Archive for March, 2013

Jonah 3

Jonah 3 begins exactly the same way as the first chapter.  “The word of the Lord came to Jonah”.  God didn’t change His plan just because Jonah tried to run away.  God came right back to Jonah once He has his attention and gave him the same direction.  “Go to Ninevah”.  Last time, you’ll recall Jonah ran the other way.  He jumped on a boat and headed as far from where God wanted him to go as he could.  He was not going to go tell these people how to save their skin.  He hated them.

God’s direction was clear to Jonah.  “Call out against it the message that I tell you”.  Jonah doesn’t have to figure out how to do the task at hand.  God is going to give him the message.  All Jonah has to do is be willing and available.  All Jonah has to do is go.  That is so often how God works through us.  It isn’t that we have to figure out all the details.  He has all that in hand.  We just need to be willing to go.  What God originates, God will orchestrate.  He has it under control.  He just wanted Jonah to go in obedience.

Jonah went to Ninevah which was a big place.  “Three days journey in breadth”.  That is a large city.  The message God gave Jonah was to tell them “forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown”.  This was an evil city.  The people were not tuned into God at all.  But “the people of Nineveh believed God….called for a fast….put on sackcloth….word reached the king….he arose from his throne….removed his robe….covered himself with sackcloth”.  Jonah’s fears have happened.  This evil city is repenting and God’s message has been heeded.

The king issues a proclamation to have everyone fast and turn from their evil ways and from the violence.  This is now a city in repentance.  They heard Jonah’s simple message, one that he didn’t even want to deliver, and they are touched.  They understand God’s anger and their future if they don’t change.  So they repent.  “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it”.  The message delivered by a reluctant messenger works.  A city is saved.  God turns from destruction.

Jonah 2

Jonah 2 begins with a prayer.  Remember that Jonah has run from God, at least he thought so, and got tossed into the stormy waters to keep the boat he was on from sinking.  But God didn’t let him die.  God sent a fish to swallow him and now Jonah is in a bit of a pickle.  I’m not sure what the belly of a fish is like, but I can’t imagine it was a step up from where he had been sleeping down in the ship not long before this.  Scripture says it this way: “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress”.  We’re good at prayer like this, aren’t we?  Big trouble – time to call on God.  Not exactly how God intends our prayer life to operate, but for many of us, it is how we live it.

So what happens to that prayer?  “He answered me… heard my voice”.  God was there.  He was listening, and He answered.  But then it moves from a God out there somewhere to a personal thing.  “He” becomes “you”.  No more just God up there in the sky someplace sitting on His throne, but a personal connection.  And Jonah makes it clear that he knows that God is in control.  That God has caused what has happened to occur.  That God is God and only He can save him.

Jonah is in a tough spot.  But he understands that he can’t do anything about it.  “The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God”.  Jonah knows that life is over for him, except if God gets involved and changes his circumstances.  We often have to get to the end of ourselves, unfortunately, before we get to a point in life we recognize what Jonah does here.  That God is not just a way, He is the only way.  He is our only hope.  He is the only solution.  That’s when we finally get past ourselves and get in line with God.

Jonah gives us the sequence of how it often happens:

–       “When my life was fainting away

–       I remembered the Lord

–       my prayer came to you

–       Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love

–       I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you

–       what I have vowed I will pay

–       Salvation belongs to the Lord

Do you recognize that sequence of events?  We get in way over our heads.  We think life is coming to an end and viola, memory returns and we recall that there really is a God who is in control.  So we cry out, totally overwhelmed by our circumstances.  We are willing to give up the idols and human junk that we have been worshipping and consumed with, and we get right with God.  We make promises and offers to change how we live knowing that God alone can save us.  We realize that Salvation only comes from the Lord.  And He moves.  He does what He does and loves us.  In Jonah’s case, “the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land”.  God not only saves his life, He sets Jonah free.  But what a lesson Jonah has learned about running from God.  It doesn’t work.  It won’t work.  The right response is to run toward God and obedience.  That is how we achieve blessing and success!

Jonah 1

Jonah 1 is the story of a very disobedient and stubborn prophet.  “The word of the Lord came to Jonah”.  They were connected.  Jonah was selected by God to do a job, he was to “go to Ninevah” and confront them about their sin.  Jonah doesn’t like the people of Ninevah.  He has no intention of going there to save them as God had commanded.  So “Jonah rose to flee” and took a boat to Tarshish which is going the other way as far as he could.  He didn’t just try to avoid the place, he ran the other way as fast as he could.

Jonah “paid the fare….went on board….away from the presence of the Lord”.  Jonah made a choice.  He chose to disobey God.  That never ends well.  God didn’t just look the other way.  Jonah got on the boat and they headed toward Tarshish unaware that they were carrying a prophet trying to run from God.  “The Lord hurled a great wind” at the sea and the boat on it.  God didn’t grab Jonah himself, He caused circumstances that impacted those in Jonah’s patch.  The impact of sin isn’t isolated only to the person who sins.  It spills out on those around the sinner.  It has broad consequences.

Jonah is oblivious to the situation as he is asleep below deck.  The crew as calling out to their God’s and it isn’t working, so they go down and tell Jonah to “arise, call out to your God”.  Of course Jonah doesn’t want anything to do with that.  He’s running.  The captain decides to find out the source of the problem by casting lots.  “The lot fell on Jonah”.  The crew asks him to tell them why this was happening and Jonah fesses up that he is running from God.  “What is this that you have done”?

Jonah knows the storm is a result of his choice to run. So he tells the crew to “pick me up and hurl me into the sea”.  Of course, that seemed like a cruel thing to do so “the men rowed hard” and tried to overcome the storm on their own.  But it wasn’t working – and they were in trouble.  So they did as Jonah had instructed them and threw him overboard.  They called out to God, so they did figure out that the true God was in control of things.  But Jonah is overboard and into the stormy sea.  “The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights”.  That is quite a different outcome than Jonah had planned when he ran from God.  You can run, but you can’t hide, and God will deal with that bad choice!

2 Chronicles 25

2 Chronicles 25 has another look at Amaziah and his foolishness as king of Judah.  “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart”.  So he sort of did what was right – but not all in – not wholeheartedly – not in a way that truly pleased God.  How unfortunate to come close but not go all the way.  He did assemble a mighty army of 300,000 men and hired another 100,000 from Israel who were all fit for war.  Unfortunately – that was not God’s plan.

God sent a prophet to tell Amaziah “do not let the army of Israel go with you”.  He had just paid 100 talents of silver to get their service.  But God said no.  Rather than respond appropriately to God’s direction – Amaziah misses the opportunity again.  “But what shall we do about the hundred talents that I have given to the army of Israel”?  Wrong question after being told not to use them.  Amaziah focuses on the money – not on obedience.  That is always the wrong choice.

So he got past that and took only his own men and had victory.  But he makes yet another blunder, this one bigger yet.  “After Amaziah came from striking down the Edomites, he brought the gods of the men of Seir and set them up as his gods and worshiped them, making offerings to them”.  He just defeats 20K enemy soldiers and then decides to ignore God and do idol worship of the idols that were taken from the people they just defeated.  Hello – what are you thinking Amaziah?

Three strikes and things aren’t going well.  He tries for a fourth stupid move and challenges Joash king of Israel to come out and meet him face to face.  When Joash refuses, Amaziah decides to attack and is captured and killed.  He went from partial obedience, to failure to focus on obedience, to blatant disobedience.  And the end result was defeat, capture and death.  Not a very good outcome for a guy who started out doing what was right in the sight of the Lord – at least partially.  God demands obedience.  We must never forget that!

2 Kings 14

2 Kings 14 has a listing of a number of kings that led their nations.  There is a variety with “Amaziah…..twenty-five years old….did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not like David his father” to Jeroboam who “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord”.  We see both extremes here, but it is interesting that the writer here notes partial obedience from Amaziah who did right, but was not completely sold out to God like David.  He allowed certain things to remain and continue that were not in God’s plan.

Amaziah was a warrior who struck down those who had killed his father, and then went on and “He struck down ten thousand Edomites”.  A great victory that is known throughout the land.  Jehoash king of Israel was asked by Amaziah to meet him and have a showdown.  Jehoash declines, but Amaziah pursues and insists.  He should have quit while he was ahead but finally he meets Jehoash, king of Israel, face to face in battle.  Jehoash captures Amaziah and goes to Jerusalem and loots the city and the house of the Lord.

The obvious thing in the story of all these kings is that when they walk with God, they cannot lose, but when they take things on themselves, they cannot win.  God is the source of victory, or defeat.  So the lesson here is pretty clear.  We need to be tuned into God’s plans.  We need to walk in His ways and His strength if we want to live victoriously.  God is the source of all great things that happen.  He is the author of our lives and the creator of our future.  With Him we cannot fail.  Without Him we cannot succeed!

But the thing that we learn here is that even when Israel chooses to walk without God’s hand, they are still spared.  “The Lord had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them”.  God is faithful to the word he gave to David and Abraham.  He took care of His people and saved them over and over in Scripture from destruction.  God is a God of His Word – and we can depend on what He says!

2 Chronicles 24

2 Chronicles 24 has more detail on Joash as king of Israel.  You may recall from our study in Kings that Jehoiada had kept him as a baby until the age of seven when he put him on the throne and remove Athaliah who had killed all the rest of the royal family.  Jehoiada “got for him two wives” – so this priest really made sure Joash was set up to succeed.  And Joash had kids and was leading the land.  Joash was also on a mission to correct the issues of the past.  He was following the Lord through Jehoiada’s guidance.

“Joash decided to restore the house of the Lord”. He instructed the priests to go gather money to repair the house of the Lord.  And he told them to “see that you act quickly”.  They didn’t quite understand that last part of the instruction, as they didn’t take action.  So Joash decided to take it on himself and put a box at the door for people to drop their tax into.  Check out what scripture says happened: “all the princes and all the people rejoiced and brought their tax and dropped it into the chest until they had finished….and collected money in abundance”.  That’s something you don’t see often – people rejoicing when paying tax.  He obviously set it up well with the people.

Jehoiada dies at age 130 after living a life pleasing to God.  Scripture says “he had done good in Israel, and toward God and his house”.  But unfortunately his influence doesn’t last and “after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them. And they abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols”.  Joash is swayed away from God and that means big problems for the people of Israel.

God is not humored by this turn of events.  “Why do you break the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has forsaken you”?  How quickly things can change.  Joash has been walking in God’s ways under the influence of Jehoiada the priest and as soon as he dies and others influence him, he quickly moves away from God.  Who we have in our patch certainly does make a difference.  God kept His word and sends the enemy to attack.  “Though the army of the Syrians had come with few men, the Lord delivered into their hand a very great army, because Judah had forsaken the Lord”.  Joash goes from walking with God and His blessing to turning from God and receiving His wrath.  That decision cost the people dearly.  How we live matters, not only to ourselves, but to those around us!

2 Kings 13

2 Kings 13 has the story of Elisha’s last days.  It begins with a description of the rule of Jehoahaz who reigned 17 years over Israel in Samaria.  He was not a good king as “he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord”.  That is never a good decision or choice to make.  The Lord “gave them continually” to the enemy and they were in bondage.  But finally a light bulb goes on and “Jehoahaz sought the favor of the Lord” and God listened.  But they didn’t change their ways and he dies and is replaced by Jehoash as king.

He also did what was evil in the sight of the Lord”.  No lessons learned here.  We learn here of what will cause Elisha’s death.  This is a man of God who has done mighty miracles all over the place.  He has stood against kings and done great things.  “Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die”.  You’d think he would die as a martyr or doing God’s work against some mighty enemy.  But Elisha get’s sick and will die from this illness.  But before that happens, Joash comes weeping and crying about the battle at hand.

Elisha gives him a series of steps to complete:

  • Take a bow and arrows
  • Draw the bow
  • Open the window eastward
  • Shoot
  • The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria
  • Take the arrows
  • Strike the ground with them

During the process “Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands”.  And when instructed to strike the ground, Joash only did it three times.  Elisha didn’t tell him how many times – just to strike the ground.  But much like the earlier miracle of the woman and the oil where the outcome was determined by how many jars she had gathered, the same is true here.  “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times”.

And with that, Elisha dies from his illness and is buried.  We still see the power of Elisha in that some marauders from Moab threw a dead man onto the bones of Elisha, and “as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet”.  That had to be a shock.  Elisha may have been dead but the power of the Lord was still in his bones.  We also learn that his prophecy came true as he stated.  “Three times Joash defeated him and recovered the cities of Israel”.  Since Joash had only struck the ground three times when told to do so, that was the number of victories he was granted.  Elisha’s story is one of tapping into the power of God and delivering the message and miracles as God led him!

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