Let's talk about two women who had a common connection though they would never meet. I am referring to Samson, his wife and Delilah. We have already discussed his unique birth announcement to his parents and their desire to do what is right but sadly it seems that Samson grew up spoiled in many ways. His parents had not taught him respect for authority as is evident in how he addresses his parents in Judges 14:1-2.
And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife.
Samson decided he wanted to get married to this particular girl. Usually it was the parents who had the biggest say in their child’s spouse but for Samson he took complete control. He seemingly demanded his parents do this for him, this is the language of a spoiled child. They are giving orders to parents instead of seeking their counsel and discussing the matter with them in a respectful manner. Samson is aware of what he is asking, he looks outside of not just his own tribe but his country something that was not allowed. His parents raise the same concerns in verse 3
Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.
A matter of respect
They are shocked that he has chosen a bride on his own, from outside their people, and know that it will not go down well with the neighbors. Again Samson displays his spoiled, disrespectful attitude when he said, Get for me; for she pleaseth me well. That is very strong language, something that should not come out during a parent/child conversation. This is a challenge to us on how we speak to our own parents. They are our God given authority during our childhood but when we become adults it doesn’t mean we can speak to them however we like. They will always be our parents and should be given respect even if we disagree with them. God places great emphasis on this. Not only is it one of the ten commandments given to Israel, it is the only one with a promise which we can read in Exodus 20:12:
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
And Paul reminds us again in Ephesians 6:2-3
Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
God promises a longer life to those who honor their parents, who give them the respect their position is due. This, of course, does not mean you have to do things that go against God’s principles when you parents ask but you can disagree respectfully. You should, however, be willing to hear your parents out, to hear their side of the matter, and to be ready to admit when you are wrong. Samson refused to heed their words and disregarded their concerns. Could it be that this was one of the reasons his life was cut short? Perhaps.
When we have no respect for the authority or position of our parents we will struggle to have respect in other areas including God and in the workplace. Samson’s actions reveal that he did not care for what God had to say about this matter either. He openly sinned against the Lord but as if often the case, God still uses bad things to accomplish good. We read in verse 4
But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.
God would allow Samson to have a victory over the Philistines but it should be mentioned that Samson did suffer for his rebellion and eventually reap the full bounty of his disobedience. Remember, we are free to make our own choices, God does not force anyone to obey Him but He does decide the consequences of our actions. This is a good thought to keep in the forefront of our mind when tempted to think that we can do as we please since others have gotten away with it, but so often we don’t see the rest of the story or even forget that God will judge us one day for all our actions both good and bad. No sin goes unpunished as the life of Samson will reveal.
A crying bride
No matter the wrong, his parents make the arrangements as their son demanded and the engagement party commences. Samson decides to have some fun and puts forth a riddle for the men to answer giving them a week to do it. After spending time thinking about it and coming up short, they, out of desperation to win, threaten Samson's bride.
And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson's wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father's house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so? Judges 14:15
Women often were placed in such a position, they had little to no rights and men felt they could manipulate them to get what they wanted. The tactic seemed to work in this case. Of course the fact that these men really did mean what they said was no doubt enough to scare her severely. It is interesting that they encouraged her to entice her husband, as much as the men felt they had authority over a woman, they subtly were admitting that a she could bring a man down, especially one like Samson who had a weakness for women, with her words. In verses 16 and 17
And Samson's wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and hast not told it me. And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told it my father nor my mother, and shall I tell it thee? And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people. Judges 14:16-17
It is almost uncanny how she used the same tactics Delilah would on Samson later. The young bride cries and makes accusations to her husband that he must hate her because if he really loved her he would have told her the answer to the riddle. Samson gets defensive and tells her that he hasn’t even told his own parents the answer so why should he tell her. The tension can almost be felt in these verses. A word of caution when it comes to using the words, "always" and "never". It is easy to throw these words around in the heat of the moment but how true are they really? A once said pastor that these words should be rarely spoken, if ever, in a conversation. How often have we found ourselves saying, "You never listen or you always ignore me", in our hearts we know that is not true and we need to guard against it. Another point is the fact that Samson is completely unaware of the pressure his wife is under since her and her family's lives have been threatened. This is the root of the problem and the cause of her desperation to know the answer to the riddle. What would have happened if she had simply opened up to him, after all, he was the strongest man in the world and able to protect her from anything. Sadly, so much is lost by lack of communication between couples, friends, and families. When we take the time to talk about things, especially things that are bothering us, solutions can be given and conflict avoided. For Samson's wife, she chooses, instead, to manipulate him by crying. This is a little humorous, here is a spoiled man who demanded his parents get him this woman for his wife only to marry her and have her make demands of him. In fact, she cried for seven days to get her way and it worked, she wore him down until he finally gave her the answer.
Ruled by emotions
Unfortunately the story continues down the road of decline, there is no happily ever after in store for either of them. It's obvious to Samson how the men got the answer to his riddle which made him very mad. After fulfilling the wager he storms off, leaving his wife behind and goes to his father’s house….just like a spoiled child would do.
His actions made the father-in-law rethink the marriage, assuming that Samson no longer wanted his daughter. He makes the decision to give his wife to Samson's companion which was a big mistake. At this point in the story your heart goes out to this woman in some ways, she was simply tossed about from here to there. Threatened by a mob of angry men, her husband angry with her and now her father decides she should be married to another man. What transpires next is even harder to read. Samson, after cooling down, goes to visit his wife.
But it came to pass within a while after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber. But her father would not suffer him to go in. Judges 15:1
To be honest, his thought process is stunning. He thinks he can make a big scene, throw a tantrum, stay away for a while, and come back to find everything as he left it. That is quiet the arrogant assumption. The fact that he decides a baby goat is an acceptable gift is also a little funny, not flowers or fabric, a baby goat. Can you picture it, "Hi honey, here’s a goat for you, can I get a kiss?"
Regardless of the presentation, Samson gets the news that his bride was given away to someone else. In retribution, he seeks revenge. Samson let his emotions rule, in fact that is one way to sum up his entire life and serves as a warning to us. When we let our emotions determine our actions we are in for trouble. Anger, fear, hate, these all will cause us to make poor choices and react badly. Often they will lead to regret as well. We must rule our heart, our emotions, not the other way around. What Samson did was wrong and it was cruel since he burned down the Philistines fields using foxes tied together and set on fire. Samson acted on his own, not according to God’s command. Even though Samson is listed as a judge that does not mean he was always good, just like we saw in the life of Jonah who was a disobedient prophet. Samson’s life was mostly guided by his own selfish desires which would cost him and many others a high price.
The Philistines were not happy with his actions and they took it out on the father and Samson’s wife by killing them with fire. It was so tragic and of course, Samson retaliates for that too. As you read these passages you almost feel like it is a feud, each side seeking revenge on the other with no end in sight. Again, this is another problem with letting your emotions take control of your life, there is no telling just how far it will go and how many will suffer because of it. Determine to keep your emotions in check, live your life under the influence of God’s word. We are to be a people who are self-controlled, it is a fruit of the Spirit, an evidence that Christ dwells within you and it applies to every area of our life.
With the passing of his wife, another chapter begins in the life of Samson, one that would lead to his tragic end.
And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. Judges 16:4
That one sentence, one decision would alter his life forever.
The danger of sexual sin
A pastor made an interesting point regarding the dangers of sexual sin and how our response to this sin is different than any other. He said that this is the only sin we are told not to withstand but to flee. We find the perfect example in the life of Joseph. When Potiphar’s wife grabbed him, to try and make him come with her, he left his coat behind and ran. Sexual sin, when it is allowed to rule you, will always lead to death and not just spiritual death but also physical. Proverbs tells us on numerous occasions that the ways of the strange women are the ways of death, her path leads to hell.
Samson had a weakness and it was the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. He was a man ruled by his emotions, as we have already discussed, and by his lust filled passions. These problems would lead to his destruction, as evidently the Philistines already figured out his weakness for women which is why they sought Delilah’s help. We don’t know much about Delilah’s background, only that she is a harlot and willing to do anything for money. Without any hesitation she immediately sets to work, manipulating Samson into giving her his secret.
Samson sees it more as a game. He gives her false information three times in a row with her trying it each time. To most normal people this would give you cause to stop and realize that this woman has no good intentions but sadly Samson would yield after Delilah used the same tactics as his wife had earlier. She declared that he didn’t love her plus she nagged him daily until his soul was vexed unto death. In the end Samson was betrayed and captured by the Philistines. Someone made the comment once that the members of his body that he struggled to control the most, his eyes, were the one thing they took from him.
Most of us know the fate of this once strong man, the one who had such a miraculous beginning, he would be made a laughing stock to the Philistines but would one more time bring destruction to them when he placed his hands between two pillars, asking God for strength one more time, and collapse the building killing himself in the process, a request he also asked for. Samson’s life truly teaches us what happens when we let our emotions and our passions rule our life instead of following after God.
Persistence and focus
Let’s drift back to Delilah for a moment because there are a couple of interesting traits she possessed that we can learn from. Persistence and focus. Three times Samson lied to her, three times she was made to look a fool in front of the men who hired her yet she continued on. Her desire to receive the promised reward was so great that she kept asking Samson to tell her what it was. This should cause us to stop and consider how focused are we on eternity? God tells us that there is a reward for those who follow Him, who seek Him, who obey His commands yet so often we lack the persistence needed to accomplish the tasks in front of us. How many times have we lost our focus on what really matters? Are we easily distracted or dissuaded from doing what is right? Paul says he presses toward the mark, he lays aside the weights and the sins that so easily beset us so he can run the race before him. If we want to say these words with Paul we have to run our race with persistence and stay focused on what is ahead of us. When we remember where we are going, it will be easier to say no to the bad and yes to the needful thing, our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Be persistent in the race we call life and stay focused on the Lord. We do this best when we spend time in His word every day and learn to be still in His presence.
For some of you, February fourteenth may be a day you don’t look forward to and may in fact even secretly dread. Perhaps you avoid your social media page for those 24 hours so you won’t have to see the many, many Valentine's Day posts shared between couples. Even though we try to hide our hurts or make light of it by calling it "Singles Awareness Day" or replace it with "Galentines Day", the truth is, it can be hard for the girls who longed to have a relationship and be married. It is easy to feel discouraged at the seemingly permanent relationship status and sometimes these feelings of dismay are rooted in statements that have either been made in passing, or thoughts that have crept their way into our mind. The problem is that these are not true statements, so I wanted to go over these five lies Christian single girls can be tempted to believe
Lie # 1 - There must be something wrong with me
This is often the lie that girls first believe when a certain amount of time has passed and they have not been asked out on a date. They tend to look around at the other girls who are already in a relationship and then look at themselves, usually in the mirror. They search for blemishes and ways to fix them or make them go away. I know that it is a temptation, but this is based on the flawed thinking that you have to appear a certain way in order to be noticed or that you were created with a defect which is why you are still single. That is a lie. God created you just as you are, your eye and hair color, the shape of your nose and even how tall you are were all chosen by the One who loves you. When you look at your reflection what you see is the image bearer of God, fearfully and wonderfully made to mirror Him to the world, a world that is in need. God does not make mistakes, everything He does is with perfection and with purpose. Please don’t ever think that you have to change how you are or look just to get a boyfriend or husband. The man God has for you will love you exactly as you are. However, I do want to say that this does not mean we can give ourselves a pass to live as we please or never care about ourselves. Our body is the temple of the Lord, meaning we should take good care of it and make wise choices. We should always strive to grow in the Lord which does mean overlooking any of the character flaws we may have or the bad behavior we may allowed in our life. God wants to refine us into His image, purging the things that hinder us from becoming who He desires us to be. When we make our life about pleasing Him everything else will fall into place and we can have peace and rest, knowing that His plans and timing are always perfect.
Lie # 2 - There no good guys left
This is actually a pretty big one and while I am inclined to believe that there feel are fewer good guys around who truly love the Lord, it is a lie that there are absolutely none left. I will never forget what one girl said regarding this idea. Even in Israel's time of the judges, when men were doing that which was right in their own eyes, God still had a Boaz for His Ruth. This is something that we need to remember and one of the reasons I always like to include a Miss to Mrs. story in the magazine. It serves as a reminder that God is still bringing good, godly people together. These stories are proof that good men still exist. I know that it can be discouraging, especially as we look around but maybe that’s one of the problems, we should be looking up not around or down at the ground. God knows your desire and will bring you a man that is just right for you. Don’t allow this lie to cause you to compromise or settle for something less than God’s best. I encourage you to listen to the podcast episode entitled, "I said no twice." which is an interview I did with my friend Julie. She had been waiting a long time for God to bring her her husband. She was in her mid twenties when she began a serious relationship which led to an engagement. As her wedding day approached she was struggling with peace, she wondered if she was doing the right thing and finally, four weeks before the wedding, called it off. That took a tremendous amount of courage on her part but she knew it was necessary. It would be almost two years before God brought her and her now husband together but she always tells me she is so glad she waited. He is perfect for her in every way and I love seeing pictures of her and her husband because they look so happy. That is what I want for each of you, the man God has for you. Can I encourage you to remember just how much God loves you and that you can trust Him with every part of your life, including a husband? I promise that when you trust God with your future you will never be disappointed.
Lie # 3 - I am not worthy of marriage and I am being punished
This one is interesting and something we may not openly admit even to ourselves but it is there. I remember reading about this lie in the Fall 2021 issue of the Sit Still my Daughter magazine. The Miss to Mrs. story was written by a friend of mine who brought this point out. She questioned whether she was not married because she was unworthy of being married, that God was denying it to her for some reason, but then she began to think about it in a deeper way. She concluded that this was faulty reasoning since people got married all the time, both lost and saved, so it was not a special prize granted to the best behaved, most talented, or exceptionally spiritual person. I loved that and quietly said an Amen! It was such a great statement and a truth that overcame the lie. She also said that we don’t receive good things because we deserve them and I couldn’t agree more. Our God is a good God who loves His children and bestows blessings upon us because He loves us not because we have earned them. Something else I loved about my friend’s conclusion is the fact that she looked into God’s Word for an answer regarding this thought and realized it was based on a lie. We need to take these thoughts and reasons that we have and compare them to scripture to see if it is so. She was able to conquer this lie with the truth of God’s word. Being single is not a punishment and if you are married you must have been more deserving than me. We also need to be careful of what we believe because often one lie leads to another, such as, you are being denied marriage because you are not worthy and something must be wrong with you. My friend stopped the lie through careful examination of the scripture and that is what you need to do whenever these doubts begin to creep into your heart. Take time to read through the precious promises of scripture or ones of affirmation such as
Psalm 119:68 Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes.
Ephesians 3:17-19 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Isaiah 54:10 For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.
Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
The only antidote to a lie is the truth and this is why it is essential to spend time in the Word of God every day because we will know the truth and the truth will drive out the lies. Satan wants to fill our hearts with lies so he can discourage us and hinder our ability to live as God intended. Make it a priority to be in the Word of God every day, I promise you will never regret the time you spend there.
Lie # 4 - My life won’t start until I am married
So many times I listened to girls say, "when I am married I am going to do this" or "when I am married I can do that". It surprised me in many ways because it made it seem that we had to be married to begin a purposeful life. It was as if they were saying that until I am married I really can’t do anything but that is the furthest thing from the truth. There are countless stories of single women who did great things for God including Miriam, the sister of Moses. She never married yet she was instrumental in leading the people in praise after they crossed the Red Sea. God is not interested in your relationship status but the condition of your heart. He only needs someone who is willing to follow Him anywhere and do whatever He asks. Your best life is the one spent pursuing Him no matter where it takes you. So many times I read of two people pursuing God wholeheartedly and it led them to each other. You don’t need to be married to serve God, in fact your single years offer you the most flexibility in serving. You don’t have to consider a husband or children before saying yes to something. Make the most of your single years, stay close to God, and invest yourself in serving Him in whatever way He leads. Don’t fall for the lie that you need to be married in order to do something. There are countless organizations that you can volunteer for, ministries in your local church to involve yourself with and investing yourself in the relationships God has given you such as your family and friends. Your life right now has meaning and purpose so go ahead and live for God in this current season.
Lie # 5 - You are too picky
This is one I have heard many times with multiple illustrations such as, when you keep climbing the apple tree looking for the very best apple, you may just reach the top and run out of apples. I do understand some of their point, sometimes girls can get caught up in the little things such as I want a man with blue eyes and blond hair or he needs to have this kind of job or be this tall. These things are what we call preferences and are a lot different than principles. Preferences are definitely flexible. Our number one concern should be with a man’s character not his appearance. A man who is pursuing God possesses something that will not fade away unlike a handsome face that will slowly wane over time. When it comes to character you have the right to be picky. I have a blog post that talks about the Man worth waiting for which was taken from the book Lady in Waiting by Jackie Kendall and Debby Jones. This is a must read for every single girl. Here is a quick run down of these nine qualities mentioned.
Don't listen to the lies
I hope that if you have been tempted to believe any of these lies or they have tried to take root in your heart, this article can help you overcome them. You are a daughter of the King of Kings, and He loves you more than anyone else which means He only wants the best for you. Know and believe that He has not forgotten you. When you start to feel discouraged as you scroll past another single friend who has just changed her status, remember that your season of singleness has a purpose. Spend your days pursuing the things of God, dig deep into His word and you will be amazed at what happens. Above all else, learn to be satisfied with God alone. A man, however wonderful, can never satisfy your soul, only the One who made you can fill the void inside, the One who longs to know you, loves you with an everlasting love, and invites you to sit still. Stay encouraged my friend and stay in the Word.
The story of Jonah
As December was coming to a close I decided to read the book of Jonah for my quiet time and I was amazed at all the new things I saw and challenged by this simple study. I wanted to share a few of them with you.
Who determines whose worthy of God's grace?
While Jonah is considered one of the minor prophet books in the Bible, it is very unique in two ways. There are no prophecies concerning the people of Israel and it will end with a question. The story of Jonah is familiar to most since being swallowed by a large fish tends to be memorable. The introduction to Jonah was simple as we read in the first verse of the book.
Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai
We know he was a prophet as Jesus referred to him in Matthew 12:39
But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
But Jonah’s assignment was not to speak to his own people but to deliver a message to the people of Nineveh whose wickedness had come before the Lord. The term “Come before” that is used in verse 2 of chapter 1 means a person’s appearance before God. The word "wickedness" depicts evil in an absolute, negative sense. It means bad in a moral and ethical sense.
To put it bluntly, Nineveh was consumed by evil, it poured out of every area in their life, their appearance before a holy God was completely marred by evil, like layers of filthy rags. There was no way they could hide it but as much as our God is holy, He is also One of great compassion. While their sin abounded, God’s grace abounded more. While we would have said they were beyond redemption, God commissioned someone to go and give them a warning. What a great reminder of just how merciful our God is and just how far He will go to give a second chance.
In contrast to this powerful and beautiful illustration of God’s grace and mercy is Jonah’s response. For the first time I was really struck by what Jonah’s actions revealed about his heart. When he fled the presence of God by hopping on a boat headed in the opposite direction, he was not only in direct disobedience to God’s command, it showed he did not have the same compassion, in fact he was completely void of any desire to extend them mercy. This was an interesting thought. It was as if Jonah felt he had the right to determine who received God’s grace or who should be told about God’s grace. He had no desire to be involved in this mission of mercy. God calls us to spread His good news throughout the earth, to every living soul but here Jonah decides he wants nothing to do with that. This really made me stop and consider if I have ever been guilty of this, of evaluating someone’s appearance or background to determine if I wanted to share the gospel or not. We don't have that right, it is not up to us. Sometimes it is those whose appearance takes us back that need the gospel more than anyone else. This is the first lesson from the book of Jonah. God’s grace is for everyone, it is not up to me to determine who is worthy of hearing about it, but to share it to all God leads into my path.
Compassion from an unexpected source
The next lesson comes from Jonah’s journey on the boat headed for Tarshish. He, like many of us, was mistaken when he assumed he could outrun God. The Lord sent a storm so strong that it frightened even these seasoned sailors. As their fear takes hold, they turn to their gods and do whatever they can think of to save themselves. Finally they decide it was time for Jonah to join them and pray to his God, unaware that He was the One true God. It is sad that Jonah immediately recognized the reason for the storm, his direct disobedience to God’s command, yet was unwilling to repent or even confess it to these men until forced by the casting of lots. He simply stood by and said nothing until there was no other option, you could say he was cornered into a confession. This is a reminder for us that our acts of disobedience often cause the people around us to suffer as well, rarely do we cause harm to just ourselves.
hen the truth did come out it is amazing to witness the compassion offered by these pagan sailors. Their lives were in danger, they had tossed much of their cargo, their income, overboard in an attempt to lighten their load, but when told that this whole episode of terror was Jonah’s fault, the man who was fast asleep while they were all running around like madmen, they were still willing to offer compassion. Jonah had told them the only way to make the storm cease was to toss him into the sea yet they tried to find another way. How many of us would have responded in the same way? Very few, most would have had something to say about his selfish behavior. It is almost ironic that these sailors possessed more compassion than Jonah. They had been put in danger of losing their lives but were willing to risk theirs to save Jonah while he was unwilling to deliver God’s message to the people of Nineveh. How amazing that Jonah was given grace by these men, something he was withholding from others. What a great example these sailors are for us today. We should be that kind of person, one who can extend grace to others even when they make mistakes or wrongs against us. We should also be willing to admit when we are wrong, come forward, ask forgiveness and take responsibility for our actions especially in front of the lost. We should not have to be cornered into a confession like Jonah.
This leads to a little sub point within this lesson. Jonah's testimony before these lost men was damaged to say the least. He who was a prophet of God, a messenger of God's very words, was doing a poor job at reflecting them to others. His disregard to God’s command was not a good testimony and should make us consider how ours stands before others. How often have we chosen to disobey or completely disregard God's direct commands? How has this hurt my testimony and impacted by ability to witness to the lost? We must always remember that we don’t live life for ourselves, we are being watched even when we don’t realize it. Every action, word, or response can have an impact on others for good or bad. These sailors would see the power of God when they finally did throw Jonah into the sea. We read it in verse 16 of chapter one.
Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows.
Although we don’t know for sure if this means they became believers in God, they had witnessed that He was God. Tragically it is not Jonah’s actions that were the reason they did, only the fact that the storm ceased after they tossed him over did they fear the Lord. We should seek to maintain a good testimony in front of everyone, you never know what a difference it will make in someone's life for eternity.
Guilty as charged
The people of Nineveh is where I found my next little nugget. In Jonah 3 verses 4-5 we read
And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
The people of Nineveh believed God, the word "believe" means receiving something as true and sure. That definition grabbed my attention because of their background. They were pagan people consumed by wickedness yet when they heard God’s message they didn’t question it but received it as true and sure. Can we, as children of God, say this is our response when we hear the words of God spoken from the pulpit or read it for ourselves? How often have we been a hearer of the Word but not a doer? God’s word is truth, every word can be believed and our life should be a reflection of our belief. Conviction goes to another level when we examine verses, 6 through 9.
For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
When they were confronted about their behavior they did not make an excuse or get mad. They didn't seek to find a loop hole. They took it for what it was, the truth and then altered their behavior in the hope that God might spare them. What's interesting is the fact that they did not have any assurance God would change His mind. They did not have such verses like the one found in 2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Or the one found in Psalm 51:17
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
The king of Nineveh simply acted on the hope that by turning from their evil way and from the violence in their hands, God might spare them. They did what they could and God saw them.
And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. Jonah 3:10
Where does that leave us? What do we do when God confronts us about our bad behavior or willful disobedience? Do we try to make an excuse by saying others are doing it or it is not as bad as others. Do we get upset when someone challenges us with the truth of our actions? Our response should be as the people of Nineveh, to turn away from our sin, forsake it and beg God’s forgiveness. Instead of being angry with someone when they tell us the truth about our sinful conduct we should be grateful to them that they had the courage and even compassion to call us out because it means we have the opportunity to repent, to alter our ways and be cleansed. Remember it is not a bad thing when we are chastised.
For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, Hebrews 12:6
Because God loves us and cares about us He corrects and confronts our behavior. We simply have to accept when we are wrong as the people of Nineveh did; when we do confess our sins, we will receive grace and forgiveness from our God.
Mercy in the Face of Rebellion
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. Jonah 4:1-4
Here is the final lesson from Jonah who is upset that God spared the people of Nineveh. He wanted to see them destroyed even after he, although grudgingly, delivered God’s message. The reason is now revealed and we find out why he was so reluctant to go in the first place. He knew that God was gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness. That is the epitome of selfishness. Not only did Jonah want to deny the people of Nineveh God’s grace but he did it because he hated the fact that they might repent and be spared! He who was God’s messenger, who should have been a reflection of God’s character wanted these people to perish without hope or forgiveness. The real shocker came from the definition for the word gracious: Mercy in the face of rebellion. Mercy in the face of rebellion. I read that definition over and over again, in fact it stayed with me for days as I tried to process the meaning of the words. If you are looking for a sentence to sum up the entire book of Jonah this is it. Mercy in the face of rebellion. Jonah rebelled against God, he deliberately disobeyed God yet even in this rebellious state God was merciful. He saved him from drowning by creating a big fish and after three days told the creature to spit Jonah back up onto dry ground, not the sea but safely on shore. The people of Nineveh had rebelled against God in their severe wicked behavior yet God granted them mercy by sending someone to warn them of the coming destruction. We are also on the list. We were in a rebellious state when lost but God was merciful to us, even loved us.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
While we were yet sinners, rebels against God, we were loved and offered mercy. What is interesting about this term is the fact that it is solely used as a descriptive term of God. This is something that He alone can do, or gives us strength to be merciful to those who are rebellious. Apart from Him it is impossible. Mercy in the face of rebellion. What an amazing God we serve who extends mercy in the face of our rebellion but may I suggest that we never take this for granted or use it as a reason to behave as Jonah. He knew God was gracious and behaved ungraciously by being angry at the sparing of Nineveh and angry when God took away his gourd that provided shade while he was sitting in the sun. This was the behavior of a spoiled brat not a child of God. We should always be grateful that God is a God who extends mercy even when we are in a rebellious state but seek to have the right attitude, one whose perspective of God is correct. We are His creation not the other way around and He is due all the respect and honor we can give.
These are just a few things I found while studying the book of Jonah, may I encourage you to take some time to read it for yourself? It is only four short chapters but there are many truths to be found in this book tucked between Obadiah and Micah. Let’s purpose in our hearts to be a people that are willing to be messengers of grace to the world, to offer compassion to those in need, ready to repent of our sins when confronted by God or others, and always remember just how good God has been to us even when we behave rebelliously.
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I am just an ordinary girl who is loved by an extraordinary God and I seek to love others the same way. I love to bake, read, do puzzles, watch Hallmark movies, and go shopping with my mom! This blog was created as a place where I could share some thoughts that the Lord has shown me and to be an encouragement to others who desire to know Him in a deeper way. My prayer is to learn to sit still and trust God with my future.