Tag Archives: Prophet

God’s People, part 90: Baruch

Read Jeremiah 36

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Baruch, this is what the Lord says: ‘I will destroy this nation that I built. I will uproot what I planted. Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t do it! I will bring great disaster upon all these people; but I will give you your life as a reward wherever you go. I, the Lord, have spoken!’” (Jeremiah‬ ‭45:4-5‬ ‭NLT)‬‬

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

img_1054Part 90: Baruch. According to the first century, Roman-employed Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, Baruch ben Neriah (which translates to Barcuh, son of Neriah) was a Jewish aristocrat. An aristocrat is a person who is in the upper class of society. Baruch’s brother, Sereiah ben Neriah, was chamberlain (or household manager) of King Zedekiah.

With that said, Baruch is not known for those things; rather, he is known for his role as a scribe and, specifically, as an assistant of Jeremiah’s. He is known for writing down the first and second editions of the prophecies of the great prophet. He was also known to be an unwavering disciple and supporter of Jeremiah’s. In fact, while Jeremiah was in hiding for his life, he commanded Baruch to read his prophecies against King Jehoakim to the people who were assembled in the Temple in Jerusalem. Baruch carried that order out unflinchingly, despite the great difficulty and danger it presented him.

We don’t garner too much about the life of Baruch from the Bible, other than his being a protégé, a scribe, and a close friend of Jeremiah’s. We don’t know how he experienced his call, how he struggled with it, or how he came to accept. All we know is that he did, with little to know information of what happened leading up to his acceptance. 

With that said, we can certainly use our imagination and piece the puzzle together from what we have learned of him. Coming from an aristocratic Jewish family we know that Baruch and his family were privileged. They enjoyed high societal status and all of the privileges/benefits that went along with that. Baruch was clearly well-educated, which can be ascertained by his role as as scribe (some one who can read, write, and interpret the Scripture).

Yet, Baruch did something that must not have sat well with at least some in his family. He became a student of a prophet who was speaking out against the aristocracy and nobility of Jerusalem. He joined forces with a prophet who was calling out King Zedekiah, whom his brother was serving as the household manager. How did his role as scribe sit with his brother or his father? Was he an embarrassment to them, did he bring shame to the family name?

While we’ll never be able to know the answer to those questions, we can safely presume that answering the call to prophetic ministry cost Baruch something and that he must have wrestled with it before making the decision. The reality is that, like Baruch, we are all called by God to stand up against societal, governmental, and systemic injustices. We are all called to push back against the status quo.

It is also true that we either ignore the call altogether, or we acknowledge it we find ourselves wrestling with the it. How can we not? To answer God’s call is costly. It can cost us our status, our privilege, our reputations, our friends, our family, and even our lives. Yet, God is calling…ever calling. The challenge for us is to acknowledge our call, to wrestle with it, and to accept it “unflinchingly” just like Baruch did. It is then that we will see God work through us in ways we never knew possible.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

The willingness to wrestle with and accept God’s call leads to the transformtion of self and of community.

PRAYER

Lord, what is it that you are calling me to do. Illumine me, give me clarity, so that I may answer that call. Amen.

God’s People, part 89: Jeremiah

Read Jeremiah 1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘Take both this sealed deed and the unsealed copy, and put them into a pottery jar to preserve them for a long time.’ For this is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘Someday people will again own property here in this land and will buy and sell houses and vineyards and fields.'” (Jeremiah 32:14-15 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

JeremiahPart 89: Jeremiah. Jeremiah is one of my favorite prophets. In our last devotion we talked about how he was prophet during the time of King Zedekiah, who refused to listen to Jeremiah’s counsel on how to deal with King Nebuchadnezzar II. Jeremiah, speaking on behalf of God, told the king that he ought to submit himself, and all of Jerusalem with him, to the will of Babylonian King. This would have meant that Zedekiah would merely have been a vassal, or puppet king, of Nebuchadnezzar.

Zedekiah had other ideas and, not only did he not listen to Jeremiah, he detested his advice. How dare this prophet tell him how to handle the Babylonian King! How dare this loud-mouthed, whiny prophet tell him to submit to the will of a foreign empire. Zedekiah was not going to let that happen if he could hep it.

Well, we all know now that Zedekiah really couldn’t help it. Jerusalem didn’t have the forces to stand up to the great Babylonian army; therefore, they had to rely on the enemy of their enemy for military support. We all know how such alliances end up, or at least many of them. They ended up allying themselves with Egypt (a former enemy themselves) who never, in the end, came through for them because it really wasn’t in their interest to. In the end, all that alliance did was anger the Babylonian King and cause him to set off for Jerusalem to beseige, conquer and exile them. We all know how that ended: it was utterly catastrophic for Jerusalem, its king, his family and the people of Jerusalem as a whole.

In the process of standing up to the king and warning him of the destruction that laid ahead, Jeremiah endured all sorts of abuse. He was mocked, beaten up, thrown into cistern where he sat for days, and imprisoned. The king and many of his other advisers did not take him seriously; however, Jeremiah’s prophecy did end up getting fulfilled in the end. Sadly, that meant the destruction of everything that was dear to the Jews, as well as the exile of countless people to Babylon. Jerusalem and Judah would never, ever be the same again.

But Jeremiah was not always so bold. When God first called him into the role of prophet, he could not believe that God would actually choose him. “But Lord,” Jeremiah protested, “I cannot speak for you, for I am too young” God would not have any of those excuses.

“The LORD replied, ‘Don’t say, “I’m too young,” for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the LORD, have spoken!’ Then the LORD reached out and touched my mouth and said, ‘Look, I have put My words in your mouth! Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow. Others you must build up and plant.’” (Jeremiah 1:7-10 NLT)

God’s appointment of him as a prophet, I am sure, was not comforting to him; however, he did, inevitably, say yes to God. The rest is history, as the phrase goes, and the prophet does end up witnessing the end of one kingdom all the while ensuring the future of another kingdom, yet to come. The question for us is this, do we automatically reject God’s call on our lives? Do we fail to see the potential God sees in us? Perhaps, like Jeremiah, it is time to trust that God knows what God is doing and say “yes” to God’s call.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
God knows us better than we even know ourselves. Trust in God’s call.

PRAYER
Lord, while I do not see in me what you see in me, I put my trust in you. Amen.

God’s People, part 86: Micah

Read Micah 6

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“They said, “Remember when Micah of Moresheth prophesied during the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah. He told the people of Judah, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Mount Zion will be plowed like an open field; Jerusalem will be reduced to ruins! A thicket will grow on the heights where the Temple now stands.’” (Jeremiah‬ ‭26:18‬ ‭NLT‬)‬‬

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 86: Micah. To put it plainly, Micah is one of my favorite prophets in the Hebrew tradition, because of his bold prophecy and the concise, but profoundly divine, counsel he gives at the end of his eponymous book. Micah was also a prophet during the same time period that Isaiah and Hosea were prophesying. His message is consistent with there’s.

Before I get into the specifics of Micah’s prophecy, I want to remind us that this series is intent on finding the flaws in the Biblical characters so that we may see how close to us, how down to earth, and how human they were. Unfortunately, the prophets didn’t write autobiographies; rather, their writings consisted of their prophecies. Conversely, the scribes of the Kings did not write historical biographies of the prophets and so there is little to gleen from their lives, unless they happen to reveal that in their writings. Some did, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah; however, most did not and I am not about to “make up” flaws.

With that said, I can speak to what they were prophesying against, and we can explore how that relates to us today. In that way, we can see that the people of the ancient times were not more religious, more obedient, more sinless than we are. The times have changed, technology has changed, geography has changed; however, humanity has not changed.

Now back to Micah. Jeremiah reveals to us that chapter 3 was written against the king of Judah, Hezekiah. Remember that Hezekiah was actually one of the more righteous kings; however, he was not perfect. The king, to refresh you, had fallen victim to his pride. Because of the tremendous flattery given to him by the Babylonians, he had allied himself with Babylon, which was something that would go on to bear terrible consequences.

Isaiah had scolded the king for that decision. It cannot be certain whether this was what Micah was scolding Hezekiah or not; however, what can be certain is that Hezekiah humbled himself and listened. According to the Jeremiah, the warning was heeded and so God did not allow calamity to fall upon Jerusalem. If only more leaders could find themselves constructively humbled to avert the unintended pride-consequence of disaster.

Beyond Jerusalem, Micah had much to say against Israel and its detestable practices. In the end he wrote: “What can we bring to the Lord? Should we bring him burnt offerings? Should we bow before God Most High with offerings of yearling calves? Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins? No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah‬ ‭6:6-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬).‬‬

While it is clear that Micah stood opposed to idolatry, to human sacrifice, and to the injustice the rulers and leaders were perpetrating against their own people. Unfortunately, while Hezekiah turned from his sin and repented, the Israelites did not. They continued on with their practices and shorthly thereafter, the Assyrians came in, conquered and exiled them.

No one likes a prophet. No one likes to hear they are wrong or that they need to change; however, the wise person heeds advice no matter how painful it is to hear. The wise person listens, prays, discerns, and changes. This takes great humility. The question for us is this, are we willing to humble ourselves and listen to the words of God’s prophets. Not just the prophets of old, but are we willing to listen to those through whom God is speaking now? Let us reflect on that.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.” (Proverbs‬ ‭19:20‬ ‭NLT‬‬)‬‬

PRAYER

Lord, advise me in your ways and count me among the humble who are wise. Amen.

God’s People, part 84: Hosea

Read Hosea 1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Concerning the Gentiles, God says in the prophecy of Hosea, ‘Those who were not my people, I will now call my people. And I will love those whom I did not love before.’” (Romans‬ ‭9:25‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 84: Hosea. You know that your message was stark when you get nicknamed, “The Prophet of Doom”. Hosea was, indeed, seen to be a prophet of doom because he had the duty of proclaiming God’s judgment against a wicked, and wayward northern kingdom of Israel. Someone had to do it and, as you can imagine, the messages were not well-received or well-heeded.

Hosea was a prophet in the Kingdom of Israel at the same time that Isaiah was a prophet in the Kingdom of Judah. His prophecy, similar to Isaiah’s, spanned 60 years, through the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (Kingdom of Judah) and Jeroboam II (Kingdom of Israel). His ministry, being located in the northern Kingdom of Israel, was centered on Israel’s lack of faithfulness to Yahweh, the one, true God.

Thus, in order to speak out against the Israelite leaders in ways that would get their attention, Hosea took up some extreme measures. At the outset of his epynonymous book, Hosea marries a prostitute named Gomer so that some of the children born to him were actually children conceived during her prostitution. And to think that people say the Bible is “boring.” Clearly they are not reading it.

All the same, this sort of action would have been seen as despicable in the eyes of the Jewish culture and religous leaders. Such a woman was seen to be unclean and under God’s curse. Why would a holy man marry such a woman of low character. The message, given to Hosea by God, was clear, “This will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against the Lord and worshiping other gods” (Hosea‬ ‭1:2‬b ‭NLT‬‬).‬‬

What’s more, Hosea named his children to be walking prophecies. His first son he named Jezreel to prophecy that God would bring destruction upon a former king of Israel, Jehu, and his dynasty for the murders he had committed at Jezreel. This punishment would bring an end to the independence of Israel.

His second child, a daughter, he named Lo-ruhamah, which means “unloved”. God did this to state, according to Hosea, that he would no longer show love or favor to Israel or give them anymore passes. Then Gomer gave birth to a third child, a second son, and Hosea named him Lo-ammi, meaning “not my people”. This was to declare that the Kingdom of Israel were no longer the people of God.

This may seem to be a punishment, but the context of Hosea shows it to be more of a proclamation of fact. They had strayed too far away from God to be called God’s people. The reality is that Israel no longer looked to the LORD, but to other Gods. This separation was self-inflicted; yet, in the same breath as that pronouncement, God declares that God will still be their LORD in time.

Hosea reveals to us some things about ourselves. First, sometimes God calls us to do things that just go against everything we seem to hold to be true. With that said, just because we hold it to be untrue, or unworthy, or beneath us, or sinful, does not mean that God deems it to be that way. If it is in line with God, if it is in line with grace, love, compassion, accountability, and humility, then chances are God is calling you to do it no matter what your “sensibilities are”.

Second, Hosea reminds us that just because a prophet’s words and actions seem so out there, does not mean that God is not on his/her side. The people of Israel chose not to listen to Hosea or see him as a prophet; however, that did not mean that the prophet’s word did not come true. They did come true and during Hosea’s lifetime, the Assyrians came in, conquered, and exiled them.

Today’s challenge is to be prayerful toward the messages God is giving us. Just because someone is doing something seemingly outlandish, does not automatically make it wrong. A good example are the protests currently taking place. People kneeling during the national anthem, people marching in the streets, people protesting for justice. Before you condemn and turn your back, ask yourselves the following question, does God stand for justice or injustice? Outlandish deeds catch the attention or many, and sometimes the prophet uses the tactic of being outlandish tactics to bring God’s word to the attention to many. Listen, pray, discern, and change yourself in accordance to God’s will.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

““O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” —Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew‬ ‭23:37‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

PRAYER

Lord, help me to humble myself to hear your message, no matter how outlandish or out there it may seem. You are Lord, and my desire is to submit to you. Amen.

God’s People, part 21: Miriam

Read Numbers 12

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For I brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from slavery. I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to help you.” (Micah 6:4 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

MiriamPart 21: Miriam. When we think of Miriam, if we think of her, we think of the girl who escorted her brother down the Nile in a reed basket. We think of her hiding behind reeds at the edge of the river as the Egyptian princess takes a peek inside the basket to see what lies in store. That’s it. That is just about where our memory of Miriam (if we even even know her name) ends.

Sadly, Miriam is not seen for who she really was because she tends to get trumped by her younger brother Moses. He gets all the credit and she gets nada, nothing, zilch. To be fair to Moses, it’s hard to not to attract all of the attention when you are channeling the power of God in such ways that an entire empire is rocked from the inside out. It’s hard not to attract all of the attention when you are parting the depths of the sea and summoning fiery pillars of protection between you and your enemies.

Yet, Miriam had true moxie. She was immensely brave, courageously daring, and a faithful prophet of the LORD. According to the Talmudic teachers, Miriam and her mother were the two midwives (operating under a different name) who refused to follow Pharaoh’s orders to murder baby Hebrew boys (Sotah 11b) and instead saved them. When, Pharaoh demanded that all Hebrew male toddlers and infants needed to be drowned to death in the Nile, Miriam helped her mother to save Moses from certain death. She followed the babe in the basket down the river and ensured he had a safe arrival to the palace of the Pharaoh.

What’s more, Miriam DID NOT simply hide behind reeds and sheepishly watch the princess pull the baby out of the basket. Instead, she approached the princess and shrewdly negotiated bringing her mother in to be the one to breastfeed and care for Moses. She did so without revealing that the “Hebrew slave woman’s” maternal connection to the child. Miriam, in her courage, did the unthinkable.

On top of that, you did hear me right in that I said that Miriam was a prophet. In Exodus 15:20-21, it is written, “Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced. And Miriam sang this song: ‘Sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously; He has hurled both horse and rider into the sea.’” The Talmudic teachers taught that Miriam had the prophetic gift from a young age and, judging from her moxie, it’s hard to doubt.

With all of that said, like all people, Miriam had her character flaws. Earlier I wrote that Miriam got trumped by her younger brother Moses, who took all the credit while she got “nada, nothing, zilch.” That is not just a sentiment I bring into this devotion for rhetorical reasons; rather, it seems to be a how Miriam must have felt at points. For instance, in Numbers there is mention of a bit of contention between Miriam and Moses over his exclusive claim to be the LORD’s prophet.

In Numbers, it is written that God punished Miriam for her jealousy toward Moses, but one can hardly blame her. She, after all, had saved his life and was clearly a prophet in her own right. It needs to be understood that disease was seen to be a punishment by God; however, in today’s world, we undestand that God does not inflict people with diseases. As a result of knowing the theological and historical contexts of ancient Israel, I do not believe God “punished” Miriam. She may have come down with a skin disease; however, that is not what her true ailment was. She allowed her brother’s claims to get the better of her, she allowed that to consume her, and she allowed that to rouse bitter anger within her.

When we get consumed by our pride and our insecurities, we forget that who we are is not determined by what others think. We forget that who we are is not dependent on the self-proclaimed identities of those around us, nor is it dependent on the self-proclaimed identities of those who are close to us. Our identity is defined by and dependent on God, who created us and loves us. Like Miriam, we too were given gifts and and identity in God that cannot be taken away; however, we must strive to accept who we are in God, rather than competing over who we are in comparison to each other. Miriam learned this lesson and so can we.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves.” – William Penn

PRAYER
Lord, I accept my identity in you. Open my eyes that I may come to see who I am. Amen.

Religion and Politics

Read Luke 9:21-27

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow. Others you must build up and plant.” (Jeremiah 1:10 NLT)

religion-politcs

There is nothing like a political campaign season to bring out the ugliness in people. One cannot go online without being barraged by people on all sides of any political divide, smearing everyone who thinks and views things differently than them. In this particular “Election 2016” cycle, things have descended to uncharted lows.

What’s more, the divide is not solely political either. There is a huge divide in terms of religion as well. Of course, religion has always been a divisive topic among Christians and other religious groups. There’s divisiveness within a religion, where people of the same religion are divided over doctrines, dogmas, and other such things. There’s also divisiveness between different religions as each fight to compete in whose religion holds the absolute truth.

In America, and in Western Civilization as a whole, people have become less willing to share their faith because they have come to see faith and religious believes as something that is personal and something that is to be private. What’s more, people have also come to believe that faith should not interfere with politics and vice versa. There is a whole history in Western Civilization that informs us on the dangers of religion and politics mixing. Even families are guarded against discussing the two, as the phrase goes, at the “dinner table” because they can often bring about heated and divisive arguments.

While this is often true and the mixture of politics with religion can be quite toxic and devastating, this has also led America and the Western world to a skewed and incorrect understanding of the role of religion in society. As we saw in the devotion series I wrote on the wrath of God, religion and politics are not mutually exclusive. The prophet is one who is called to speak out against injustice, against sin, against systemic evil and the societal abandonment of God.

In order for the prophet to fulfill her/his role, she or he must speak out against the ills that are plaguing society. Not just moral ills and not just social ills…but all ills. Prophets speak truth to power and, by doing so, push for societal/social/religious change. The prophet’s words are never “politically correct”, nor are they ever politically wanted. As a result, prophets often pay high social, political, and sometimes religious costs for daring to speak God’s word to the people.

What’s important to note here is that, while the prophet is not called to politicize God or Scripture, she or he’s message will inevitably have political effects and ramifications. By remaining silent and refusing to let God speak through us, we silence our prophetic voice and choose to remain complicit in the way of the world. The prophet is one who recognizes God is calling us to speak truth to power, to stand up against injustice and to push for the changing of the hearts of God’s people.

The question for us is, what is holding us back from being such a prophet? What is keeping us from speaking truth to power and standing up for what’s right? What is stopping us from choosing to not hide our faith away like some sort of “best kept secret”? What is stopping us from keeping our religion in the proverbial broom closet? Are we ashamed of our faith? Are we afraid of the consequences and of what others might think? Let us not shy away from our obligation to speak the truth and stand up for what is right. It may have political consequences, but far better that than the spiritual consequences of remaining silent through, complicit in and culpable for, the evil around us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. – A. W. Tozer

PRAYER
Lord, help me to speak the truth at all costs and steer me from turning a blind eye to the injustice in the world. Amen.

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)

JonahVeggieTalesHave 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.

THE CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO, Part 12: Response

Read Luke 4:22-30

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in His own hometown.” (Luke 4:24 CEB)

 Recently, a fellow colleague and friend of mine got into a conversation about the scripture passage I was preaching on at the church that I serve. The passage is Luke 4:14-21 and is on Jesus’ first recorded visit to the synagogue in Nazareth following his baptism and wilderness experience. In that passage, Jesus is handed the scroll of Isaiah and he opens it up to the following passage: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” Inspired by the conversation, I have decided to devote a series of devotions on this particular passage, which has become known as “The Christian Manifesto”.

Part 12: Response. In every movie I have ever seen of Jesus, when it comes to the scene in the synagogue in Nazareth, the people become outraged when Jesus utters the words, “Today, the Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The people are infuriated that this carpenter’s son could dare call himself the fulfillment of this prophecy. “How dare he call himself the Messiah and act as if we don’t know who he truly is. He’s Joseph’s son, is he not?” And of course, the people throw Jesus out of the synagogue and seek to stone him.

In reality, this portrayal in the films is far from the truth. Luke tells us that after having claimed that the words of Isaiah had been fulfilled in the moment he read them, the people “spoke well of him and [were] amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips.” (4:22 CEB) So, in reality, the people were excited he read those words. Their initial response was one of affirmation and support. They “spoke well of him” and were impressed that this son of a carpenter was so well spoken. They were also excited that this son of Nazareth might possibly be the Messiah.

Yet, things took a turn for the worse as Jesus didn’t stop there in order to accept the accolades. Rather, he challenges them and tells them that they’ll no doubt want him to perform a miracle like the ones he performed in other towns around Galilee. He then predicted that he would not be accepted by them, for he was coming to them a prophet. In other words, he was coming to them as a voice crying out against them and the ways they were playing a part in the impoverishment, blindness, captivity and oppression of the suffering among them. Not only the people literally suffering in the streets and jails, but all people including themselves.

Then Jesus pointed them to two examples in the Scriptures where other prophets were sent by God, not to the people of Israel, but to outsiders. Rather than performing miracles for those who supposed themselves to be “people of God”, God sent the prophets to peform miracles to those who were supposed to be Gentiles who were “under God’s curse.” In other words, according to Jesus, God was about to pass Nazareth by because they had hardened their hearts to God’s call to change. They weren’t interest in changing their ways. They weren’t interested in being a part of the solution. They weren’t interested in anything but sitting idly by and awaiting the arrival of one who would change the world while defending their own status quo.

It is at that moment, at the realization that this Jesus was not an ally but someone who came to speak against them, that they grew enraged and wanted to throw him off of a cliff. That was there response to Jesus’ Manifesto of change. The question for us is this, what is our response? Does Jesus go to far in calling us to subscribe to this manifesto? Will it require too much of us, make us too uncomfortable, and cause us to change our worldview? Or will we embrace it and allow the Christian Manifesto to manifest itself within us, to change us, and altar the course of our lives? Ultimately, that choice is left up to you: will you try to push Jesus off of a cliff, or join him in bringing about the Kingdom of God in the world? The choice is yours.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Christians should be ready for a change because Jesus was the greatest changer in history.” – Ralph Abernathy

PRAYER

Lord, prepare me for the change you are bringing into my life and help me be a part of the change you are bringing into the world. Amen.