Devotions for Jonah 1:1-17; 3:1-10
October 31–November 6, 2016
Monday, October 31, 2016
“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah” (Jonah 1:1).
Akihito had been struggling at his work for several months. He had lost his enthusiasm and was a little bored. Akihito had a gut feeling that the Holy Spirit was preparing to open up a new path of service for him, but Akihito wasn’t sure. He prayed for discernment and that the Lord would give him a new interest in his present job if he was to stay. A few weeks later, while dining with a friend, Akihito was told of a job opening–it was a position that fit his talents and passions. Prayerfully Akihito applied for the position and eventually was hired. He entered a new chapter in his life sensing that God was guiding him.
God guided Jonah millennia ago. God’s word came to Jonah. We don’t know how. It could have been a voice, a dream or a gut feeling. Jonah isn’t the only example of the Spirit leading people. In fact, the Bible is resplendent in stories of God calling people and they responding. The Holy Spirit continues to move in our lives today. We identify ourselves as followers of Jesus. This is not an empty description or honorary title. The Holy Spirit truly does guide, we follow and God is honored by our words and actions.
Speak Lord. We are listening and we want to follow you. Amen.
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
“But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish” (Jonah 1:3a).
Dusty was a good-natured horse. He wasn’t skittish and he had an easy gait. Dusty also had a mind of his own. He was trained to be neck reigned, but there were times he would get the bit in his mouth and go where he wanted to go. There were also those times when the rider wanted him to go, and Dusty was content standing still.
There are so many times when we act like Dusty. The Holy Spirit moves in our lives and in our hearts and leads us. We decide, though, that we don’t want to go that way. “No, we don’t want to befriend that person.” “No, we don’t want to increase our giving and tithe.” “‘Yes,’ we say that as Christians we need to feed the hungry, but ‘No,’ we don’t want to work at the food bank.” Deciding to follow Jesus is not a once-in-a-life-time event. Rather it is a day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute decision to change our “No’s” to “Yes.'”
Forgiving Lord, move within our lives and hearts so that we will not say, “No,” to your leading, but only, “Yes.” Amen.
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
“To go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:3b).
Five year-old Tommy Cain decided he would run away from home. His parents wouldn’t let him play video games, they had refused to allow him to watch television and they had insisted that he read a book. Tommy was angry. He loaded his backpack with a clean pair of underwear, a shirt and a granola bar, then he set off down the road. He didn’t know where he was going but that didn’t really matter.
Tommy’s father and mother had watch their son pack his backpack and set off down the street. They were sad that Tommy had felt that he needed to run away from his home and their love. They knew, though, that there was a lesson he had to learn. As Tommy walked down the road his father followed at a discreet distance. Tommy walked four blocks. The backpack was getting heavy so he decided to sit down on the bus stop bench. Tired and a little scared, Tommy began to cry. A few minutes later an arm embraced him and a familiar voice said, “It’s okay Tommy. We love you.” Hoisting the boy and his backpack on his shoulders, Tommy’s father headed back toward home.
Jonah thought that he had run away from the presence of the Lord. Jonah couldn’t do that, though. In Psalm 139 the writer reflects, “Where can I go from your spirit?/ Or where can I flee from your presence?/ If I ascend to heaven, you are there;/ if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there” (vs.7-8). We can’t escape from God’s presence either. We may think God has turned away from us, but God hasn’t. Like Tommy’s father, God is right there with us when we get tired of running and get a little scared. God picks us up in God’s arms and carries us home.
Everywhere–God, how thankful we are that we cannot be separated from you. When we wander, draw us back into your loving embrace. Amen.
Thursday, November 3, 2016
“‘Get up, call on your god! Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish'” (Jonah 1:6).
The waiting room at the Children’s Hospital was filled with anxious parents of sick children. While conversing with each other to fill the time, the group discovered that one of their members was a pastor. “Great” exclaimed on parent. “God will certainly hear your prayers. Can you pray for my daughter, too?” The pastor assured the nervous mother that she certainly would pray for her daughter and for all of the children whose parents were in the room.
We know that God isn’t more attentive to one person’s prayers than God is with another’s. We are all children of God–children who can approach God with a boldness just like children approach their parents with their requests. This verse reminds us, though, that as followers of Jesus Christ, people around us assume that we are people of prayer. Often they long for our prayers and we can assure them that we are praying for them.
With elections looming, the effects of global warming being felt by many, terrorism, war and deployed military personnel, along with scores of local needs, there is much to pray about. As followers of Jesus we have the privilege of praying for our world, our nation and the people around us. We pray knowing that God hears our prayers and that prayer does change things.
Attentive Lord, thank you for the gift of prayer. Help us to use it generously, boldly and lovingly. Amen.
Friday, November 4, 2016
“And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and nights” (Jonah 1:17).
Jonah’s three days in the belly of the fish was a death to life experience. He was a changed man when he emerged from the fish. Jean Valjean, in “Les Miserables,” was a changed man when the bishop gave him the candlesticks. Renee was at the airport when the bomb exploded. He was critically injured by shrapnel, but he survived. Having almost died, Renee was a changed man who looked at life differently and appreciated it more.
As followers of Jesus, we are people of the resurrection. We have experienced death in our lives. It might have been the physical death of a loved one, the death of a relationship, the ending of a job or the moving from an old home to a new one. Each death brings grief with it along with fear and uncertainty. Death also brings with it the promise of new life. We may not know what the future holds, but we do know that God will be with us as we journey from old to new and from death to life.
God of Life, may we always rest in you when we experience death and wait expectantly for your gift of new life. Amen.
Saturday, November 5, 2016
“So John set out and went to Nineveh according to the word of the Lord” (Jonah 3:3).
When God’s people are faithfully obedient, God does great things. Abram and Sara followed God to the Promised Land and through them God established a great nation. Moses (reluctantly) accepted God’s call and the Israelites were freed from their slavery in Egypt. A small boy accepted Jesus’ invitation to share his bread and fish and over five thousand people were fed. After his encounter with Jesus, the Spirit led an obedient Paul to spread the gospel message to Gentile lands. Jonah followed God’s directions and an entire city was saved.
We do not know what God will do through us, but we do know that God can do great things. Adventure, surprise and fulfillment await us as we say, “Yes,” to the Spirit’s leading.
Almighty God, we are humbled that you have chosen to use us to be conduits of your love and grace and through us to accomplish great things. Amen.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
“When God saw what they did … God changed his mind” (Jonah 3:10).
Verses such as this incite great speculation across Christendom. Can God actually change God’s mind? With God’s omniscience does this mean that God knew what would happen in the future to Nineveh and changed the future? Did God know that God was going to change the future? is there really predestination or merely foreknowledge and can foreknowledge be changed?
We miss the point of the story. The writer of Jonah did not want to comment on God’s involvement in human affairs. The writer wanted to proclaim that God is a God who wants to forgive and to love. God moves wind and sea, large fish and reluctant men to bring the good news of God’s love and the invitation to walk in a relationship with that God. Truthfully we can’t imagine what goes on in the mind of God, but we can clearly see evidence of God’s love and grace in our lives, in the lives of the people around us and in the world today.
Loving Lord, move in the lives of people today as you did in the lives of the residents of Nineveh. Let your love and grace be made known. Amen.