisdom of other Christians is invaluable in helping us make wise decisions..

God can and does direct you.  As the Psalmist prays, “Direct my footsteps according to Your word.”  May his prayer be our prayer!  And may God give you His guidance!

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January 16, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

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