How are we enjoying Jonah? If you are like me, you are learning so much more about this prophet than you ever knew before. What I love about doing these kind of studies is taking a chapter, verse by verse, and really understanding what the author is writing. So often, I tend to skim the verses without realizing their true meanings so having a study like this is so helpful in my learning process. If you are joining us for the first time today, feel free to go back to our Welcome post and Week One post to get caught up. As always, this format of studying Jonah on the blog is designed for followers of the study and also for those of you that just want to read the weekly posts.
So, let's dig in to Week Two. How did y'all like it? One verse that goes great with this session is James 1:14-15 (NLT).
Temptation comes from our own desires,
which entice and drag us away.
These desires give birth to sinful actions.
And when sin is allowed to grow,
it gives birth to death.
Priscilla started off with Day One of Jonah on the run. He was running from God by hopping on a ship to Tarshish, the exact opposite location of where God called him to go, Ninevah. She says, "Jonah's destination choice shows us the desperation of his desire to forgo obeying God. He lived in a nation of people with a history of running from God. When things got challenging, they often chose to avoid or delay complete obedience." Gosh, aren't we all like Jonah at times? Like in the verse above, our 'temptation comes from our own desires.' We want to run in the exact opposite direction of what we know God is calling us to do. It can be the simple things like going to church to the bigger things of redirecting our lifestyles so that we honor God with our choices.
Are you running from God? If so, do you feel justified in choosing not to obey God?
At the start of Day Two, Priscilla shares a passage from one of my favorite devotionals, Jesus Calling:
I am all around you, hovering over you even as you seek My Face. I am nearer than you dare believe, closer than the air you breathe. If my children could only recognize My Presence, they would never feel lonely again. I know every thought before you think it, every word before you speak it. My Presence impinges on your innermost being. Can you see the absurdity of trying to hide anything from Me? You can easily deceive other people, and even yourself; but I read you like an open, large-print book.
After this she asks us to go back and underline the phrases God uses most to speak to you. Go ahead and do this too.
Priscilla writes, "God's continuous presence is a soothing balm to the hurting. His presence is also a scorching fire to those living in disobedience. One of the ways we can determine whether we are in a right relationship with Him is to consider the way we feel about His closeness to us. Do we welcome it or are we trying to steer clear of it?
Are you in any way doing good things while at the same time avoiding a close, intimate relationship with the Lord?
Before we look at Day Three, I want to refer back to the scripture we started with. The middle section states, "These desires give birth to sinful actions." Can you recall the last time one decision led you on a downward spiral of rebellion or bad decisions?
I sure can. Two weeks ago, Raleigh and I got into a fight. He was tired and I was stressed. The house was a mess, the girls were screaming, and I accidentally dropped a huge bottle of liquid laundry detergent on the floor while I was trying to wash a shirt he had to have clean the next day. It was a recipe for disaster. This is terrible to say, but when we fight, we both fight to win. After being together for so many years, we know exactly what to say or do to score the winning point. It's awful. I hate fighting with my husband. But, one bad decision after the next led to two very hurt feelings. Nobody won. Except for the devil. Our actions "gave birth to sin." The next day, we had a serious discussion about how we should control our feelings better and not let the emotions spiral out of control. For Jonah, God used a fish to give him a wake-up call.
Do you need a wake-up call? If so, remember that God is a compassionate God and He longs for us to come to Him, even in our darkest moments.
Day Four begins with what happens while Jonah is on the ship. He laid down and went to sleep. Suddenly, the storm began. It was a terrible awful storm and the captain came to wake Jonah up. Priscilla says, "You can be asleep and not realize it until a storm shakes you awake from your spiritual slumber." She goes on to say, "Whether we are sleeping through a season of sin because of exhaustion, disobedience we've justified, or hard-heartedness, His Spirit will send storm clouds in an attempt to awaken us and help us come back to our senses."
Have you ever experienced an awakening like Jonah did? Who helped wake you up? The captain and the other sailors on the boat all cried out to their pagan gods. They were desperate and wanted Jonah to cry out to his God. One of the questions she asks is for us to jot down some thoughts on how a pagan man waking up a believing man to pray correlates to the world and the church in modern times.
When I thought about this, I remembered a video that I watched a couple of years ago at the Global Leadership Summit. It was an interview of Bono and how he basically woke up the church to help with poverty and aids the year before. To me, it was so neat to see how a musician could show the church how to be compassionate. I did a post about it here. Below is the clip if you want to watch it.
Finally, we end with Day Five. After Jonah had been tossed overboard by the sailors, they cried out to his God. These were men that worshipped pagan gods before and now they were calling out the name of Yahweh. Priscilla says, "Jonah's rebellion, the violent storm, and their fear all played a role in causing their attention to be turned to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." She goes on to ask,
"Have you ever been surprised by how God allowed good to come out of a time of rebellion in your life?"
What is great about Week Two is we learn how God can turn anything into something good for His kingdom. A song that I love says that "He makes all things come together for my good." How true is that? If you are in a season of hardship right now, seek out the Lord. Discover His purpose behind your rebellion and how it can be turned around to help someone else. God can use anything for His glory.
Till next time, let your light shine!