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Weekly Devotional

Memory Verse
Jonah 3:10 - 
10 Then God saw their actions—that they had turned from their evil ways—so God relented from the disaster He had threatened to do to them. And He did not do it.

September 20
Jonah 1:1-3

1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because their wickedness has confronted Me.” 3 However, Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish, from the Lord’s presence.

Jonah is the prophet, unlike any other prophet. The book of Jonah is not in the Bible for us to read and learn to be like Jonah. It’s not even written for us to learn about the judgment and failure of Israel. It is written to show us the heart of a man called by God to do great things, who decided he was going to do things his way. He was not evil and he was not against God. He was comfortable in doing the things he thought to be important and was not worried about being the person God created him to be. This is something that I believe we can all learn from as we study this book.

Look at today's scripture. You see that God called Jonah to a very specific city called Nineveh. Nineveh was a very evil city. In veggie tales, they were known for being people who slapped other people with fish, but in reality, they were an evil and murderous group of people. They didn’t care about the things of God or even for their fellow man. It was all about getting everything they could and being a powerful and feared city.

God sent Jonah to preach against them because their wickedness had confronted God. They had crossed the line and it was time for judgment. Yet, Jonah heard the call and decided to run in the complete opposite direction and go to Tarshish. Tarshish was on the opposite side of the Mediterranean Sea and we could say, so was Jonah’s heart. His reasoning for running is mentioned later on when he tells God that he wanted to see judgment on Nineveh but knew that God was going to show love and grace. Talk about having a heart that is the opposite of what God wants.

Think about this for yourself. Where is your heart in comparison to God’s? Is there a person or group that you would rather see God harshly judge more than you would rather see God save? We need to remember that God is not willing that any should perish but that all would come to repentance. His heart is that those who hear of His wrath and judgment would turn their hearts to Him and see His love and forgiveness. If that is God's heart for humanity, it needs to be our heart for ALL humanity. It is not our place to decide who goes to heaven and who doesn’t. It is our job to share the Gospel with all those we come in contact with. Search your heart today and ask God to direct your heart to be more like His. Love God and Love People.
 

September 21
Jonah 1:9-10

9 He answered them, “I’m a Hebrew. I worship Yahweh, the God of the heavens, who made the sea and the dry land.”
10 Then the men were even more afraid and said to him, “What is this you’ve done?” The men knew he was fleeing from the Lord’s presence, because he had told them.

The heart of Jonah continues to be seen. At this point in the story, Jonah has boarded the ship and started his journey of running from God. As they are crossing the sea a big storm comes up and is frightening enough that the experienced sailors were worried and thought they were going to die. The sailors go to what they know and begin to ask why the gods are angry with them and what could be happening. They look at Jonah and think, “He’s different than us, maybe he has a God that will help us out.”

They go and talk to Jonah and he responds with who His God is. In today's verses, you see that he responds confidently and correctly. He says, “I’m a Hebrew. I worship Yahweh, the God of the heavens, who made the sea and the dry land.” In other words, I worship the one true God who is the only one capable of protecting us because He is the creator of it all. Jonah had a great and correct identity in who God was and who he was but yet he was trying to run from God. Sounds kind of silly doesn’t it. Even the men on the ship realized the problem when they asked, “What is this you’ve done?”

Do we do things similar to Jonah? Do you have moments where you think you are getting away with a certain sin or that maybe you are hiding something from God? I know with me, I sometimes have to laugh at myself as I am praying. I will ask God to forgive me of my sins and I will begin to list out the things that I know I did that were sins against God, every once in a while something pops in my head and I think, “Oh, no I don’t want to mention that one.” I have to laugh because God already knows it. When we try to hide things from God or run from His plan for our lives, we must understand that all we are doing is putting a wedge between us and the creator of the universe who loves us unconditionally and wants to do great and amazing things in our lives. Why would we want to block Him out of our lives? Take some time today to pursue God and His plan for you. Just ask Him to show you and then ask for the strength and wisdom to follow His path for you.

September 22
Jonah 1:14-17

14 So they called out to the Lord: “Please, Yahweh, don’t let us perish because of this man’s life, and don’t charge us with innocent blood! For You, Yahweh, have done just as You pleased.” 15 Then they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. 16 The men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
17 Now the Lord had appointed a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the fish three days and three nights.

Even through Jonah's disobedience, we see that God still does what God does. The sailors asked Jonah what they needed to do and he responded with, “Throw me into the ocean.” The sailors didn’t want to kill Jonah so they tried everything they could to save the boat but nothing was working. They eventually got to the point where they had to look to the one true God and call out to Him.

In today's verses, we see that they call out to God and say, “Please, Yahweh, don’t let us perish because of this man’s life, and don’t charge us with innocent blood! For You, Yahweh, have done just as You pleased.” They didn’t want the sins of Jonah to be the thing that killed them but they also didn’t want to be held responsible for what would happen to Jonah if they threw him overboard. They did as Jonah told them and threw him overboard and the seas stopped raging. When this happened you see that they immediately offered sacrifices to God and made vows to Him.

This shows how God uses every situation to reach the lost. God is still God. We either get to be a part of what He is doing or we are just getting in the way. The big fish came a swallowed Jonah and gave him a little time out to think about what he was doing. God wants to use Jonah to change an entire nation but Jonah can’t get past his hatred and religiosity to see what God is doing. The question for us today is, are we in or not. So we want to be in the middle of what God is doing or do we want to be tossed to the fishes because we are in the way. See where God is working and moving today and jump right in the middle of it. Be a tool in His hands and see the amazing things He can do in and through you.

September 23
Jonah 2:7-10

7 As my life was fading away, I remembered Yahweh. My prayer came to You, to Your holy temple.
8 Those who cling to worthless idols forsake faithful love,
9 but as for me, I will sacrifice to You with a voice of thanksgiving. I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation is from the Lord!
10 Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Jonah’s 3 days of time out. Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and from the belly of this fish, you see that Jonah begins to pray. I mean, when you think about it, what else can he do in the belly of a big fish. God has Jonah's full attention now. Jonah begins to pray and ask God to help him. He talks to God about the situation that he is in and talks about how he can see how God has used this to get his attention. In all of this Jonah never really repented of his sin against God but he did realize what was happening and why. You can look at this and say Jonah responded with more of a, okay God I’ll do what you asked. I think of it more like the times I stomped off as a little kid to go clean my room. I was going to go do what I was told, but I wasn’t happy about it. I’m sure you have a similar story.

Looking at today’s verses you can see that attitude. Jonah says to God, as I was dying I remembered you and your holiness. Jonah remembered who God was and in a sense felt obligated to do what God had called him to do. So he answered this way, “ I will sacrifice to You with a voice of thanksgiving. I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation is from the Lord!” He knew what God wanted to do with him and in the belly of the fish, he decided to he would be willing to do.

I think what we can learn from Jonah today is that we don’t need to allow ourselves to get to this point in our relationship with God. So how can we prevent this from happening to us? How can we prevent hitting our rock bottom? The answer is staying in God's word, getting together with fellow believers to strengthen one another, praying to God and keeping a short account of sin, and putting God’s word into action. If we are doing these things we are pursuing God and not running from Him. Use this week to strengthen these things in your life. Write down the things you are doing that are helpful in your relationship with God and write down the things you know you. Need to start doing and then begin to do them today.

September 24
Jonah 3:7-10

7 Then he issued a decree in Nineveh: By order of the king and his nobles: No man or beast, herd or flock, is to taste anything at all. They must not eat or drink water. 8 Furthermore, both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth, and everyone must call out earnestly to God. Each must turn from his evil ways and from the violence he is doing. 9 Who knows? God may turn and relent; He may turn from His burning anger so that we will not perish.

10 Then God saw their actions—that they had turned from their evil ways—so God relented from the disaster He had threatened to do to them. And He did not do it.

After being thrown up onto dry land, not a very pretty picture, Jonah hears from God a second time and is told to go to Nineveh. This time he listens. When he arrives he shares the message from the Lord but it almost seems to be missing some information. He says, “In 40 days Nineveh will be demolished!” This doesn’t really sound like the message God would have wanted him to give. It seems like the hatred Jonah had for the people of Nineveh may have influenced his delivery of the message. We don’t know this for sure but it seems like Jonah is just delivering the part he wants to have happened.

Once again, God works and does what only He can do even when Jonah is not doing his part. The people hear the message and immediately repent. They proclaimed a fast and dressed in sackcloth to signify how they are coming broken before God. This is the ultimate humility. This gets all the way up to the king of Nineveh and He issues this decree in our verses today. He says that everyone including the animals, must fast, humble themselves before God, and relent from the evil that they are doing. He hoped that God would see their hearts and would relent from the wrath that He was going to bring.

God did just that. He looked at the people of Nineveh, saw their changed hearts, and relented from the disaster that He was bringing to them. The whole nation turned back to Him!

Once again God does His God-sized things. Do you know that He wants to do these same God-sized things in your life? The nation of Nineveh repented, humbled themselves before God, and sought Him. This is what brought God-sized renewal into their lives. Let God do the same thing to your life. Bring your heartache, your burdens, sins, and difficulties to God. Let Him work and just be in awe of who He is and what He will do in your life.

September 25
Jonah 4:1-3

1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became furious. 2 He prayed to the Lord: “Please, Lord, isn’t this what I said while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to become angry, rich in faithful love, and One who relents from sending disaster. 3 And now, Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

It hurts me to even say this about Jonah, but man! His heart is so wrong. He does what God tells him to do and God does amazing things. He turns the hearts of the entire nation. From the greatest to the least, they all turned to God. But Jonah is now furious with God and His use of grace and mercy. The same grace and mercy that was given to Jonah as he was in the belly of the fish. How blinded Jonah must have been.

Look at today's scripture, Jonah prays to God and tells him off for what he did. He say’s, “Please, Lord, isn’t this what I said while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to become angry, rich in faithful love, and One who relents from sending disaster. 3 And now, Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” What?! Jonah is mad at God for sending him to Nineveh so that they could be saved. He is mad that God would inconvenience him with this trip to cast judgment, knowing that he was just going to forgive them. He is so upset that he asks God to just kill him now. This is why I get the idea that Jonah was full of religious hatred. Jonah knew who God was, loved God, and probably knew the first five books of the Bible better than he knew his own name. But, he forgot to love people. He looked at those who didn’t follow God as an enemy who deserved death and hell yet God wanted him, and all of us, to view each person as being loved by God.

How are we with this? How do we view each person we come in contact with. I have said many times, what would change if each person had a label that clearly showed whether they were going to heaven or hell. Would we as Christians plead with those destined for hell to come to Jesus or would we do the same thing we do today and just go on with our lives. Don’t have a heart like Jonah. Have a heart like God's. A heart that is loving, gracious, merciful, and forgiving.

September 26
Jonah 4:10-11

10 So the Lord said, “You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in a night and perished in a night. 11 Should I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than 120,000 people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?”

So we come to the end of the story. Jonah has seen an entire city be saved and became furious. He sits on the top of the mountain, looking out over the city, waiting for them to mess us and have the wrath of God pour out on them. He wanted to watch them burn. God chose to once again teach him a lesson. He allowed a plant to quickly grow up and provide shade for Jonah as he is awaiting the demise of the people of Nineveh. Jonah loved the shade from this plant. God then sent a worm to kill the plant and then a scorching east wind to make Jonah uncomfortable. Once again Jonah pours his bitter little heart out to God. He once again tells God to just kill him. He is furious that God killed the plant, he even says, “It is right. (For him to be angry about the plant) I’m angry enough to die!” Wow! The plant died and it made Him angry.

God’s response to Jonah is the way the book ends. Look at our verse for today, God tells Jonah the problem with his heart. He cared more about the plant than the people of Nineveh. A plant that showed up overnight and then disappeared overnight. A plant that provided shade for 1 day was more important than his fellow man. God then changes the focus on Him. He points out that God cares far more about the lives and souls of the 120,000 plus people in Nineveh than the tree. He also shows Jonah that He cares more about him than the plant. He does this by the fact that He keeps having these teaching moments with Jonah.

God could have just left him for dead many times and given up on him but God can’t do that. He loves us all too much. This is what we can take home from the book of Jonah. God loves us too much to just leave us to wallow in our sins, sorrows and self-pity. His plans for us a great and of great importance. He wants to use us and make us into the person He created us to be. I hope that is reassuring to you today, that God will not give up on you. As long as you are alive on this earth, He is not done with you. Let Him do His work.