TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- Jonah 1:1-4-11;

Seven times we read, words to the effect, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah” (1:1;2:10; 3:1, 3; 4:4, 9, 10).

Jonah, son of Amittai, was told to preach against the great city of Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria.  He was to be the first apostle to the Gentiles. The idea of the people of Nineveh repenting hardly seemed possible to Jonah; their wickedness was so great. But Jonah also knew that God was gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity (Jonah 1:2, 4:2). The Assyrians were his enemies, and he did not want to see them forgiven. They were Gentiles and considered unworthy of God’s mercies. For these reasons, the commissioned prophet Jonah went AWOL (absent without leave). Instead of obeying His Supreme Commander and going to preach to Nineveh, he headed for the nearest harbor (Joppa) and booked a cruise heading for Tarshish 2500 miles in the opposite direction!

According to 2 Kings 14:25, Jonah was from Gath-hepher, a Galilean town in Zebulun, just three or four miles from Nazareth. He prophesied in the reign of Jeroboam II (793 – 753 B.C.). Jesus affirms the historicity of Jonah’s ministry and this account (Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:32).

Jonah ran away from God’s commission, but he could not escape from God.  While on board the ship headed for Tarshish, “the LORD, the God of heaven who made land and the sea”, the God whom Jonah professed to worship and serve, was churning the sea with a storm.

There are similarities to the sailors’ distress in the middle of the storm, and that of the disciples of Jesus, when the wind and the waves caused them to cry out for fear of perishing while he was asleep in the boat.

Jonah was convicted of his rebellion and knew that somehow he, the sinner, needed to be put away to calm the storm of God’s wrath. All other attempts to escape the storm were failing. When the sailors obeyed the words of the prophet and threw him overboard, the raging sea grew calm. The result inspired these sailors to greatly fear Yahweh and offer sacrifices and make vows to Him (1:17).

The phrase is repeated, “the Lord appointed” (NASB, ESV), “the Lord prepared” (KJV), “the Lord provided” (NIV), indicating that God is in charge of the plan of salvation. He has prepared deliverance through His means. “Salvation is from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). The Lord called Jonah, called him to preach, provided the storm, and now He provided a great fish to swallow Jonah. This was God’s appointed means of deliverance. For three days and nights, Jonah was inside the fish, swallowed up and reckoned as dead. Inside the fish, Jonah prayed a wonderful prayer. His words affirm God’s gracious offer of salvation to those who recognize that they have been rightfully banished from His sight due to their sin (2:4,6-9).

Notice again the sovereignty of the Lord evident in the account: “The Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land (Jonah 2:10).

Jesus used the account of Jonah being three days and three nights in the belly of the fish as a picture of His being delivered to death to satisfy God’s wrath against sin. He is swallowed up by death for three days and three nights and then resurrected.

The LORD recommissions Jonah. “The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time”. How grateful we are that God gives ‘second chances’ (Jonah 3:1).

Jonah 3:2 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.”

This time Jonah’s response is different. He has had a personal experience of the cross. God had appointed the means for his getting a new start. He sees that he was as good as dead, buried and resurrected in the sight of God. And this was done all by the hand of God.

Jonah 3:3 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD.

Jonah warns the city that unless they repent in 40 days their city would be destroyed. The people believe God and repent, and so does the King of Nineveh. They clothe themselves with sackcloth and cry out to God with fasting and prayer, asking God for mercy.

This is the greatest missionary success story in the Bible. Nowhere else do we have record of the conversion of so many on foreign soil in a single day. These were Gentiles who repented and put their faith in the God of Israel Whom Jonah preached. 

God relents from bringing calamity to the Ninevites. You would have thought that this would have caused the missionary to rejoice. However, Jonah is displeased and angry. He is depressed and suicidal. The Assyrians were Israel’s enemies, and yet when they heard the Word of God, they repented, while the people of Israel had a history of rejecting the words of their own prophets.

The Lord counsels Jonah, “Have you any right to be angry?”

Jonah sits outside the city and waits, secretly hoping that things will not go well for the Assyrians, that God will bring destruction on Nineveh rather than show mercy. The Lord relents from destroying Nineveh. He provides relief for them and also for Jonah, who is sweltering in the heat, and feeling resentment that God has shown kindness to his enemies. 

Jonah is suicidal. He confesses his death wish to God.

Jonah 4:3 3  “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.”

The Lord appoints a vine to grow up and give Jonah shade from the scorching sun (Jonah 4:6). Jonah loves his vine and enjoys this timely provision. But the next day, God appoints a worm to chew the vine, killing it and robbing Jonah of its shade.  Once again, Jonah wants to die.

God counsels Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” He asks why Jonah is more concerned for the vine that withers than the souls of Ninevites that would perish eternally.

Was Jonah deserving of this favor from God? Did he deserve to be spared of the death he deserved for his rebellion against his Maker? Did he deserve to be delivered from the scorching heat of the sun? The Psalmist would sing, “The Lord is the shade on my right hand, the sun shall not smite me by day” (Psalm 121:5-6).

Did Jonah deserve the mercy of God’s appointed provisions for his salvation?

Jonah thought he knew God. Yet, he did not know God well enough. He underestimated God’s holiness and failed to recognize sin as the serious transgression that it is. He failed to recognize his own dependence upon God’s mercy. He failed to grieve over his sinful rebellion the way God grieves over it. He failed to weep over his own indifference to God’s mercies. He failed to rejoice over sinners who repent the way God rejoices.

What about you?

Let’s grow in getting to know God better.

TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – Revelation 5:1-14

As we behold the Throne of God, we meet the only One who is worthy to open the book, the scroll whose contents is written both within and on the back and sealed with seven seals. The scroll puts into effect the Divine program to ultimately put an end to evil and bring in the Kingdom of God.

The apostle John senses the despair in heaven over the realization that there is no one qualified to serve as God’s agent of perfect judgment throughout the entire span of heaven and earth. There is no one who can advance His purpose and rightly vindicate His justice and His mercy. No one is worthy to open the book or look into it!  John feels the enormity of this challenge and begins to weep loudly. It is evident that no man or angel can put God’s program into action. One of the elders says to John, “Weep no more, behold the Lion of Judah, the root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals” (Rev 5:5).

First, John hears the elder speak of the “Lion of Judah”. He looks for the lion, but instead, John sees a Lamb standing, as though he had been slain with seven horns and seven eyes, which John recognizes as signifying the sevenfold spirit of God sent out into all the earth (5:6).

And when the Lion/Lamb takes the scroll from the right hand of the One who sits on the throne, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fall down before Him in worship and adoration, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense signifying the prayers of the saints.

They sing this new song of praise to the Lamb, saying, “You were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God, from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (5:9)

Revelation 5:10 10 “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”

Multitudes, thousands of thousands join in a chorus of praise singing “worthy is the lamb who was slain” (Rev. 5:12) and “To Him Who sits upon the Throne be blessing and honor and glory and might forever.” (Rev 5:13)

And the four living creatures say “Amen” and the elders fall down and worship.

Jesus, God’s holy Son, qualified to be our Savior by His holy life and His willing substitutionary sacrifice to put away our sin. But do we recognize the enormity of His role in the universe, as the Judge and reconciler of all things? 

TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS – Psalm 133:1-3

This is the song of the anointed head and body of Christ. This is the song that celebrates the adoption of the people of God into the community of oneness that is in Christ Jesus. This is the song of the people of God who dwell in Christ, knowing Him as their Lord, their life, their Salvation, all by the Spirit of the Lord. His work and His resurrection life is the foundation of their unity.

Psalm 133:1 1

 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! 

The anointing upon the head (Christ) falls upon what is rooted in the head (the beard) and flows to the very robes that cover the body. On the merits of the finished work of Christ, our High Priest, the Law of God has been fulfilled, and all the blessings of the Covenant have been won for us, particularly, “Life forevermore”.

TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – Proverbs 29:26-27

Proverbs 29:26-27 26 Many seek the ruler’s favor, but justice for man comes from the LORD. 27 An unjust man is abominable to the righteous, and he who is upright in the way is abominable to the wicked.

This proverb distinguishes the human being’s estimation of justice as infinitely inferior to God’s estimation of justice. We should seek justice in the fear of God. We must also recognize that the wicked will have no real conception of true justice or respect for it.

PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – UZBEKISTAN

  • Pray for safety, growth, and spiritual maturity for those in underground house churches. 
  • Pray for a miraculous explosion of religious freedom. 
  • Pray for believers to be bold in evangelism as foreign workers are expelled.

 “Master of Uzbekistan, a landlocked nation in Central Asia, was once part of the Persian empire and was conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C. Once a thoroughfare for the Silk Road, it was a strategic point of conquest for many invaders. As a result, this populous country is comprised of numerous ethnic groups. Today it is filled with rich architectural beauty evident in its mosques, palaces, and minarets.

The combined influence of more than one hundred years of Russian occupation followed by Soviet rule led to today’s system of government. While professing to be a constitutional republic, the prime minister and parliament have limited authority and the judicial branch is completely subordinate to the executive branch. President Islam Karimov, who ruled for 27 years, died in 2016 and was succeeded by the prime minister, Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Yet institutionalized corruption still exists at every level of government. Although Uzbeks boast a 99% literacy level, all media is government controlled, and free access to information is nonexistent. Once a gateway to goods on the Silk Road, this nation now acts as a transit point for drug activity, particularly Afghan narcotics going to Russia and Western Europe. Additionally, this nation has a reputation for human trafficking and does not meet the standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Uzbekistan is in the top twenty most persecuted nations in the world. Approximately 84% claim Islam, while less than 1% are Christian. Of the sixty-one people groups, thirty-four remain unreached by the Gospel. Fear of the instability created by fundamentalism and terrorism has led to the limiting of religious practices in support of a moderate form of Islam. Yet fundamentalist sects and those who seek to establish Islamic law have still formed. All churches, regardless of denomination, must be registered with the government. There are approximately 25,000 Christians in dozens of unregistered churches facing persecution, arrest, and torture from targeted attacks by government-controlled media and police. Despite increasing scrutiny and harassment, the Church continues to grow, mainly in urban areas, where about one-third of Uzbeks reside. 

PRAYER: Merciful God and Savior, we celebrate Your mercy. Thank You for Your plan of salvation. You have appointed a way for our sin to be put away. You have death’s sting and swallowed it up in victory. We thank You for every provision of Your grace, the special grace of our redemption through Jesus paying our ransom, and the common grace of You providing our daily bread and our needed shade and safety. For You have given us in Christ Jesus all that we need. In Him, we have received Your commanded blessing of ‘life forevermore’. We join with the symphonic praises of heaven to sing the song with new appreciation- Worthy is the Lamb. May Your Name be honored this day in every aspect of our lives. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.