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Saturday, May 23, 2009

The God of Second Chances

The Lord is patient and gracious. He could have let Jonah drown in the Mediterranean Sea, but He didn’t. He rescued disobedient Jonah and lodged him in a safe place, the belly of a great fish, where he had time to reconsider his actions, repent, and rededicate himself to the Lord. And then, after the great fish vomited Jonah onto dry land, the Lord spoke to him “the second time, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you’” (Jonah 3:1, 2). Almost déjà vu (see Jonah 1:1, 2), but one big difference is clear. The Lord had not changed. The commission had not changed. But Jonah’s heart and will had changed.

How often has the Lord given you and me a second opportunity to serve Him after we rejected the first opportunity? How often has He used adverse circumstances to change our hearts and wills and prepare us to embrace the second opportunity? Of course, it is always best to respond to the first call as young Samuel did when the Lord summoned him to service. He prayed, “Speak, for Your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:10).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

God's Appointed "Submarine"

When Jonah went down to Joppa to flee from the Lord, he could not have guessed how far down he would get. He landed in the belly of a great fish after the sailors threw him overboard in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. What a predicament! But the news wasn’t all bad, because the Lord had prepared (appointed) the great fish to swallow Jonah (Jonah 1:17).

Jonah had not escaped the Lord’s sight, although he had tried to do so. The Lord’s eye was on his erring servant, and His hand was still evident in his life. He had prepared the great fish to save Jonah from drowning and to arrange a place of solitude where Jonah could rethink his decision to disobey Him, repent, and realign himself with the Lord’s will. Today, too, the Lord does what it takes to preserve us and persuade us to obey Him. Circumstances that initially appear to be disappointments may actually be His appointments.

Jonah prayed from the belly of the great fish. His voiced his “affliction” and confession to the Lord. Desperate circumstances became inspiring circumstances, and after three days in the belly of the great fish (Matthew 12:40), Jonah exclaimed, “Salvation is of the LORD) Jonah 2:9). That’s when the Lord “spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land” (v. 10).

Someone reasoned Jonah was an evangelical and the fish was a liberal. So, when Jonah cried, “Salvation is of the Lord,” the fish thought, “I can’t stomach this” and promptly vomited him onto dry land.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Man Overboard!

While Jonah slept in the hull of ship bound for Tarshish, a horrific storm threatened to capsize the ship. The desperate sailors were praying to their false gods and tossing cargo overboard. A rebuke from the ship’s captain jolted Jonah. Why wasn’t he praying instead of sleeping?

Jonah recognized God’s hand in the storm and believed He was chastising him for trying to run from the responsibility of preaching against Nineveh’s wickedness. After the casting of lots singled out Jonah as the troublemaker who had stirred up the storm, Jonah confessed his disobedience and advised that the sailors to throw him overboard (Jonah 1:7–12). To their credit, the sailors were reluctant to heed Jonah’s advice. They vainly tried to row to shore, but eventually realized they would have to toss Jonah overboard (vv. 13–15). Before doing so, however, they asked God not to hold them accountable for Jonah’s impending death.

When Jonah splashed down, the storm settled down. The sailors were so impressed with the power of Jonah’s God to start and end the violent storm that they offered a sacrifice to Him and made vows (v. 16).

Think of the irony in this episode. The pagan sailors tried to do the right thing. Jonah, a prophet in Israel, had tried to do the wrong thing. As a prophet, he was supposed to represent the true God to pagans. But what a wretched representative he was. His personal guilt and shame were evident.

It is extremely sad when a believer’s “dirty laundry” is exposed and pagans seem to have more integrity than the offending believer. Spectacles of shame include acts of immorality, crooked business deals, and deception, and many other sins that mar our testimony.

Shouldn’t we expunge from our lives daily anything that fails to square with our profession of faith? A hot temper, bad language, lack of courtesy, rancor, disrespect, envy, and pride are a few of the many sins that contradict our testimony and render us ineffective representatives of the true God.

May our walk and our talk say positive things about God this week!