Unnecessary Suffering 

Jonah 1:3
“But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”

The story of Jonah has two main themes. The first is to reveal the heart of God for the lost. However, before this can be fully developed we are introduced to the second theme, the disobedience of Jonah. Three of the four chapters teach us of the sin and suffering of a wayward prophet. His is the story of a man who experiences unnecessary suffering that could have been avoided through simple obedience.

The stage is set when Jonah is commissioned by the Lord to take the Gospel to Nineveh. In one of the most shocking turns we will ever witness we read, “But Jonah…” Without explaining the reasons behind his unwillingness, the story takes us immediately to the consequences of his disobedience.

First, we read he began to run from the Lord. This running took him to places he would have never otherwise have gone. The Hebrew people were not known as maritime travelers, yet Jonah paid the fare and got aboard the ship. His journey would prove to be much more costly than the ticket price. Soon he found himself going down into the lowest part of the ship, and before long to the depths of the sea, and the belly of a great fish.

One of the reasons sin is so dangerous is because of the strong grip it has on us. Jonah’s heart had been so hardened by his disobedience, it took three days in the belly of the great fish before he would cry out to God. He describes that time as one of intense suffering, fear and anguish. While the text does not tell us this, the science behind the scene suggests that the stomach acids of the fish would have bleached Jonah’s skin, forever marking his life with the scars of disobedience.

When Jonah finally cried out to the Lord, he was forgiven, rescued, restored and even used in the lives of the Ninevites, but not without having suffered in ways God never intended.

We, too, can avoid all kinds of anguish by simple obedience. The command given to Jonah may not have been easy to obey, but it was not difficult to understand. For the most part, we do not really struggle with what God wants us to do, as much as we struggle to simply do it. If you are running from the Lord it is time to stop, turn around, and obey.

Pastor Jim

 

Walking In Circles 

Deuteronomy 1:2
“It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea.”

Deuteronomy begins with a recap of Israel’s history, from Mount Sinai, to the border of the Promised Land. Moses begins by reminding the people this journey that has taken a lifetime, should have taken less than two weeks.

After camping at Sinai and receiving the Word of God, the people were commanded to make their way to the Promised Land. They were told that they had “dwelt long enough in the wilderness.” Eleven days later, they found themselves camped at Kadesh Barnea. Instead of walking by faith, they were crippled with fear. As a result of refusing to obey the Lord, they found themselves stuck in the wilderness some 38 years later. Not a lot is known about those years in the wilderness, but one verse gives a sobering commentary,

Deuteronomy 2:3
“You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward.”

For 38 years, Israel walked in circles. They refused to go where God wanted them to go; seeing the obstacles rather than the power of God. For 38 years, they remained in the same station of life, using their weakness, and the strength of the giants as an excuse. It is quite interesting, as Moses recounts the event, he speaks of how the Moabites and the Ammonites both encountered giants, just like the Anakim, but they were not deterred. These unbelievers conquered the issues of life that the children of Israel were afraid to face.

I think it is high time we took seriously at the exhortation of Moses. We have spent enough of our life living in the wilderness, in partial obedience to the Lord. It is time to stop walking in circles, continuing to struggle with the same sins over and over. It is time to face our giants head on, and in the power of the Spirit, overcome the struggles of the flesh.

Pastor Jim