Do You Have Good Reason To Be Angry?

Reading through the fourth chapter of Jonah we can easily notice a key repeated phrase, “God appointed.” In this chapter we read that God appointed a plant to grow, appointed a worm to a certain time for the specific purpose of eating the plant, and appointed a scorching east wind to blow after the plant was gone. Hopefully this key repeated phrase causes us to recall its first use in this book back in the first chapter when we read, “the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah.”

In the book of Jonah our Lord shows Himself sovereign over the sea and that in the sea. He calls a storm to start and calls that storm to cease. He calls a great fish and instructs that great fish in what to do and when to do it. Our God is sovereign over the earth as He commands a plant to grow from the ground and to grow in such a way to offer shade to a grown man. He is sovereign over the smallest of the creeping things as He instructs a worm to come at a specific time to devour a specific plant. He is sovereign over the wind, and not just the direction it comes from or the direction to which it goes, but the temperature in which it blows. This is our God.

When we stop to really think about it the only thing in all of creation that has the freedom to disobey God is mankind. The sea didn’t have the freedom to say, not today God, I don’t feel rocking the waves at the moment. The fish didn’t get the freedom to say, no God I’m full and really don’t like the taste of man. The plant didn’t argue back with God and say it was only going to grow so high. The worm didn’t have the freedom to say, that sounds good God but dawn is a little early, I’d rather wait until tonight. The wind didn’t have the freedom to come from the west and to be a cool breeze. Jonah, however, did have the freedom to run in the complete opposite direction of where God instructed him to go, but let us not for one minute think that God didn’t have the power and authority to force Him to obey.

Our Lord chooses to allow us the freedom to fail and to fall. He wants our loyalty and obedience because we love Him not because it was forced. He has chosen us and He wants us to choose Him back. He created us in His image and He wants to see us reflect Him. One of the ways that He wants to see us reflect Him is in our lovingkindness and compassion for people, people that He created, people that He created to bear His image.

The Lord loved Jonah and the Lord wanted Jonah to learn to love. Jonah is angry because his gracious, compassionate, slow to anger God, is not going to pour out His wrath on Nineveh, but instead is pouring out His lovingkindness. Jonah wanted to see judgment so he was not happy with the sight of mercy coming down in Nineveh. Jonah needs a lesson in compassion and in righteous anger. So our God appoints a plant, a worm, and a wind to teach him.

“Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. So the Lord God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.” (Jonah 4:5-8)

Jonah was extremely happy about this plant. He was devastated when the plant withered. He was miserable as he went on without the plant. He was angry, so angry that once again he wanted to die. The Lord asks Jonah again if he has good reason to be angry and once again Jonah wholeheartedly believes he does. The Lord then refers to Jonah’s anger over the plant as compassion.

Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” (Jonah 4:10-11)

Jonah’s anger was misplaced. In Genesis chapter four we learn of the very first time that the Lord asks a man about being angry. “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry?” (Genesis 4:6). Cain is upset because the Lord has regard for Abel’s offering, but not his own. In this exchange between the Lord and Cain, the Lord is giving Cain an opportunity to see things through His eyes, but Cain simply won’t and allows his misplaced anger to lead him to murder. Jonah’s anger was leading him to the same thing. He wanted to see the people of Nineveh destroyed. He was committing murder in his heart because he refused to see the people of Nineveh through God’s eyes.

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” (Matthew 5:21-22)

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15)

Jonah not only had misplaced anger, but he had misplaced compassion. Jonah had compassion for a plant and none for the people of Nineveh. Jonah had nothing invested in this plant yet he was angry that it was gone. This plant was simply meeting a personal need of his and so that selfishly made it important to him. He saw value in this plant, but none in the people. Notice God does not condemn Jonah for having compassion for the plant, but His point is that Jonah is not respecting that God would have compassion for the people and Jonah is not realizing that if he has compassion for a simple plant that he invested nothing of himself in, how much more should the Lord have for people and even animals to whom He has given life and breathe.

Proverbs 12:10 says, “A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, but even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.” Jonah’s compassion was cruel. His compassion was misplaced. His heart was not in line with the heart of God. He was self-righteous, not righteous. When Jesus was here in His flesh He spent A LOT of His time teaching this same lesson to the present day Jonah’s.

Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13)

What about you?

What causes anger to rise up in you?

Who changes the countenance of your face?

Do you have good reason to be angry?

Is it possible for you to so lean into the grace, compassion, and everlasting lovingkindness of the LORD your God? The God who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life. The God that so loved you that He forgave you and continues to forgive you over and over again. Is it possible to lean into Him and choose to see through His eyes and love through His heart? To have compassion even for your Ninevite?

Let’s Try This Again

In the belly of a fish Jonah realized that death away from the presence of the LORD might not be what he really wanted as he thought he did when he stood aboard that ship and told the sailors to throw him overboard. In the belly of a fish, convinced he was in the depths of Sheol, Jonah turned his heart back to the LORD and cried out for salvation. The LORD then had the fish vomit Jonah out onto dry land. I can imagine the look on Jonah’s face when he finally realizes he wasn’t in hell after all, but was in a fish, and the presence of the LORD had remained there with him the entire time. It was the LORD’s unseen presence that gave Jonah the hope against hope to cry out to Him.

Then in Jonah 3:1 we read, “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.’” The LORD did not berate Jonah. He did not belittle him. He did not condemn him. He did not shame him. He simply restated His original instruction. The discipline had been given, the correction received, and now the LORD simply says, let’s try this again.

Here in this interaction between God and Jonah we can learn a great lesson. We can learn a lesson particularly as parents, coaches, or leaders of others in any and every other capacity of life. We have a good, good Father. We will see how good of a Father in Heaven we have as we continue to walk through the recorded life and words of Jonah. Let us learn from our LORD.

This second time, Jonah obeys the word of the LORD and goes to Nineveh. However, I am not so sure that Jonah goes with his happy pants on, even though he himself has just been given a second chance. Jonah walks through the streets of Nineveh and cries out, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” (Jonah 3:4). Notice that Jonah obediently declares the coming wrath, yet notice what Jonah conveniently leaves out. Let us be reminded that the only reason that the LORD gives warning to His coming judgment is for the hope of repentance. In Ezekiel 33 we read of the responsibility of the watchman to proclaim the coming danger. In Act 20 we read of the great responsibility of the believer to declare the whole purpose of God. “Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7). The LORD is not into sneak attacks or guerrilla warfare. He truly wants mercy to triumph over judgment.

“Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23) 

Jonah neglects to mention the option of repentance as he walks through the streets of Nineveh declaring the overthrow of this great city. He really had no desire to see them repent. He wanted to see them judged. We see this clearly by his response to seeing the people of Nineveh respond to his proclamation. The king of Nineveh went so far as to send out his own proclamation that the entire city cover themselves in sackcloth and ashes and cry out to the LORD for mercy, and the people did. The LORD saw and the LORD forgave the people of Nineveh and did not pour out His wrath on them.

“But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.’” (Jonah 4:1-3)

In Jonah’s defense we have no history of how this people group had possibly affected Jonah or those he loved. Let us be reminded that this was a brutal people. They were described by God as “exceedingly wicked”. I liken the LORD’s instruction to Jonah being similar to myself being instructed by the LORD to walk through the streets of Nigeria proclaiming the coming judgment of God on those who are slaughtering Christians by the thousands. However, knowing God this probably runs even deeper than that, my guess would be that God specifically chose Jonah for this specific city not just to save these people, but to save Jonah as well.

Let’s bring the lesson closer to home. Let’s walk it right inside the doors of the place we call home. Let’s take it straight up to the altar of our own house of worship. Our Bible-belt label of “that’s my home church.” Let’s bring it right up to the doors of our own hearts. Who have you chosen to shake you head at, grow angry with, and refuse to pray for? Who in your life have you already decided that you would rather see the LORD judge than save?

It’s a serious question.

It’s a real question.

Think about it.

Who is clearly not welcome in your church, in your home, or in your heart? Who would you refuse to build a close enough relationship with that would allow you to share the truth of the gospel with because you despise them that much?

The Lord said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4)

Jonah still has a few things to work with the LORD. The LORD hasn’t given up on him yet. The LORD hasn’t given up on us either. Sometimes when we step back and look at hard things, especially hard things that seem to be on a carousel returning to us again and again, we realize that it’s not life kicking us in the gut, but perhaps it’s simply the LORD saying, let’s try this again.

Lessons From Hell On Earth

Jonah fled from the presence of the LORD. He ran from his home country. He ran from his calling. He ran from his mission. He boarded a ship to hopefully use oceans to separate him from the presence of the LORD, but to no avail. The LORD never left him.

In Ezekiel 48:35 we learn a name of God, Jehovah-Shammah, The Lord is There. In Exodus 25:22 when the LORD is giving Moses instructions on the tabernacle, as He is explaining the mercy seat to Moses, He tells him that there, above the mercy seat, He will meet with him. In 1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 5 – 6 as Solomon was dedicating the temple, the LORD enters the temple in a cloud to let the people know that He was there. In the prayer that Solomon lifted up during this dedication he asked that whenever and where ever the people sinned against the LORD that if they turned themselves toward the house of the LORD and prayed and repented that the LORD would hear them and forgive their sin.

Jonah was about to learn that when the LORD said that He would be there in the temple above the mercy seat, that didn’t mean that He was ONLY there. He was there and on the oceans and there below them. He was there when Jonah took flight. He was there in Joppa. He was there on the ship. He was and still is Jehovah-Shammah. In Psalm 139:7-12 we read,

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.

Jonah is thrown from the ship and as he hits the raging waters all of a sudden he is in darkness. I don’t believe he knew he was in the belly of a fish. Who has ever been in the belly of a fish to recognize it as such? I believe he thought he was in Sheol, the underworld, the place of death, hell. His own prayer in Jonah 2:2-3 says as much…

“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.
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.”

It’s really amazing what thoughts can pass through our minds as we face death head on. When we think that this is it. This is our end. Yet, often times it doesn’t take facing death, but simply facing the end of ourselves in a situation or circumstance and we have no other options because we have exhausted all of our own efforts and do not know what to do next. We find that though we have ran all our lives we, in this moment and at this time, discover that somewhere in our depths we find a hope that maybe there is a God in Heaven, and we cry out to Him, somehow believing against unbelief that He hears.

We learn a beautiful thing about our God through the rebellion of Jonah. As the breakers and billows passed over Jonah, as the weeds wrapped around his head, as the deep engulfed him and the waters encompassed him to the point of death because of his own choice to run from the presence of the LORD, Jonah remembered the LORD. As Jonah found himself no longer encompassed by waters, but in darkness and thought himself to be in the roots of mountains imprisoned forever in the heart of the earth, Jonah remembered what he had been taught all his life. Jonah remembered the hope of turning toward the house of the LORD. Jonah remembered the mercy seat.

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. I am weak, yet He is strong. Yes Jesus loves me. Yes Jesus loves me. Yes Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so…”

He probably wasn’t sure which way was Jerusalem. He probably wasn’t sure if he was dead or alive or somewhere in between. He probably just knew that somehow he was still conscience and able to communicate. Somehow he still had breathe, and with breathe there is life, and with life there is hope. So Jonah prayed to the God of his salvation. Jonah prayed with a sacrifice of thanksgiving while in the midst of his darkness and the LORD heard his cry. Then He commanded that fish to vomit him out on the dry land.

Jonah learned a lesson from his hell on earth. He learned that perhaps being away from the presence of the LORD was not such a good idea. He learned that being IN the presence of the LORD was much better. Jonah learned that there was no were he could go on earth, above the earth, or under the earth that the LORD would not be there. Jonah learned that even in his own choice to sin and rebel against the LORD, when he woke up to his sin, sought the LORD with a true repentant heart, and returned to Him the LORD would hear and forgive. Jonah learned that for his own life, he was very thankful for that truth.

In 2 Kings 21 and 2 Chronicles 33 we read of Manasseh the king of Judah, Judah being the southern kingdom of Israel. Manasseh’s legacy is one of idolatry and death. He did not serve the LORD when he became king. He encouraged the kingdom of Judah to worship the false gods of the nations around them. He went so far as to even make altars to these false gods inside the temple of the LORD.

One of the false gods that Manasseh introduced was Molech who received child sacrifices. Manasseh worshiped this god and even burned his own children on the idol’s altar. This is how far Manasseh had fled from the presence of the LORD while still in Jerusalem. We don’t have to take flight from home and jump a ship to the oceans to reject the presence of the LORD. We can do it while we sit in His house.

While Jonah was in the belly of this fish, he prayed in Jonah 2:7-8,

“While I was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
And my prayer came to You,
Into Your holy temple.
Those who regard vain idols
Forsake their faithfulness,”

Times of distress help us weed out the vain idols we trusted in before. The sailors on the ship learned this, Jonah knew this (and we will see how he responds to his knowledge of this in the next chapter), and Manasseh is about to learn this truth. In 2 Chronicles 33:10-13 we read of what happened when the LORD stepped back and left Manasseh to his false gods….

“The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. Therefore the Lord brought the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria against them, and they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains and took him to Babylon. When he was in distress, he entreated the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.”

When Manasseh needed help it was not Baal, Asherah, Dagon, Chemosh, or Molech that came to his rescue. It was the LORD of heaven and earth, the Only God who has the power of salvation. The absolutely astounding awe-inspiring truth in all of this is that the LORD heard after all that Manasseh had done. He heard, He forgave, He restored him to his kingdom. This is our GOD. Why on earth would we ever want to flee the presence of HIM?

Fleeing the Presence of the LORD

Twice in Jonah 1:3 we see the phrase, “from the presence of the LORD.” Jonah was given clear instruction from the Lord and instead of following those instructions he chose to flee from the presence of the LORD. Jonah left his home country and paid to board a ship that was sailing in the complete opposite direction that the Lord had instructed him to go. When on that ship he went all the way down in the hold of the ship and went to sleep.

I can picture Jonah running from the Lord, hiding in the hold of the ship, and falling into this deep sleep, perhaps from the exhaustion of his flight, or from the grief of a rebellious heart, or perhaps from too much fruit of the vine. He, somehow, is in such a depth of slumber that he is oblivious to the storm that is raging on the sea with a might that threatens to break up the ship and has seasoned sailors frightened for their lives. The Scripture reads in Jonah 1:5 that the sailors are crying out each to their own god and throwing cargo overboard. Take note to the phrase, “each to their own god.” This tells us that this was most likely a boat full of men from different nations who worshipped different gods. Gods that were silent to their cries and so therefore they continued to try and save themselves by dumping the ships cargo.

Yet, Jonah sleeps.

Jonah, the one person on the ship that has the knowledge of the One True God, sleeps. He sleeps while men fight for their lives and cry out to gods who can’t hear and can’t save. Jonah hides in the hold of the ship with the name of the Most High in his heart and the way of salvation on his tongue.

The Captain of the ship approached Jonah amazed that he is sleeping, wakes him, and asks him to call on his god, “Perhaps your god will be concerned about us,” for they are still looking for salvation in this storm. It appears that Jonah remains silent. The sailors cast lots. The lots fall on Jonah. Now the whole ship is turned toward Jonah. “Then they said to him, ‘Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?‘” (Jonah 1:8). The LORD has a way of calling us out when we try to hide.

Jonah answers the questions of the sailors and he even tells them that he is fleeing from the presence of the LORD. He is fleeing from the God of gods, the One who made the sea and the dry land. In the book of Jonah we see how the LORD can use the people in our lives, no matter who, no matter where, to move us into His presence and into His will. He is more than able to use them to call us out and cause us to openly admit who we are, where we come from, what we do, and how we came to be where we are? He is able to use them to slightly nudge us to accept His calling and instructions or sometimes He uses them to to flat out throw us in the deep end. He knows we will discover that He is there to rescue us and carry us through whatever He has called us to do, even if He has to get creative with us to move us into obedience.

As the sailors question Jonah and as Jonah answers, the sea becomes stormier and their fear grows stronger. They ask Jonah what to do and he requests that they throw him overboard. At first read it might appear that Jonah is willing to sacrifice himself for the safety of these sailors, but I beg to differ. I lean more that he would rather die in the sea than go to Nineveh and do what the Lord has instructed him to do. I believe he is still trying to flee the presence of the Lord, but Jonah is fixing to find out that the LORD’s presence cannot be fled from… and he is also about to learn that he really doesn’t want to flee from it.

In the meantime, the LORD is not going to waste Jonah’s disobedience to His Word. The calamity on the sea experienced by these sailors because of the actions of this stranger that chose their ship to board will be used. The LORD hurled the wind and the LORD does nothing without the greater purpose of His glory and our good. He would work even Jonah’s stiff-necked rebellion to teach these sailors who He was, that He was the God who hears. He was the LORD God of heaven. He is the God who saves.

The sailors cry out to the LORD that Jonah has just introduced to them and they throw Jonah overboard. The storm stopped. The sailors worshiped.

Jonah was asked to go to Nineveh and cry against it. Jonah fled in the opposite direction, but there were men that needed to know the Lord in that direction as well. The LORD allowed the detour. Jonah was never out of sight of the LORD and He was never out of His presence. Even if we are being hurled from a ship in the middle of the sea the LORD is there.

We read in Jonah 1:17 that the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah. I imagine that as the sea raged and the ship cracked and the sailors cried out to the LORD and Jonah shouted just throw me overboard that the chaos of the moment was intensely adrenaline filled. I imagine that as the sailors lifted Jonah off the ground and heaved him over the side of the ship that Jonah began to second guess his demand to be thrown overboard. I imagine that as he hit the waters that were rising and crashing and raging and felt the sting of the biting salt water against his skin that he held his breathe as he prepared to be lost forever quite possibly wondering how in the world he gotten himself to this point. Then all of a sudden everything stops.

Everything stops.

It’s dark.

It’s still.

It probably stinks.

I imagine that right about now Jonah is questioning his earlier desire to flee from the presence of the LORD. Oh what a blessing Jonah is receiving right here in this moment. Not only is the LORD preserving His life, but the LORD is giving Him a small taste of what it really might be to actually be without the presence of the LORD. How many of us could use such a reality check in our day?

“In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” (John 1:4)

A Journey Into Jonah

When I was younger I had an understanding that the Bible was ancient. For some reason I had come to believe that it was a book written for ages past and the stories in it dated back so far that they were really irrelevant for me today. This understanding probably came from the fact that I grew up in schools and a society that taught the millions of years ago stories of the dinosaurs and the stars and the mountains and so on. Jonah was one of those stories in the Bible that really seemed to be ancient history, after all, a man gets swallowed by a fish and lives to tell about it. Is that even possible?

When I finally began to read and study the Bible for myself I came to a completely different understanding. I began to realize that the Bible was not archaic and was actually very relevant to my every day life right now. The book of Jonah included. This book is filled with four chapters of jaw dropping truth that we desperately need to grasp hold of in the American/Western church of this twenty-first century. Let me bring Jonah up out of the ages for you, hopefully allowing it to come a little closer to home.

I grew up with the Bible being completely separated from my other history books. I never thought to consider the Bible to be able to be lined up with what was going on in the rest of the world. As I shared earlier, in my mind the Bible was pre-history. It was a world before my world. However, the truth is that at the very time that Jonah was hopping a boat for Tarshish and having his come to Jesus meeting in the belly of a great fish Homer was writing the Iliad and the Odyssey. Ice skating had become a popular sport in northern Europe. The first Olympic Games were held. Rome became a city and false teeth were being invented in Italy.

In the book of Jonah we learn in the first verse that Jonah was the son of Amittai. Jonah is mentioned again in the Old Testament in 2 Kings 14:25 and we learn that he was from Gath-hepher. We are able to use this verse to confirm the time that Jonah was a prophet as this verse teaches us that the Lord prophesied through him that He would restore the border of Northern Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of Arabah during the reign of Jeroboam son of Joash. What we do not know is if the account of Jonah’s life recorded in the book of Jonah occurred before or after 2 Kings 14:25, but that is neither here nor there, for the point is that the Lord has recorded for us a definitive time frame for the life of Jonah.

In Jonah 1:1 we see that the word of the Lord comes to Jonah. The Lord has commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh and cry against the city because their wickedness is great and He is about to deal with them. Jonah hears the instruction of the Lord and chooses to flee. He actually heads in the opposite direction of where the Lord has instructed him to go and boards a ship that is sailing even further away in the opposite direction from where he has been instructed to go. Twice in Jonah 1:3 we read that Jonah was trying to flee from the presence of the Lord.

During Jonah’s lifetime Israel had fallen into idolatry. The kingdom split after the death of Solomon and the first king of Northern Israel introduced idolatry at the beginning of his reign. When we look at the story of the gods worshiped by the surrounding nations we see that the people believed that their gods were territorial. It seems they believed that their gods remained within the borders of their own nations and therefore when nations went to war it was a battle of and for the gods to expand their territory. So it is possible that Jonah might have not realized exactly who his God really was and actually thought he could flee from His presence by fleeing from the land. It’s possible that Jonah had bought into the lie of his present culture and had diminished and rationalized away the sovereignty of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It’s possible that he knew his God was mighty, powerful, and able… but some how still needed him to accomplish His will on the earth as if he could in some way control and limit the hand of God.

We could laugh and shake our head at Jonah, but is that really any different than many of us who profess Christ today? How often do we walk out of the church doors and then live as if we left Jesus inside the building? How often do we leave our Bibles closed and neatly put away on a shelf and believe that not reading them excuses us from living out the truth the Word of God contains and explains. How often do we go to our own homes, our places of employment, our schools, etc and live as if we are free from His presence?

This is the beginning of our journey into the book of Jonah. Jonah thought he could flee from the presence of the Lord. In Genesis 3:1-18 after the serpent had deceived Eve and she gave to Adam and he also ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they also thought they could flee from the presence of the Lord. The saddest part of their story, of both their’s and Jonah’s story, and of our stories… is that we even wanted or felt the need to flee in the first place.

Not Ashamed When My Enemies Speak

One Saturday morning, as I sat before the Lord and spent time in His Word I was reminded through Psalm 127 how very important it is to remember that our God has our back in every area of our lives. Our responsibility is simply to lean into Him and trust Him. The greatest and most important thing we can ever do in our lives is to surrender them to the LORD.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate.

We can stress all day and all night over our homes and our ability to protect them and our selves, but the greatest construction company and the most tech savvy alarm system can fail at any time or come against someone who knows a way around them. We can have the most energy efficient, maintenance free home designed and one tornado or one iron left on can find it gone in minutes. We can have the deadliest weapons, strongest gates, and most highly skilled guards stationed around our home, yet still when we are dependent upon them for our protection we will find that restless nights remain. We can get up early and work hours into the night to pay for all these things we have put our hope in, but then we find that although we have them, we have never enjoyed them.

Psalm 127 goes on to say, “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD…” At first read it can seem like, whoa where did that come from, but when we take a step back and look at Psalm 127 as a whole we can see exactly why verse three brings our attention to children. If we are consumed with building our kingdoms, stressing over someone taking our kingdoms, and working 24-7 to maintain our kingdoms then we miss the most important thing about having a kingdom. We miss the people we love that are living in it.

Rest.

A kingdom that won’t stand without you, won’t stand at all. A kingdom that crumbles behind you, never was really a kingdom at all.

In Psalm 127 God redirects our hearts to look at our children as the kingdom we need to be building and watching and laboring over. They are our reward. If we will choose to invest our lives into our children then we build a kingdom with a legacy that lives on long after we are gone. In our world today we are bombarded with the desire for so much that really is of no lasting value. We waste time and resources on things that are fleeting and of little and no importance weeks and years down the road.

Below is a Direct TV commercial. When it comes on, most of us laugh… but I encourage you to stop and let it hit you.

How many of us are truly raising our children in this way. Parenting on 140 characters or less because that’s all the time we have and that’s the attention span that we have allowed to be built into them. I am beyond thankful for the times that the Lord has stepped in and wrecked my plans to wake me up so that I could see that my plans would eventually be leading me to forsake those that are of the utmost importance… my children. I have no doubt that I have many times been guilty of heading in this direction even though what I was pursuing was “good things” even ministry.

Our children require more than snippets of teaching. They need to be able to come along side of us and see life… and by the grace and mercy and for the love of God let us choose to live lives that teach well. Our children need wisdom. Our children need to see how the Word of God and the Spirit of God can and will navigate them through the twists, turns, and trials of life. Our children need to know that they matter.

I listen to my children share stories now. My children are 26, 17, and 14. I listen to them share memories of when they were little clear up until now and as I hear their thoughts and see the life the Lord allowed us to give them through their eyes… I am humbled beyond measure. I am humbled for the times that we struggled so that I could stay home. I am humbled for the times that they were drug to hospitals and funerals and pulled into the nursery and set up and cleaned up for and after ministry events. I am humbled by the grace of God and His change of my plans because our children are our reward. Wisdom is indeed vindicated by her children (Luke 7:35).

That last verse in Psalm 127 is the one that just ties the bow on the whole message. I will not be ashamed when I speak with my enemies in the gate. I was never guaranteed my children would choose to walk faithfully with the Lord. I was, however, guaranteed that I would stand before the Lord one day and give an account as to how I lead the children He gave me.

My children may act a fool at some point and time in their life, but no one will ever be able to put their finger in our face and make us feel ashamed. Some have tried, but it didn’t work, and it never will, because they didn’t know what we knew. They didn’t know that we knew our children. They didn’t know that no conversation was taboo in our home and all was laid open and bare before our God and that grace and mercy and love was always extended with our discipline.

My husband and I, much to our children’s dismay, were never (and never will be) DirecTV NFL ticket parents. We were well aware that we had one shot to get this right. We had one shot to prepare them for life. We want them to be ready. Our job is to make sure they are ready.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior (verse 4), arrows that have been fully examined and prepared before they were ever placed in the bow. Arrows that once they are released are no longer under our control, but still remain under the authority of the sovereign, omniscient, holy God who holds them in His faithful hand.

It was never about our kingdom, but His.

Giving Up The Mirror

“Moreover, he made the laver of bronze with its base of bronze, from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.” (Exodus 38:8)

In Exodus 38 we read of the making of the bronze altar and the bronze laver. As modern day Christians it is very easy for us to skim through this chapter, quickly scanning the verses, just to get through them because we have no personal connection with a bronze altar. We don’t need the altar to make sacrifices for our sin or the laver to wash our hands and feet. Our sin was dealt with once and for all as it was laid on our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross and today we are washed by the water of the Word of God and our confession of our sin. However, if we just skim and scan these verses we will miss much. There is treasure in these verses.

In Exodus 38:8 we are moved from the making of the bronze altar to the bronze laver. We read that the laver and its base were made from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting. These mirrors were not mirrors as we think of them today, but were most likely polished bronze or brass. These mirrors would have been prized possessions for a Hebrew woman at this time. They were most likely some of the spoil that was handed to them as they walked out of Egypt after the ten plagues when the Egyptians were literally paying them to leave.

The women that offered these mirrors were described in Exodus 38:8 as the serving women. The Hebrew word for serving in this verse is tsaba and it means to wage war. It is a primitive root word that means to mass, to assemble, fight, perform, muster, wait upon, war. I picture these women as warriors who gathered themselves together at the doorway of the tent of meeting to pray and to worship. I see them as women who understood the day that they were in. I see them as women who realized what was taking place as the tabernacle was being constructed.

These were women who knew they had a place in service to the Lord their God. I believe these were women who were ready to go to battle on their knees in prayer or standing with a sword in their hands. These were women who were not worried about their own appearance or what others thought of them, they simply wanted to honor their God. These ladies were showing up to worship and serve the Lord even if at that time there was only a tent of meeting and all they could do was serve at the doorway. When the tabernacle would be complete their service would be honored by God as He would use their gifts to construct the laver that would be needed to prepare the priest to enter into His presence.

Moses was so taken with the sacrifice of these women that he saw fit to use their contribution to make one of the key pieces of furniture in the tabernacle. I doubt that this was his own thought. I believe the Lord Himself prompted Moses to use these mirrors for the bronze laver. I believe that because not only did Moses use them for the laver, but he recorded it in the Scriptures for us to read and remember all these thousands of years later.

The sacrifice of the giving of these prized possessions was not what made these women so special. The contribution of the mirrors were simply a reflection of their hearts for the Lord. These were serving women, not just collectors of pretty things. These were not women giving for attention or for accolades. These were women devoted to the Lord. They came to the doorway to serve because this is where the Lord said that He would meet with the people (Exodus 29:42). They came ready to hear from the Lord and ready to be obedient to whatever it was that He called them to do.

If you are a woman reading this, don’t you want to be one of these women. I know that I do. I want to be known as a woman who wages war for the Lord. Notice also this was a group of women, not just a woman. This was an assembly of women who were not competing with one another. This was a mass of women that were not gossiping about one another or gathered together to gossip about others. This was an army of women fighting not with one another, but for the Lord. 

I have to be honest and share that as a woman in today’s world, even in the church, I rarely let down my guard in a group of women, yet even still the Lord keeps calling me to ministry to women. In my experience groups of women have never really worked out well for me, at least not on a long term basis. I have found that women can usually gather together for a conference or a fellowship every now and then, but long term groups so often break into cliques that turn into whispering and assuming and side picking and ultimately destruction of relationships.

Perhaps all this happens because so many women are holding too tightly to their mirrors. Perhaps too many women come to the doorway of the church expecting to be served or at least noticed for their serving. Some women are so worried about their children or their spouses being a reflection of them that they try to control everything about them or at least what other people know about them by any means necessary. Some women are willing to tear down another woman just to make themselves look better, and this my friend is in the church.

Then some women have spent their entire lives being told that they should not be seen or heard. Some women have never been allowed to own a mirror in which to need to lay down. Some women have been fed the the lie that they have no place in service at the house of the Lord and need to simply enter the doors and be silent and go home. The possibility that they could be a woman who wages war at the doorway of the house of the Lord is far from them.  There are armies of women that have been made powerless by the traditions of religion.

Can you imagine what it would be like if the women of God laid their mirrors down? Can you imagine what it would be like if women laid their mirrors down so that women that have never been allowed to own one would not see the back of a mirror, but would instead see the reflection of the glory of the Lord? Beloved, the only mirror we need is the mirror of the Word (1 Corinthians 13:12, 2 Corinthians 3:18, James 1:23).

Can we even begin to grasp the powerful move of God that would occur in our churches and in our community if an army of women gathered together completely devoted to the Lord alone. Women with no concern for their own reflection but only how they reflected the glory of Christ. Women who were known for waging war at the doorway of the house of the Lord and willing to wait upon the Lord and to be obedient to perform whatever it was that He asked of them. 

Sacrificing our Daughters and Sons to Demons

There was a time thousands of years ago when entire nations bowed at the feet of gods that they themselves had to create with their own two hands. Some of these gods would host altars of blazing furnaces. It is recorded that some particular gods were built in such a way that their arms were outstretched and their hands were open and tilted down into a pit of fire. They were designed this way so that people could lay their children on the arms and they would simply roll into the fiery pit as a sacrifice to this god.

It sounds barbaric and ancient and distant and surely nothing like this happens anymore. However, if we are honest and look around the world, we can see that in many nations that simply is not the case. In our nation that simply is not the case. We may not have a god with outstretched arms and tilted hands on which to lay our children as they roll into a pit of fire and are consumed alive before our eyes, but our modern more attractive gods doesn’t make them any less demonic.

But they mingled with the nations
And learned their practices,
And served their idols,
Which became a snare to them.
They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons,
And shed innocent blood,
The blood of their sons and their daughters,
Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;
And the land was polluted with the blood.
Thus they became unclean in their practices,
And played the harlot in their deeds.

Psalm 106:35-39

The nation of Israel had been given laws and precepts and commands by the One True Living God that honored, respected, and loved children. The LORD their God had set up statutes that protected children and honored life and taught them that their strength was in their children. The LORD’s command was to teach their children His ways that they might have long prosperous lives. The Lord proved His Word to His people.

Yet in this proving and in His blessing their hearts grew proud. They forgot that all they had was a gift of God and was theirs as a result of the obedience of the generations before them to His commands. They began to flirt with other nations and with other gods and take on their practices, completely ignoring the warning of their Lord that the spirits behind these gods were demonic and idolatrous. We can look back and say, how on earth could they forget so quickly and fall so far away so fast?

They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread. 

Deuteronomy 32:17

They forgot so quickly and fell so far away so fast because these were new gods. They knew the warnings, the practices, the faces of the old, but these same old demons now came on the stage in a brand new array. There is a reason that Satan, in the book of Genesis, is described as the serpent “more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.” He uses the same tricks, the same deception, but he dresses it up in different costumes. We usually do not recognize it is him until the tempter has moved us from temptation to sin and we are staring the resulting death in the face.

But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.  (James 1:14-17)

Currently suicide is the third leading cause of death in those 15 to 25 years old. For many of us we have experienced loved ones even younger taking their own lives.  Our schools are full of kids who bounce from home to home because their parents and grandparents are strung out on drugs or more concerned with a boyfriend or girlfriend than they are with raising their own children. Our churches are filled with pockets of pride and lack of concern for those outside of her walls and a refusal to work together with other churches for the cause of the gospel and the increase of the Kingdom of God.

Jill Carattini writes, “In our impervious boxes and minimalist depictions of the Christian story, we can comfortably live as if in our own world, blind and unconcerned with the world of suffering around us, intent to tell our feel-good stories while withdrawing from the harder scenes of life” (For Lazarus and Rachel).

Today, we are still sacrificing our daughters and sons to demons. Our worship of these gods just looks a little cleaner, a little cooler, a little less offensive, and comes dressed in promotions, pleasures, and personal ambitions. Even those who profess the name of Christ justify their worship of their god because they have their children in church on Sunday, but still ignore the command of our God to teach our children His Word and His Ways when they rise and as we go (Deuteronomy 6).

So how do we recognize the new gods as the demons that they truly are? 

  1. We have to know the Word of God, the Character of God, and the Ways of God.
  2.  We have to recognize that God will never “bless us” with anything that leads to us not being able to love our own spouses and teach our own children.
  3. No gift of God will ever ask us to compromise our convictions by ignoring His commands.
  4. There is no darkness, no variation, or shifting shadow in God, no doubt no reason to hide our actions if they are of God. We don’t need a spam account that hosts a completely different personality if we are who we are.
  5. We have to examine the fruit of our lives. Does goodness and lovingkindness follow us or do we leave destruction and suffering behind us by the choices we make.

These new gods that our fathers did not dread come dressed in robes of entertainment and entitlement. They have altars of technology and societal approved sexual temptation. They ask for sacrifices of time and truth for the reward of momentary internet fame and instant fleshly pleasure. They offer freedom but it comes with chains of oppression and cords of death that quietly and covertly wrap us tightly until we are suffocating and bound under the weight of our own choices and their resulting shame. Then they turn on us and point their fingers and say, “Look what you’ve done!

Oh precious one, there is hope! There is deliverance! There is rescue! There is redemption! There is true freedom!

Look to Jesus and look at what He has done!

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 

Ephesians 6:10-13

Waiting On His Promises

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I began this post on November 24, 2015 and left it in my draft. Today I opened it again to read it. I didn’t remember writing all this…

“In less than forty days I will walk through my first Thanksgiving, my first birthday, my first Christmas, and my Daddy’s first birthday without him. There are moments that I feel like I still cannot breathe. This is how I will close out 2015.

I am trying so very hard to not be selfish. I am trying so very hard to be thankful for all the memories. I am trying so very hard to remember that I had almost thirty-nine years with my Daddy and they were good years. It’s just so hard to believe that the man who gave me my name is not here.

I am thinking of Peter right now, and how Jesus gave him his name. How Peter watched Him be taken away. How Peter rushed to His grave. How Peter saw Him in His resurrected Self alive and well… and how once again Peter watched Him be taken away.

So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

Acts 1:6-11

Peter watched the man who had given him his name ascend into the heavens and then he went back to the upper room and he waited on the promises of Jesus. I too am waiting.

I had a vision for my life. I could face any adversity in that vision because I knew that I had the support of my Daddy. I could handle any hurt and push through any negativity as long as I could talk to him and hear him say, “you can do this.” Losing him has struck me with blindness. I have lost my vision.

This morning as I studied through Mark 10:46-52 with Phil Waldrep I read verse 51,

And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?”And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!”

I am blind.

I keep thinking I’ll pull myself up out of this but so far I can’t. I have moments that I can see. I have momentary glimpses that remind me that I still have sight. The ember of joy is there, but I have not yet been able to rekindle a flame.

I feel most alive when I teach. When I teach I feel His presence. When I teach I remember my vision.”

After reading this again… all I can say is God is Faithful.

The writing and teachings of Nicole Love Halbrooks Vaughn