Old Testament

FLASHBACK: "A True Fish Story"

Jonah 1

 1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

 3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.

 4 Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

   But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

 7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

 9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

 10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)

 11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

 12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

 13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the LORD, “Please, LORD, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, LORD, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.

 17 Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

In verses one and two Jonah hears more bad news than he ever wanted to hear. He first hears from God that he is supposed to go to the very wicked city of Ninevah and not only is he supposed to go there but he is to teach them about God. There are many reasons that Jonah was probably afraid to do this. One of the reasons that he was probably afraid was because he could lose his life. The other thing that probably made him angrier than before was the fact that God was showing favor to anyone but His chosen people, the Jews. To top it off Ninevah was the capital city of the Assyrians who had earlier taken the Jews captive and killed many of them. 

Ninevah was probably over 300 miles northeast from where Jonah was when he was told by God to go there. Instead, Jonah decided to go over 200 miles south toward Tarshish. Jonah tried to outrun his duties, and he probably hoped that God would forget that he had told him to do these things.

God often throws a monkey wrench into the clockwork of our lives when we least expect it, and sometimes when it is very inconvenient. Jonah thought that if he ran away he could escape God's will. (It turned out that Jonah got himself into more trouble and even though he ran away, he was saved when God made the fish that swallowed him.) One of the things that Jonah probably didn't realize is that even though he tried to run away from God so that he would not have to tell anyone about God that was not a Jew; he ended up converting all the men on the ship. God's will was still accomplished even though Jonah did not follow directions.

So the lesson that we can learn from chapter one is that God's will is always carried out, and even though we disobey God and get in the rough seas of life he will always rescue us with a "great fish".


I must admit I chuckled a bit when I read this. A monkey wrench?!?!? But the thing that strikes me when I read the story of Jonah (and this devotional) are the implications of the last paragraph particularly the idea that "we disobey God and get in the rough seas of life". The consequences of doing things our way, of choosing to participate in our plans instead of the mission of God can have such enormous consequences and yet at the same time God remains faithful.

There has been more than one occassion in my life where God spared me although I certainly felt as though I deserved to be thrown overboard and drowned in the depths of the sea. Thus far in the story we haven't learned too much about Jonah, but we have learned volumes about the God that pursues those who are disobedient... not in order to punish them but to show them mercy. What an amazing God. 

New Series on Spiritual (Re)Formation... FLASHBACK

I am going to start a new series here on Spiritual (Re)Formation that I am calling Flashback. Here I will reproduce old material that I have written in the past. The first entires in this series will be some devotionals on the Minor Prophets that I wrote as a part of a high school Bible assignment. I submitted these devotionals just a few weeks after my 16th birthday. I will reproduce the full-text of these devotionals as both an opportunity to express where my views might have changed and just to share.

So check back often. I am going to try to get ahead and schedule them so that there will be 4-5 a week for the next 3-4 weeks. It should be interesting (I haven't even looked at them yet... but hey I got a 100% on the assignment... that means something right??)

Worship in Silence?

Sunday night we talked about the place of silence and solitude in the life of the believer as we strive to have lives that are more attentive to what God is doing in us, through us, around us, for us, and in spite of us. We talked about Elijah and the Prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. The contrast that we focused on was the need of the prophets of Baal to "wake up" their deity (as Elijah so helpfully encouraged them to do), with the simple prayer for action by God for his own glory and the conviction of those around Elijah.

We then took note of Psalm 115:1-8 about the inability of an idol to do anything.

Finally we came to Habakkuk 2:18-20...

   "Of what value is an idol that someone has carved?
       Or an image that teaches lies?
       For those who make them trust in their own creations;
       they make idols that cannot speak.

       Woe to him who says to wood, 'Come to life!'
       Or to lifeless stone, 'Wake up!'
       Can it give guidance?
       It is covered with gold and silver;
       there is no breath in it."

       The LORD is in his holy temple;
       let all the earth be silent before him. (TNIV)

Question: Have we become so focused in our worship on "saying something" whether it be praying, singing, or even preaching that we have failed to be silent?

The reason that those who worship idols must speak is that their God cannot.

The reason you and I must be silent is that not only can our God speak, but He in fact does. The question for you and I then is this: As the people of God do we believe God is speaking and if so, are we listening?

What to do with the Old Testament...

Tim Spivey had an interesting post the other day called What Good is the Old Testament? His primary question was simple: How do you view the Old Testament?

The question that I want to tackle (very briefly and somewhat tenatively) is a hunch that I have on how we might honor the Old Testament as Scripture and yet avoid some of the problems that have been created and experienced by other types of interpretation. Ultimately, this is a very sensitive theologial and hermeneutical issue for many of us in Churches of Christ.

My working hunch is this: What if instead of doing a hermeneutical dance with the Old Testament (keep the moral law, discard the ceremonial law), or just functionally throwing it away altogether (yeah, that's the OLD Testament), what if we were to read the Old Testament as Narrative.

Allow me to explain. I'm not saying that we only pay attention to the stories. (You know, ignore Leviticus altogether and focus on bears mauling kids and hills of foreskins.) I'm saying that we look at the Old Testament to discern what God is doing and what we can learn about God and His mission in the world. So for example, instead of simply reading the story of Hannah as a nice story about God giving a barren woman a baby who just happened to be Samuel we would read it as a narrative about the character and mission of God. In doing so, we would come to recognize that this story is not so much about a desperate, barren woman (although it certainly is about that), but more than that it is about a God who is sovereign over what seems irreversible. It tells us about a God who is at work in the world to turn the structures of the powers and principalities on their heads. It is about a God who raises up his "anointed" to put things back to the way they were always intended to be. So instead of this being a nice lesson about praying with emotion and sincerity without a mediator (although that is certainly here) we instead learn something about the nature and mission of God which transcends which part of the book it is from. 

The same might be for the ceremonial law. What can we learn from rules and regulations about menstrual cycles, mold in the house, and dietary restrictions? We learn about a God who is serious about the implications of living together as God's representatives in the world. We learn that there is no area in life from which God and the reality of being his people is removed. We learn that the way we set ourselves apart from the culture in which we live, for their sake, is important to God and therefore important to us.

What do we do with the Old Testament? Maybe instead of looking for things that do or do not apply we need to understand that it is the story of God and of his people. Therefore, it is OUR story as well.