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Inspirational messages for Sunday July 26 through Saturday August 1, 2020

GOD'S WORK IN HUMAN HISTORY

And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying,2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey. 4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.  Jonah 3:1-5 and 10. 

10 And God saw their works that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.  Jonah 3:10

Introduction

Sunday July 26, 2020

The fourth Sunday in July is designated as Men's or Male Emphasis Day at Second Baptist.  The men have accepted the responsibility to have their special day during the middle of summer in order to offset any short fall in financial contributions during the summer slump we generally experience.  We are asking you to give a dollar for every year the church has been in existence, $135.  There is a blue envelope in your packet of envelopes.  Thank you for the consistency with which you contribute while we are practicing social distancing due to Covid-19 corona virus.  

"Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me."  Jonah 1:1

Jonah is often thought of as a children's story complete with a whale, but the real message of Jonah is an adult one with an opportunity to stretch our understanding of God's mercy, redemption and salvation. The focus scripture is of God's second call to Jonah and his less than enthusiastic response about the outcome.  However, the story of Jonah is a whole piece and needs to be told from beginning to end.

The story of Jonah is one that has a moral lesson to those who believe in God.  It is designed to teach the audience something about themselves. Some background, however, is necessary for a modern audience to understand the conflict within Jonah's heart and soul.  

Jonah in both 1:1 and 3:1 is told "to go to Nineveh, the great city." Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, the nation that destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel and held the southern kingdom of Judah as a vassal for almost one hundred years. Assyria was more than an enemy; it was a brutal occupying force that forever changed Israel's life and fortunes.

Jonah is told by God to go and prophesy to the enemy. For the story to work as it is intended, we must look through Jonah's eyes. We should not stand off on the sidelines and judge, but think of how we would feel in the same situation. I cannot imagine a worse position! Jonah is told to go into the enemy city and announce God's judgment.

Consider what it was like for people of faith to be directed to go to confront their enemies with a word of judgment from the Lord about the consequences of their choices if they don’t change their behavior. 

Monday July 27, 2020

Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me."  Jonah 1:1

The idea here is that God is active in the affairs of human history.  Knowledge of God is not grasped speculatively but in the concrete experiences of life as people discern and discover the Presence of the Lord in their lives.   God is deeply concerned and involved in human affairs then and now.  Tell them "their wickedness has come up before me." 

There is a similar idea in Micah 6:2, representing God as having a controversy with his people.  If God has a controversy with his people today, it is because we are all selfish people.  Our main preoccupation is with ourselves; our reaction to every new proposal is a personal one; “How will this affect me, my wealth, my position, my future?” rather than how will it further the general good of humanity?” We forget that once Jesus said, “Whoever would save his life would lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). 

If God has a controversy with people in general and particularly those who claim to know the Lord, it is because there has been in our world too little concern for one another, too little recognition that life is a interlocking mutual network of dependencies, and neglecting to acknowledge that, “we are members one of another” (Ephesians 4:25), and if one member suffers, “all members suffer with it” (I Corinthians 12:26).  We are a human family.

Consider what it means that God is operative in the world reconciling, redeeming and renewing our awareness of our role and responsibility as part of the human family to participate with God in bringing to pass what the Lord is doing.   

 
Tuesday July 28, 2020

"But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord."  Jonah 1:2-3

We are not told why Jonah runs. Maybe he feared for his life, or perhaps he thought the enemy did not deserve to be offered a chance to have a change of heart. Either way, Jonah leaves town instead of following the directive he was given and decides to go in the opposite direction.  He was fleeing so he thought as the scripture says "from the presence of the Lord."

Imagine confronting those who have oppressed you being told that the atrocities that they have continually committed have been exposed for what they are; appalling, cruel, inhumane, vicious, wreaking havoc.   Rather than going to confront those whose behavior is horrendously inexcusable, Jonah decided to go in the opposite direction away from what he was told to do.  In other words Jonah abandoned being faithful to the requirements of faith which is to follow and obey what the Lord asks you to do.  

Consider why one would forfeit being faithful to following the directives of the Lord.  (t.e. / for example / fearing lost of one's life or wanting to see the enemy meet with terrible judgment, etc).


Wednesday July 29, 2020

"But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Then the mariners were afraid and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them.  5 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.  6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.  7 And they said everyone to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.  8 Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?  9 And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.  10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him. Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.  11 Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.  12 And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.  13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.  14 Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee.  15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging." Jonah 1:4-15

Jonah was running away from the responsibility that was assigned to him.  He finds himself caught in a storm.  In this instance the storm comes as a result of Jonah's negligence and selfishness endangering his life as well as those persons lives where he is.  Negligence and selfishness are the cause of so much harm creating storms; disturbances that disrupt the normal flow of life and living with overwhelming threats of fear of loss.  Storms can remind us of our purpose and our proclivity for failing to fulfill that purpose.    

During the period after the Exile there grew up in Israel a spirit of bitterness and vengefulness toward other lands.  The nation had endured  much at the hand of enemies that there was little inclination to  keep alive the vision of Israel as God’s servant through whom redemptive truth would one day reach all people (Isaiah 42:1, 6).  (“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations").  (“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles"). (The most passionate wrath was that God’s wrath should utterly consume all of Israel’s enemies.  The problem of the prophet in such a time was how to reawaken in the nation a sense of the missionary destiny to which they were called as God’s people. (One of the main features of the story of Jonah is how to reawaken people who belong to God to their destiny as a light to the nations. 

There will always be something in the way to prevent you from permitting your selfishness and negligence to determine the outcome of your life.  Frightening as they can be, storms get your attention and cause you to reflect, remember and reconsider the direction of your life.  There are personal storms, political storms, psychological storms etc. that are occasioned as a result of negligence of humanity fulfilling its responsibility to one another.   

Consider how contrary circumstances threatening your life created the storm toss conditions that awakened you to a purpose beyond your negligence and selfishness whether individually or communally or nationally.   

 
Thursday July 30, 2020

"And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying,2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey."  Jonah 3:1-3

After surviving the storm miraculously, Jonah is given another opportunity to do what the Lord asks of him.  How often are we given opportunity after opportunity to do what the Lord requests?  Jonah rose and went but there was no mercy in his heart. God's graciousness toward him had not kindled mercy in his heart toward others.  "Forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown" was his message. There was only judgment in it, no hope.  In spite of the warning of the storm, the nobility of the sailors, his rescue from the fish, his experience God's mercy seemingly did not soften his heart with gratitude!  Yet God continues to work through people who are hard hearted and relentless in clinging to reasons for their selfishness and negligence.  No wonder the going is rough at times.  However,  the people of Nineveh interpreted what they heard, "If we repent, who can tell if God will not relent?"

The word of the Lord comes to us time and time again about taking responsibility for being who we have the capacity and potential to become in Him.  We are saved miraculously time and time again from the loss that could have occurred.  

Consider how being given another chance to do what you could have done the first time around particularly after surviving the threats of loss of life.     


Friday July 31, 2020

4And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.  Jonah 3:1-5

The writer of the book gently but sharply exposed in the person of Jonah the absurdity of the attitude which prevailed among so many of his countrymen.  It was as though he was drawing a caricature of them holding it up so that they might recognize themselves as in a mirror. 

The picture of Jonah in chapters 3 and 4 is ludicrous in the extreme.  The prophet did as God has appointed him and pronounced the word of impending judgment upon the city of Nineveh.  But the whole population, with the King as its head, repented and humbled itself.  Jonah did not behave as one would expect a prophet to behave, rejoicing in the success of his proclamation.  Instead he conducted himself like a sulking child.  God was moved to compassion by the response of the Ninevites, but not Jonah.  Jonah was angry; more than that he was heartbroken so that he wanted to die when he saw that the people of Nineveh were to be saved from destruction.

Consider what your attitude would be to those who are forgiven when you wanted them punished for what they had done. 

Saturday August 1, 2020

10 And God saw their works that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.  Jonah 3:10

The crux of Jonah's story is in the fourth chapter, for the point of the narrative is not about the conversion of an entire enemy population. It is about Jonah's reaction to that amazing conversion. He is not happy, and the reason is because God is being consistent to God's own self.  "This was very displeasing to Jonah and he became angry" (4:1). The Hebrew reads roughly, "it was evil to Jonah, a great evil, and his anger burned." The "it" of Jonah's anger is the heart of the matter. He tells God why he ran, "for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and ready to relent from punishing" (4:2). Jonah is angry at God for the very attributes that Israel has always depended on for its own salvation (Exodus 34:6-7)! God speaks to Jonah, trying to explain, but the book ends without resolution and Jonah goes away mad.

The Book of Jonah is read in the Jewish calendar on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Jews confess their sins against God and neighbor. Offering Jonah to the congregation yields the same type of contemplation on God's attributes that we too depend on for salvation. How willing are we to let God be God? Salvation is pure gift and grace and Jonah's story reminds us that we do not own that grace, nor is it ours to dole out as we wish. God will be forgiving because that is the very heart of God.

Conclusion

Lesson from the book of Jonah /  We neglect to fulfill our responsibility as God's chosen people / The storm is what reminds us of our negligence / The fish is what put us back on track to fulfill our purpose / We learn reluctantly and are prone to be recalcitrant / unruly /disobedient / headstrong / rebellious.  

A prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

"O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life." Amen.

 

 

SECOND BAPTIST CHURCH OF LOS ANGELES