Today’s Bible Reading: Jonah 1-4:11; Revelation 5:1-14; Psalm 133:1-3; Proverbs 29:26-27
Today we read the famous story of Jonah who was called by God to go to the city of Nineveh (the capital city of the Assyrian empire) and announce His judgement against it (Jonah 1:1-2). The ruins of Nineveh can still be seen today, in the modern-day Iraqi city of Mosul.
But rather than go to Nineveh, Jonah heads in the complete opposite direction. He boards a ship for Tarshish, which is on the Atlantic coast of modern-day Spain (Jonah 1:3).
Its interesting that the other men were sailors by trade who probably had experienced their share of storms, yet this storm made them fear for their lives (Jonah 1:4-5). They were apparently religious men who prayed to their gods for relief but when their gods (who were non-existent) didn’t respond they took matters into their own hands by throwing the cargo overboard (Jonah 1:5). This didn’t help calm the storm and, in fact, only made matters worse as they clearly would be losing money on this journey by failing to deliver the cargo.
Such is the case when we worship imaginary gods. Believing in the wrong god doesn’t help at all. Nor does it keep the status quo. Believing in false gods actually creates more problems. This is a lesson the world has yet to learn.
We all know what happens next: Jonah is thrown overboard and is swallowed by a “great fish” (possibly a whale) where he remained for three days (Jonah 1:15-17). There are a couple of things to note here. It is possible for someone to be swallowed by a whale and survive. A story from the Falkland Islands in 1891 affirms that. Also, while many believe that being swallowed by the whale was punishment from God, it was actually a blessing. Without the whale Jonah would certainly have drowned. So by sending the whale, God is actually showing mercy to Jonah even though he blatantly disobeyed. Thirdly, the whale is the means by which God gets Jonah back on track towards Nineveh (Jonah 2:10).
While in the belly of the whale Jonah prays (Jonah 2:1-9). Its interesting that Jonah did not pray before he tried to run from God. Sometimes we think we can just ignore God and He will go away. But this is not true. Usually, like Jonah, we subsequently find ourselves in a desperate situation and have no choice but to cry out to God. Then God has us right where He wants us.
When Jonah finally does get to Nineveh the people were surprisingly receptive to God’s message (Jonah 3:1-5). Sometimes we get all stressed out over nothing. We need never worry… God has our back.
Since the people repented – agreed with God and changed their behavior – God did not destroy them (Jonah 3:10). God is not out to get us. He isn’t eager to destroy us. His goal is to stop us from sining and into a relationship with Him because that is what is best for us. If we do that in response to a warning, like Nineveh did, great. If not, then He’ll have to take harsher action.
Chapter 4 of Jonah is one of the most interesting passages in all the Bible. After his successful mission in Nineveh, Jonah is upset (Jonah 4:1). The original Hebrew words here imply that Jonah was really angry. He didn’t want God to show mercy on the enemies of Israel (Jonah 4:2). While Jonah was being honest with God – which is always a good thing – his anger was unjustified. He was not looking at the situation as God was. God has always been the God of the entire world, not just Israel. He cares about everyone’s eternity (Jonah 4:11).
In Revelation today we read of a ceremony of sorts that takes place in heaven. In this ceremony God is holding a scroll which He will hand off to Jesus. The unusual thing about this scroll is that it has writing on both sides of it (Revelation 5:1) rather than just one side. There is a lot of information on this scroll. The scroll is also sealed with seven seals.
We can’t be sure what this document is. Some believe that the document is a title deed to the earth that God is presenting to Jesus, who will reign over the entire earth forever (Revelation 5:7). Some believe that this document might be a will in which Jesus inherits the earth. But whatever it is, it is very important because only Jesus is worthy of opening it (Revelation 5:2-3, 6-9).
Its interesting that Jesus is described as a lamb (Revelation 5:6). When the human race needs a symbol of power and strength we choose ferocious beasts. Just look at the names of our sports teams: Lions, Bears, Panthers. Can you imagine a football team called the Lambs? It wouldn’t strike fear in the hearts of their opponents. Lambs are gentle and humble. They are not the first thing that comes to mind when we think of leaders.
Yet this is how Jesus is described in the Bible. This is more evidence that the Bible is not made-up. No one would make up a leader who is as gentle as a lamb. And if someone did, no one would follow such a leader unless He truly demonstrated that He deserved to be followed. The more we read and understand the Bible the more we see that it is truly the word of God.
So many people are quick to sue someone else when life doesn’t go their way. Life isn’t fair. We know that. But no human being, not even a judge or jury, can make things right. People claim they want justice. But what they are really saying when they take others to court is “I want revenge” or, more likely, “I want money”. God has placed a desire for fairness in each of us. It is not wrong for us to want justice. But justice can only come from God. It can never come from another imperfect human being (Proverbs 29:26).
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