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Influencing Community Change

(Jonah 1:1-3; 3:1-9)

Lesson 1 -- second quarter 2010
March 7, 2010

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2010

Introductory questions to chew

What do I do with God's Word to me?

What do I do with God's message through me?

Am I comfortable in God's presence?

Which communities and peoples and "races" do not matter to me?

What risks and discomforts will I accept in order to declare God's message?

Does God want me to attempt to effect Nineveh-type community change?

Explaining disobedience?

"Finally! God is getting ready to destroy these troublesome Ninevites. He wants to give them one more opportunity to repent . . . and He wants me to preach the warning to them. What if they repent? I know God; He will hold off judgment, maybe even forgive them entirely. That would never do. Hmmm! If I don't preach to them, they can't repent. If they don't repent, God will destroy them. If God destroys them, that's one less enemy for Israel. I like that! Besides, if they repent it will likely be only because they want to avoid judgment and not because they want to live for God." As I try to guess what might have stirred in Jonah's mind, the craftiness of my own heart readily puts the above words in his heart. Those words strike me as quite reasonable and logical. And my mind would add, "God expects me to use the power of reason which He gave me. I must react reasonably to those situations and opportunities which present themselves to me."

Reason and logic are precious gifts from God. However, they are never to be employed to "explain" disobedience. When God commands, the reasoning and "logic-ing" have all been done and we need waste no time trying to do more! What God commands is never subject to human logic and reason. Never.

That is so obvious in Jonah's case. Can we see it just as readily in our own lives? Let's look at me a little. I have a friend whom I must confront about language, leisure and values. It seems like some verses especially fit my obligation to him.

"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1).

"Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" (James 5:19,20).

You ought to hear my logic kick in with gems like "He already knows what you would like to tell him" or "The last time you talked to him about the matter he thought you were just over-reacting" or even "He's so sensitive; he'd feel hurt and rejected."

Well, perhaps we would feel more at ease turning our attention back to Jonah! If he indeed followed the line of reasoning stated in the first paragraph, what did he miss? First off, by choosing to disobey God he reduced himself to the same level of life as the Ninevites he so wished judgment on. Secondly, he was so consumed with the idea of judgment and vengeance that he missed God's possibilities with a repentant, redeemed Nineveh. These people would no longer have been foes! Now tell me, what are some flaws you see with the logic I present in the preceding paragraph?

How willing are you to do your share to bring a "foe" back into a right relationship with God? Remember that means you can no longer anticipate judgment against him and maybe even vindication for yourself. Remember that his restoration might mean blessing for him instead of condemnation. And who knows? Perhaps his redemption might mean that the spotlight will shine on him instead of on you. Sometimes we allow the most crass and fleshly inhibitions to send us down to the seaport!

Jesus died and rose to bring redemption, peace and oneness. Shall we let logic and reason interfere with our role in so grand a plan?!

The message and me

"And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time." Perhaps we will tut-tut over the fact that God had to tell Jonah twice. And we are above suffering Jonah's affliction, I presume? How often we fall victim to the line of reasoning that may have snared Jonah! Somehow some think that if God's Word records a precept or command only once, then they are not bound by it. Our flesh feels better when we can find various passages telling us to do or not do something. "Tell me at least twice and I'll believe it." Call this the Jonah Syndrome if you will. (Would it help if we thought of it as a Sin-drome?) Why, if we love God so much, do we not happily take the once-stated command as seriously as the line-upon-line orders?

"Preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee." I am amazed that God apparently didn't require that Jonah agree with the message. Consider these two potential implications: (1) the opinions and preferences of the messenger must not get in the way of the message, and (2) the opinions and preferences of the messenger must eventually be displaced by the message. If we wait until we are in full harmony with God's ways and message, we will never pass on His message. There is nothing hypocritical about faithfully presenting God's truth regardless of our opinion of it. The faithful message bearer will also choose to live the message despite the conflict he initially has with it. As he chooses the route of obedience he will discover that eventually the message will be reflected in his opinions and preferences. Obedience always leads to a change of heart. This didn't happen to Jonah because he refused to live his message. So, like Jonah, I want to deliver God's message even if I don't endorse it. Unlike Jonah, I want to live God's message so He can teach me to love and endorse it!

This concludes my comments based on the passage for the International Bible Study. To read my comments on the alternate lesson developed by Christian Light Publications, click here: God Is the Great Creator.

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