Day 134 – Thru the Bible
Today we read Jonah and continue Psalms. Here is the overview video for Jonah.
Video – Read Scripture: Jonah
How does today’s video help you understand Jonah better?
Jonah 1 – When God calls us to something new, He is always up to something good. However difficult the call may be, it is one of grace and it is for our ultimate joy. Reflect for a moment on the contrast between Jonah and Jesus.
Jonah was in a good place, doing good work, enjoying a good life. Then God said, “Jonah, I want you to go to another place, and do a different work for the sake of people I love; people who are facing an imminent judgment.” Jonah said “No.”
Jesus was in heaven, ruling the universe by the word of His power. Adored by angels, He was in the best place, doing the best work, and enjoying the best life. Then the Father said, “Go to another place, where you will be utterly rejected. You will live a life that will lead to torture, crucifixion, and death. You will become an atoning sacrifice for people I love, who are facing an eternal judgment.” Jesus said “Yes.”
Recognizing that Jesus did all this on our behalf moves us from being the kind of people who care about our own comfort, reputation, and success, to caring more about the people all around us whom we are called to love and serve. Loved much, we are freed to love much (Luke 7:47).
Imagine the scene: God had revealed, through his prophet, a way for the entire crew to be delivered from the storm of judgment. Safety would come through the sacrifice of one man who was willing to lay down his life. But these men wanted to survive the storm without the sacrifice. They turned again to their own means to save themselves. There’s great courage in that, but there’s also extraordinary resistance to God’s revealed will. This impulse to depend on our own resources and refuse God’s means of deliverance is deeply embedded within the human heart.
“But they could not . . .” These four words are the turning point in the story. When the crew realized they could not beat the storm, they turned in desperation and staked their lives on the sacrifice of Jonah. The storm of God’s judgment is stronger than we are. We do not have the ability to escape such a storm, no matter how hard we try. The storm of God’s judgment will wreck us, unless we depend upon His means of escape.
The means that God provides to deliver us from our sin and a fallen world is the sacrifice of His Son. On the cross, Jesus gave His life to deliver His people from God’s righteous judgment against our sin. Cast out by men and forsaken by the Father (Matthew 27:46), Jesus offered himself as the sacrifice that would absorb the wrath of God on our behalf (1 Thessalonians 1:10). God’s storms that teach us our true dependence, and Jesus’ sacrifice that provides for our eternal deliverance, lie at the heart of the gospel. Jesus was thrown into the storm of God’s judgment so that, through faith in His sacrifice, we would be saved.
How do you recognize what you have escaped because of the substitutionary death of Jesus?
Jonah 2 – Jonah cried out when all hope was lost. His life seemed over. Yet such is often the way of the Lord with His children. That despairing moment when we throw our hands up in the air and say, “My life is over”—that moment is when God can really get to work. All through the Bible we see the truth that life comes not by avoiding death but through death (John 12:24–25); strength comes not despite weakness but in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7–10); comfort comes not by eliminating all affliction but through affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3–7).
The supreme instance of this is Jesus Himself, who “was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God” (2 Corinthians 13:4). This lesson of gaining life by dying to self (Matthew 16:25) is what Jonah begins to learn here in chapter 2, as he sits, miserable, in the belly of the fish, having saved others by sacrificing himself.
Salvation belongs to the Lord!” God’s dramatic intervention in the life of Jonah is full of hope—not only for those who seek God, but also for those who, like Jonah, have determined to shut Him out. Many people believe God opens the door of salvation and then stands back, leaving it up to us to decide if we want to come in. But if God made salvation possible and then stepped back, refusing to interfere with our choice, then the entire life of believers would be about us—our believing, our serving, our following, and our choices to live a good life.
In the case of Jonah, imprisoned in the whale’s belly, God was claiming someone who was quite incapable of performing any redeeming work to compensate for his sin. God was not relying on Jonah to save Jonah. The message remains the same for each of us today: if you have trusted God for salvation, He has done more than simply make salvation possible; He has actually saved you.
Consider what lies behind our faith. Even before the creation of the world, we were “on God’s horizon.” God set His love on us and formed His plans for us even before we were born (Psalm 139:16; Ephesians 1:4–5). When Jesus came into the world, He came to save real people with real names and faces. If we are in Jesus, we are among them. The sins He carried to the cross were our sins. The hell He endured was our hell. God did all this for us before we were born, but it didn’t end there. He brought salvation to us, opening our eyes to see our sin, and drawing our hearts to find hope in the Savior.
Each Believer has a unique story of how this took place. The times, the places, and the people involved vary, but behind each story, however simple, is the same amazing miracle of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8–9). Once you see that God has come after you and has laid hold of you, it will open up a new sense of worship and wonder, a new awareness of His love, and a new confidence in what God can do for others.
Have you recognized the enormity of God’s love for you?
Jonah 3 – This is a remarkable statement of God’s grace to Jonah, which rings true also for each of us. God does not give us one shot at responding in faithfulness to His call. Indeed, because of the work of Jesus, God will never give up and quit on us. God’s grace led Jonah not only to repentance but to useful ministry. Along with forgiveness came restoration. Jonah’s experience of God’s mercy then became the backdrop to his ministry in Nineveh.
People in the great cities of the world tend to live hectic lives, consumed with the pressing needs of the moment: running a business, raising a family, or enjoying some sport. Jonah walked right into the bustling city and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
God’s word always engages people with eternal issues. It lifts our horizons from the immediate interests of our lives to the imminent and overwhelming reality of either everlasting destruction or eternal life.
Surprisingly, the people of Nineveh responded in heartfelt belief. They gave up their evil ways. The proclaimed word of God brought belief, ignited prayer, and produced repentance in people who had expressed no prior interest in God. Again, we learn from the converted hearts of these cruel pagans that true faith requires a supernatural work of God to change hearts.
Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. Neither can exist without the other. Repentance is possible only when faith is present; and where there is faith, repentance will also be found. Faith comes from a spiritual awakening to our own need and to God’s glory. Repentance is a gift from God (Acts 11:18) that flows from faith; it is the evidence of genuine faith.
The three days and three nights that Jonah spent in the belly of a fish was for Nineveh the “sign” of God’s great mercy for sinners; in the same way, Jesus’ death and His resurrection three days later is a sign for us (Matthew 12:39–40; Luke 11:29–30). The good news of the gospel is that God has poured out on Jesus the wrath that we deserve, so that we may not perish.
How does the death and resurrection of Jesus give us every reason to hope in the mercy of God?
Jonah 4 – The story of Jonah is peppered with testimonies of God’s providence—His intricate care over every detail of life. God “appointed” the great fish by which Jonah’s life was spared. He also “appointed” the vine, the worm, and the wind. God’s hand is at work in all the events of our lives—both the good and the bad.
The vine was a good gift from God—bringing joy, comfort, and blessing. But then God sent the worm—bringing sorrow, disappointment, and loss. On top of that, God sent the wind, which brought pain, affliction, and distress. It’s easy to see how God can use the vine, but how does God use the worm and the wind?
God used the worm and the wind to save Jonah from a “vine-centered” life.
A vine-centered person is one who is so taken up with the joy of God’s good gifts that he or she ends up loving the gifts more than the Giver. The Bible calls this idolatry. If we feel that without a certain person, or position, or achievement, our life would not be worth living, we may be deeper into idolatry than we think. Friends, family, money, ministry, and success are good gifts from God that can be very gratifying. But they are not the purpose of life. Jesus died so that “those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
Jonah indicated the priorities of his heart when he became angry at the salvation of the Ninevites. If we truly love the Lord, we will love whom and what He loves. God showed His love to Nineveh by sending that pagan city the message of salvation. When Jonah reacted negatively to news that the Ninevites had been saved, he showed that he actually had little regard for God. So also today, if we allow our differences with others to dampen our zeal for their salvation, then we may be disregarding those for whom Jesus died. And simultaneously, we may be indicating our lack of regard for Him.
People “who do not know their right hand from their left” have lost their moral compass and will soon lose their way and become lost. God’s pity is drawn out by the moral bankruptcy of the Ninevites. The Bible tells us that every one of us is born blind (2 Corinthians 4:4), bound (John 8:34), and dead (Ephesians 2:1). A robust and biblical doctrine of sin, properly applied, will help us to grow in compassion. Any softheartedness or virtue we have cultivated is, after all, a gift of God’s grace (1 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 8:1–2).
Jonah saw the moral bankruptcy of the Ninevites, and it led him to harshness and condemnation. He despised the evil people of Nineveh and felt that they deserved destruction. He identified outsiders as sinners, but, viewing himself as an insider, he did not see himself as a sinner. There were people like Jonah in Jesus’ day (Matthew 23; John 9:41), and in ours as well. This deficient doctrine of sin erodes compassion. But God sees evil more comprehensively than we do, and He has pity on all kinds of people (1 Timothy 2:1–4). While we were still sinners—not just when we had “cleaned ourselves up”—Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8).
How does grasping the effect of sin on the human soul helps us grow in the kind of compassion that reflects the compassionate heart of God? Hint: Exodus 34:6–7.
Psalm 129 – Pilgrims who ascend the pathway to Jerusalem understand that this city and nation have been afflicted from the very beginning by those opposed to the God of Israel. So the psalmist begins, “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,” personifying the affliction of Israel herself.
Yet, despite their regular and severe affliction, the enemies of Israel have not prevailed, because the Lord has cut the cords the wicked used to hold Israel in bondage. This may be a reference to the exodus, where God delivered His people from the bondage of slavery, but it probably refers to this and more. God always protects and preserves His people, and He will save them even from their deepest and most severe bondage.
We read these words not only in the context of Israel’s immediate condition but also in the context of God’s wider redemptive plan. As Israel’s Messiah comes, who Himself was afflicted beyond description (Isaiah 52:14; 53:5, 7), He will deliver them from everlasting affliction (Isaiah 53:10–11). With confidence, then, the psalmist declares that all who hate Zion will be put to shame. They will fail in their attempts to destroy the people of God because they will not be able to preserve themselves, and God Himself will show His continued favor and blessing to His covenant people. What grace and power the true God has; His people can always hope and trust in Him.
How is your hope in God revealed in your life?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s video and reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
Videos produced by www.TheGospelProject.com.
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