Jonah (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He shows mercy to us through the hard things of life

My friend had a dog that loved to play hide and seek.  When he was told to go hide, he ran to the nearest rug or blanket and stuck his head under it.  I guess his logic was if he couldn’t see us, we couldn’t see him. Jonah reminds me of that dog.  Did he really think that hiding out in the bottom of a boat at sea would prevent God from seeing him?  Surely Jonah was smarter than that!  As the saying goes, “You can run, but you cannot hide.”

Sometimes God asks us to do the hard thing, and for Jonah, preaching a message of redemption to the evil Assyrians was a hard thing because he really didn’t care about their souls.  However, God did care for them, and the Book of Jonah is full of God’s mercy.  God was merciful to the Assyrians despite their evil deeds and sent Jonah to minister to them, and God was merciful to Jonah in his utter disobedience.  God could have allowed the sea to become his grave; but instead, He provided a lesson, a discipline to help turn Jonah’s heart.

After three days of inhaling fish innards, Jonah evidently decided a trip to Nineveh sounded pretty good. “I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows.  For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.” (2:9)  God has a way of getting our attention and letting us know that He sees us with our head under the carpet.  In His mercy, He accepted Jonah’s repentance, “Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.”  Although he must have smelled like the inside of a sardine can, Jonah was alive, submitted and on his way to Nineveh.

God could have sent another prophet to Nineveh, but then Jonah would not have experienced first-hand God’s incredible mercy.  He had additional lessons to learn about pride, selfishness and most importantly about God’s love for all people.  When God asks us to do the hard thing, the thing that rubs us the wrong way or the thing that we dread, we can learn from the Jonah experience.

We can’t outrun Him or outwit Him as Jonah proved to us.  In our submission to Him, we will move past the prejudice or hatred or whatever it is that is making it a hard thing to do. In this perfecting of us, God will also touch the lives of others through it.

Moving Forward: I can accept whatever difficult task He has for me today with the knowledge that He perfecting me as well as touching others through it. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 3-4

2 Chronicles 29-32 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His power is on our side to defeat the enemy

One of the best Christian songs of the 80’s was Carman’s The Champion, the battle of the ages between Lucifer and Jesus.  It reminds us of who our enemy is, but more importantly, it reminds us of Who our God is – The Champion!  King Hezekiah experienced God’s victory first hand when he trusted Him to fight his battle.

How refreshing to finally read about King Hezekiah, a king who was faithful to the Lord, a champion in his own right.  “In all that he did in the service of the Temple of God and in his efforts to follow God’s laws and commands, Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful.” (31:21)  Hezekiah’s heart for God directed him to restore temple worship and once again follow the laws of God, and the Lord rewarded his efforts.

The Northern Kingdom had already fallen to the Assyrians, and now King Hezekiah and the Southern Kingdom were under siege by them.  Hezekiah encouraged his people with these words, “Be strong and courageous!  Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” (32:7)

Hezekiah’s words were just what the Israelites needed as Assyrian King Sennacherib hurled his insults and threats at them, “What are you trusting in that makes you think you can survive my siege of Jerusalem? Surely you must realize what I and the other kings of Assyria before me have done to all the people of the earth! Were any of the gods of those nations able to rescue their people from my power?…No god of any nation or kingdom has ever yet been able to rescue his people from me or my ancestors. How much less will your God rescue you from my power!” (32:10,13-15)

Well, I can tell you I’ve been there.  The enemy comes around in the heat of the battle, pouring his lies and deceit to bring discouragement with a kidney punch or two.  Jesus called his bluff when He said of the devil, “He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)  Really, why would we believe anything he says?

We could only expect the enemy to hit below the belt when he belittles the power of the living God.  How foolish! It is then that the Spirit of the Lord rises up within us and just like Hezekiah’s uplifting words, we can encourage ourselves with the Word of God.  “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (I John 4:4)  “No weapon turned against you will succeed.  You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you.” (Isaiah 54:17)   “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.”  (Revelation 1:17)  The Champion!

“And the Lord sent an angel who destroyed the Assyrian army with all its commanders and officers. So Sennacherib was forced to return home in disgrace to his own land.”  (32:21)  Sennacherib was defeated, discouraged and down for the count because a godly king “sought his God wholeheartedly.”  And we, too, will be victorious and defeat our enemy when we refuse his lies and accusations in the midst of the fight and turn to the Champion of our Faith, the Lord Jesus Christ who will take him down. 

Moving Forward: I won’t even begin to listen to the lies of the enemy today, much less believe him.  I seek God with my whole heart because the battle is His, and He always wins – He’s the Champion!

Tomorrow @ Psalms 125-127

Jonah (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He shows mercy to us through the hard things of life

My friend had a dog that loved to play hide and seek.  When he was told to go hide, he ran to the nearest rug or blanket and stuck his head under it.  I guess his logic was if he couldn’t see us, we couldn’t see him. Jonah reminds me of that dog.  Did he really think that hiding out in the bottom of a boat at sea would prevent God from seeing him?  Surely Jonah was smarter than that!  As the saying goes, “You can run, but you cannot hide.”

Sometimes God asks us to do the hard thing, and for Jonah, preaching a message of redemption to the evil Assyrians was a hard thing because he really didn’t care about their souls.  However, God did care for them, and the Book of Jonah is full of God’s mercy.  God was merciful to the Assyrians despite their evil deeds and sent Jonah to minister to them, and God was merciful to Jonah in his utter disobedience.  God could have allowed the sea to become his grave; but instead He provided a lesson, a discipline to help turn Jonah’s heart.

After three days of inhaling fish innards, Jonah evidently decided a trip to Nineveh sounded pretty good. “I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows.  For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.” (2:9)  God has a way of getting our attention and letting us know that He sees us with our head under the carpet.  In His mercy, He accepted Jonah’s repentance, “Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.”  Although he must have smelled like the inside of a sardine can, Jonah was alive, submitted and on his way to Nineveh.

God could have sent another prophet to Nineveh, but then Jonah would not have experienced first-hand God’s incredible mercy.  He had additional lessons to learn about pride, selfishness and most importantly about God’s love for all people.  When God asks us to do the hard thing, the thing that rubs us the wrong way or the thing that we dread, we can learn from the Jonah experience.

We can’t outrun Him or outwit Him as Jonah proved to us.  In our submission to Him, we will move past the prejudice or hatred or whatever it is that is making it a hard thing to do. In this perfecting of us, God will also touch the lives of others through it.

Moving Forward: I can accept whatever difficult task He has for me today with the knowledge that He perfecting me as well as touching others through it. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 3-4