Friday, March 28, 2014

Grace Upon Grace

This week the She Shares Truth devotional is finishing up Jonah, chapters 3-4.  If you've missed these, you can catch up here.  I've loved these past few weeks of opportunities to share.  She Reads Truth is a beautiful community of believers & one I've loved being a part of.  {If you haven't heard, they're currently working on an app & you can help fund it here!}

Last week in the first two chapters of Jonah, we saw how he was afraid of what God was calling him to.  He tried to run, & that got him thrown overboard a ship & swallowed by a fish.  We can understand how he would be afraid.

But in chapter 3, when Jonah finally obeys God & takes His message to Ninevah, the people listened.  Once he delivered the message, they immediately began to fast.  I love this because, against all odds, contrary to everything Jonah had expected, the people responded in a positive way to the message God delivered through Jonah.  This wasn't just pure, dumb luck.  It wasn't the Jonah was an excellent orator, or was really convincing with the words he brought.  It was because God had prepared the way.  He knew when He sent Jonah what the response would be.

And then in chapter 4 after Ninevah begins fasting, Jonah is...upset.  God called, he ran, God called again, he went, he brought God's message, the people listened...& now Jonah is not happy about it.  I immediately want to jump all over him & shake him, asking "what are you thinking???"  But then I wonder how I would feel.  "Okay, God...I did it, they listened, now they're remind me why I had to come do this?  Couldn't you have just told them yourself?  Or sent one of the believers who were already in Ninevah to tell them?"  I'm sure Jonah felt a mixture of emotions.  Relief that his message was accepted with ease, anger that he had come all this way & didn't even have to put up a fight, embarrassment that he hadn't just obeyed in the first place.

But what I wonder is this: how often do we misunderstand the purpose of God's commands?  I'm sure God did want His message delivered to the people of Ninevah.  But do you think maybe it was of equal importance to Him that Jonah be the one to deliver it?  I think so.  He could've asked anyone, but He chose Jonah.  It's just as likely that God's real purpose in asking Jonah to go to Ninevah was about teaching Jonah to obey.  It was about teaching him humility, trust that God knows what He's doing, & compassion for the Ninevites.

A book I read recently was comparing a person who had lived for Jesus all her life to someone who accepted Christ on her deathbed.  Obviously the first scenario is preferable, but the second girl is no less a child of God than the first.  All it takes is one breath on this earth taken in complete surrender to God to seal us forever as His.  But I can see where it would be frustrating to have done everything right, & then see someone who does the complete opposite until her last breath, then changes, but receives the same inheritance as you.  This is basically what was happening with Jonah.  He didn't believe the Ninevites were worthy of forgiveness or that they deserved a chance to repent.  They'd shown their wickedness over & over & he was ready to be through with them.  But God saw fit to look on them with mercy & relent from His plan of destruction.  This is the attitude we should have towards others.  It doesn't matter if we think they're deserving of God's love; in reality, no one is.  It doesn't matter how many times someone has screwed up, or how many times they'll still screw up in the future; God offers grace, & calls us to do the same.  I believe this lesson He was teaching Jonah was just as important to Him as saving an entire city of people.

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