To whom it may concern, a “random” arrow

To whom it may concern, a “random” arrow

Then Jehoshaphat added, “But first let’s find out what the LORD says.” – 2 Chron18:4

2 Chron 18:33-34

 33 An Aramean soldier, however, randomly shot an arrow at the Israelite troops and hit the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. “Turn the horses and get me out of here!” Ahab groaned to the driver of the chariot. “I’m badly wounded!”

 34 The battle raged all that day, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot facing the Arameans. In the evening, just as the sun was setting, he died.

Stray bullets hit unintended targets. Being struck by a stray bullet is considered a freak accidents or an act of God. It is considered very unlikely. As such, it cannot be predicted, controlled or prevented. The probability of an accidental death from a firearm discharge in your lifetime is about 1 in 8527, in any given year is about 1 in 670,204 [www.iii.org].

To put this in perspective:

                                            One-year odds       Lifetime odds

Accidental poisoning                           5,027                  64

Opioids both legal and illegal)              7,569                  96

All motor vehicle accidents                   8,096                  103

Assault by firearm                             22,399                  285

Fall from stairs and steps                    130,654                1662

Drowning in swimming pool                 450,511                5732

Firearms discharge (accidental)            670,204                8527

What about bullets fired straight up into the air?

What goes up must come down, right? What goes up: A bullet fired from a Kalashnikov rifle leaves the muzzle traveling faster than 1,500 miles per hour. What comes down: If that bullet is shot straight into the air it would be traveling at about 150 miles per hour as it falls to the ground because air resistance for slows it down. It would hit the ground, or your head, with the same amount of energy as if you were struck by a brick falling from about 4 feet above you [source: Matthews].

And what about stray arrows?

The Word of God contains stories that you just can’t make up. So goes the story of Ahab, king of Israel and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. This story takes place during the time of the divided kingdom after the reign of Solomon. The northern 10 tribes are called Israel and the two southern tribes are called Judah.

Jehoshaphat was a good king, but he made the mistake of entering into an alliance with Ahab, the evil, plotting, tricky and deceptive king of Israel. This was a bad idea on many levels, and Jehoshaphat almost paid for his mistake with his life.

Ahab asked Jehoshaphat to join him in an attack on a mutual enemy. Jehoshaphat agreed, but only on one condition. He wanted to know what the Father had to say about it. Now that was a great idea. The hitch was that Ahab really did not want to hear from the Father at all. He’d rather consult with false prophets and sycophants who would tell him what he wanted to hear. The truth often stung, and Ahab wanted to avoid it at all costs.

2 Chron 18:2-4

 2 Ahab enticed Jehoshaphat to join forces with him . . .

 3 “Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?” King Ahab of Israel asked King Jehoshaphat of Judah. Jehoshaphat replied, “Why, of course! You and I are as one, and my troops are your troops. We will certainly join you in battle.”

 4 Then Jehoshaphat added, “But first let’s find Out what the LORD says.”

But Ahab was not on extremely good terms with the Father’s true prophets. So he summoned 400 of his own prophets, guys who he had in his pocket, who would give him the answer that he wanted.

2 Chron 18:5

 5 So the king of Israel [Ahab] summoned the prophets, 400 of them, and asked them, “Should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?” They all replied, “Yes, go right ahead! God will give the king victory.”

Although Jehoshaphat had lapses in good judgment that got them into the present situation, he was not so easily fooled by every outright lie and subterfuge. False prophets just would not do, and he insisted to hear from one of the Father’s true prophets instead. In a good sense, knowing what the truth sounds like, spoils you and turns you off from lies. Those who are used to handling the truth, the Word of God have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb 5:14).

2 Chron 18:6 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not also a prophet of the LORD here? We should ask him the same question.”

Ahab was not very pleased with this because he hated the Father’s prophets. Whenever he consulted them, they always gave him bad news. Go figure!

2 Chron 18:7 The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat, “There is one more man who could consult the LORD for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me! His name is Micaiah.”

Jehoshaphat replied, “That’s not the way a king should talk! Let’s hear what he has to say.”

Jehoshaphat scolded Ahab for talking in such a negative and insulting way about one of the Father’s prophets. So begrudgingly, Ahab sent one of his officials to find Micaiah and bring him in to present the Father’s guidance and direction.

But in the process, Ahab’s guy tried to put in the fix, and get Micaiah to produce the same results as the false prophets. Micaiah stood tall and would have nothing to do with it. That’s one of the things about the Father’s prophets, they tend to be harder than flint and will not back down from telling the truth.

2 Chron 18:8 So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Quick! Bring Micaiah.”

2 Chron 18:12-13

 13 Meanwhile, the messenger who went to get Micaiah said to him, “Look, all the prophets are promising victory for the king. Be sure that you agree with them and promise success.”

 13 But Micaiah replied, “As surely as the LORD lives, I will say only what my God says.”

REFLECT & PRAY

Just the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (John 17:17).

Father encourage me to stand tall for the truth and not succumb to peer pressure or the influence of governmental authorities, even when the odds are 400 to 1. The Father’s Truth alone is Truth.

INSIGHT

Real servants of the Father, only say what He tells them to say. They don’t add, they don’t take away, and they do not alter His words. It is always wise to measure what is heard in our modern age by this plumb line. By this time, Micaiah was well aware what was going on, having gotten inside information from the Father Himself. He resorts to sarcasm.

 2 Chron 18:14, 15

 14 When Micaiah arrived before the king, Ahab asked him, “Micaiah, should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?” Micaiah replied sarcastically, “Yes, go up and be victorious, for you will have victory over them!”

 15 But the king replied sharply, “How many times must I demand that you speak only the truth to me when you speak for the LORD?”

Well Ahab was not stupid either, well not that stupid. And he knew that Micaiah was not telling what the that the Father had revealed to him. He calls Micaiah out. So Micaiah, comes clean and tells the rest of the story.

2 Chron 18:6 Then Micaiah told him, “In a vision I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep without a shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘Their master has been killed. Send them home in peace.’

Well of course this was not comforting or pleasing for Ahab. Why? Well, there was the rather obvious fact that Micaiah was predicting Ahab’s death. But even that were not the case, wicked people, with dark, evil hearts, do not really want to hear the truth, not to mention listen to it or act on it. When he asked for the truth, it was simply another ploy, he really did not want to hear it.

Ahab had Micaiah arrested and put on bread and water. Ahab underscores his hatred of Micaiah in his whining complaint to Jehoshaphat.

 2 Chron 18:17 “Didn’t I tell you?” the king of Israel exclaimed to Jehoshaphat. “He never prophesies anything but trouble for me.”

 2 Chron 18:18,25-27

 18 Then Micaiah continued, “Listen to what the LORD says! I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the armies of heaven around him, on his right and on his left.”

 25 “Arrest him!” the king of Israel ordered.

 26 Give them this order from the king “Put this man in prison and feed him nothing but bread and water until I return safely from the battle!”

 27 But Micaiah replied, “If you return safely, it will mean that the LORD has not spoken through me!” Then he added to those standing around, “Everyone mark my words!”

The original “mark my words,” entered the English language through the Miles Coverdale’s 1535 translation of the Bible, “Take hede, and heare my voyce, pondre and merck my wordes wel. …. [sic.]” (Isaiah 28:23).

In the 20th century, this was updated and popularized by Clint Eastwood, A.K.A. Dirty Harry, “But being that this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk?”

This is followed by yet more intrigues, deceptions, subterfuge, disguises and camouflage. Ahab did everything short of painting a target on Jehoshaphat’s back.

2 Chron 18:29 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “As we go into battle, I will disguise myself so no one will recognize me, but you wear your royal robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle.

Well, a random act of God seemingly got in the final word, that is shot, “stray arrow.”

2 Chron 18:30 Meanwhile, the king of Aram had issued these orders to his chariot commanders: “Attack only the king of Israel! Don’t bother with anyone else.”

2 Chron 18:31,32

 31 So when the Aramean chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat in his royal robes, they went after him. “There is the king of Israel!” they shouted. But Jehoshaphat called out, and the LORD saved him. God helped him by turning the attackers away from him.

 32 As soon as the chariot commanders realized he was not the king of Israel, they stopped chasing him.

In the midst of all this confusion, the Father remembered Jehoshaphat and helped him by turning away his attackers. But at the same time the Father saw to it that evil King Ahab was himself “randomly shot by an arrow.”

2 Chron 18:33,34

 33 An Aramean soldier, however, randomly shot an arrow at the Israelite troops and hit the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. “Turn the horses and get me out of here!” Ahab groaned to the driver of the chariot. “I’m badly wounded!”

 34 The battle raged all that day, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot facing the Arameans. In the evening, just as the sun was setting, he died.

How could King Jehoshaphat not discern what Ahab was doing to him? If Ahab had put a target on Jehoshaphat’s back, he would not have made it easier for the enemy to kill him! But God is sovereign in all things and protected Jehoshaphat, while at the same time allowing a random arrow to hit an opening in Ahab’s armor and kill him. Ahab was disguised and yet was killed, while Jehoshaphat was in his royal robes and never touched (Wiersbe).

Psalms 118:8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people.

A force to contend with

A force to contend with

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. – Judges 21:25 

Judges 2:18-19

 18 Whenever the LORD raised up a judge over Israel, he was with that judge and rescued the people from their enemies throughout the judge’s lifetime. For the LORD took pity on his people, who were burdened by oppression and suffering.

 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to their corrupt ways, behaving worse than those who had lived before them. They went after other gods, serving and worshiping them. And they refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.

Life is filled with daunting situations. We face challenges big and small. What do we do? Some freeze and shrink back in uncertainty. Others plow ahead and take a chance. While others may rise to the occasion and perform heroic acts. Most folks who perform one-time acts of bravery (like rushing into a burning building or rescuing someone from the path of an oncoming train) are not significantly different from everyone else.

However, others live lives of lifelong heroism. Consider firemen and other first-time responders. Professional nurses who regularly comfort the sick and dying tend to be lifelong heroes. Such nurses share personality traits or qualities that set them apart from non-heroes. They possess a strong moral code (personal values), are empathic and nurturing. They live by their values and are willing to take personal risks to protect and maintain those values. The prophet Deborah was such a person. Deborah was a force to contend with.

The book of Judges was written 1045-1000 BC. It covers the period between the Exodus, 1445 BC and the time of Solomon (1 Kings 6:1).  It is the tragic story of ancient Israel’s cycle of disobedience, rebellion and idolatry. Over and over again the people went from short periods of righteous living to failure and sin. When things became unbearable, they would repent and callout to the Father for help. The Father remained true to His covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Father would send a leader, a judge to save His people from their oppressors. All would be well for a short time, and then the cycle would repeat. This lasted for a span of about 400 years.

The cycle began with the death of Joshua and the other leaders of the conquest. The Israelites turned their backs on the Father and entered into idolatry. They had no loyalty to the Father and took Him for granted. They openly rebelled, evoking His displeasure and inviting His discipline (Judges 2:8-16). The Israelites never learned.

Sadly, each of us can probably identify with this behavior and see ourselves doing similar things. It is eerily familiar to the apostle Paul’s experiences in Romans 7.

Romans 7:21-24 

 21 I have discovered this principle of life– that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.

 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?

Against this horrid background, the Father raised up a force to contend with, Deborah, the fourth judge of Israel. She is revealed as a housewife and mom, not a soldier. She was neither an Amazon warrior nor a WWF female superstar. Rather than being mighty in stature, I envision her as a tiny, petite woman perhaps only 5′ 2″ or so. Her strength came from within, her character and integrity. She was powerful, resourceful, and resilient. She was taken seriously and had great personal power and influence. Deborah was steadfast and devoted to the Father and His Word. She inspired Israel’s forces to confident victory. She encouraged them to faith and righteous living.

In addition to her natural strengths, Deborah was a prophet. She heard from the Father directly (Amos 3:7). The Father would give her the battle strategy to defeat the enemies of Israel. She would in turn pass it on to Barak, leader of Israel’s forces. When Barak carried out her instructions, victory was won.  

The Father has two criteria for service: availability and willingness. Only one person measured up to the task at hand, Deborah. No man was willing or able to do the job. In fact, Barak would not go out to war against the enemy without Deborah’s leadership.

Ancient armies were not a coed endeavor. The leaders and strong warriors were typically all-male. The fact that Israel’s all male army would not go to war without Deborah’s leading them, was a slap in their faces. There was no honor in it for the men. Deborah sought no honor for herself. She was only doing the task that she had been assigned by the Father.

Judges 4:8-9 

 8 Barak told her, “I will go, but only if you go with me.”

 9 “Very well,” she replied, “I will go with you. But you will receive no honor in this venture, for the LORD’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.”

It had to be very humiliating to the male warriors of Israel in their male-dominated society. But the choice got down to following a woman into battle and having victory. Or going it alone and facing certain defeat. Ultimately however, the honor and glory belong to the Father. It was His battle plan and His intervention On Israel’s behalf that brought about the victory.

“When God wants to glorify Himself through His people, He always has a perfect plan for us to follow. God chose the leader of His army, the place for the battle, and the plan for His army to follow. God also guaranteed the victory.” (Wiersbe)!

REFLECT & PRAY

Prov 21:31 The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.

Father encourage my heart to have the spirit of Deborah.

INSIGHT

Is it possible to have the spirit of Deborah today? Can we be full of faith and courage, and be energized by our zeal for God?

Mark 10:27  “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”

In Deborah’s day, there were real physical enemies to contend with, large opposing forces, not to mention 900 iron chariots. But today most of us are not a war and our enemies are internal: fear of failure, a sense of inferiority, concerns over what others think, poor self-image, and often even stubborn unwillingness

While each of us have our individual callings and gifts, any of us can have the spirit of Deborah. Any of us can hear from the Father, take Him at His Word, trust, commit, and take action. Frequently we do not see ourselves as the Father sees us. The Father wants to free us from our internal nemeses!

The spirit of Deborah, a spirit of faith and trust is available to us all. As the Father exposes what needs to be done in our lives we do not have to draw back from these internal enemies. His spirit is at work in us.

Phi 2:13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

It is past time to stop doubting our faith and believing our doubts. Rather doubt your doubts and believe your faith.

By the way the name Deborah means bumblebee.

For many years, in spite of the obvious visible evidence to the contrary, it was thought that short and stubby bumblebees should not be able to fly at all. For such a creature to fly was seemingly a violation the law of aerodynamics. But bumblebees not knowing aerodynamics, having never attended science or physics classes, flew anyway. In the 1930s, French entomologist August Magnan concluded the insect’s flight is actually impossible, a notion that has stuck in popular consciousness since then.

However, the enigma was solved in 2005 by Dr. Michael Dickinson, a professor of biology and insect flight expert at the University of Washington. He used high-speed photography to capture the wing movement of flying bees. It turns out that bumblebees do not flap their wings up and down. This is a common misconception. Rather, they flap their wings back and forth. This is been dubbed a “bug flap.” Such movements provide sufficient lift to allow the bumblebees to fly. Who would’ve guessed? Perhaps instead of going to class, they were outside watching hummingbirds, or even helicopters.

Employee-owned

Employee-owned

The Father loves his Son and has put everything into his hands. – John 3:35 Romans 8:17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, we are fellow heirs with Christ.

Titus 3:4-7
 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared,
 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

A company is said to be employee-owned when its employees have a significant and broad-based ownership stake. An employee-owned company plan is more commonly referred to as an “employee stock ownership plan,” (or ESOP), but the name conveys the right message: In an ESOP, the employees are given stock in the company as part of compensation for working at the company, making those employees shareholders in the company.

It has obvious benefits for the employees, it is also advantageous to the company itself. When people own something, they take better care of it than if it is rented or leased. There is a pride of ownership and a desire to protect and maintain. Employees work harder and smarter. It is easier to develop a sense of family and unity.

The kingdom of God is in a sense employee owned. Actually a better description might be family owned. When people accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, they become part of the Father’s family.

We enter the family business. Perhaps you’ve never thought about it, but the Father is in an exclusive one-of-a-kind business. He alone has found a special niche that no one else can enter. He alone is in the redemption business.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Lord Jesus Christ paid the debt of all our sins so that each of us can be redeemed, forgiven, enter into the Father’s family and have eternal life. We “did nothing to deserve it; God, the great Father, in his amazing love and mercy, has taken lost, helpless, poverty-stricken, debt-laden sinners and adopted them into his own family, so that the debts are cancelled, and the glory inherited” (Barclay).

REFLECT & PRAY

Each of us is born in utter spiritual poverty. Yet through Christ, we are the present and eternal possessors of untold spiritual wealth.

Father as I ponder the amazing implications of my inheritance, I am truly overwhelmed. I cannot take it all in. The fact that, You being You, would invite me and adopt me into Your forever family is mindboggling, extraordinary. Thank You that is all true.

INSIGHT

The Father gave control and ownership of His business over to the Son. The Lord Jesus Christ is the heir and owner of it all. But the marvelous, incredible thing is that each child of God is a fellow heir with Christ. What belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ in total, belongs to each of us in part. Our inheritance is not just a future expectation, but a present reality.

It is not possible for an infant to write or sign a check. But each of the Father’s children has an eternal account filled with spiritual wealth. In a sense, the balance of our spiritual trust fund is a Googleplex, a number so vast, it is almost beyond measure. It “includes all of the riches and wealth of the entire creation” (Cottrell). As joint heirs with Christ, we have access to this largesse treasure right now. In fact, walking in the spirit requires that we draw down from it continuously. It is the source of our hope and confidence, and also our energy and vision. We can do all things through him who strengthens us (Phil 4:13).

“Christians are men and women for whom the best is always still to be; they know that, however wonderful life on earth with Christ may be, the life to come will be greater still. Christians are people who know the wonder of the forgiveness of past sins, the thrill of present life with Christ, and the hope of the greater life which is yet to come” (Barclay).

Our Father is rich. How rich? Rich beyond all measure. He not only owns all that He created; He has the power to create as much as He wants. What exactly do we have to do, what work must we perform to earn a share in His wealth? Absolutely nothing!

All we have to do is believe in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. We become fellow heirs with Him and inherit a treasure beyond imagination or calculation.

Immutability and sensitivity

Immutability and sensitivity
The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. – Lam 3:22 1Sa 15:29 “Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”
1Sa 15:29 And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” (ESV)

“I may be wrong in regard to any or all of them; but holding it a sound maxim, that it is better to be only sometimes right, than at all times wrong, so soon as I discover my opinions to be erroneous, I shall be ready to renounce them” (Abraham Lincoln).

Difficult as it may be to admit at times, we all make mistakes. Even the best of us including the likes of Abraham Lincoln. But what of God the Father? Does He make mistakes? Does He find it necessary to change? And what about this immutability thing? If God is immutable what actually changes?

Immutability is an attribute of God. God is unchanging in His character, will, and covenant promises.” God does not change in His being, perfections, purposes, or promises (Berkhof). The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that “[God] is a spirit, whose being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.” Those things do not change.

What can change? We are often puzzled, if not perplexed regarding this.

The confusion has to do with the difference between the Father’s divine attributes and His characteristics as a person. His attributes never change. But in personal interactions with people He reacts. He feels joy and sadness. He feels satisfaction but also regret.

Stop to think about it the Father, the Lord God omnipotent, truly interacts with mere humans in space and time. He is watching and paying attention. He is sensitive and aware of the smallest details. He cares. He becomes personally involved. The Father responds to us when we respond to Him. He chooses to be in a personal relationship with us. He reacts.

How can we possibly describe this interaction? The human intellect is limited and unable to fully comprehend it. Also there is the paucity of the human language to describe it. We can only make feeble attempts to explain our limited understanding of the personality and characteristics of the Father and His interactions with us. But a place to start might be to think of Him as responding and reacting, rather than repenting and changing His mind.

REFLECT & PRAY
When we change, He changes.

Father thank You that You are always willing to receive me just as I am.
INSIGHT

There are several Scriptures that refer to the Father changing His mind. He relents and often reveals a sense of regret (Genesis 6:5-6, Exodus 32:14, Jonah 3:10, 2 Samuel 24:16).

The English word rendered regret, repent, relent, change one’s mind comes from the Hebrew nacham. This word is an onomatopoeia, it sounds like the action that connotes: to draw breath forcibly, to pant, to groan. Imagine a disappointing loud sigh. The term reflects and extends the idea of “breathing deeply,” hence the physical display of one’s feelings, usually sorrow, compassion, or comfort (TWOT).

The Hebrew term nacham signifies a state of sorrow or regret regarding a perceived wrong. Embedded within, is the desire to change or cease a particular course of action.

Basically it is a response, a change of heart, in reaction to the actions of others. It has the sense of. to change one’s mind, to be sorry, repent, relent, rue, regret, grieve, be moved to pity, have compassion.

While nacḥam is translated repent, relent, or change mind, a somewhat wordy paraphrase that better captures its meaning might be the Father being sensitive and in relationship with man, interacts and responds.

Immutability has nothing to do with it.

It is like trying to compare apples and oranges. On the one hand, immutability has to do with the attributes of God. While interacting and responding to people has to do with the personality of God.

In the book of 1 Samuel 15, the Hebrew word nacḥam expresses two contrasting, seemingly polar opposite sentiments.
1 Sam 15:11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.”
1 Sam 15:29 The Glory of Israel does not go back on his word or change his mind, for he is not a human being who changes his mind.

People are fickle and capricious. They flip-flop. The Father does not. He does not capriciously change His intentions or ways of acting. When people or circumstances change, the Father responds to the changes. As a result of Saul’s change in behavior, the Father expresses regret. Often the Father graciously responds to changes in people’s circumstances and condition.

In the book of Jeremiah, when the people repent and change their ways, the Father repents and changes His mind in response (Jer 8:6, Jer 31:19) The same is true of human prayer. The Father responds to the pleas of Amos in behalf of Israel (Amos 7:3, 6).

The Father delights in responding to our change of heart, our repentance. He interacts and responds and richly pours out His love and forgiveness on the undeserving. It matters not what we have done or how many times we did it. He takes great pleasure in restoring His children to close fellowship with Him. God is always willing to begin again. Do overs are an ever-present reality from His loving heart.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pouting

Pouting

Just kill me now, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen. – Jonah 4:3

Exodus 34:6-7

 6 The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,

 7 lavishing unfailing love to a thousand generations. Forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. 

After living with my wife for several years, I have learned a few things along the way. On those special days when she spends hours preparing a delightful dinner, and she announces it is time to eat, it is prudent to drop everything and eat. In our home with just the two of us, she is totally capable of having the same food for dinner night after night without pouting. Human hair of any kind on the bathroom floor is yucky if not disgusting, particularly if she is barefooted. Drips of any kind are not far behind.

After emptying out our small container of vegetable scraps into our outdoor composter, the empty container must be washed. Even the stainless-steel bowl that we rinse our dishes and silverware in before putting them in the dishwasher, must be washed in the dishwasher whenever possible. [In truth, washing a stainless-steel bowl which is already spotless is a bit hard for me to grasp.] And finally it is perfectly okay if she borrows your T-shirts for whatever reason, but you are not allowed to use hers ever! It’s better for me not even to touch them less they become wrinkled or even worst, sullied. Upon hearing this, my wife quipped, I know the best Scripture to go with that, “lead me not into temptation . . .”

When things do not go your way, there are lots of choices. One poor choice is to become annoyed and express your displeasure by pouting. Rather than words, pouting often involves a bit of a sigh, followed by a sulky facial expression, and then moody silence. And worst of all, are those times when no one notices you are pouting. This results in even greater displeasure. Pouting is an outward and inward expression of selfishness.

Jonah was the pouting prophet of Israel.

Reluctantly Jonah finally delivers the Father’s warning message of the coming judgment of Nineveh

Jonah 3:3-4

 3 This time Jonah obeyed the LORD’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all.

 4 On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!”

What did the Assyrians do? They repented from their sins and sought forgiveness from the Father, the Lord God of Israel (Jonah 3:5–9).

And what does Jonah do? Does he praise the Lord for this change of heart? Absolutely not. He was furious. In fact this is what he was afraid of all along. The Assyrians had a terrible reputation for capturing and butchering their opponents.

He feared that would happen to Israel. He wanted nothing to do with the possibility of the Father relenting and canceling their well-deserved punishment. In his mind the best outcome for Israel would be not only punishment, but the total eradication of the Assyrians. Jonah blurted out an angry, whiny prayer.

Jonah 4:1-3

 1 This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry.

 2 So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.

 3 Just kill me now, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”

In prayer, Jonah reveals why he initially refused the father’s request to go to Nineveh and confront them. Jonah was honest and admitted to the Father why he ran away from His presence. Jonah was well aware that the Father was merciful and compassionate. Jonah was angry with the Father for being Himself.

REFLECT & PRAY

Rather than following the plan that the Father has for us, we devise our own. Do we really think that we know better than Him?

Father help me to hear and to obey Your voice. Encourage me to never run away from Your presence.

INSIGHT

The word translated upset or displeased is raa in Hebrew. It means to be bad, not fit for use, be evil, displeasing, discontented, or repulsive. The word translated angry is charah in Hebrew. It means to burn or be kindled with anger, furious.

Jonah is furious with the Father. He finds His actions repulsive. He was virtually confronting the Lord God Almighty Himself. You called me to be a prophet and then You go and do this? It makes no sense to me whatsoever. If this is the way it really is, I would rather be dead.

Rather startling yes? But how many of us have thought or said exactly the same thing?

The Father’s response is sharp and cutting. He confronts Jonah with a piercing question.

Jonah 4:4 The LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?”

Rather than speaking, Jonah becomes passive aggressive and pouts

Jonah 4:5 Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city.

With great audacity, and smug arrogance Jonah gives the Father another chance to get it right. Right that is, according to Jonah. He is still hoping judgment will fall. Jonah is totally lacking in compassion and desires only condemnation and destruction. Again Jonah’s actions rather startling, yes? And yet, how many of us have thought or done exactly the same thing?

It is very human to condemn others for their evil. But the Father offers grace, kindness, mercy, and forgiveness to the undeserving. That would be me! Thank you, Father!

John 8:7 Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.

Exodus 34:6-7

 6 The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,

 7 lavishing unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. 

Second chance despair

Eye of God

Second chance despair

As my life was slipping away, I remembered the LORD. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple. – Jonah 2:7 

Jonah 2:1-10

 1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from inside the fish.

 2 He said, “I cried out to the LORD in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and LORD, you heard me!

 3 You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.

 7 As my life was slipping away, I remembered the LORD. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple.

 9 I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the LORD alone.”

 10 Then the LORD ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.

The original Skid Row was a neighborhood in Downtown Los Angeles covering over 50 city blocks immediately east of downtown.

Now the term “skid row” refers to an area of a city where people live who are “on the skids,” derives from a logging term. Loggers would transport their logs to a nearby river by sliding them down roads made from greased skids. Loggers who had accompanied the load to the bottom of the road would wait there for transportation back up the hill to the logging camp.

The term began to be used for places where people with no money and nothing to do gathered, becoming the generic term in English-speaking North America for a depressed area in a city.

Jonah was “on the skids.” Sometimes we only see the light when we are in abject darkness. Despair can and often does lead to repentance. Jonah had slid down the slippery skids of the whale’s gullet. He was in total darkness. Upon reflection, his hardened stubborn heart began to mellow. He finally figured it out, stubborn reluctance to yield to the Father’s direction has collateral damage and pays negative dividends.

Jonah 2:2 I cried out to the LORD in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and LORD, you heard me!

Jonah had finally hit absolute bottom and was in utter despair. But he knew and understood the Father’s heart. Jonah trusted that He would deliver him. When the Father calls, the best thing to do is to answer: “Here I am, what would you have your servant do?” (Gen 22:1, Exod 3:4, 1 Sam 3:4)

Jonah was called to be a prophet. He is now willing to serve Him with his whole heart no matter what. But he still has issues which are exposed and resolved before the book concludes. But that’s a story for another day.

Jonah 3:1-3

 1 Then the LORD spoke to Jonah a second time:

 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh and deliver the message I have given you.”

 3 This time Jonah obeyed the LORD’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father is a God of second chances. He never gives up on us. He is faithful! 2 Tim 2:13  If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

Father there is so much of Jonah within me. I only catch glimpses of him now and then. Thank you for graciously and mercifully dealing with me. Encourage me to serve you with my whole heart.

INSIGHT

The Father reaches out to each of us in pure grace. There is nothing about us that commends us to Him. In our fallen natural states, we are essentially selfish and live to please ourselves. The Father is motivated by pure and total love. His lovingkindness compels Him. He wants us to be the same way. Jonah’s journey is our journey.

2Co 5:14-18   

 14 Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.

 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

 16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!

 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

 18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.

“A Jonah lurks in every Christian heart, whispering his insidious message of smug prejudice, empty traditionalism, and exclusive solidarity.  And we grasp the message of the book only when we eliminate the Jonah within us” (Leslie Allen).

Deu 30:19 I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live.

If our lives are out of harmony with the Father, then we are out of tune and our lives are in discord. We do not have music but noise in our soul. The Father will make music in our lives if we walk in fellowship with Him (Richison).

At any time, the Father may bring dissonance into our lives. Of course it is not pleasant at the moment it occurs. But the Father is following an eternal blueprint worked out before He established the foundations of the earth. We do not know all the factors as to why He does this; however, there is one thing that we do know, “the Father is too good to do wrong and He is too wise to make a mistake (Richison).

The Father trims and prunes us to strip away all superficiality. The Father transforms us into what He wants us to be. We cannot sidestep the Father’s sovereignty.

Hag 2:19 Yet from this day on I will bless you.

Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your lives.

Fishy tale

The Eye of God Nebula

Fishy tale

For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. – Matt 12:40

Jon 1:3-17

 3 But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the LORD by sailing to Tarshish.

 4 But the LORD hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart.

 5 Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help.

 7 Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit.

 8 “Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”

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

 10 The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the LORD. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned.

 14 Then they cried out to the LORD, Jonah’s God. “O LORD,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O LORD, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.”

 15 Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once!

 16 The sailors were awestruck by the LORD’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.

 17 Now the LORD had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.

Probably Jonah is one of the best known yet least understood books in the Bible. From the world’s point of view, Jonah and the whale are a part of mythical legendary history. The book is looked upon with ridicule and disbelief and is laughed out of the Bible as being a kind of fable. It is not taken seriously; it is not taken historically (Steadman).

However, it is noteworthy that the Lord Jesus Christ believed that the story of Jonah being three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish was both historical and prophetic of His time in the grave (Matt 12:40).

The records of the British Admiralty tell the story of James Bartley, an apprentice seaman on a whaler, who was swallowed by a whale in February 1891. He survived the ordeal, and this is his amazing story.

He was in a long boat in pursuit of a whale. Suddenly the longboat surged, and he was thrown into the water apparently lost at sea.

The whale was eventually caught, and crewmen removed its stomach. They were startled when they saw movement. Out slid Bartley alive but unconscious.  He regained consciousness but babbled incoherently.

Within a month he regained his senses and told his tale.

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After he was flung into the sea, the last thing he saw was a tremendous mouth open over him and engulf him. He was swept over the teeth and slid down a slimy tube into the stomach of the whale. He could breathe but the hot fetid odor rendered him unconscious. He was trapped in the stomach of the whale for over 15 hours.

Although he was relatively healthy, Bartley lost all the hair on his body and his skin was bleached to an unnatural whiteness. He was blind for the rest of his life. 

He died eighteen years after his terrifying adventure and remarkable survival. On his tombstone in the churchyard at Gloucester is a brief account of his experience at sea and a footnote, which says: James Bartley -1870-1909 – A Modern Jonah.

REFLECT & PRAY

There is no way we can get away from the Father no matter how hard we try.

Father none of us want to be reluctant servants, yet we see ourselves in Jonah, defiant and disobedient. Father encourage us to listen and heed to your instructions.

INSIGHT

The Father commissioned Jonah as one of His spokesmen. He ordered him to go to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh and pronounce judgment against it for its wickedness. Jonah probably muttered under his breath, “no way, I’m outta here!” Rather than obeying the Father, Jonah fled in the opposite direction. Nineveh and Tarshish were then at opposite ends of the known world. For the Father it was rather simple to track him down and get him moving in the right direction. Having power over all of nature, the Father prepared a great storm and a great fish. In  retrospect, to get Jonah where He wanted him to be, He provided a living submarine.

When the great storm came up, the pagan sailors were terrified. They screamed out to their gods in prayer and tried to lighten the load. But nothing helped. They confronted Jonah.

Jon 1:8-10

 8 “Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”

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

 10 The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the LORD. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned.

Once they realized that Jonah was a reluctant Jewish prophet who was running away from the Father, the Lord, the God of heaven, they were even more terrified.

By process of elimination, they realized that the God of Israel was in fast pursuit of Jonah. The terrifying storm was part of the Father’s plan to get him turned around. Reluctantly they threw Jonah into the sea and the storm immediately ceased.

Jonah 1:16 The sailors were awestruck by the LORD’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.

The pagans immediately repented and walked the aisle. From then on, they would serve the Father, the Lord God of Israel.

Jonah on the other hand found himself in the belly of the great fish and still defiant. Objectively speaking, this is really a bad idea. Jonah repents, but not with his whole heart, he holds back. But that’s a story for another day.

A word about whales and great fish. Undoubtedly people who lived in the land of Israel 2700 years ago had little experience with British whalers. They probably had never seen a whale. When Jonah wrote, he called the creature simply a great fish, in Hebrew dag gadol.

Long before the book of Jonah, the Father created all of the animals, land, air, and sea. It is not hard to imagine, that the Father, knowing Jonah’s future experience before it occurred, prepared exactly what was required to fashion the first underwater people mover.

Sperm whales are different from all other creatures. They are up to 60 feet long. Sperm whales have the largest head of any animal. It can be about 20 feet long, 10 feet high, and 7 feet across, and is about one-third of the whale’s body length. Just the right size to swallow in one gulp a man. The stomach could easily hold him.

Of course it was no problem for the omniscient, omnipotent Father to position the sperm whale in just the right place, at the right time to catch the reluctant prophet and transport him alive to shore. The miracle was that Jonah was not digested during the three days and three nights he was in his first-class, luxurious traveling accommodations.

Poor giving

Poor giving

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. – Luke 21:1

Luke 21:1-4

 1 While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box.

 2 Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins.

 3 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them.

 4 For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”

Remember the old days you could take your piggy bank filled with coins to the local bank have them counted out for paper currency.

Those days are not completely gone. Enter Coinstar.

Coinstar is a company that provides claim counting kiosks. Coins are counted and converted into cash, gift cards, or donations to charity. Many major US supermarkets have Coinstar kiosks.

You can bring your coins and toss them in. Select your desired exchange option. Clink, clink, chachung, chachung, and you’re done

In the temple there was an area called the treasury. The treasury had thirteen trumpet-shaped collection containers. They were narrow at the top and wider at the bottom.

People would throw their coins into the trumpets. It does not take much imagination to visualize the coins hitting the top and ricocheting their way down making noise as they went. The bigger the offering the louder the noise. Perhaps the phrase, “blowing your own horn” is somehow distantly related to this.

Imagine the impoverished widow with her two coins. She tosses them in, and they almost imperceptibly go, clink, clink, clink. The rich man comes along and tosses in a lot of gilt. Imagine, chachung, chachung, chachung. Looking about, it would have been a proud moment indeed. 

As these events unfold Jesus is watching, He is watching carefully. What does He see? He sees one person who was extremely rich and another person who is extremely poor. They are both doing the same thing, giving. Most of us would focus on the rich man and the great quantity of what he gave. But the Lord Jesus does not. His attention is drawn to the poor widow. The comments the Lord Jesus makes reveal much about how the Father views giving.

Why were they giving? What is their motivation? The answer uncovers what makes giving poor or valued. What really matters? Certainly not what we would naturally think. It is normal to be impressed with the size of a gift, with little regard to the personal sacrifice that went into it. The Father is not impressed by the size of gifts. But rather considers the attitude of the giver’s heart. In doing so, the Father turns everything on its head. It is not how much someone gives away, but rather how much someone keeps. In the end, you might say that the poor widow got her two cents in.

Two things determine the value of any gift. First the spirit in which it is given. Good gifts are the inevitable outflow of a loving heart. The second is the sacrifice which it involves. That which is a mere trifle to one person may be a vast sum to another. The gifts of the rich did not really cost them much; but the gift of the widow cost her everything she had (Barclay).

Some people give because they cannot help it. There is a kind of a reckless generosity at work. Others minutely calculate precise percentages to obtain their appropriate amount.

“No one has ever become poor by giving” (Anne Frank). Yet people can become impoverished by not giving.

REFLECT & PRAY

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness” (Martin Luther King, Jr).

Father encourage me to be wise and generous in my giving.

INSIGHT

Giving is not merely about money. It’s about time, caring, listening, sharing, nurturing and being interested in and responding to the needs of others. In the Torah, the five books of Moses, the Father laid out principles of sharing. One of His principles is the practice of gleaning.

Lev 19:9-10

 9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest.

 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.

Gleaning is all about sharing the harvest without giving away the farm.  

Feel bad about you? – Feel really bad about you!

Feel bad about you? – Feel really bad about you!

No one does good, not a single one. – Rom 3:12 

Rom 3:23-25 

 23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark (Michelangelo).

We often find ourselves wondering what other people think about us. We are naturally afraid that we won’t somehow measure up to some real or imagined standards of others.

Do you feel bad about you? The Father has a simple solution for this. Instead of measuring ourselves by other people’s standards, or even our own, we are to measure ourselves by His. Then when you recognize how far short we fall, you wind up feeling really, really bad!

There is a major difference between feeling relatively bad about yourself and feeling absolutely bad about yourself. When you feel relatively bad about yourself then you can try to improve yourself or avoid the bad feelings altogether. But when you feel absolutely bad about yourself then there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. This actually brings about a resolution.

When we evaluate ourselves in light of the Father’s standards, we always fall short. All of our self-concern dissipates. There is no longer any wondering about where we stand. Our blindness is removed and suddenly we see things as they really are. We are simply dismal failures. We all fall short! In a word we are condemned.

Does this new awareness make you feel better? Not so much. But it will. Absolutely condemned people are in desperate need of the mercy, graciousness, and love of the Father in heaven. Paul reminds us we were not on a friendly basis and making  vast improvements when the Father intervened. Rather when we were the Father’s enemies, that’s when He sent Christ to die for us. He intervened to resolve the lowest, worst part of our human condition. He sent Jesus as our sacrifice exactly for that.

Rom 5:10 While we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.

The Father has provided a major paradigm shift for all of His children. We stood helpless, completely and totally in the wrong and condemned. He sovereignly and freely declared us to be righteous. And so we are! We are now in the right.

Rom 3:24-25 

 24 God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.

Rom 5:1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

REFLECT & PRAY
 

You don’t drown by falling into water. You only drown if you stay there (Zig Ziglar).

Father thank you for lifting me out of the miry pit and placing me on solid ground.

INSIGHT
 

Suppose you are walking in rather swampy woods. Suddenly you find yourself a couple of steps into quicksand and rapidly sink up to your neck. First, you have to find a way out of the terrifying and deadly mess you find yourself in. Second, you have to get cleaned up. All the muck and mire covering you from the neck down has to be removed.

That is exactly what the Father has done! He has removed us from the miry pit, the ugly mess we made of our lives. Then He made us thoroughly clean as if it had never happened at all. We are no longer sullied. All the blots and blemishes are removed.

In a sense we have been put on trial and found guilty. We stood condemned. But the Father has done something absolutely wonderful and astonishing. We have a whole new legal standing. Through faith in Christ, we have been justified and declared righteous by God, once for all. The result of this is that the Christian no longer lives under the fear of judgment and the wrath of God but has peace with God, which is not merely a subjective feeling but an objective reality (ESV notes).

The enemy focuses on our old mess and rubs our noses in it. The Father focuses on our redemption and cleansed lives. He encourages each of His children.

This provides us with an unexpected, yet delightful opportunity. We can continue to focus on and recall to mind the dark failures of our lives, or we can focus on the clean, pure righteous redemption He has wrought. Darkness or light, the choice is ours.

Good reproof

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. – 2 Tim 3:16

2 Tim 3:16-17

 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it ‘character in action.’

Mental toughness is essential to success.

Mental toughness is Spartanism, with all its qualities of self-denial, sacrifice, dedication, fearlessness, and love.

Brains without competitive hearts are rudderless.

If you’re lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he’s never going to come off the field second.

Teams do not go physically flat; they go mentally stale” (Vince Lombardi).

It’s just not natural to welcome or enjoy criticism. The Father equips each of His children and prepares them for success in the tasks He has for them. Reproof and correction are necessary components in the process. A proper response to criticism is necessary. Wherever there are people, there are sparks. What you do with the sparks makes all the difference in the world.

Job 5:7 People are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly up from a fire.

Troubles in life come one way or the other. Since the time of the Fall of Adam and Eve, life has been hard. It is the direct result of the Fall.

Gen 3:17-19

 17 The ground is cursed because of you [Adam]. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.

 18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.

 19 By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.

Sparks and troubles are part of our DNA. Is it a mistake to think we are always at fault for what happens in our lives? Of course! In many cases this may be true because we reap what we sow. But hard times are not simply a matter of cause and effect. The fact is we are fallen creatures living in a fallen world. The world is not out to get us. The world does not know we exist. The world is not sentiment. There are not random, senseless, cosmic forces at work to somehow punish us personally for what our first parents did.

Why is there personal suffering? Consider Joseph. Have you ever wondered why the entire account of creation takes up only two chapters in Genesis, but the life of Joseph requires 15 chapters to tell? Joseph’s difficult times and his response to them provides life lessons for us all.  

There was a great deal of suffering in Joseph’s life. It began with the jealousy of his brothers. They wanted to kill him. But instead they plotted against him and betrayed him. He was sold into slavery in Egypt. Because of his intelligence and excellent moral character he was admired and promoted.

But for the same reasons he was unjustly imprisoned and basically left to rot. But prison was preparation! There the Father prepared him for what was coming next. Upon release he was elevated to the highest position available in all of Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh. Joseph was the second survivalist in Scripture, Noah the first. He developed a survival plan for a predicted famine that saved countless numbers of people.

But he is greatest achievement was inward. He went from the potential throes of anger, resentment, and bitterness to gracious forgiveness for his brothers who had so wronged him.

Joseph described the reality and theological foundation for all that it happened.

Gen 45:7-8

 7 God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors.

 8 So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh– the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.

Gen 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.
REFLECT & PRAY

Joseph learned and placed confidence in the “Who” and “whys” of the “whats” of his life.

Father I know and believe that you are always at work preparing me to be able to face and excel at whatever You have for me to do.

INSIGHT

The Father utilizes discipline to direct us away from ungodliness and to increase our fruitfulness. He will use difficult people and circumstances to prune away any deadwood – attitudes, behaviors, and relationships that do not fit a child of God (Stanley).

Reproof, criticism, correction, and discipline are not intended to be pleasant. Dark valleys are common to us all. When we are in the midst of the dark nights of our souls, we do not always respond well. We often fail. Temporary setbacks are normative. But overcoming sorrow, heavy burdens, and ill-treatment is the Father’s plan and purpose. The fulfillment of His will on earth as it is in heaven is the Father’s focus. We would do well to focus on the same.

Heb 12:11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening– it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

Life is full of trouble. But in the hands of a loving God, our suffering is being used for eternal purposes (Stanley).

Charles Stanley provides some helpful steps.

  • It’s important to respond well and evaluate criticism correctly.
  • Do not immediately reject the comment, blame the person, or defend yourself. Instead, consider what was said, and ask God to help you discern if it’s true.
  • Thank the person for his interest in you and explain that you’ll reflect on his observation.
  • Evaluate the criticism and determine what exactly is under scrutiny—your beliefs, your character.
  • View this as an opportunity for growth, and if necessary, apologize.
  • Instead of allowing criticism to lead you into anger and self-pity, you should let it do its work in your life.