Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Day of the Lord

Second Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
The Day of the Lord (Zephaniah)
For the week of June 1, 2013
The Day of the Lord
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, performing a unique work on each of the six days to bring about a perfect, “very good” creation. The creation week was crowned with a day where Adam and Eve could rest in God’s perfect work.
When sin was introduced to humanity by Satan, its three-fold menace (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - 1 Jn 2:16) brought sorrow and toil, not only to man, but to God. Neither God nor the earth has ever truly enjoyed a Sabbath rest since then (cf Jn 5:17).
It takes time and work for God to humble the king of pride (cf Job 41-42), but He Himself is humble and patient, so we can be secure that soon the promised restoration will occur. Then both He and we will enjoy a millennium of Sabbaths.
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day [is] as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 1 Pt 3:8
Both Zephaniah and Nahum call attention to Nineveh, the great city of Assyria, which represents those of the world who identify with the king of pride and his self-exalting nature. God used Assyria, which embodied the sin problem, to punish His people and to divest them of their strange infatuation with the world, which (like Ninevah) will soon be given to complete destruction.
Surely their messages are even more relevant today. We are Adventists - we believe that the judgment is now and that Jesus is coming very soon!
The great day of the LORD is near;
It is near and hastens quickly. Zephaniah 1:14
We are called to be the messengers, not only of the coming destruction, but of the mercy and love of God in providing in Christ all that is needed to survive the coming maelstrom.
How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7
15 Behold, on the mountains
The feet of him who brings good tidings,
Who proclaims peace! Nahum 1:15
What are these good tidings?
     “The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.”  (TM 91-92, emphasis supplied)
“I call upon all who have united in a course of action that is wrong in principle to make a decided reformation, and forever after walk humbly with God.” (TM 131)
If there is a lesson in Zephaniah and Nahum, it is that we must personally be divested of the world to survive the coming devastation. Have we seen and felt enough of the punishment that sin brings to turn irrevocably to the One who will “quiet us with His love” and “rejoice over us with singing?”  If we will humble ourselves, confessing that He is everything we need, and asking the Lord to dwell and walk in us, then we will be ready. Now is the day of preparation for the great Sabbath rest coming soon in the millennium.
God has promised that He will complete the work He has started in us, and then through us complete the work to bring this great week of time to its Sabbath conclusion.
The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness
And speak no lies,
Nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth;
For they shall feed their flocks and lie down,
And no one shall make them afraid.”
Behold, at that time
I will deal with all who afflict you;
I will save the lame,
And gather those who were driven out;
I will appoint them for praise and fame
In every land where they were put to shame.
At that time I will bring you back,
Even at the time I gather you;
For I will give you fame and praise
Among all the peoples of the earth,
When I return your captives before your eyes,”
Says the LORD. Zephaniah 3:13,19,20.
This desolation of the earth is further confirmed by the teaching concerning the sabbatic year of the old dispensation. It is stated in 2 Chron. 36:21 that, by the people's being carried captive to Babylon, the land was left desolate, that she might enjoy her sabbaths. And the land lay desolate for seventy years, "until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths; for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfill three-score and ten years." That is, Israel for four hundred and ninety years had failed to observe the sabbatic year in giving the whole land the rest that God had provided for it in that year, and now they have to go into captivity, and the land must lie desolate, until all the Sabbaths of which they had robbed the land in those four hundred and ninety years, which made seventy years, should be made up.
And in this all men are taught definitely by the word of the Lord that since the whole earth has been obliged to pass along for six thousand years without any rest at all, it having been robbed of all the sabbatical years in this whole time,—until the curse has "devoured the earth," and it is "utterly broken down" (see Isa. 24:4-6, 19, 20),—the whole earth—must lie desolate one thousand years, to make up the sabbaths of which the earth has been robbed in these six thousand years under the weight of the curse that has been heaped upon it by the sins of men.
Accordingly Isaiah says: "The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word." Isa. 24:3. And Zephaniah says, "I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the Lord. . . . Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God; for the day of the Lord is at hand: for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests [Rev. 19:17, 18]. . . . The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord; the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness: . . . the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land." Zeph. 1:2-18. January 16, 1900 ATJ, ARSH 40-41.

-Todd Guthrie

Thursday, May 23, 2013

“Trusting God's Goodness (Habakkuk)”

Insights #8 May 25, 2013

Second Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Trusting God's Goodness (Habakkuk)
For the week of May 25, 2013
In the waiting

Years ago at a Christian conference, one of the attendees had an unexpected death in the family and had to leave immediately.  This sudden loss was brought to the attention of all attending, along with the suggestion to pray for comfort and strength for the young woman and her family.  Just prior to the collective prayer on her behalf, the hymn, “It is Well with My Soul” was sung by the congregation which was requested by the bereaved woman. Not a dry eye remained. Indeed not only was the moment very emotional, but solemn, as the very author of this Hymn had written it’s text in a time of great bereavement himself.  (Songs can take on deeper meanings when you know the stories behind them.)

Recently, a song called “You are in the Waiting,” played on the radio.”  While looking for the lyrics, the story behind the title came to view, and it gave the song an entirely different meaning. The “You” in the song referred to God as the one who is waiting. Included with the lyrics was the author’s personal testimony. For years she and her husband had been trying to conceive a child, with no success. They tried every possible option, including prayer, but nothing seemed to work. God seemed faraway, silent and uninvolved. Thankfully, that impression of God did not last. Desperate, she and her husband continued to pray, and their dependence on God increased.  She stated that initially they did not realize God was delaying the answer to their prayers, and that He was working in their hearts despite the appearance of their outward circumstances.  She said that it was just that the more they waited, the more they prayed, and the more they prayed, the more they yielded; and the more they yielded, the more their attitude changed.  In hind sight, clearly, God was involved in the delay or as the author later wrote “…in the waiting.”  Even though, the Lord did not answer their exact prayer to conceive a child, His delay prepared their hearts to receive a different blessing; an adopted child. Thankful, the songwriter later sang, “Thank you Lord for every answer you’ve delayed.”

Habakkuk was in a similar position – not that he was singing, but in that He was waiting on the Lord for the answer to his prayer; waiting on the Lord for comfort and justice. Having seen the immorality, abuse, and violence of countryman to countryman, Habakkuk cried out, “God, don’t you see what is happening? Don’t you care? How long will you allow this to continue?” And God in His mercy answered, “Yes, I see what is going on, and I am displeased. I am not uninvolved I am doing something, but the fruit will not be seen for years to come.  I will put an end to this, but it will take time – time to save all who those who will heed.”

God’s answer to Habakkuk was in the form of a promise, a promise which Habakkuk himself was unlikely to see fulfilled.  Yet, the promise that God had a plan was to comfort and sustain him. God rightfully expected that His promise, received by Habakkuk through faith would suffice. And, in fact He told Habakkuk just that, ‘the just lives by his faith’ (Habakkuk 2:4). The just would be those who like Habakkuk were crying out to God while living surrounded by unrighteousness. 

Faith can be defined as trusting that the word will do that which it said it would and waiting for the word to do it.  Habakkuk was to trust that God would fulfill His promise and he was to wait for God to do so. The implication was that Habakkuk should not do something himself, outside of what God had instructed. Faith is also defined as the response of a heart filled with appreciation for God’s work. Habakkuk was being asked to be grateful that God had answered his prayer and would one day do a work which “you would not believe, though it be told you” (Habakkuk 1:5).  Thus Habakkuk was to be certain that what he hoped for would happen and what he did not see would be revealed (Hebrews 11:1). To Habakkuk, God’s promise was evidence that what was not seen by human eyes is seen by God; He cares, and is involved in the solution to the problem. 

Like Abraham, Habakkuk believed what he heard from God and it was counted to him for righteousness (Genesis 15: 6). The following quote gives us a deeper understanding,

“There is an answer to Habakkuk’s question. It is an answer, not in terms of thought, but in terms of events. God’s answer will happen, but it cannot be spelled out in words. The answer will surely come; ‘if it seem[s] slow, wait for it.’ True, the interim is hard to bear; the righteous one is horrified by what he sees. To this the great answer is given: ‘The righteous shall live by his faith.’ It is an answer, again not in terms of thought, but in terms of existence. Prophetic faith is trust in Him, in whose presence stillness is a form of understanding.”—Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, p. 143.

The judgment the Lord promised was dreadful.  But Habakkuk trusted the Lord.  Ellen White says,

 “Confident that even in this terrible judgment the purpose of God for His people would in some way be fulfilled, Habakkuk bowed in submission to the revealed will of Jehovah. “Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One?” he exclaimed. And then, his faith reaching out beyond the forbidding prospect of the immediate future, and laying fast hold on the precious promises that reveal God’s love for His trusting children, the prophet added, “We shall not die.” (Habakkuk 1: 12). With this declaration of faith he rested his case, and that of every believing Israelite, in the hands of a compassionate God.”  Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 386-389

Habakkuk is to be an example to us. God is still at work in our lives even if we do not see Him.  We read from Ellen White,

 “The faith that strengthened Habakkuk and all the holy and the just in those days of deep trial was the same faith that sustains God’s people today. In the darkest hours, under circumstances the most forbidding, the Christian believer may keep his soul stayed upon the source of all light and power. Day by day, through faith in God, his hope and courage may be renewed. “The just shall live by his faith... We must cherish and cultivate the faith of which prophets and apostles have testified—the faith that lays hold on the promises of God and waits for deliverance in His appointed time and way. The sure word of prophecy will meet its final fulfillment in the glorious advent of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as King of kings and Lord of lords. The time of waiting may seem long, the soul may be oppressed by discouraging circumstances, many in whom confidence has been placed may fall by the way; but with the prophet who endeavored to encourage Judah in a time of unparalleled apostasy, let … us ever hold in remembrance the cheering message, ‘The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.... The just shall live by his faith.’ (Hebrews 2:3, 4).”  Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 386-389.

Since, “Faith comes through hearing and hearing by the word”, then it is the Word of God that sustains those who listen and hearken until the end. 
      -Raul Diaz

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

“God's Special People (Micah)”

Second Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
God's Special People (Micah)
For the week of May 18, 2013
You have probably heard or even used the old expression, "He couldn't see the forest for the trees."
Sometimes Bible study can be that way, getting hung up in the details and losing the broader perspective.
In this Insights review of this week's lesson, we're going to step back for a wider-angle view of Micah.
Some of the points that stand out in this week's lesson include:
1) Division. Though originally one nation, Israel had long been divided into two kingdoms by the time Micah wrote his lament.
2)  Idolatry. The cause of the division in Israel stemmed from incorporating the worship styles and practices of the idolatrous, heathen nations into Hebrew worship Prophets and Kings, p. 322 
3) Judgments. When the people whom God had ordained to be light bearers to the world corrupted themselves and their worship, the Lord permitted judgments to come. They had a hard time believing, however, that God would really punish His chosen, special people.
4) Faithfulness. True prophets of God, such as Micah and Jeremiah, never abandoned God's church on earth--even in times of judgment--, but were often persecuted by the church for His name's sake.
5) False prophets. While true prophets fearlessly (and often with great personal consequences) denounced idolatry, false prophets abounded and continually exerted their influence to counteract the testimony of the Lord's true messengers. 
6) True messengers. These prophets of God recognized that the only true solution for the rebellion, idolatry, and brokenness of Israel was believing in the life-transforming message of Jesus Christ, the soon-coming Savior (Micah 5:2). 
Having noted these salient points, let's consider their application for us today.
1) Division. Thirty or forty and more years ago, it didn't matter where you were, if you walked into a Seventh-day Adventist Church on Sabbath morning at 9:30 a.m., you'd pretty much experience the same thing everywhere: song service, a mission report from overseas (often Mission Spotlight), and at 10 a.m. division for study of the Sabbath School lesson. And not so long ago, it was even the case that a record was taken by the Sabbath School teacher of number of persons helped, literature given away, etc., thereby hoping to encourage missionary activity by members during the week. 
In nearby classrooms, children of all ages were taught their Sabbath School lessons from Cradle Roll to Youth. They learned memory verses and sang songs such as "Dare to Be a Daniel" and "In the Temple (Stood a Little Boy One Day)." Sabbath School typically ended at 10:40 or 10:45 a.m., with the Divine worship service beginning by 11 a.m. In the Divine service, the ministers and elders knelt upon entering the sanctuary, and children were taught to "Be reverent" and "Walk softly in the sanctuary." Hymns were sung, and in general the order of service was rather simple. 
Anyone from that era suddenly transported through time to a modern day Sabbath morning might be surprised to discover the plethora of worship options now available in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Whether you are among those who have welcomed the changes or among those longing for the worship services of yesteryear, all would likely agree that while the multiplicity of worship styles has drawn those of like mind together, the same cannot be said for the church as a whole. The same is true of many other issues under discussion in the church today.
2) Idolatry. Is idolatry a relic of the past? 
"Jesus came by the authority of God, bearing His image, fulfilling His word, and seeking His glory; yet He was not accepted by the leaders in Israel; but when others should come, assuming the character of Christ, but actuated by their own will and seeking their own glory, they would be received. And why?Because he who is seeking his own glory appeals to the desire for self-exaltation in othersDesire of Ages p. 212. Fundamentally, idolatry is self-worship.
Division over church worship issues today can be succinctly summarized by two types of worshipers: those who have come to the house of God to worship themselves (and exalt like-minded others such as themselves); and those who have come to worship the self-emptying Savior of the world, in which the promotion of self has no place.
3) Judgments. In ancient Israel judgments from God befell a specific group of people (Israelites and those connected with them) in a specific place (the land of Israel). In modern times while God's people are no longer grouped in a specific country, there are still centers for publishing, health, and education. 
 "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten" Rev. 3:19. What a modern-day chastening would look like would be open for discussion, but it does seem the promise is there. It will come.
In Micah's day, Israel was living in a time of impending judgment. In a few generations Nebuchadnezzar's army would ransack the temple and carry hostage Israel's brightest and best. As in Micah's day, so it is now. 
4) Faithfulness. Those who are faithful to God's call to present the truth in Jesus will be persecuted. Jesus promised it.
"But as he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now" Gal. 4:29. 
We have a modern-day prophet and messengers which the Lord sent to prepare a people for the soon coming of Jesus by lifting up Jesus, the Savior of the world. Like the prophets of old, these message-bearers met with unbelief and resistance from the leaders of modern day Israel. 
"Is it not the same thing in our day?" Desire of Ages, p. 213
5) False prophets. [The Jews] would receive the false teacher because he flattered their pride by sanctioning their cherished opinions and traditions. But the teaching of Christ did not coincide with their ideas. It was spiritual and demanded the sacrifice of self; therefore they would not receive it. They were not acquainted with God, and to them His voice through Christ was the voice of the stranger" Desire of Ages, p. 213.
Christ warned His disciples that false prophets would be present until the very end. The mark of a false teacher is one who advocates being a follower of Christ while giving license to remaining in an unconverted, self-seeking state. 
6) True messengers. The Seventh-day Adventist Church was raised up to proclaim the everlasting gospel to the world. Teaching doctrines alone will never accomplish that purpose. In Micah's day people needed Jesus. In Ellen White's day people needed Jesus. Today, we need Jesus.
The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to the Seventh-day Adventist church through the ministry of Brothers Jones and Waggoner as well as Sister White. This Christ-centered message was the eye salve needed by the Laodicean church. By beholding Christ with clearer vision, would be transformed into His divine image. This is the fruit of a true messenger.
In the heart of his letter, Micah points readers forward to the day when " the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and many peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" Micah 4:1,2.
           -Patti Guthrie

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

“Eager to Forgive (Jonah)”

Second Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Eager to Forgive (Jonah)
For the week of May 11, 2013
     There are some people, today, who think the book of Jonah is mere symbolic fictional generalizations about human existence. However, Jonah’s preaching to the Ninevites, and their response of repentance, was referred to by Jesus. He affirmed the great miracle of Jonah’s recovery from the fish (Matt 12:40). And further, Jesus based His call to repentance in His day on the validity of Jonah’s message of repentance to the Ninevites (Matt 12:41; Luke 11:29–32). No allegory here. It’s the real deal.
     Jonah’s name means “dove.” He was from Gath Hepher (2 Kings 14:25), a town in the land of Zebulun (Josh 19:10, 13). Jonah lived when Jeroboam II ruled the Northern Kingdom (2 Kings 14:23–25). The events in the Book of Jonah took place sometime in Jeroboam’s reign (793-753 b.c.). Jonah is the only Old Testament prophet who ran from God. Jonah had previously vowed to serve God. (Jonah 2:7-9). However, the record opens with the action of Jonah rebelling and running from God.
     Hosea and Amos prophesied about Assyria’s defeat and capture of the ten northern tribes. Assyria was a dreadful and dreaded enemy of Israel. Nineveh was especially well known for brutal atrocities it inflicted on its war captives (Nahum 3:1, 4). This, no doubt, contributed to Jonah’s reluctance to preach to the Ninevites. Think of the implication: why should Jonah help this terrible enemy that would later destroy his own nation? (Because the ten northern tribes later refused to repent, the Assyrians captured and ruled them. See Hosea 11:5). 
       The book of Jonah can be divided into two parts, both of which are about repentance. The first part has to do with the repentance of the prophet of God. Not only was the prophet reluctant, he was rebellious and in need of repentance. The other part has to do with the repentance of the enemy of God and Israel. The Assyrians were a cruel, extremely violent nation fearing no one, not even Israel’s God (cf. 2 Kings 18:33–35). They were the Stalinists, the Hitlerists, the Pol Potists (of Cambodia), in short, they were the terrorists, the jihadists, of that time. Because of this their fear of judgment from God and consequential repentance is startling.
      The two records of repentance. The first record is about the individual despair and repentance of Jonah while in the belly of the fish when the waters closed around him, as the seaweed wrapped itself around his head, as he sinks to the bottom of the sea (Jonah 2:1-9). The second record is that of the personal fear and individual repentance of the king of Nineveh, followed by the corporate repentance of the inhabitants in the city (3:5–9). In both cases – of Jonah and of the Ninevites – we see mighty deliverances of God following their repentances which was great (2:10; 3:10). (The words “great” and “greatly” occur frequently in the book of Jonah. Here are their locations: “great city,” Jonah 1:2; 3:2; 4:11; “great wind,” 1:4; “great storm,” v. 12; “greatly feared,” v. 16; “great fish,” v. 17; “greatly displeased,” 4:1; and “very [lit., greatly‘] happy,” 4:6.).
     Concerning the Ninevites, it is written that they first believed the message of Jonah, then they repented. Faith first; then repentance (3:5).  People may come to Christ, just as they are, and then be brought to repentance.
      [M]ust the sinner wait till he has repented before he can come to Jesus? Is repentance to be made an obstacle between the sinner and the Saviour?
     The Bible does not teach that the sinner must repent before he can heed the invitation of Christ, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.… We can no more repent without the Spirit of Christ to awaken the conscience than we can be pardoned without Christ.[1]
     There are three leading ways by which a person may be brought to repentance. It can come through the preaching of the moral law, thus driving people to Christ and justification (Gal 3:24). It also can come because of calamities or disasters, either natural or supernatural, by the judgments of God (Hos 6:1). The third path to repentance comes from the goodness of God that leads to repentance (Rom 2:4).
      After a short but very successful evangelistic campaign by the reluctant prophet, Jonah wanted God to belie His character and destroy the Ninevites from sheer vindictiveness. He preached a time prophesy of 40 days at the end of which Nineveh would be overthrown (Jonah 3:4).
     Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. As the prophet preached doom and gloom, the people repented and changed. The preaching of Jonah caused intensive and extensive religious effects. People in every social strata, from the greatest to the least, hoped that God might spare them.
     The people listened to this judgment hour message, believed it and repented. Repentance is never a work to be rewarded. Yet this is not to say that God does not act in response to such repentance. Nineveh’s repentance delayed God’s destruction of the city for about 150 years. The people eventually turned completely from God and later the city was destroyed, in 612 b.c. (see the Book of Nahum).
     Jonah is typical of some today who think as he did then. He did not care for the Ninevites in the slightest degree, just as those who feel the same toward certain of the inhabitants of the harlot city built on the seven hills (Rev 17:9, NAB). He got no comfort from their salvation. But in Nineveh there were 120,000 people more in tune with God than was this sulking prophet. He became angry with God and His message of salvation toward a people who did not deserve it (Jonah 4:1-2). Because of God’s mercy and loving kindness, judgmental Jonah became angry, despondent and depressed even asking God to take his life (4:3). [He later expressed this sentiment again (4:8).]
     Jonah next left the city. He sat down waiting and watching, perhaps hoping against hope that God would bring judgment upon the people of Nineveh. Instead, God worked a miracle in behalf of Jonah. He caused a plant to grow and thus to provide shade for his prophet. Jonah was grateful for the plant, but evidently was not so toward God (4:6). The next day God prepared a worm causing the plant to wither and consequently taking the shade from Jonah (4:7). Again his fiery temper exhibited itself. His anger was directed toward God who was in control of all things (4:8-9). But God had the last word. The book ends with God’s unanswered question to Jonah (4:11).
In summary and conclusion
The prophet most certainly had a clear grasp of God’s character. Jonah knew God was eager to forgive. In fact Jonah’s words about God are almost identical with Joel’s description of Him (Joel 2:13; also cf. Neh 9:17; Psa 103:8; 145:8). God is gracious and compassionate; slow to anger. He does not delight in punishing the wicked (2 Peter 3:9). Jonah also said He knew God relents from sending calamity. The prophet feared that all the attributes of God would be extended toward the despicable, cruel idol worshipping Ninevites—and it happened!
His grace is never earned. His mercies are always unmerited.
    Not only did God show mercy to his enemies, but also to His prophet. God had spared Jonah (chapter 2); next He spared Nineveh.
Earlier Jonah had repented, and now these Gentiles repented. As outward symbols of inward contrition and humiliation they fasted and put on sackcloth.
3:7–8. The king’s repentance and remorse led him and his nobles to issue a royal decree. As a result the decree instructed the people to fast to wear sackcloth (cf. comments on v. 5, to call urgently on God, and to relinquish their wickedness (evil ways; cf. v. 10). [2]
The conversion of the Ninevites (3:5–10)
4:1. Jonah blatantly rejected and repudiated the goodness of God to the Ninevites. In that attitude he symbolized the nation Israel. Jonah’s self-interests were a reminder to Israel of her lack of concern for the ways and mercies of God. The word but points up the contrast between God’s compassion (3:10) and Jonah’s displeasure, and between God’s turning from His anger (3:9–10) and Jonah’s turning toanger. Jonah’s anger (became angry is lit., “became hot”) at God for sparing Nineveh stemmed from his unbalanced patriotic fervor. Jonah probably knew from Amos and Hosea that Assyria would be Israel’s destroyer. Jonah’s fickle attitude toward God’s dealings with him are remarkably abrupt and variegated (disobedience, chap. 1; thanksgiving, chap. 2; obedience, chap. 3; displeasure, chap. 4).
b.   Jonah’s prayer (4:2–3)
4:2. Out of anger and disgust the prophet rebuked his Lord, saying in essence, “I know that You are forgiving and now look what has happened!” Jonah admitted that he fled toward Tarshish because he did not want the Ninevites to be saved from judgment. (He wanted to be delivered from calamity, 2:2, 7, but he did not want the Ninevites to be kept from disaster.) The Ninevites were more ready to accept God’s grace than Jonah was. Jonah, an object of God’s compassion, had no compassion for Nineveh’s people.
Jonah knew God is willing to forgive but he did not want his enemies to know it. Their threat of doom (3:4) could be diverted if his hearers turned to his forgiving God.
The prophet certainly had a clear grasp of God’s character, as reflected in his near-quotation of Exodus 34:6. In fact Jonah’s words about God are almost identical with Joel’s description of Him (Joel 2:13; also cf. Neh. 9:17; Pss. 103:8; 145:8). God is gracious (i.e., He longs for and favors others) andcompassionate (tender in His affection), slow to anger (He does not delight in punishing the wicked; cf. 2 Peter 3:9), and abounding in love (ḥeseḏ, “loyal love, or faithfulness to a covenant”). The psalmists often spoke of God being “gracious” and “compassionate,” though sometimes in reverse order (Pss. 86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 112:4; 145:8). Jonah also said He knew God relents from sending calamity. The prophet feared that all these attributes of God would be extended toward the despicable, cruel Ninevites—and it happened!
4:3. Jonah’s anguish over what God   V 1, p 1471  did led him to request that he might die (cf. Jonah 4:8; 1 Kings 19:4). Earlier he had prayed to live (Jonah 2:2). Perhaps now he was embarrassed that his threat was not carried out. Because God relented of His wrath and did not destroy the city, Jonah was so emotionally disappointed that he lost all reason for living. God was concerned about the city (4:11) but Jonah was not.
c.   Jonah’s action (4:4–5)
4:4–5. Though Jonah knew that God is slow to anger (v. 2) he still wanted the Lord to execute His wrath swiftly. Yet God, hesitant to be angry with even His prophet, sought to reason with him. God asked the sulking messenger whether his anger was justified (cf. v. 9). This question implied a negative response: Jonah had no right to be angry. A person should never angrily question what God does, even when it differs from what he expects or wants.
Jonah was so distraught that he did not reply to God. Instead he left the city and built a crude shelter, perhaps from tree branches, and sat down (cf. the king’s sitting in the dust, 3:6) in its shade (cf. Elijah under a broom tree, 1 Kings 19:4). Apparently Jonah had a clear view of the city. Why he waited to see what would happen to the city is difficult to understand. Perhaps he felt that God would answer his plea and judge the city anyway. Unable to imagine God not carrying out His justice on people who deserved it, Jonah was determined to wait till Nineveh was in fact judged. But he was wrong and his action was childish. Obviously he had forgotten that he, who also deserved death for disobedience, was delivered by God (chap. 2).
2.   the explanation of the lord (4:6–11)
a.   The illustration prepared (4:6–8)
God, being slow to anger (v. 2), again attempted to reason with Jonah (cf. v. 4). This time God gave him a visual lesson. God erected an object of Jonah’s affection (creaturely comfort) and contrasted it with the object of His own concern (the souls of people). God rebuked Jonah, not through a storm in this instance, but by exposing the selfishness of his likes and dislikes.
4:6. God provided (cf. “provided” in 1:17; 4:7–8) a vine to give the prophet shade that his crude shelter (v. 5) could not provide. The God of the sea, who could provide a fish to swallow Jonah, is also the God of the land (cf. 1:9) and its vegetation. Here is evidence that God is compassionate (4:2)—even when His servants are upset and depressed.
As this plant grew it covered the prophet’s hut. The shade from the green plant, covering his booth with its dense foliage, protected him from the rays of the desert sun. The plant (qîqāyôn) may have been a castor-bean plant (Ricinus communis), which grows rapidly in hot climates to a height of 12 feet and has large leaves. It easily withers if its stalk is injured. The fact that the plant grew overnight (cf. “at dawn the next day,” v. 7, and note v. 10) shows that more-than-usual rapid growth was as much a miracle as God’s providing the fish for Jonah. Delighted with this relief, Jonah, though he had been angry and depressed, was now overjoyed. Ironically he was glad for his own comfort but not for the Ninevites’ relief from judgment.
4:7–8. Early the next day God provided (cf. “provided” in 1:17; 4:6) a worm that destroyed the plant that had brought joy to the prophet. Then the following day God provided a scorching east wind that left Jonah comfortless and faint. The prophet’s own shelter was not enough to protect him from the terribly hot wind from the east. Strikingly in chapter 1 God intervened by a storm and a huge fish; now He intervened with a lowly worm and a sultry wind. Again the prophet was so discomforted—first by Nineveh’s repentance and now by the loss of the shade from the vine—that he wanted to die (cf. 4:3).
b.   The explanation stated (4:9–11)
4:9. God asked Jonah the same question He posed earlier. Do you have a right to be angry? (cf. v. 4) But here He added the words about the vine. God was wanting Jonah to see the contrast between His sparing Nineveh and His destroying the vine—the contrast between Jonah’s lack of concern for thespiritual welfare of the Ninevites and his concern for his own physical welfare. Both Jonah’s unconcern (for Nineveh) and concern (for himself) were selfish. Jonah replied that his anger over the withered plant was justified, and that he was so   V 1, p 1472  angry he wanted to die.
“Life for Jonah [is] a series of disconcerting surprises and frustrations. He tries to escape from God and is trapped. He then gives up, accepts the inevitability of perishing, and is saved. He obeys when given a second chance, and is frustratingly, embarrassingly successful. He blows up; his frustration is intensified” (Judson Mather, “The Comic Act of the Book of Jonah,” Soundings 65. Fall 1982, p. 283).
4:10–11. God wanted Jonah to see that he had no right to be angry over Nineveh or the vine because Jonah did not give life to or sustain either of them. Nor was he sovereign over them. He had no control over the plant’s growth or withering. The vine was quite temporal (it sprang up overnight and died overnight) and was of relatively little value. Yet Jonah grieved over it. Whereas Jonah had no part in making the plant grow, God had created the Ninevites. Jonah’s affections were distorted; he cared more for a vine than for human lives. He cared more for his personal comfort than for the spiritual destiny of thousands of people. What a picture of Israel in Jonah’s day.
God’s words to the prophet indicate that Jonah had no right to be angry. Donald E. Baker paraphrases the Lord’s response this way: “Let’s analyze this anger of yours, Jonah It represents your concern over your beloved plant—but what did it really mean to you? Your attachment to it couldn’t be very deep, for it was here one day and gone the next. Your concern was dictated by self-interest, not by genuine love. You never had the devotion of a gardener. If you feel as bad as you do, what would you expect a gardener to feel like, who tended a plant and watched it grow only to see it wither and die? This is how I feel about Nineveh, only much more so. All those people, all those animals—I made them; I have cherished them all these years. Nineveh has cost Me no end of effort, and it means the world to Me. Your pain is nothing compared to Mine when I contemplate their destruction” (“Jonah and the Worm,” His. October 1983, p. 12).
Whereas Jonah had thought God was absurd in sparing the Assyrians, God exposed Jonah as the one whose thinking was absurd.
In contrast with an insignificant vine, greater Nineveh was significant; it had more than 120,000 people. The words, who cannot tell their right hand from their left, may refer to young children, in which case the population of Nineveh and its environs may have been, as some commentators state, about 600,000. But other commentators suggest that the 120,000 were adults, who were as undisciplined or undiscerning as children, thus picturing their spiritual and moral condition without God. (In that case the total population may have been about 300,000.) The figure of 120,000 for Ninevehproper accords with the adult population of Nimrod (Gen. 10:11–12; also known as Calah, a suburb of Nineveh). An inscription states that Ashurnaṣirpal II (883-859) invited 69,574 people of Nimrod to a feast (Leslie C. Allen, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah, p. 234, n. 27; Daniel David Luckenbill, The Annals of Sennacherib. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1924, p. 116). And according to Donald J. Wiseman, Nineveh’s walls enclosed an area twice that of Calah (“Jonah’s Nineveh,” Tyndale Bulletin 30. 1979, p. 37).
Jonah is a remarkably tragic example of the plight of the nation Israel. Both Jonah and Israel were accused of religious disobedience and disaffection. What a tragedy when God’s people care more for creaturely comforts than for the interests of God’s will among men.
By contrast, God is unselfish. He has a right to be concerned about (ḥûs, “to spare”; cf. Joel 2:17) that great city, a city with many people who needed His grace.
The two Minor Prophets that deal almost exclusively with Nineveh—Jonah and Nahum—each end with a question (cf. Nahum 3:19). The question in Jonah 4:11 leaves the reader with a sense of uneasiness, for the curtain seems to drop abruptly. No response from Jonah is recorded. How is this silence to be understood? Most likely Jonah could not have written the book unless he had learned the point God was seeking to bring home to him. Apparently Jonah perceived his error and then wrote this historical-biographical narrative to urge Israel to flee from her disobedience and spiritual callousness.
  V 1, p 1473  As the book concludes, Jonah was angry, depressed, hot, and faint. And he was left to contemplate God’s words about his own lack of compassion and God’s depth of compassion. The Lord had made His points: (a) He is gracious toward all nations, toward Gentiles as well as Israelites; (b) He is sovereign; (c) He punishes rebellion; and (d) He wants His own people to obey Him, to be rid of religious sham, and to place no limits on His universal love and grace.[3]
I.          The Disobedience of Jonah (chaps. 1–2)
A.  The commission of the prophet (1:1–2)
B.   The disobedience of the prophet (1:3)
C.   The consequences of the prophet’s disobedience (1:4–2:10)
1.   The great wind (1:4–16)
2.   The great fish (1:17–2:10)
II.          The Obedience of Jonah (chaps. 3–4)
A.  The recommissioning of the prophet (3:1–2)
B.   The obedience of the prophet (3:3–4)
C.   The conversion of the Ninevites (3:5–10)
1.   The action of the people (3:5)
2.   The action of the king (3:6–9)
3.   The action of God (3:10)
D.   The sorrow of the prophet (chap. 4)
1.   The displeasure of Jonah (4:1–5)
2.   The explanation of the Lord (4:6–11) [4]
I.    Jonah’s Refusal Shows God’s Patience (1:1–17).
A.  The order (1:1–2): God specifically told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against its wickedness.
B.   The objection (1:3): Jonah refuses and boards a ship going to Tarshish, in the opposite direction from Nineveh! He underwent a sudden sharp change in value. Thought to escape from God to avoid going to Nineveh. Left hastily in violation of his agreement to serve and to obey God.
C.   The ordeal (1:4–17).
1.   The furious storm (1:4): God sends a violent wind that threatens to sink the ship.
2.   The fear (1:5–7).
a.   The sailors attempt to protect the boat in the storm (1:5–6): The sailors pray to their gods and throw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.
b.   The sailors attempt to point the blame for the storm (1:7): They cast lots to determine who is responsible for their trouble, and the lot falls upon Jonah.
3.   The fault (1:8–16).
a.   The confrontation (1:8): The sailors confront Jonah, demanding to know who he is and what he has done.
b.   The confession (1:9–11): Jonah acknowledges that he is running from God.
c.   The counsel (1:12–14): Jonah advises them that if they throw him overboard, the storm will calm.
d.   The calm (1:15–16): The sailors throw Jonah overboard, and the storm stops at once.
4.   The fish (1:17): God arranges for a great fish to swallow Jonah.
II.    Jonah’s Prayer Shows God’s Power (2:1–10).
A.  Jonahs despair (2:1–6)
1.   The waters close around him (2:1–5a).
2.   Seaweed wraps itself around his head (2:5b).
3.   He sinks to the bottom of the sea (2:6).
B.   Jonahs dedication (2:7–9): He remembers and renews his previous vow to serve and obey God.
C.   Jonahs deliverance (2:10): God commands the fish to spit Jonah up on the beach.
When Jonah preaches to the Ninevites, they repent and are saved. But Jonah resents God for saving his enemies, so God has to teach him about compassion.
I.    Nineveh’s Revival Shows God’s Pardon (3:1–10).
A.  Jonahs commission (3:1–4)
1.   The nature (3:1–2): For the second time, the prophet is ordered to Nineveh.
2.   The numbers (3:3–4)
a.   Three days (3:3): Nineveh is so big, it takes three days to see it all.
b.   Forty days (3:4): Jonah says God will destroy the city after this time if the people do not repent.
B.   Ninevehs confession (3:5–9).
1.   The ruler repents (3:6–9).
2.   The rest repent (3:5).
C.   Gods compassion (3:10): Nineveh’s repentance saves the city from divine destruction.
II.    Jonah’s Resentment Shows God’s Compassion and Jonah’s Lack of Pity (4:1–11).
A.  Jonahs twofold complaint (4:1–9)
1.   About God sparing Nineveh (4:1–3)
2.   About the suns glare (4:4–9)
a.   The watch (4:4–5): Jonah waits outside the city to see what will happen.
b.   The wonders (4:6–8): God now creates three things:
(1) A welcome vine (4:6) : It shades Jonah from the fierce heat.
(2) A worm (4:7) : It destroys the vine.
(3) A wind (4:8) : It almost scorches Jonah.
c.   The whining (4:9) : Jonah continues to complain, this time about the death of the vine.
B.   Gods manifold compassion (4:10–11)
1.   The rebuke (4:10) : God chastens Jonah for his concern over the vine.
2.   The revelation (4:11) : God says his concern is for the people and animals living in Nineveh.[5]
The structure of 1:4–16 is a chiasm, as seen in the following chart (adapted from Yehuda Radday, “Chiasmus in Hebrew Biblical Literature,” in Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structures, Analyses, Exegesis. Hildesheim: Gerstenberg, 1981, p. 60).
a. The sailors’ fright (vv. 4–5a)
b. The sailors’ prayer to their gods (v. 5b)
c. The sailors’ unloading the ship (v. 5c)
d. The captain’s speech to Jonah (v. 6)
e. The sailors’ word to each other (v. 7a)
f. The sailors’ question to Jonah, Who are you? (vv. 7b–8)
g. Jonah’s confession (v. 9)
f‘. The sailors’ question to Jonah, What have you done? (v. 10a)
e’. The sailors’ question to Jonah, What shall we do? (vv. 10b–11)
d‘. Jonah’s words to the sailors (v. 12)
c’. The sailors’ rowing of the ship (v. 13)
b‘. The sailor’s prayer to the Lord (v. 14)
a’. The sailors’ fear of the Lord (vv. 15–16)[6]
-Jerry Finneman
[1] Steps to Christ, pp 25-26.
[2] Hannah, J. D. (1985). Jonah. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), . Vol. 1The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Ed.) (1469). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
[3] Hannah, J. D. (1985). Jonah. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), . Vol. 1The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Ed.) (1470–1473). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
[4] Hannah, J. D. (1985). Jonah. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), . Vol. 1The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Ed.) (1464). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
[5] Willmington, H. L. (1999). The Outline Bible (Jon 1–4:11). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
[6] Hannah, J. D. (1985). Jonah. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), . Vol. 1The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Ed.) (1465). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.