Articles

His Servant Jonah

In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher. For the LORD saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel. But the LORD had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash. Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam and all that he did, and his might, how he fought, and how he restored Damascus and Hamath to Judah in Israel, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?
(2 Kings 14:23-28)

My Veggie Tales memories are coming back…”Jonah was a prophet…ooh, ooh! But he never really got it, sad but true. And if you watch it you can spot it, a doodley do, he did not get the point!”

Jonah was a prophet of God during a really great time for Israel. And what I mean by that is that Israel as a nation (not spiritually) was on the rebound. They were getting stronger and more prosperous. Possessions and lands that they once owned were now being restored. We can see in the above text that borders and cities were restored.

So then, what was the spiritual condition of the country? Wicked. Every king of the northern kingdom of Israel from the first King Jeroboam to the destruction by Assyria (931-722 BC) was evil. Jeroboam II (not a son of the first Jeroboam) was no different. The Bible says here in 2 Kings 14 that he was wicked just like all the other kings, and Israel followed right along with him in these sins.

Where is God in all of this? How did God see Israel? With what kind of heart did God watch over Israel? Again, in the text we see that God saw that Israel had no “helper.” The merciful God saw that Israel’s affliction was “bitter.” “He saved them” by the hand of the wicked King Jeroboam II.

Which prophet is right there by God and the king’s side through all of this? Who willingly prophesies to the king and is part of this great national restoration? Jonah.

Can you put yourself in the sandals of Jonah during this time of restoration and hope for Israel, and now God calls you to go to your sworn enemies, the Assyrians? God wants you to preach to those wicked and violent people? They want to destroy you! Nineveh, according to a later prophet, Nahum, was a “bloody city.” Why would God call you to preach to the very enemies that seek to destroy what God has been working to rebuild?

Because God is merciful. Jonah saw this clearly with God’s interaction here in 2 Kings 14 toward Israel. This is precisely why Jonah did not want to go to preach to Nineveh. He knew God’s heart of mercy and compassion.

Look at what Jonah said after he finally preached to the people and king in Nineveh and they repented of their sins.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?” (Jonah 4:1-4).

Even after Nineveh repented, Jonah sat outside the city expectantly waiting in self-righteous hope borne out of his religious bigotry that God would still wipe out the city and destroy the Assyrians (Jonah 4:5).

Did you see how Jonah said “when I was in my country?” First of all he was wrong, it was God’s country. Secondly, it displays the heart that is not outward focused and concerned with every soul wherever that soul may be.

I’m not sure if the Veggie Tales song about Jonah is right that Jonah “never really got it.” We don’t know. The book ends with God speaking, as it should. Whether Jonah finally understood what God was trying to teach is between God and Jonah.

The question is, do I get it? Do you get it?

  • Will we be like Jonah, knowing of the grace, compassion and mercy of God and still try to flee to the farthest place possible to avoid teaching those God has called us to teach?
  • Will we be so filled with nationalistic pride that we fail to see that God is not an American?
  • Will I willingly go and preach where God calls me to preach only  if I agree that these people are worthy of God’s (and my) acceptance?

Before Honor Is Humility

The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding. The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility (Proverbs 15:31-33).

Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, and before honor is humility (Proverbs 18:12).

A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor (Proverbs 29:23).

For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 14:11).

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up (James 4:10).

Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time… (1 Peter 5:5-6).

Before Honor Is Humility:

  • Before I will be honored, I must first have humility. If I’m going around looking to be respected and honored, I have the wrong starting point, don’t I? These passages above show us where our mindset should be, and that is on humbling ourselves before God and others.
  • Before I can truly honor others, I must first have humility. Only when we have humility can we show others the proper respect and honor God calls us to have. Otherwise it is just fake and superficial.

What is humility?

  1. Seeing the Lord in the right perspective
  2. Seeing myself in relationship to the Lord accurately.
  3. Seeing others properly in relationship to 1 and 2.

I want to illustrate this simple definition of humility with a parable of Jesus:

Luke 18:9-17 – Jesus’ parable about the two men who went up to pray.

  1. How did each man see God?
  2. How did each man see his relationship to God?
  3. How did the Pharisee see his relationship to the sinner based upon 1 and 2? Do we see how arrogant and condescending the Pharisee was toward the sinner because of his lack of humility before God?

Philippians 2:1-11 – Paul Let this mind be in you…

  1. How did Jesus see the Father?
  2. How did Jesus see His relationship to the Father?
  3. How did Jesus see us in connection to #1 and #2? Jesus looked out for our interests, not His own, because of His humility. The Father honored Jesus and highly exalted Him because of that humility.

Before honor comes humility. 

Kindling Strife – The Fire Tetrahedron

Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!” For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife (Proverbs 26:18-21).

I’ve been taught that fire needs three things: fuel, oxygen and heat. But I know a firefighter (Jason) who corrected me on this. It is actually a fire tetrahedron: along with fuel, oxygen and heat there is a fourth element called a chemical chain reaction. If you knock one of these out, you don’t have a fire.

A fight needs the same four things: inflammatory words, people to say and repeat them, folks to react to them, and hot tempers. It doesn’t take much to start a fire, and it is pretty easy for people to fight.

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell (James 3:5-6).

This is what brings down nations, splits churches, destroys the workplace environment and causes the home to fall apart.

Here are some passages about the heat, fuel, oxygen and chemical chain reactions that cause fires in our relationships. Let’s meditate upon this today, men.

The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body (Proverbs 18:8; 26:22).

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (James 4:1)

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler (Proverbs 20:19).

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly (Proverbs 15:1-2).

A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression (Proverbs 29:22).

Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame (Proverbs 18:12-13).

Sarah shall be her name

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
(Genesis 17:15-21)

We were studying and discussing Genesis 17 last night. In this study, we have been going through Genesis. Right now Genesis is focusing on the relationship God had with Abraham and his family. “Abraham is the father of us all,” Paul wrote (Romans 4:16). We sure can learn a lot from Abraham and how his faith in God grew and was continually challenged. But we can also learn about God and His awesome nature and character. He loves us. God keeps His promises. His blessings have no parallel in what the world can offer us.

God promised an old man and an old woman past the age of childbearing that they would have a child. He changed their names to forever memorialize that promise being fulfilled. “Sarah” would be a princess for God the sovereign King will bless her and kings would come from her. “Abraham” will become a father of multitudes, because his family will become like the stars and sands…innumerable.

Abraham fell on his face and laughed (Genesis 17:17). In the next chapter Sarah laughed (Genesis 18:12). What did God name the son to come? “Isaac” which means laughter! I love that.

I think about this in connection to our marriages. Here are just a few thoughts to consider:

  • Genesis 17 begins with God’s call to Abraham to walk before Him and be blameless (Genesis 17:1). The chapter concludes with a 99-year old man being circumcised in the flesh of his foreskins, along with all his household. If I want God to bless my marriage like God blessed Abraham and Sarah, then I must walk before the Lord and be blameless. We as husbands must commit to doing whatever God tells us to do, whatever is required, however difficult it may be.
  • God blessed Sarah. Men, are we praying for God to bless our wives? God reassured Abraham that He deeply cared for Sarah and was going to bless her richly. God called her princess. Think about that husbands. Do you and I view our wives as that princess whom God deeply loves?
  • The Lord can resurrect what is dead. He is the God of the impossible. In Romans 4:26-25 we learn a lesson in faith from Abraham and Sarah. God brings to life what was dead! If God can make an old man and old woman past the age of childbearing to have a baby, and if God can bring a man (Jesus) who was in the grave 3 days back to life, when what can God do for us today? Can God resurrect a dead marriage? With God’s help we can revive and rebuild what we and others around us may count as impossible!
  • God can make you laugh. Finally, just a thought to consider that God wanted this baby to be named Isaac. Whenever they cuddled that baby or called that son to dinner, they said “laughter.” Remember that the “joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). When God makes you rejoice, there is no one who can take away your joy (John 16:22).

The Lord is able to give you much more than this

Then Amaziah assembled the men of Judah and set them by fathers’ houses under commanders of thousands and of hundreds for all Judah and Benjamin. He mustered those twenty years old and upward, and found that they were 300,000 choice men, fit for war, able to handle spear and shield. He hired also 100,000 mighty men of valor from Israel for 100 talents of silver. But a man of God came to him and said, “O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the LORD is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites. But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down.” And Amaziah said to the man of God, “But what shall we do about the hundred talents that I have given to the army of Israel?” The man of God answered, “The LORD is able to give you much more than this.” Then Amaziah discharged the army that had come to him from Ephraim to go home again. And they became very angry with Judah and returned home in fierce anger.
(2 Chronicles 25:5-10)

King Amaziah is said by the Scripture to have done “what was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a loyal heart” (2 Chronicles 25:2).

As we see in the above passage, Amaziah tried to hire 100,000 soldiers from their evil neighbors to the north, the nation of Israel. God sent a prophet (a man of God) to tell him, “Don’t do that!”

An interesting exchange happened between King Amaziah and the man of God. The King asked, “But what about the money I’ve just invested?” What is the response of God through the prophet?

“The Lord is able to give you much more than this!”

What a powerful statement. Amaziah was concerned about money and what he would lose. God is concerned with obedience and trust in His provision.

King Amaziah had invested cash in soldiers from a wicked nation. Clearly he had not asked God’s advice on this prior to taking this action. So, now he has a choice, doesn’t he?

Do I follow my current course because I do not want to lose out on my investment? What will happen when I tell those Israelite soldiers to go back home? Will they get angry?

Or do I trust that if I follow God, He will more than provide for anything I have lost in investing in the ways of sin?

This is not to say that if we walk away from our sinful path that God is going to send piles of cash and prosperity our way as a reward. But He has certainly promised to provide for us abundantly if we forsake the ways of the world to follow Him. That provision most likely will have little to do with material wealth, but God’s provision (in whatever form that takes) is of infinitely better value than any temporary payoff here on earth (Hebrews 11:24-26).

So, what happens if:

  • We as a congregation have invested lots of time, money and energy into a program, course of action, or “ministry” that we later find out through study has no Biblical authority? Walk away from it, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!”
  • We as individuals have devoted our lives and resources into a pathway that has taken us away from God? What about the things we will lose when we walk away? “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!”

Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
(Luke 18:28-30)

Rend Your Heart and Not Your Garments

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil.
(Joel 2:12-13)

The book of Joel begins with the discussion of a devastating locust plague sent by God as a destroying army to punish His people and to bring them to repentance. Those were dark days, literally (Joel 2:2).

God’s wrath comes slowly, but when it comes it is an overwhelming flood of devastation. When God brings His punishment it is thorough, but it is also done it the right way and at the right time. You know when God brings down the hammer of judgment He has exhausted all other avenues and given all opportunities for someone to come to repentance.

But after all this devastation which was left in the wake of God’s wrath, He calls them in love and grace to fast, call an assembly, and to return to Him.

But what kind of return does God want? Does He want them merely to feel sorry that they ended up in such a bad situation? Is He looking for them to have guilt just because things turned out so poorly?

It was clear throughout Scripture and certainly in our lives today that we do not always have “godly sorrow” which “leads to repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:10). We may be sorry we lost something important. It may be we are sorry we got caught. It may be we are sad because of the consequences, but that is not the sorrow God is looking for, is it?

The people of God could have torn their garments, fasted (it was not like they had much food at that point anyway), thrown ashes and dust on their heads and wailed and mourned. Was this what God was looking for? Not if their hearts weren’t in it.

“Rend your heart and not your garments…” Don’t tear your clothes, tear your hearts. God wants us to be heartbroken because of the broken relationship we have with Him, not merely sad because we are being punished for our sins.

Men, does God have our hearts? Are we on the surface trying to fix / avoid the consequences of our sins or are we truly getting down to the “heart” of the matter?

Rend your heart and not your garments.

Singing with your kids

Music is powerful. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, especially in the context of our worship as an assembly. But I am also thinking of it in terms of its power to teach outside of the worship assembly.

Music is a wonderful teaching tool for our kids. The world knows this, think of a simple example like the ABC song. It locks the alphabet into the brain. You don’t forget it. I also don’t forget Lindsay when she was first learning the alphabet sang loudly, “A, B, C, D, wanna wanna be…”

Song was created by God. Did you know that even God sings? Did you know that God sings loudly? Do you know that even God “rejoiced” and was “happy” when he sings? I can only imagine what that sounds like!

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
(Zephaniah 3:17, ESV)

“The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
(Zephaniah 3:17)

Today, my encouragement is to the fathers to sing with your kids. Teach them about God, encourage them in His ways by singing. Even if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, sing with them anyways.  Play songs in the car when you are going places, especially while on your way to worship.

Here are some links to places to purchase some of this music

One Stone Bookstore. We like groups like Narrow Way, Hallal, One Voice, and Praise & Harmony.

Praise & Harmony singers have several albums. This is a link to purchase their albums, either digitally or on CD.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
(Ephesians 5:18-21)

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:14-17)

Yep, I’m the One Who Repaired the Dung Gate

A brother in Christ, Geoff, sent me the following observation:


Hi Aaron!

I just re-read Nehemiah 3 last night and remembered another point that hit me from verse 14:

14 The Dung Gate was repaired by Malkijah son of Rekab, ruler of the district of Beth Hakkerem. He rebuilt it and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place.

Not all the work is glamorous.  How would you like to be Malkijah bragging,  “Yep, I’m the one who built the poop gate!”?  And he was a ruler!  Nobody thinks about the dung gate until you don’t have one.  It may not be high profile, but it is needed and somebody needs to do the dirty work.

What about me?  Am I willing to get my hands dirty for God and build the Dung Gate?


Thanks Geoff…excellent point!

The dung gate, according to Albert Barnes was “the gate by which offal and excrements were conveyed out of the city.” The Pulpit commentary says that it is “the gate outside of which lay the piles of the sweepings and offscourings of the streets.”

This point our brother shared with us reminded me (Aaron) of the time at our previous house when we were having a problem with our septic tank, and our neighbor came over to help us with it. He had his whole arm down in OUR septic tank reaching the filter to get it to clean it out. You really have to be a special neighbor to get your arm down in somebody else’s septic tank.

The apostle Paul was that kind of man, and in the following passage this is illustrated along with the exhortation to imitate him.

“For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me (1 Corinthians 4:9-16).

The pride of your heart has deceived you

The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; you who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’ Though you ascend as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” says the LORD.
(Obadiah 1:3-4)

Last Sunday in Bible class, we studied the book of Obadiah which is a short one-chapter book addressed to the nation of Edom, the descendants of Esau brother of Jacob.

Of their many sins, including violence, hatred, stealing and taking advantage of Judah’s pain, the one sin God began with is pride.

Pride: other words are arrogant, insolence, presumptuousness.

Interesting that is what God began with in Proverbs 6 when Solomon spoke of 7 things that are an abomination to Him. “A proud look” was the first one listed (Proverbs 6:16-19).

How was pride deceptive specifically in the heart of the nation of Edom? They believed their location and geographical position made them immune from being conquered. “Who will bring me down to the ground?” We won’t fall…it can’t happen to us.

God through Obadiah said otherwise.

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Our pride can be deceptive in how we receive advice, but in also in how we give advice (2 Timothy 2:24-26). It can be in how we view our potential to fall into temptation, but it can also be in how we deal with others when they fall into temptation (Galatians 6:1-3; Titus 3:1-7; James 5:19-20). If pride deceived the people of Edom, it can certainly do the same to us today. May we all come to God and to godly counsel to help open our eyes to our own pride. It is an ugly process, but we all need to go through it.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he (Proverbs 16:18-20).

Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, and before honor is humility (Proverbs 18:12).

A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor (Proverbs 29:23).

God sends a brother

A brother recently was struggling at work with his attitude. It is a second job, and it is physically demanding on top of dealing with ornery customers. He was really having a hard time with his attitude the other night, so he told his manager he needed to take his 10-minute break. He sat in the break room by himself and prayed hard for God to change his attitude. He went back to work, and within minutes another brother in Christ showed up at his workplace just to say hello and to see how he was doing.

Instant attitude change. Instant smile. Instant prayer of “Thank you, God!” for answering prayer.

Coincidence?

What did God promise?

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:19)

God will supply our needs richly! Sometimes that just may mean a person shows up to encourage and refresh us.

Here are a few verses for us to meditate upon today about how God filled that need in the days of the early church. May we be instruments of God’s encouragement today for others. And remember, God will answer your prayers for encouragement.

Another part of the story is that the brother who stopped by the workplace of the other brother also needed some encouragement. He was down and struggling with his own attitude and decided to look for his good friend. They both greatly benefited that night, didn’t they?

Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.
(2 Corinthians 7:6-7)

I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied. For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men.
(1 Corinthians 16:17-18)

…and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith,
(1 Thessalonians 3:2)

The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day–and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus.
(2 Timothy 1:16-18)