“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)
Can we take a moment today to just read that passage of Scripture over and over again. Notice how the passage begins. Slow it down and read each word. Take it in. Let it resonate. Allow the truth of it to sink deep.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)
Again notice how this passage begins, “But God…” What is God rich in? What is He great with? When did He greatly love us? How did He save us? Why did He save us? Notice the “so that…” Read the passage again. Slow it down. Take it in. Let it settle down in the depths of your soul.
When we were dead in our transgressions. When we were rebellious and ignorant of the One who Created us. When we were wrapped in the chains of the desires of our flesh and bound by the control of our ever changing emotions and circumstances. When we were only out for our own selfish gain and guarded our pride with the devil’s own watchdog… God was still kind. God was still rich in mercy. God still richly loved us. God still sent His Spirit to call us and draw us out to Himself.
He draws. He calls. He saves. Then the Spirit that draws, calls, and saves comes to live with in us. He resides. He regenerates. He renews. He moves us to now be His servant to be used by Him to draw and call others to the Father through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” (Revelation 22:17)
If the Spirit of the Lord is not just upon us, but is in us, and it is the very same Spirit who was upon Jesus then by the mercy and grace of God through faith in His Son we should be drawing and calling just as Jesus did. We should draw with kindness. We should love with greatness. We should be rich in mercy.
“The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And He will delight in the fear of the Lord, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;” (Isaiah 11:2-3)
We should not make decisions by what our ears hear or by what our eyes see. We should delight in the fear of the Lord. Our delight in the fear of the Lord should cause us to want to grow in the knowledge of the Lord so that we might be able to most honor Him. We should have the strength to seek the counsel of the Lord and to desire understanding and wisdom as we draw and call others to Jesus so that they too might be saved by grace through faith not as a result of their deeds. We must not assume anyone’s good deeds have them saved or anyone’s evil deeds have them too lost to be saved. Our eyes and ears can deceive us, but the Spirit of God within us sees the heart of all.
The Spirit of God is upon us and within us when we confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. He is there to be our Helper, our Comforter, our Teacher, our Reminder for all that Jesus taught and for all that the Word of God has revealed to us. We need Him because without Him we could not do what we have been saved to do. The Spirit of the Lord is upon us for more than our own security. The Spirit of the Lord is upon us to enable and equip us to pick up the baton of the apostles that was handed off to them by Jesus Christ Himself.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)
The Spirit of the Lord is upon us because in Him we are now the anointed ones who are supposed to be bringing good news to the afflicted. We are now the ones who are being sent to bind up the brokenhearted. We are now the ones who are to be proclaiming liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners. We are now in this moment living in the favorable year of the Lord.
If the Spirit of God is indeed within us, we are heirs to the hope of eternal life, and from within us the Spirit calls others to come to Jesus that they too might have life. If the Spirit of God is upon us and now within us, then we should look like and sound like Him when we speak His words. If the Spirit of God is within us we should WANT to look and sound like Jesus, for the Spirit is there to transform and conform us into the image of Christ, into the image of God that we were always intended to be.
Oh Spirit of God be upon me… be within me… glorify the name of Jesus through me. I am not my own. I am Yours.
I have been spending the week in the book of Amos as I tag along on a work trip with my husband in New Orleans. This is our fourth visit to New Orleans. I love this city. I also grieve over this city. It’s a city full of depravity and deception on the most evident level, but it is also a city of beautiful architecture and personality. I use the reality of this city to keep me awake in my own because what you see lived out loud and in public display in this city is the same sin and brokenness that hearts in every home town are struggling with in their own private corners of darkness. There is nothing new under the sun. What you see in one place is happening in another. Whatever it is we are struggling with, we are never the only ones.
Amos chapter six begins with, “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria.” The book of Amos is a book of God’s pronounced judgment on His people. His people who had forgotten that their blessings were not of their own hands, but of the Lord. His people who had taken His blessings and used them to build their own names, their own houses, their own comforts, and to praise their own selves. They wrote songs to glorify themselves and anointed themselves with the finest of oils while they refused to care for others. They went through the motions of the Sabbath, but grumbled about it as they were anxious to get back to their businesses where they were able to cheat people to fatten their own pockets.
For three transgressions and for four is a repeated phrase in the first two chapter of the book of Amos as the Lord sends him out to prophecy against the nations. When we read these chapters we see that the transgressions are concerning how these nations have treated people. The Lord is judging these nations because they took advantage of hurting people. They took advantage of others struggles in order to profit from them for themselves. They even went so far as to break covenants of brotherhood in order to gain power. Eight nations are spoken against in the first two chapters of Amos and two of those eight were the Southern Kingdom of Israel (Judah) and the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Israel).
Through Amos we see that the people of Judah and the house of Israel were included in the nations facing the judgment of God. Amos 2:6 through Amos 9:10 is dedicated to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The LORD, through Amos, shares with us how they did not care for the poor, but robbed them instead. They did not speak up for the afflicted. They sold the righteous for money. They trampled on the helpless. They rejected the law of the Lord and commanded His prophets to stay silent. They hated those who reproved in the gates and abhorred anyone who spoke with integrity. They turned justice and righteousness into wormwood as they ruled according to bribes. They didn’t just ignore the needs of others, but they saw them and used them against them in order to gain wealth and possessions. They not only forgot that they were blessed by God to be a blessing, but they became a curse to others and a source of evil instead of good.
In the days of Amos there were few who grieved over the ruin of the nation. The people had become apathetic. As long as they were secure in their own home and had what they needed they had no concern for the suffering of others. They had no concern for the lack of integrity and righteousness in the courts. They had no concern for the idolatry that was rampant in the nation even in the so called priests of God. They were not grieved that the name of the LORD was being blasphemed and that the people of God who were supposed to be a holy nation set apart to display HIs glory were far from holiness and sought only their own glory not the glory of the LORD their God.
We read of the warnings that the Lord sent the nation in Amos 4, but no matter the warning, the nation refused to return to Him. In Amos 5 we see the heart of God as He continues to call out to His children to seek Him that they might live. Through Amos, a simple herdsmen and grower of sycamore figs, the Lord cries out to a nation that has turned their back on Him in the hope that individuals in that nation will return to Him and be saved from the judgment that is to come. Will anyone hear? Will anyone be prepared to meet their God (Amos 4:12)?
As I read through this book I ask myself am I prepared? I mean I know Jesus. I am a believer. I am His child. I know all this, but am I prepared to have His holiness pass over me?
Am I grieved by the apathy and arrogance I see in the church among those who profess to be children of God?
AM I APATHETIC?
AM I ARROGANT?
Will I be brave enough to ask the Lord to open the eyes of my understanding that I might see my heart as He does?
Is my heart broken for what breaks the heart of the LORD God and if it is, what am I doing about it?
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the Lord. “People will stagger from sea to sea And from the north even to the east; They will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, But they will not find it. (Amos 8:11-12)
In the days of Amos the nation of Israel had forgotten that their might was in their righteousness and their righteousness was in their obedience to the word of the LORD God of hosts. They bought the lies of their flesh that convinced them that they were mighty in themselves. They looked around them and convinced themselves they were better than others and looked down their noses on the humble as they lifted their hearts even higher in their pride. They had no consideration for their Creator and turned to worship false gods that were fashioned by their own hands. They trusted in gods that were not living, but dead, and the simple reality is that we always become what we worship.
Do we take inventory of our church, of our home, of our own lives in such a way that we step back and say if I was lost and broken would I know how to find hope and healing here? Is my life, my family, my church focused on meeting the pressing needs of others (Titus 3:14)? Do we defend the helpless and the weak or do we stay silent for fear of drama and losing deep pocket members (Isaiah 1:17, Jeremiah 5:28)? Are we more concerned with ministries than actual ministry (Matthew 7:21-23)? Do we dismiss the Word of God in order to maintain our own power and control over others and our own self-made kingdoms (James 4:17-5:6)? Do we claim we exist to share the gospel and fulfill the great commission, but does that translate to us simply puffing one another up Sunday after Sunday (1 Timothy 6:17-21)? Do I hunger and thirst for the Word of the Lord or am I really only after the words of popular voices in our current culture?
There are so many questions to ask ourselves as we read through the book of Amos and really any of the prophets. As I stated in the first paragraph, there is nothing new under the sun. The same traps, the same sin, the same transgressions that captured the hearts of the children of Israel and led to their deception and destruction are the same ones that threaten to deceive and destroy us today. Let us be strong and courageous enough to allow the Spirit of God to have His way in us. Let us be broken enough that we are willing to allow the Light of Life to penetrate the darkest areas of our soul that we might be made whole and holy and fit for every good work. Our great and glorious Creator and Savior has given us everything we need to live godly and sensibly in this present age, in our generation, that we might be zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14). He has made us partakers of the Divine Nature through Jesus Christ His Son and His divine power has granted us everything we need to walk in obedience to His word and will (2 Peter 1:2-4).
We are without excuse.
Therefore, let us at the very least, begin with grieving over the ruin that we see before us. Let us grieve and let us seek our God and offer ourselves up as the Amoses of our day. Let us offer our bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to the Lord that we might demonstrate the love of God to a skeptical yet still watching world while they are still willing to watch. As far as it be with me Lord let my life prove You as the True and Faithful One that I know You are.
I looked up and saw her running. Her denim skirt was clear to the floor and her face was lifted up as she smiled brightly. She wasn’t even school age yet, perhaps on the brink of it, but not quite there. I saw her and couldn’t help but smile. She was full of life and future and her shirt declared it as the monogrammed long-sleeved tee read, “this girl can do anything.” I looked again at the floor length skirt and caught a glimpse of the rest of the women around her all in floor length skirts and before I finished reading the words of her shirt for a second time, out of my mouth came drips of sarcasm, “yeh, anything but wear pants.”
I had just finished reading the background of Joan of Arc. Did you know that the conviction that sent Joan of Arc to the stake to be burned alive was that she wore what the church deemed as masculine clothing? Joan wore pants. She wore pants on the battlefield for obvious reasons and she wore pants when imprisoned because it better protected her from being raped by the guards. Joan wore pants and this was the conviction that was upheld by the church to see that she was burned at the stake. The church basically gave her the choice to be raped or be burned at the stake. She chose the stake.
This year has been filled with social media posts about the rights of women. We are facing another election year which always brings high focus to women’s rights because of abortion, health care, and equal pay issues. This year also came with women being highlighted in the social media world due to the uncovering of abuse in the Southern Baptist Church as well as whether or not a woman has the authority to teach in the church, especially behind a pulpit on a Sunday.
The passage most used by the men (and women) of christendom to keep women out from behind the pulpit or podium is from 1 Timothy 2:9-15, “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.”
When we look at this passage of Scripture we have to remember that it’s important to know the original language that it was written as well as the context of the time and place it was written to. The Greek words used for man and woman in this passage denotes a husband and wife, not men and women in general. The Greek word used for woman is guné and means, a woman, wife, my lady, probably from the base of ginomai; a woman; specially, a wife. The Greek word used for man in this passage is anér and means, a male human being; a man, husband, as a husband.
We also must notice that the example that Paul uses here to enforce his stance is that of Adam and Eve, two that had become one flesh, a husband and a wife. This point is backed up in other places of Scripture as the order of a family is put in place with the husband being the head of the family as Christ is the head of the church. However, the interpretation that this passage is to force all women to be in submission and silence before all men is NOT supported anywhere else in Scripture. Paul never makes a statement like this in any other letter, but actually commends the women in the church who are speaking, teaching, and leading. Therefore the most plausible interpretation of the passage in 1 Timothy 2 would be that man and woman should be interpreted as husband and wife. This interpretation also fits into the context of the time and place that this particular letter was written.
Now as a Southern Baptist raised female I do recognize that all passages discussing overseers and elders point to that position being held by a man. However, there is a big difference in preaching the Word and pastoring a church. We (every born again believer) are ALL called to preach the Word. To tell a woman she cannot teach or speak simply because she is a woman is to try and force her to disobey the very clear commands of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit within her. We are all salt of the earth and lights to the world. We are all called to be a holy priesthood. We are all living stones. We are all ambassadors of Christ. We have all been given the ministry of reconciliation. We are all the church that is to say “Come!” There is not a list of spiritual gifts for men and then another list for women. The list is given to us ALL. We are ALL commanded to carry out our own individual gifts for the edification and equipping of the church.
I simply don’t understand how learned men of God can take a single passage and interpret it in a way that would negate, annul, and contradict the clear interpretation of a plethora of other Scriptures in every book of the Bible and hold that interpretation to the point that they are willing to destroy fruitful ministries over their interpretation of that single passage? Now, in this same letter from Paul to Timothy I did also read 1 Timothy 5:23, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” Whatever shall we do with this one? Will we choose to interpret this one in light of other Scriptures and in the context of the time and place or shall we as Southern Baptist start offering wine to our pastors at meal time?
I truly don’t understand how people can’t see that the Word of God is eternally recorded from the mouths of women in the Scriptures and men (and women) study the Word of God from the mouths of these women everyday to get their theology degrees as well as to preach to their congregations. The teachings of Hannah, of Miriam, of Mary, the words of Elizabeth, Anna, Ruth, Esther, Deborah and on and on. All of these women are clearly used by God to speak and teach the eternally recorded inerrant Word of God from their own mouths with His authority. Yet, we have many today who have the audacity to tell other women they have no right to teach because the Word of God is supposed to come from a male voice?
Men also sit under the proclaiming of the Word of God most every Sunday from the mouths of women as they proclaim the Word, teaching and preaching through song, but these women are then told they do not have the right to pray or read, “Thus says the LORD” standing in that very same place. They can sing it, but they can’t simply say it. How easily we forget that it was Elizabeth who spoke the command of God while God shut Zacharias’ mouth (Luke 1:18-79) and it was not until the moment that he publicly supported the word of God coming from the mouth of Elizabeth that his mouth was opened and he was once again able to speak.
I often wonder what would happen to the churches that believe a woman should sit in the back, be quiet, and teach her own children at home if she really did choose to do just that. How long would our churches last without their women? I am thankful beyond measure that I am blessed with a husband that encourages and supports me. I am thankful beyond measure that I was blessed with a Daddy that encouraged and supported me. I am blessed beyond measure that I was able to sit under Pastors who were not threatened by me, but encouraged me to preach and teach. They even allowed me to do so on a Sunday from the pulpit, because they knew I did so under their authority and in complete respect for their authority, but more so in complete respect for the Word of God.
In my years as a female in ministry I have experienced the ugly of many who believed differently and it’s a sad, sad, sad thing to see. I have stood in a middle school library as a young girl proclaimed before her peers in a public school that she knew the Lord had called her to preach and I pray so hard for her. I pray that the Lord will protect her heart from the many men and women who will pat her on the head and say “that’s really sweet dear, now go sit down and be quiet, you are to be seen but not heard” It baffles me really the chains that we purposefully put on people to stifle the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ and are actually able to convince ourselves that we are holy in our doing so. How arrogant is it really to look at someone, anyone, and tell them that they have no right to proclaim the name of Jesus and preach the gospel, Jesus specifically taught against this (Mark 9:38-41) and even the Pharisees knew better than this (Acts 5:33-39).
Galatians 3:27-29 says, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” As the angel Gabriel talked with Mary about Jesus and about Elizabeth with John he stated in Luke 1:37, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” In Philippians 4:13 Paul writes, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Therefore to the little girls everywhere wearing the t-shirt “This Girl Can Do Anything” let me shout loud and clear, “YES, You Can!”. In pants or a skirt, with long hair or short, wearing earrings and make-up or not, if God Almighty calls you to it you can indeed do it. May the love of Christ compel you to it and your faith in Christ empower you in it and the Spirit of God carry you through it.
Dear daughters of God and women of the church, this female believes that in the congregation, as a woman, I sit under the authority and protection of Jesus, the Good Shepherd alone, then under the authority and protection of Christ and with respect for my husband, I choose to submit to him out of his love for me and our family and the honor due him as he serves as the head of our home, and then in the church body I willingly submit to the authority and hopefully protection of the hired shepherd of my congregation out of respect for the position they have been called to serve. I do not ever sit under the authority of every ram in the fold. Let’s remember men of the church that in the body of Christ, you are my brother not my husband. In the body of Christ He alone is the bridegroom and we are all equally the bride. In the body there is one head and that head is Christ,
“but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
Dear church, let us never forget that we are supposed to be one. We are in this together as brothers and sisters fighting for the souls of the sons and daughters of God. We have the entire kingdom of darkness to face, all the spiritual forces of wickedness to deal with, and the gates of hell to prevail against. We don’t have time to fight about who gets to sit at the big boy table.
“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”
Dear church, let us be very careful that we not be guilty of picking up where the Pharisees and scribes left off. It was, after all, Jesus Himself who said, “They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:6-12).
Finally, with all due respect, dear men and women of the church that are making such a fuss about that Sunday pulpit, the bottom line simply is, if you want your pulpit that bad, if you want your seat of honor that bad, please have it. My calling has never needed a pulpit or a podium to carry it out. Trust me, I’ve never wanted or needed your seat of honor. My Jesus has given me open access to His (Ephesians 2:6). I’m seated with HIM in heavenly places, I’m seeking the things above, my mind is set on Him (Colossians 3:1). He’s the One I serve. It’s His church and His kingdom I’m seeking to grow, not yours.
I had began working on Devotions from Exodus Part Two over five years ago, however the loss of my Dad to cancer had shut down the writing of this book and it has been a process to get my heart back to the place where I could write outside of me just trying to process my own personal grief. Then when my heart was finally able to write again I also began a new season in ministry. This new ministry season required my early mornings, which is also my best writing time. Therefore the completion of this book has been slow go, but I believe always in God’s perfect timing. This morning I finished my last devotion from the book of Exodus. I am so overwhelmed with the completion and also with what the Lord has taught me and reminded me of as I wrote it, that I wanted to share it. So here is the almost end of the book before I prepare it for publishing…
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
In Exodus 13:21 we learned that the LORD was going before the people in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to give the people light. In Exodus 19:9 we learned that the LORD would speak to Moses from a dark cloud with thunder and lightening that the people might hear Him and know that Moses was indeed His mouth and spoke His commands. The cloud of the LORD would become so great that it covered Mount Sinai and hid Moses and the elders and yet so small that it would stand at the entrance of Moses’ tent in the midst of the camp as he met with the LORD for instructions concerning the people.
The people had come to know that this cloud represented the glory of their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This cloud had led them since the day they exited Egypt. The cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night had always met the people where they were and guided them to where they needed to be. It would be this very cloud that covered the tent of meeting when the work was finished. Then this cloud, the glory of the LORD, would enter the tabernacle and the people would know that they had done all the Lord had commanded Moses.
Exodus 40:35 goes on to say that Moses was unable to enter the tabernacle because the cloud had settled on it and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. This cloud was not a fog, it was a presence. I read this account in Scripture and I try to imagine this cloud. How many times have I wished that the Lord would show up in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to lead me so that I might know that I am heading in the right direction.
In 2 Samuel 7 we read of the account of King David’s desire to build a permanent house for the Lord, however it would not be him, but would be his son Solomon that God would allow to build it. In 1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 7 we see that at the completion of Solomon’s temple fire came down from heaven, consumed the burnt offering, and the cloud, the glory of the LORD, filled the temple so that the priests could not stand to minister. This cloud had been the visual and experiential presence of the great I AM since the exile of Egypt and this cloud would once again be a confirmation to the people of Israel that they had done all that the Lord had commanded them.
This cloud would remain as a presence in the temple until the day that the Lord would have to send the nation into exile at the hands of Babylon because their disobedience and rebellion to the Lord their God had grown so great. In 605 BC Nebuchadnezzar invades Jerusalem and takes Daniel and his friends captive. Then in 597 BC Ezekiel and ten thousand captives are taken by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon. In the book of Ezekiel we begin to read of one of the saddest accounts in Scripture, the account of when the cloud, the glory of the LORD, leaves the temple of the Lord and the promised land that He had led His people to around a thousand years before this exile.
The children of Israel had lost their way. They had forsaken the Lord that had delivered them from Egypt and grew them into this great nation. The temple that was built for the glory of the LORD now held idols to multiple false gods. The people worshipped only out of tradition and rote. Their hearts were far from the God that loved them so, and they refused to repent and return to Him. Therefore, the Lord sent them into exile.
While Ezekiel was in exile in Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, the Spirit of God took him to Jerusalem in a vision and he records for us what was taking place in the temple of the Lord and in the heart of Jerusalem. Ezekiel sees the glory of the Lord move from the cherub on the Mercy Seat to the threshold of the temple (Ezekiel 9:3). The temple was filled with the cloud and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the LORD (Ezekiel 10:4). Then the glory of the Lord moves from the threshold of the temple and moves to the entrance of the east gate (Ezekiel 10:18). In Ezekiel 11:22-23 we read of the glory of the God of Israel leaving the city of Jerusalem and standing over the mountain east of the city. The cloud, the glory and the presence of the LORD, had left the temple.
The nation of Israel would be in captivity for seventy years before they were allowed to return to the land. At their return, Ezra and Nehemiah would work to lead the people to rebuild the temple, but the cloud would not return to it. Herod would renovate and expand the temple around 20 BC and it would become known as Herod’s temple, but the cloud still would not reside in it. The glory of the LORD had departed the land of Israel at their exile and it would be hundreds of years before the glory would return.
In Matthew 17 we read of the account of the day that Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain. On this mountain Jesus had gone away to pray and the others had fallen asleep (Luke 9:32). When they were fully awake they saw Jesus transfigured before their eyes and they saw His glory. We are told in Matthew 17:5 that a bright cloud overshadowed them and from this cloud a voice called out, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”
I cannot imagine the overwhelming emotion that had to hit Peter, James, and John at the sight of Jesus transfigured before them. They were seeing Jesus in all His beautiful glory and the cloud that their fathers had spoken about, and the scribes had taught about, right before their eyes and they heard the voice of the Lord speak from it. With what we have learned about the cloud and the temple, we can better understand why they asked if they should build tabernacles there on that mountain.
In that moment the cloud, the glory of the LORD, had returned. The amazing thing is that even then Peter, James, and John still didn’t realize that they had been with the glory of the LORD all along. They hadn’t yet realized that the Word had became flesh and dwelt among them, and the entire time they were looking at His glory, “glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). We can shake our heads at these three disciples, or we can choose to take a step back and ask ourselves if we too are missing the glory of the Lord as He stands right in front of us, or worse, missing Him even as He lives within us.
There are indeed times that I wished that You would lead me by a cloud that I can visibly see and a pillar of fire that physically resides before me. However, deep down I know that you have given me something greater than a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. You have given me your very Spirit to reside within me. Your presence in a cloud would still be outside of me and though it could lead my steps, it could not change my heart. My Jesus you came not to reside in a temple made with human hands, but to reside in me. You made me Your temple. Oh Father, how my heart is overwhelmed with me.
My Jesus, how very much I do love you. It is in Your most holy and precious name I pray,
There is a little game floating around Facebook this Mother’s Day season called Sibling War and one of the questions is about who is the favorite. Our girls seemed to be convinced that we have favorites or at least they chose to slide answers in for that question. Last night my husband and I sat back and honestly attempted to self evaluate this question and their assumptions. What we found the most hilarious was that the one voted the most spoiled was the only one not chosen as a favorite. Therefore, it’s obvious to us that they actually deep down see and know that we DON’T have a favorite but absolutely equally adore each of them.
Our oldest, Ashleigh, is adored for her loyalty and quiet strength. One of our favorite things is her ability to tell a story. If the story isn’t funny, that’s okay, the inner joy we receive just from watching her try and tell it is really what we are listening to so regardless of the point it’s going to be hilarious. She has the most beautiful tender heart toward all things living. She introduces us to all the latest documentaries and concerns of the day. She is our researcher and planet saver and if any of our children ever headed up a March on Washington to save the turtles it would be her. She is full of life and love and it has been our greatest joy to watch her raise her own daughter up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Our granddaughter is not even fifteen months old yet, but has already had her heart and mind flooded with the Word of God because her mother knows that this is foundational for her life and she didn’t have to wait until she was older to introduce her to the Scriptures.
Our middle daughter, Shelby, is adored for her tenacity and drive. She sets a goal and nothing is going to stand in her way in accomplishing it unless God Himself steps in and let’s her know she needs to let it go. She has a strong sense of justice and of right and wrong and she is not afraid to speak loudly to be heard. She has never waited for life to come to her, she has always taken the initiative to chase it for herself. At the same time she has a servants heart and never passes up an opportunity to stop and help someone she sees in need. She is not going to mince words or beat around the bush about anything. Don’t ask her opinion unless you really want to hear it, because she is going to speak the truth she sees even if it’s something you might not want to hear. She is always loud and always excited and loves to talk and thrives to teach and loves Jesus with all her heart and isn’t afraid to stand up and speak out and openly declare His truth even if she is the only one who believes Him.
Our youngest, Rebekah, is adored for the light and laughter that she brings everywhere she goes. She has the most amazing way of finding humor in life and her quick wit allows her to open the eyes of everyone around her to see it as well. However, everything is not a joke to her. She is also able to see past the fake smile and into the hurting heart and she immediately steps in to do what she can to help or at the very least acknowledge the hurt she sees. She is kind to all people at all times. She freely gives light and life to all. She sees the importance of the details and how the simplest acts of kindness can go a long way. She has the spiritual gift of mercy and this is made evident through the love and mercy of the Spirit of God that easily flows through her. She is quick to see the hand of Jesus in every situation and encourage others through her knowledge and experience of His sovereignty and faithfulness to see it as well. She is learning more and more every day to open her mouth in wisdom and the teaching of kindness is indeed on her tongue. She knows how to balance both grace and truth, never condoning sin, but always loving the one that is trapped in it.
As Mother’s Day approaches and I look at these girls that the Lord has entrusted us to parent I remain humbled. I remain humbled that the Lord kept chasing us and pursuing us with His everlasting lovingkindness and patient endurance. I am humbled that He rocked my world and brought me to my knees that I might look up and see that He was everything. I am humbled that as I chased after Him, or so I thought, it was really Him wooing me all along as He kept coaxing me through the stages and seasons of growth as a believer, a woman, a wife, a mother, as He was making me into a warrior of the faith that He would be able to use to raise up these beautiful young women of God to be about His business. I am humbled by the obedience of faith and all the blessings that follow it.
I am thankful for the lessons we learned from our own parents and for the teachers and experiences that the Lord brought into our life that opened our eyes to see our daughters individually for who they each are in Him. I am grateful for how He taught us that the things in their lives that made them different and possibly even got them in trouble as a child were the very things we needed to cultivate and teach them how to develop in a way that glorified their God. The enemy wanted to use them for evil, but their Creator knit them together with all their personality and quirks for good. I am thankful that the Lord blessed me with a partner in parenting that chose to see past the outward behavior to the inward cause so we could always find the good and use it to expose the enemy’s deception and distractions. We don’t chop the top off of weeds in this house for too long, we go straight to yanking things up by the root. We don’t beat around the bush or dance around difficult issues. We just jump in head first and hold on to Jesus for dear life.
Our girls know that they can talk to us about anything and everything without judgment. They know that authenticity is key and we are who we are no matter where we are and no matter who is around. Duplicity is not something that has ever been practiced in our home. They have learned the difference between hypocrisy and the act of discretion and taking the convictions of others into consideration. We are imperfect people who serve a perfect God who is faithfully at work completing what He started in all of us as He conforms us into the image of His Son. We are here to just keep encouraging one another as Jesus does what He does in each of our lives and the lives He allows us to touch as His hands and feet on this earth.
Mommas I implore you to trust Jesus with your babies. Parent them with His Word. Everything you need to know is in the Book. Look at Jesus. Teach them to treat people like Jesus treated people and treat them with the same grace and truth that Jesus treats you. Make the hard calls. Make the sacrifices. Take the time. Do the work. Don’t get so bogged down in making and enforcing rules that they don’t know how to let you into their mistakes and struggles. Don’t get so focused on protecting them from this world that they can’t figure out how to navigate life with Jesus while in it and end up living in fear or in the comfort of the box you built for them. They can’t shine and hide at the same time.
Let me encourage you that it is a sweet, sweet thing as a mother to look at my daughters and have no regrets. I regret not one ounce of time or energy that I have spent or will continue to spend on these girls. I regret not one mile I drove, not one hour of sleep I missed, not one tear I cried, not one battle I fought, not one job I didn’t take, not one outfit I didn’t buy. It is a sweet, sweet thing to experience the transition from just a parent to a best friend. If you try to be the “best friend” when they are young you are in danger of missing out of this sweetness, but if you stand firm and love like crazy… I promise you it will come. We are three for three y’all. Three of my most favorite people on this planet are our girls and not just because they are ours, but because of who they are and who we see them becoming in, through, and for Christ our Lord and the glory that His due His name.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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)