Daily Reflections November 24, 2017
Jonah has willingly rebelled against God along with his command to fulfill his office as prophet against the Ninevites. In response, God showed his power and sovereignty to use Jonah as he wills. Jonah shows contrition and God shows great mercy by sparing his life. Now, in chapter 4, God gives the prophet a second chance. But the main thrust of the chapter is on the Ninevites. The careful reader will sense the irony. The narrative shifts from the resistance of God’s anointed prophet to the eager repentance of the heathen nation.
Thankfully, God is a God of second chances for both Jonah and Nineveh. Notice that for both of these, however, there is a deep sense of remorse for their sin. For Jonah, he prayerfully wails from the belly of the fish. For Ninevah, from the least to the greatest, they grieved over their sin by fasting and putting on sackcloth. Deep Godly sorrow always precedes mercy. So, any who seek mercy ought to ask themselves if they have ever fallen on their face in agonizing anguish over their sinful rebellion against God. Sadly, many tears often flow because of a bad situation yet few have shed a single tear for their defiance of God.
The end of this chapter reminds us that God knows all things and is in control of all things. The king proclaims, “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” (Jonah 3:9). And while God did relent, only he knew that he would. Unlike the ancient gods, God cannot be manipulated and become subservient to human action. God would have been just to destroy Jonah or Nineveh for their acts against him even after they showed grief. The only reason that he relents is because he is a God of compassion, goodness, and mercy that far surpasses what we deserve. Solomon asserts this point: “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grief the children of men.” (Lamentations 3:31-33). We must always remember that God is not a slave to what we do. Sometimes we take for granted that we have the benefit of Scriptural promises. For instance, we know that if we confess our sins, then he is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us. But those promises are not because we are entitled to it, or our actions bind God to certain actions. Those promises are simply the kindness of God to reveal his character to us.
So, let us bow before God in heartfelt repentance. Who knows? Perhaps God will show you his glorious, unmerited grace.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Evan Webster
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Familiarity breeds contempt”? I often wonder if this saying could be applied to many of our Bible reading times. While contempt may be too strong of a word for this example, I do think that many of us are prone to glossing over the stories we are most familiar with. These are the stories we grew up listening to in Sunday school, have heard preached on numerous times, and can reiterate to ourselves and others with ease. An example from this morning’s reading might be the Parable of the Sower.
This is arguably the most popular of Jesus’ parables. Not only is it the first parable presented in all three synoptic gospels, but Jesus also makes very clear what the meaning behind the parable is. We know the story and we know its meaning so we read over it quickly and don’t stop to ponder how it might challenge us today. Doing so, however, would be to our own detriment.
The Parable of the Sower challenges us to stop and ask ourselves, “Which soil best represents my life?” Rather than assuming we are the good soil we should reflect on our lives and compare them with the words of Christ. When opposition or persecution come your way, do you shrink back from your commitment to the gospel? Do you spend more time and energy focusing on your material prosperity or on your spiritual health? Have you hardened your heart to the point that God’s word no longer has transformative power over you? We know these things describe the soil we do not want to be, but we must also be honest with ourselves and ask if they also describe us.
Having asked ourselves these questions we must also let this parable speak to us on the nature of genuine discipleship. We are reminded that true disciples are not only those who hear and know the gospel, but those who believe in its message (v.12). True believers are those who endure to the end and bear fruit in keeping with their belief (v.13, 15). This is the manner of life to which this parable calls us. Turn, therefore, from the things in your life that describe the unfertile soils and seek to bear fruit in keeping with the gospel. Do this with great hope and expectation recognizing that God has promised that He is the one who will see you through all trials and hardships (Romans 8:30-32).
Director of Youth Ministries Ryan Shevalier