Episode 35 | The Blessed Resistance

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-4nxqb-ff0753

In this episode, fellow POJCasters, Sal and Todd discuss celebrate (if you can call it that) one year since they recorded the podcast in person. That and a discussion on self-discovery. You don’t want to miss this!

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Other ways to Support: If you love this podcast, please rate and review us on iTunes, Google Play Music, Spotify. The more we get rated and reviewed, the higher up on the giganto totem pole we get on those respective platforms.

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EPISODE NOTES:

He Brews Segement:

Sal

Todd

  • Founders CBS Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout Aged in Maple Syrup Bourbon Barrels.

Most Excellent Music Segment:

Todd

Sal

The Blessed Resistance Segment

Holy Week 2021: Fulfilled: Maundy Thursday

Read Zechariah 13:7-9

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“On the way, Jesus told them, ‘Tonight all of you will desert Me. For the Scriptures say, God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’” (Matthew 26:31 NLT)

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

011-last-supper

Maundy Thursday. This is the day that Jesus had celebrated the Passover feast with his disciples. It is possible that this day was the day that Passover fell, which would have been considered a Sabbath day, or a day of rest, as well. On the week of Passover, the day of Passover is a Sabbath, along with the high holy Sabbath day of Saturday. With that said, John had Jesus being crucified on the day before the Passover feast. Thus, Jesus celebrated the feast early and, on “slaughter day” (when the lambs were slaughtered for the Passover feast), the Lamb of God was being slaughtered on the cross as the final and ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world. This chronology would mean, if Jesus was crucified on a Friday as tradition tells us, that Passover that year fell on the high holy Sabbath day (Friday evening through Saturday evening).

This chronology aside, per tradition, Jesus celebrated Passover (his last supper) on Thursday evening. It is there that he wrapped a robe around himself and washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-20). This, of course, taught his disciples that the master IS the servant of all. That no one was too high to do the lowliest of tasks. That the economy of Heaven dictates that those who wish to be master must be the slave of all. This is the day that Jesus gave his disciples his new commandment, to LOVE one another as he first loved them. The word Maundy by the way , from the Latin word mandātum, means mandate or command.

It was on this night that Jesus instituted one of the two sacraments instituted by Christ in the Scriptures. That, of course, is the sacrament of Holy Communion, also known as the sacrament of the Eucharist. It was on that night that Judas left the supper to carry out his plan of betrayal, and it was the night that Jesus warned that Peter, his most beloved friend, would deny knowing him out of fear for his own life. It was the night that all of the disciples would flee in fear of being arrested with Jesus.

The reality is that, in his moment of utter despair, Jesus’ closest friends and confidants fled the scene, leaving him alone with those who sought to kill him. This fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah, “‘Awake, O sword, against My shepherd, the man who is My partner,’ says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. ‘Strike down the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn against the lambs’” (Zechariah 13:7 NLT).

Yet, God being graceful and merciful, the story does not end there. Those who were scattered were not permanently lost; rather, they ended up coming back into the fold later, following the resurrection and ascension of the Lord. This fulfilled the words of God through Zechariah, “I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God'” (Zechariah 13:9 NLT).

How many of us have found, in anxious moments of confusion and despair, have found ourselves denying Christ? How many of us have found ourselves betraying Christ? Remember, our Lord knows our weaknesses and has shown nothing but grace toward us. Are you willing to accept that grace, or will you allow your guilt to consume you as it did Judas? Remember that God is sovereign and that God’s sovereignty is displayed through grace.  All you need do is accept that grace and find forgiveness for your sins. Let us now take the journey with Jesus to the cross, where God’s grace is displayed for all the world.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” – Saint Paul (Romans 3:23 NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, forgive me for I am a sinner. Bring me back from to the path I strayed from and lead me into your Kingdom. Amen.

Holy Week 2021: Fulfilled: Spy Wednesday

Read Zechariah 11:12-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver.” (Matthew 26:14-15 NLT)

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

006-judas-betrays-jesus

Spy Wednesday. In Zechariah, we see the prophet giving up on his office as prophet. He had been embattled serving the people of God. They were divided over who should be high priest, many hardened their hearts toward God, and Zechariah felt that the time had come for him to simply let them have their own sinful way. This was not done because Zechariah was a quitter, but because God had given them the choice between their ways or God’s way, and they had clearly chosen.

Thus, the Lord God was speaking through Zechariah, when he said that he would remove the good shepherd and replace him with a useless, lazy, selfish one (Zechariah 11:16-17). As a result of their hardened hearts, they ended up following the prophets and leaders of this world, to their own demise. Thus, Zechariah requested, “‘If you like, give me my wages, whatever I am worth; but only if you want to.’ So they counted out for my wages thirty pieces of silver” (vs. 12). Continuing on, Zechariah declared, “And the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—this magnificent sum at which they valued me! So I took the thirty coins and threw them to the potter in the Temple of the LORD (vs. 13).

Yet, Zechariah’s situation aside, this particular verse was foreshadowing what was to happen to Jesus of Nazareth through one of his closest friends and disciples, Judas Iscariot. It was on what has become known as “Spy Wednesday”, that Judas met with the high priest and the Pharisees to plot against Jesus. Judas agreed to betray his Lord and master in exchange for none other than thirty pieces of silver. Thus, Judas became like a spy. He became a wolf among the sheep and waited for the right moment to betray Jesus and have him arrested.

This, of course, was directly following Jesus’ revealing to his disciples that he was going to be “handed over to be crucified.” It was also following Jesus scolding his disciples for their chastizement of the woman who anointed his feet. In Matthew, it is written that the disciples became indignant because such expensive perfume could have been sold and given to the poor. Jesus put the disciples back in their place and praised the woman for her compassion toward him.

The question that puzzles many is this, why would Judas betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (about $600 in U.S. currency…a handsome amount in the ancient world)? Maybe it was because, as Jesus continued to press and antagonize the religious and political leaders in Jerusalem, Judas feared that they would all go down with Jesus. Maybe, for Judas, Jesus wasn’t doing enough against the Romans and he was among those who wanted to see a physical, bloody revolt. Maybe Judas, along with some of the other disciples, were indignant toward Jesus for the woman anointing him, or maybe for other reasons. There is, of course, the possibility that Judas was always a snake in the grass, was greedy, and looking for any opportunity to find a way to betray Jesus and gain money and status for doing so.

We can only speculate Judas’ motivations; however, we do know that the Judas regretted his decision so much that he took his own life. The blood money he was paid went to pay for a field, fulfilling the words of Zechariah in a new and most sorrowful way. The challenge for us is to look inward on this Spy Wednesday! Are our intentions pure? Do we follow Jesus for the sake of following the Lord, our Savior? Do we follow Jesus for the glory of God and for the Kingdom of God? Or do we have alterior motives for following Christ?

Do we seek out God’s agenda, or are we secretly trying to find ways of working in our own? Are we sheep in Christ’s fold, are are we wolves that have found our way in? Are we Christ’s own, or have we become snakes in the grass? These questions are not comfortable ones; however, they are important to ask. I think that we can find moments in our lives where we are truly aligned with Christ, and others where we are not. Let us be honest this Holy Week and pray for God to remove the inner-Judas that exists within all of us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
We have two choices in love, faithfulness and betrayal.

PRAYER
Lord, forgive me for the times I have betrayed in you in my thoughts, in my words, and in my deeds. Guide me toward a life of faithfulness. Amen.

Holy Week 2021: Fulfilled: Holy Tuesday

Read Isaiah 49:1-7

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:28 NLT)

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

AngryJesus

Holy Tuesday. On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem being hailed as the King of the Jews. He went into the temple and upset the peace by overturning the tables of the money changers. No doubt, this act had both the Temple priests and the Roman leadership looking intently on this individual…this “prophet.” He was showing himself to be a trouble maker.

By Monday, Jesus he began antagonizing the Temple leadership, as well as the teachers of religious laws (known as the Pharisees). He taught in parables that called the leaderhsip out for their hypocrisy. He proclaimed that hey was the the stone that God declared to be the cornerstone and decried the priests and the teachers fo religious law for rejecting him. He certainly did not win many of the priests and Pharisees over on Holy Monday.

On this day, Holy Tuesday, Jesus’ teachings took a sharp and dramatic turn. Instead of teaching in parables, he called the Sadducees and Pharisees out directlty. “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.” (Matthew 23:2-3 NLT). Calling them hypocrites, Jesus levied a series of seven accusations against the religious leadership. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!” (Matthew 23:15 NLT)

Jesus called the leadership out on perverting the law for their own gain. He likened them to “whitewashed tombs”  that look pristine and beautiful on the outside, but are filled with bones and the dead on the inside. His words cut through them and caused their hatred of him to grow to an all-time high. They were already trying to find a way to eliminate him; however, after this display, they were even more determined.

Jesus did not stop there either. He went on to predict that the temple would be destroyed and began to share with his disciples that the world was going to experience a whole lot of darkness before it would see the light of God. Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, for its refusal to accept him and the message of God who had sent him. He lamented, “And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate. For I tell you this, you will never see Me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the One who comes in the name of the LORD'” (Matthew 23:38-39 NLT)!

All of this a profound fulfillment of what was written in Isaiah 49:1-7. Jesus’ words were, indeed, “words of judgment as sharp as a sword.” On Holy Tuesday, Jesus was like a sharp arrow in God’s quiver. He was being loosed on the people who were supposed to be witnessing to the glory and love of God but were, instead, basking in their own status and glory to the detriment of God’s people.

Of course, it is easy for us to read this and point fingers at the religious leadership in Jesus’ time; however, Christians believe in the “priesthood” of all believers. That we are all called to bring people to a relationship with Jesus and represent God’s love in the world. The question is, are you doing that? Are you living into the call that God has placed on your life as a believer? Are you exonerated by Jesus, or his sharp words cutting through with convicting truth? I think we all can acknowledge that there is room for us to grow and transform. I pray that we all open our hearts and be transformed by Jesus’ words in fulfillment with what Isaiah prophesied, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to Me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring My salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6 NLT)

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Love does not always come in hugs and flowery words, but as words that cut like a sword through the aspects of ourselves that enslave us and bring us down.

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for loving me enough to tell me the truth. Continually guide me and lead me back to you and your Kingdom. Amen.

Holy Week 2021: Fulfilled: Holy Monday

Read Isaiah 1:1-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Jesus asked them, ‘Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing, and it is wonderful to see‘” (Matthew 21:42; cf. Psalm 118:22-23).

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

004-fig-tree

Holy Monday. On Monday morning, following Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his cleansing of the Temple, Jesus begins his journey back into Jerusalem. In the evenings, during Holy Week, Jesus and his disciples did not stay within the city, but stayed in the village of Bethany (presumably with his friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary). Bethany is a mere mile and a half to the east of Jerusalem.

Holy Monday, though most people don’t really pay it much mind, was going to be busy day for Jesus. He was further going to push the religious leaders (the Sadducees/priests and the Pharisees/teachers of religious law), the Herodians and all those who had lost their way from God. On his way into the city, Jesus discovered a fig tree that had leaves, but did not bear fruit. Fig trees in that region, evidently, begin to bear fruit before they begin to sprout leaves. With that said, it was not the season for figs to be growing on the tree.

When Jesus saw the tree he cursed it for not bearing fruit. The disciples noticed that the fig had withered immediately upon Jesus cursing it. This action was symbolic of the religious and political leadership (of which the ancient world did not separate) in Jerusalem. They all had leaves so to speak. They looked the part and acted the part, but they were bearing absolutely no fruit. In fact, worse than that, they were bearing all of the WRONG fruit. Jesus’ action of cursing the tree was also a message to his disciples. The time for fruitlessness had passed, the time for God’s Kingdom had come. There was much work to be done. Bear fruit. Little did they know at the time, but the risen and ascended Jesus would send an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on them at Pentecost to help them accomplish just that.

In the Old Testament, we see the prophet Isaiah, as well as other prophets, calling out the religious and political leaders of their day. Through Isaiah, God denounced them, “Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care—but Israel doesn’t know its Master. My people don’t recognize My care for them. Oh, what a sinful nation they are—loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the LORD. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him.” (Isaiah 1:3-4 NLT)

In Jeremiah, the prophet scolded the King Jehoiakim of Judah when he proclaimed for the LORD, “’But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king! Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink. But he was just and right in all his dealings. That is why God blessed him. He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know Me?’ says the LORD. ‘But you! You have eyes only for greed and dishonesty! You murder the innocent, oppress the poor, and reign ruthlessly’” (Jeremiah 22:15-17 NLT).

Jesus not only carried on the prophetic tradition of holding the leaders accountable; rather, he was the fulfillment of the visions of the prophets who proceeded him. Christ’s coming was both a judgment on the world order, and a way to salvation for all who chose to heed God and follow God’s only son, who was himself was the incarnation of God. Immanuel. On that Holy Monday nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus held the leaders accountable. He pointed them to their hypocrisy and pronounced that their rejection of him was their rejection of God. As a result of their choosing to reject the cornerstone of God’s kingdom, Jesus Christ, God’s Holy Spirit had passed them by and left them desolate, just like the fig tree.

The time has come to bear fruit. The church is now in the same position of the leaders in Jesus’ day. We have a choice to accept Christ’s call on our lives and to bear fruit, or to continue on in complacency and ignore the very cornerstone of the Kingdom God is building. If we do the latter, the Holy Spirit will move on to those who will open their hearts to the presence and working of God. Let us not end up like the fig tree. Let us, rather, through the power of the Holy Spirit, witness to the fulfillment of God’s covenant and the coming of God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The tree that produces little to no fruit is a dying tree.

PRAYER
Lord, prune the dead branches in my life so that I may continue to produce vibrant, hearty fruit for your Kingdom. Amen.

Episode 195 | Purple Theory, part 7: Silence

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-jmadr-ff0107

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses the importance of the spiritual discipline of silence.

EPISODE NOTES:

First UMC of Newton, NJ premieres worship online on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Join us for worship on YouTube.

If you worship with us online and/or you would like to give to First UMC of Newton, your generosity will help us sustain with our mission and ministries during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are still paying our staff and we are still ministering to people in our community and beyond. Your support is vital to us being able to do so. Thank you for considering giving at https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc.

Sign up for bi-weekly devotions at Life-Giving Water.

Subscribe to Life-Giving Water Messages, also on iTunes and Google Play Music.

Subscribe to the Party on Johncast, co-hosted by Rev. Sal Seirmarco and Rev. Todd Lattig

March 28, 2021 – Online Worship Service

Worship service premieres at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)
on Sunday mornings on YouTube.

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Service for March 28, 2021. We will be continuing on in the Lenten worship series entitled, Purple Theory. Today we will be discovering the importance of observing silence as a spiritual practice, which makes us draw closer closer to God through making a space for us to listen to God. Let us discover how this discipline can bring us hope, healing, and wholeness.

Please support us by giving online: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc Your support is vital, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. You can also write and mail a check to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ 07860.

If you are from another church that is not able to host online worship, we would strongly encourage you give to YOUR church and support them. They no doubt need that support as much as we do. God bless you all for your generosity.

Holy Week 2021: Fulfilled: Palm Sunday

Read Zechariah 9:9-17

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said, “Tell the people of Jerusalem, ‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.’” Matthew‬ ‭21:4-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

 Palm Sunday. There can be no doubt that Jesus sparked great controversy due to his actions on Palm Sunday. In the life of the church, we think of this day as a joyous celebration, one that involves little children whipping each other with palm leaves and, subsequently, their parents transforming those leaves into palm crosses.

Yet, for Jesus, all of the pomp and circumstance was bitter-sweet. It must have been a sight for him to see all of those people, thousands, crowded around him, laying branches before the donkey carrying him, and shouting, “Hosanna”, a Hebrew word that means, “Help”, or “Save, I pray.” It must have been awesome to witness those crowds hailing him as the Messiah.

With that said, he also knew that the Romans would not ignore the fact that the crowd was hailing him as “King of the Jews.” Nor would King Herod Antipas. Nor would the High Priest, who had much politically to lose if Pontius Pilate were to choose to intervene and stomp out any potential rebellion. Jesus knew that, even though the crowds were hailing him as king on this day nearly 2,000 years ago, they would not be hailing him as king by the end of the week.

But how could this act of riding on a donkey be taken to mean that Jesus was king? Simple. This was prophesied about the messiah that was to come in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.” (‭NLT)‬‬‬

Jesus’ choosing to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey shows that he understood himself as the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy of the coming messiah. He understood himself to be the coming King that would liberate God’s people. With that said, he also knew that the kind of liberation they were seeking was not the kind he was bringing.

The people wanted a liberation from the tyrannical rule of Rome; however, who would save them from the tyrannical rule of sin and death. Even if one could have overthrown the Roman Empire, what would stop him or her from becoming yet another tyrannical ruler. Look at the kings of Israel and Judah. Each generation of rulers became more wicked than the last.

It is important to realize that Jesus did not come to liberate in a worldly fashion. Jesus did not come to follow the world’s ways and methods of liberation; rather, Jesus came to change the hearts and the souls of a people who he knew had closed off their hearts to him. Still, with that said, that fact was no deterent for Jesus. He entered the city in triumphal fashion, went straight to the temple, overturned the money changers, and fulfilled another prophecy, “Passion for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me” (Psalms‬ ‭69:9‬ ‭NLT).‬‬ Jesus stayed the course and took the one-way march into Jerusalem; a march unto his bloody, torturous death. God’s suffering servant was ready to take on the weight of the world‬‬

MOMENT OF REFLECTION

In what ways have you closed your heart to Jesus, the Christ? Are you willing to allow the passion of our Lord to soften your heart, once again, and let him in?

PRAYER

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Bring me back into your presence and your loving care. Amen.

RECLAIM, Episode 5: Silence

RECLAIM premieres on YouTube every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. EST (GMT -400).

In this brand new video series, Pastor Todd of First United Methodist Church of Newton, NJ brings passionate awareness and helpful tips on various transformational Christian practices and theology. Each episode will inspire and motivate spiritual growth through time-tested practices and and wisdom.

This week’s episode invites you to RECLAIM silence as a wholesome and healthy practice in our daily lives. Pastor Todd will discuss about observing silence, as well as why it is important an important spiritual discipline.

Jonah Was a Prophet

Read Jonah 1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!” (Matthew 12:39 NRSV)

JonahVeggieTales

Have you ever read the book of Jonah? It is one of the most interesting books in the Old Testament. Let me sum it up for you. There was this well-known prophet in Israel by the name of Jonah. The Lord called upon this prophet and told him to go to Nineveh and give them the warning that God’s wrath was about to fall upon them. Nineveh was an Assyrian city and it’s inhabitants were enemies of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. As a result of their ongoing and wicked brutality toward the the northern Israelites, God told Jonah to go there and proclaim God’s judgment against them.

Presumably, but not necessarily, out of fear, Jonah disobeyed God and tried to run away from God and the call God was placing upon him. He fled to Jaffa and from there sailed to Tarshish, trying to go as far in the opposite direction from Ninevah as he could go. On his way to Tarshish, however, a great storm came over the ship he was on and, after determining that it was Jonah who brought the storm upon their ship, the sailors aboard through him overboard. It was then that he was swallowed up by a gigantic fish (note, the Bible does not say it was a whale).

For three days and three nights, Jonah was in the belly of that fish. He prayed to God during that time, begging God to spare him. In an answered prayer, Jonah is spit out of the fish and saved. God again tells him to go to Nineveh and this time he listens. He goes to that city and fiercely proclaims the judgment of God upon them, but something unforeseen happens: they repent and God forgives them. That’s right! God forgives them. Jonah is enraged! How dare God forgive them! How dare God not follow through on God’s word. How dare God make Jonah out to be a false prophet! How dare God! Jonah was so enraged that God could not comfort him. He sat out in the middle of the desert hoping to die from heat exhaustion and dehydration! That’s how angry Jonah was!

So often, this story is told from the angle of Jonah getting swallowed up by the fish. Usually the focal point is that Jonah tried to run away from God and tried to hide from God’s call. The moral, as it is typically conveyed, is that you cannot run and hide from God, that God’s will comes to pass one way or the other. Yet, if we read the story properly, we will see that this is missing the point. God’s will did not have to come to pass at all. Jonah ran, got thrown overboard, and God saved Jonah by having a big fish swallow him and spit him up on shore. God then told Jonah to go to Nineveh, a demand Jonah could have once again rejected.

The moral of the story has little to do with how Jonah get’s to Nineveh, but has everything to do with Jonah’s attitude the whole way through the story. He did run from his call, for whatever reason, but his attitude was no better when finally did decide to go to Nineveh and deliver God’s message. In fact, one could say he begrudgingly went and was defiant in his answering God’s call. What’s more, when God decided to renege on his promise to bring judgment upon Nineveh, Jonah became downright indignant and refused to have a relationship with God even if that meant denying the protection God was trying to provide in order to save him from dying in the desert.

The lesson here is this: God is calling each and every one of us to serve in ministry. Some of us are called to be prophets, others healers, others still are called to speak in different languages. Whatever you are called to, whatever your gifts are, God is calling you. But God’s call does not come with a guaranteed ending. God’s call does not come with certainty. We have a choice to answer God’s call willing, to turn and run from it, or to obstinantly and defiantly answer it for all of the wrong reasons. Only one of those paths leads to the Kingdom of God. The other two lead to the depths of sea and the scorching hot desert. The choice is ours: God’s way or our way. Let Jonah’s story be a reminder of what our way leads to.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your purpose.” – Aristotle

PRAYER
Lord, soften my heart to answer your call  and to use my gifts willingly for the transformation of the world. Amen.

A biweekly devotional