Author: reformanda

The “Results” of Jonah’s Preaching

Jonah 3:5-10

When Christians report on work of evangelism, is common to write or speak in way that fails to do justice to what really took place. Much of time emphasis is on numbers – “11 people sought Christ” – “we converted 21” – “hundreds responded to the invitation” – “29 salvations, 8 re-dedications”. The impression given is that evangelist, short-term missions team, camp ministry, represented one half of equation, responders the other half. I/we did this, they did that in response. Contrast that sort of ministry reporting with Bible – Ac 2.41Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” Ac 2.47 “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

I’m sure if challenged, some at least of those who make report would acknowledge better way to state details, to make clear who is responsible for conversions. Is easy for us to give priority to what we see, let what we know to be true fade into background. Story found in Jonah good reminder not to do that. What we see today as results of evangelistic presentation no less a work of God than conversion of people of Nineveh. We look at what Jonah preached – simple message of impending destruction, are blown away by how many salvations there were. Would be more accurate to look in chapter 4 to find results of Jonah’s preaching, instead see here in chapter 3 mighty moving of Spirit of God giving gift of repentance to thousands in Nineveh. This in perfect keeping with closing statement of Jonah’s prayer, Jon. 2:9Salvation is of the LORD.”

God is most pleased when his servants obey willingly with sincere heart, proclaim truth with genuine desire for God to bring about results. However… God can use any instrument, willing or not, to achieve his purpose. At one time even used donkey to speak truth to wrong-headed prophet! Jonah, grudging and reluctant all the way, did speak God’s truth to residents of Nineveh, outcome was indeed what Jonah expected. More on that in next chapter. Also had precise outcome God intended, city of Nineveh was turned upside down.

A. the people v.5

heard

impression given by our text – people heard God’s proclamation, immediately responded to it – if aerial view, see waves of action spreading out in all directions w/Jonah at center

this a perfect illustration of Paul’s statement Rom. 10:17So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

also Isa. 55:11 “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

believed

immediate reaction to preached word: belief, confidence that this God Jonah represented would do exactly as threatened

why did they have greater confidence in Elohim than gods they worshiped? because God enabled them to recognize truth, gave desire and will to respond appropriately

mourned

fasting and sackcloth typical traditional activities associated with mourning, humiliation – not limited to Jewish people

what were they mourning? gotten caught? their sin, exposed by nature of threatened consequences? would seem the latter

right response never comes about when message begins with God’s love instead of his holiness and righteousness

what seems harsh often most loving thing we can do – God is love, also holy/ just – sinners need to be warned, not stroked

all without distinction

from greatest to least – no social or economic distinctions, not even political – a message that could be understood by absolutely anyone as Spirit of God moved

given conclusion of story, perhaps author means to include idea of “oldest to youngest” given who God said he had in mind

but not without exception – whatever exact numbers were, overwhelming majority responded properly even if a few holdouts

B. the king v.6

heard

not given strict timeline, expect news traveled quickly as effect of hearing God’s word snowballed, reaching highest levels

no indication that was Jonah who brought message to king, most likely not Jonah – was reports of what was happening

when Spirit of God at work, can and will use all sorts of ways for people to hear truth – yes, appointed prophet necessary, but not only means God used

humbled himself

completely out of character for king to remove all signs of authority, level the playing field, stoop to take his place beside everyone else in city

king goes step beyond everyone else – replaced royal robes with sackcloth and sat in ashes – even greater act of humiliation along with mourning

accepted responsibility

for himself – shown by his actions, showing no desire to pull rank, no evidence of attitude of superiority – taking heat along with everyone else, expressing sorrow over his own guilt

for his people – king stood for people as their representative, also shown by his actions – did not stand by himself and issue decree only for people

set an example

showed first how all should respond, then gave further instruction through his edict – the way any good leader acts, far too rare in today’s world

had right effect on those in government – “decree of the king and his nobles” – universal gov’t approval of national response

side note: this the kind of character we should look for in elected officials at all levels of government, kind we should display in our leadership roles

C. the edict v.7-8

fast

this one a strict fast – no food or water, for unspecified duration – long enough to demonstrate sincerity of their grief

included animals, domestic beasts, who added their voices to those of people – together, from greatest to least, man and beast to participate in national repentance

mourn

all without exception to show outwardly their inner state of mourning and humility; showing also their unity, having put aside outward measures of distinction

pray

king by example and decree focusing people’s attention and activities… together crying out to God for deliverance from threatened calamity

not just a few sentence prayers, instead continued strong, vigorous, insistent and persistent crying out loudly to God

not the kind of ritual repetition prophets of Baal engaged in on Mt Carmel – this the genuine outpouring of people sorrowing over sin… seeing their evil ways as God did, worthy of God’s anger

repent

king’s edict included himself… “let everyone turn” – king understood and impressed on people: must be more than just words

if any hope at all of receiving mercy from God, must be radical change of behavior, complete turning away from evil/violence

mre evidence that king truly understood point God was making – conduct of king and people had been evil, sinful… king calling their actions what God did

D. the attitude v.9

humility

not taking anything for granted – if we do this then God must do that – no stated or implied reasons why God should respond favorably to their prayers

did not question justice of God’s fierce anger – simply accepted God’s assessment of their conduct without making excuses

dependence

king’s final statement leaves outcome entirely in God’s hands – they will persist in prayer and repentance depending on God’s mercy for reprieve

E. the result v.10

God saw they repented

doesn’t say God heard their cries, says he saw their works – of course prayer included in works… but not the only thing

saw they turned from evil way – not just stopping the next planned evil thing or two, actually beginning new way of life

“In 1951, Red Skelton and a party of friends flew to Europe, where Skelton was to appear at the London Palladium. As they were flying over the Swiss Alps, one of the airplane’s engines failed. The situation looked very grave and the passengers began to pray. Skelton went into one of his best comic routines to distract them from the emergency as the plane lost altitude, coming closer and closer to the ominous-looking mountains. At the last moment, the pilot spied a large field among the precipitous slopes and made a perfect landing. Skelton broke the relieved silence by saying, “Now, ladies and gentlemen, you may return to all the evil habits you gave up twenty minutes ago.””

Ninevites did not do that, at least not in near term – repentance widespread and sincere enough that God saw and approved

God relented

not that God changed his mind – for him to bring calamity after they repented would not have been just, perceived threat had desired effect

and… really a sense in which Nineveh was overthrown/overturned – anyone who visited Nineveh day before Jonah’s arrival, then 41 days later would think were in totally different city

Ninevites turned over new leaf, completely different priorities, behaviors, attitudes – no longer prime for judgment

same for us

when God confronts with message about something we need to change, rather than get defensive or make excuses, should respond….

as quickly as Ninevites – didn’t dilly-dally, rationalize or justify… simply heard and responded in sorrow and repentance

as sincerely as Ninevites – was genuine enough to “convince” God so he withheld threatened judgment

And remember: our job to communicate God’s truth as he directs us, his job to bring about results he intends. He may intend hardening as with Pharaoh, may also intend repentance as with Nineveh. Either way, is God’s call and he who gets glory.

 

Let There Be Darkness

Exodus 10:21-29

Worked with fellow years ago, fascinated with computer video games, 1 in particular… DOOM. First-person-shooter genre of game, is you against bad guys, all manner of weapons and tools of destruction. Initial episode titled “Knee-Deep in the Dead”, gives idea of what was like. Purpose of game to fight way through places inhabited by monsters, possessed humans, demons. If successful, the hero discovers hidden doorway back to Earth since he has “proven too tough for Hell to contain”. Long weekend, Jay make entrance into office in role from DOOM, make sure lights in his area turned way down or off. Would take at least a full day for Jay to come back to reality.

Not coincidence that after playing at combat with demons, proving too tough for Hell to contain him, Jay preferred darkness rather than light. We associate darkness with evil, with underworld, rightly so. Lord Jesus himself declared “men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19) Satan disguises as “angel of light” while really being angel of darkness.

Yet another reference to darkness even more important. Three times in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus recorded as using term “outer darkness” in his parables. “Outer darkness”, place where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” That kind of darkness more than even Jay would appreciate. Is darkness like none of us have experienced, pray none of us ever will. Egyptians got 3-day taste of darkness, were profoundly affected by it…. including Pharaoh. Was once total darkness, the darkness of nothing, when only God existed. Then God acted.

A. back to the beginning v.21-22

creatio ex nihilo (Gen. 1:1)

in the beginning, if there was point of singularity that gave rise to all other things, we call him God, who created all from nothing

God used nothing already in existence for building materials – when we create, start with something and reshape into something different

are told how God continued work of creation – spoke things into existence by his powerful word in space of six days

Bible doesn’t tell us how heavens and earth came to be… except that God created them – don’t know if he spoke into empty darkness or if he merely thought and universe sprang into existence

even then, still dark – “darkness was on the face of the deep” (Gen. 1:2) – Holy Spirit present, moving over waters, still dark

first recorded speech (Gen. 1:3)

God said, “let there be light” – plan of creation, sequence of events not random or unplanned… were precisely planned and orchestrated by infinitely wise Creator

God’s value judgment on light: “it was good” – once basic framework of universe brought into existence, God no longer worked in the dark… did remainder of creative work in the light

looking ahead few days, people he would place on his earth not expected to exist in the dark, not equipped to do so either

that would be why on fourth day God created two lights to serve specific purposes: to divide day from night, signify seasons, delineate one day from next and one year from next; to give light on the earth

even night not to be time of utter darkness – sun to rule day, moon to rule night, God not intending return to pre-Creation darkness… at least not for extended period of time

only recorded undoing (21)

yet in text, on localized scale, God unmakes what had made – “let there be darkness over the land of Egypt”

72 hours of unrelenting impenetrable darkness – in land of Egypt God took every single ray of light regardless of source

darkness, felt darkness, thick darkness (22)

the kind of darkness that isolates, separating people not only from one another but from surroundings as well

way more than darkness from desert sandstorm, even if compounded by desolation from previous plagues

God intended there be no misunderstanding – expected all to know, Egyptian and Hebrew alike, that He, YHWH did this

B. reading between the lines v.23

profound paralyzing darkness

this was darkness inside homes and buildings as well as outside – absolutely zero natural light and artificial light

Egyptians could not see one another, could not make out anything of surroundings, could maybe get around somewhat by feel

so unnatural and unnerving Egyptians were unable to move – basically a nationwide panic attack that paralyzed everyone

true God’s superiority over Egypt’s greatest god

like most polytheistic belief systems, was hierarchy to Egyptian gods/goddesses – one at top was Ra, the sun God who was also creator

when presence or absence of sun could not be detected, Egyptians helpless and hopeless with no where to turn

“this plague of darkness shows the sovereignty of God over Ra, the sun god, the chief of the gods of Egypt. The Egyptians worshipped Ra in almost all of the palace ceremonies. Ra worship was pervasive in the land. They believed that the sunrise in the east symbolized Ra’s victory over the demonic powers of the netherworld, and that sunset indicated that these forces of darkness were waging war against Ra. And then when the sun rose again it showed that Ra had won. He was victorious over those that would challenge his rule. So, when God through Moses announces, not a day, not just the daylight hours, but three days of darkness, He is showing that the God of the Hebrews in sovereign over the chief deities over Egypt.” Duncan

clear dividing line

seems from v.23 that sun did not show his face anywhere in land of Egypt… including Goshen for that three-day period

different story inside homes – Egyptian homes experienced total blackout, children of Israel enjoyed their usual illumination

once again God makes clear distinction between his enemies and enemies of his people on one hand, children of Israel on the other – bringing judgment on one, showing mercy to other

those with light vs. those without

same kind of distinction in place even today – people of God are those living in the light: light of God’s truth and favor

those not reconciled to God live in darkness, walk in darkness, are blinded by the darkness and do not know where they are going (1 John 2:11)

C. final bargaining session v.24-29

Pharaoh’s last stand (24)

Pharaoh gives appearance of agreeing with YHWH’s demands – tells Moses: go, worship, families may go, only animals stay

sounds on surface like willingness to let people go worship their God, only holding onto animals so children of Israel remember to come back to Egypt

I believe Pharaoh’s motives more sinister than that… especially as he acts as agent of Satan, and seems Moses recognizes Pharaoh’s true intent

think carefully, remember what worship was like for children of Israel in Moses’ day – could make blanket statement, no animal sacrifice = no worship

Pharaoh’s point – you can go but you cannot worship YHWH, would not be allowed to give to YHWH what Pharaoh wanted for himself

Moses pulls rank (25-26)

Moses takes position of one in command, telling him what he must do – this time, more than just let children of Israel go with all their belongings

Moses recognizes Pharaoh’s refusal to submit to God’s authority and intention to prevent others from worshiping true God

so Moses tells Pharaoh he must provide his own animals for sacrifice in addition to those of Hebrews, iow telling Pharaoh to worship true God

hardened again (27-29)

God lets Pharaoh have his heart’s desire

Pharaoh wants to remain enemy of God, to act as if he is supreme leader in charge and worthy of worship himself

has by now come to place where without divine intervention Moses’ very life at risk – Pharaoh wants desperately to put Moses in his place

God permits Pharaoh to have his wish, in fact God acts to firm up Pharaoh’s resolve so he will not relent

Moses concurs

“as you wish” – would turn out that way, once Moses finally left Pharaoh’s presence – not quite done yet, though… verses 4-8 of next chapter bring Moses’ audience with Pharaoh to conclusion

Pharaoh claims prerogative of God (cf. Ex. 33:20)

declares to Moses, “next time you see my face you will die” – same God declared to Moses “no man shall see me and live”

Pharaoh maintaining own superiority over YHWH, desiring to receive worship due to YHWH, claiming right to life and death over prophet of YHWH

D. two lessons

be careful what you desire

over and over Pharaoh pushed back against God, God mercifully withheld justice – yet time came when God said “ok, have it your way”

consider carefully what you truly desire – what if God gave it to you… permanently?

remember: Jesus took the darkness for us

three hours of profound darkness, dark enough he cried “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Getty, Power of the Cross

Father punished the Son that those who believe in him might be spared darkness of God’s wrath

is your name written in his wounds? did he bear the awesome weight of your sin? if so, through his suffering you are free

if not, cry out to God for forgiveness, trust in Christ and his righteousness, stand forgiven at the cross

 

3. Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

Matthew 6:27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? (NKJV, CSB) –or–
which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (ESV, NET)

Read: Matthew 6:27-34; Luke 12:25-26

Setting:

Matthew account – same hillside near Capernaum (Luke 7:1), near beginning of formal ministry

continuing the first formal “Bible School class” for the Disciples – Jesus the teacher (Matt. 5:2), they the students (Luk. 6:20)

Luke account – “innumerable multitude… trampled one another” (Luke 12:1) near end of formal ministry

as before, includes his disciples… first ring of people surrounding Jesus, then everyone else trying to get close, even ask questions

Person(s) being questioned:

disciples in both cases – Jesus focus more intent on disciples in Matthew, divided between them and multitude in Luke

teaching addressed to worry / anxiety particularly directed to disciples in Luke – as teaching session continued, not always clear who Jesus was primarily addressing… see Luke 12:41; (v.42-53 sound almost like Jesus’ mind is elsewhere, talking to no one in particular)

Question behind the question:

Matthew –

why are you wasting what God has given you in trust?

why are you holding back what he expects you to use?

Luke –

by now, a review question – know answer to first question, second more in form of: since you understand this, why are you still thinking wrongly about some things?

why are you going back to old habits?

Expected response:

Matthew –

to original question – um, none of us! duh!

to question behind – not willing to take that kind of risk

Luke –

to original question – yes, I know, exasperated tone, frustrated with self

to question behind – try not to, can’t help it sometimes, happens before I realize it, shouldn’t ought to do it

Jesus’ point:

duh, which of the things you worry about has your worry changed?

people usually worry about things outside their control or even influence

our priorities and God’s out of sync

God is in control of all things including you / your circumstances / your number of days

Modern Application:

you can’t put more on the line than God can supply or re-supply

two issues, spiritual and practical

worry is really lack of trust

worry causes person to give less than 100%

The Power of Five Words

Jonah 3:3b-4

Over and over Bible makes clear principle Paul declared to Corinthian believers:

God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;” (1 Cor. 1:27)

How can God do that… repeatedly?

“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Cor. 1:25)

Classic illustration of this in story of Jonah. If main plot line highlights length God goes to in order to bring men, women, boys, girls to salvation, secondary theme is this: expect to be surprised by God. He doesn’t do things in ways we would or use resources we view as suitable. Fact is at times we wonder how God’s methods can actually work… and for good!

What mission board would accept a candidate who didn’t want to go, didn’t think target people group should hear Gospel, resented idea God might save some of them? Add to that, already tried to escape going to that place, now only considering it because in quotes “God told them to”. Jonah had no heart for people of Nineveh, no burning desire to see them saved / escape destruction. Besides, absolutely no known converts among Ninevites, none who wanted missionary to come. No way Nineveh could be considered “waiting city”, ready to fill church planted by someone from away.

Yet this was individual God used to accomplish unbelievable results, the agent God worked with and through to provide deliverance from destruction for thousands. May think of Nineveh as being much different from today’s cities – in some ways yes, other ways no. No more or less godless than many modern places, same kind of people with same problems and needs – lost sinners headed for hopeless eternity unless God intervened… which he intended to do… in spite of Jonah’s reluctance. Truth is Jonah’s reluctance further highlights God’s persistence, determination, desire to save the lost in Nineveh.

As Jonah approached target city, faced large and daunting task; started out small; didn’t say much.

A. a large task v.3b

enormous city

one of great cities of ancient world – became capital of Assyrian Empire (followed by Babylonian, Medo-Persian), rising superpower of Jonah’s day

among most brutal oppressive world powers in all of history – first to establish large effective army to project power over wide area

Sennacherib moved capital to Nineveh, used brutality toward captives to intimidate and control, think ISIS tactics and worse

booty taken in war financed building program, captives provided skill and labor – Sennacherib built palace for himself in Nineveh

reliefs, sculptures depicting Sennacherib’s exploits, from palace alone side by side would stretch for 2 miles

Nineveh becoming an international city, estimated size: 1800 acres, population in heyday: 175,000; Jerusalem only about 160 acres, population of entire region of Judah smaller than Nineveh

3-day walk

uncertain exactly what the “extent” or “breadth” refers to – walk all streets in city itself or cover Greater Nineveh urban area

located in heart of enemy territory, weeks away from border and safety for someone on foot… who likely pretty distinctive in appearance

Jonah certainly observed during travel, maybe had minder assigned to him and reporting activities and whereabouts to king

even if Jonah said nothing, walking around in Nineveh for three days almost certain to draw attention, perhaps even following

surrounding area

by some estimates could have been home to upwards of 500,000 to 1 million people or more, maybe some less than that during Jonah’s visit

by ancient standards, a megacity and major population center of world… and God expected one reluctant prophet to effectively warn

long before public safety messages, emergency broadcast system, social media, other forms of mass communication

entirely dependent on word of mouth to blanket entire area and… had less than 6 weeks to make it happen

B. a small beginning v.4a

Jonah’s mindset

could easily have been discouraged, overwhelmed – approached city, saw magnitude of task before him, sat down and questioned God

“you sure about this?” – more to accomplish here than 10 prophets could, and I’m only one,, still recovering from the fish thing

could have figured great size was in his favor – no way he could do enough in allotted time to have effect he thought God wanted… but Jonah would be pleased

perhaps grumbling “don’t want to do this, don’t think it’s gonna work, afraid it is gonna work, will do exactly what you said, however turns out is your problem”

whatever Jonah was thinking, seems clear from Biblical record he did what God expected in spite of having bad attitude

began to enter

first day’s walk – expected would take at least 3 days to do minimum amount God expected, more to thoroughly blanket area

notice how all of modern techniques for evangelism and church planting are missing – preplanning, leadership team, surveys, arrangements for large venue, and on and on

as soon as reached sign “city limits”, started to cry out message God had given him – did not wait until at certain place, encountered group of people, saw likely prospect

as soon as someone to declare message to who looked like belonged to Nineveh, Jonah began prophetic task as he was called

Jonah, for all his shortcomings, avoided common trap – people who look at magnitude of task, are overwhelmed by it, give up before starting

whether he could achieve what he understood goal to be, Jonah started… “he began to enter” – continued his obedience by doing what came next

step-by-step obedience helps keep focus off outcome/results – first duty is to do as God expects, God responsible for outcome

cried out

not what we might think of as prophet of doom – guy with sandwich board proclaiming end of world standing on street corner

nor is it situation like ice cream truck playing music while driver makes rounds looking for customers to come running

much more like fellow who makes you real uncomfortable – homeless or panhandler who gets your attention, makes eye contact, engages you in conversation

Jonah does similar – cries out so as to get individual’s attention, delivers message to one or group of people

doesn’t care if is embarrassing, if others stop / look / listen… when they do it makes his job way easier, ensuring message is heard by maximum number of people in shortest possible time

is warning directed to entire population of Nineveh yet delivered personally – notice how persistent and specific God is

God not interested in sky-writing, notice on town bulletin board, communication that could be overlooked or ignored as not pertinent to particular individual

C. a brief message v.4b

complete message only 5 words in Hebrew – od / ar.ba.im / yom / ve.nin.ve / neh.pa.khet:

this God’s message in God’s words Jonah was to proclaim to people of Nineveh – v.2 makes clear Jonah had no liberty to improvise

a gracious introduction – 40 days

just as God did through Moses to Egyptians – gave warning that included built-in delay… not momentarily, not tomorrow

time enough for all who would be affected by calamity to get message and respond, not react – God does not require people to act without thinking, comprehending what they are doing

God expects prompt obedience but not blind loyalty – say jump, ask how high on way up

40 days long enough period for sincerity to be apparent – if response is quick, resolve would begin to weaken if no obvious threat

a specific target / focus – Nineveh

not Assyria in God’s immediate view, not Tigris River valley – instead, the city itself, its surroundings, really the 100K+ people

similar situation to Sodom and Gomorrah – those two cities had become so evil their neighbors complained; perhaps similar true for Nineveh, certainly would be that way eventually

no reason not to expect God’s judgment to be precisely targeted – he didn’t need laser-guided munitions to achieve his purpose

good to remember God is just as particular in his judgment as he is in showing mercy – Ninevites certainly deserved judgment as much as S&G, Egypt, any other place we might name

a clear warning – overthrown

city would be overthrown – God has liberty to carry out his purpose directly or use other means as his instrument of justice… e.g., a foreign army or aggressor like Babylon

people would understand clearly what God meant, what was being threatened – overthrow of a city signifies what you think it does: death, destruction, pain, suffering

the word Jonah used – neh.pa.khet – used number of times in OT, one of first and common uses with reference to S&G… overthrow, as in destroy

yet also used in sense of turning or overturning – forty days and Nineveh shall be overturned – could be direct synonym for overthrow, …or have different sense… stay tuned

Are things both positive and negative to learn from Jonah as he begins ministry to Nineveh. Obedience is good, doing as God commands / expects. Attitude is not good – should obey willingly, should desire same outcome as God, whatever that might be. Beginning the assignment just as important as finishing, even when task looks to be impossible.

Really, Jonah was picking up from where someone else left off, continuing what they had started. In big picture, Jonah would complete his portion of task, yet would require many more generations to completely finish. We today are part of bigger picture, taking message of love for lost, hope for sinners to needy world. God has same desire to save lost today as he did for Nineveh… he expects us to do our part wherever he leads us to share truth with others. We can expect God will move future generations to continue what we have been part of until day Christ returns.

How Stubborn Will You Be?

Exodus 10:1-20

Plague in our text #8 in series of 10. As we approach end of God dealing with Pharaoh and Egyptian people, intensity of and devastation done by plagues ramps up quickly. Consequences of devastation have long reach, affecting not only present generation but future one also. God takes this opportunity to add to Moses’ store of understanding… and tells Moses how he is to use knowledge and understanding.

Two principles repeatedly described / illuminated throughout God’s word the Bible – first one is sovereignty of God. Shows up first partly because God was here first. Gen. 1:1 does not say “In the beginning God asked a question.” Rather, tells us in the beginning God acted. God did what God purposed to do without asking permission, taking poll, putting up for a vote. God acted unilaterally as He saw fit to accomplish his perfect will and design.

God’s approach still the same when made man and woman, put in the Garden, told them they were responsible for their actions. There is second principle – man’s responsibility. Both are true, both God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility co-exist side by side. Must be diligent not to sacrifice one in attempt to guard the other – man is not marionette, God not a frustrated sovereign. Charles Spurgeon once asked how he would reconcile God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility – his answer: “no need to reconcile friends”.

Same motif continues here in Exodus – God both declaring and demonstrating his sovereignty over his creation. At same time, he holds Pharaoh / Egyptian people responsible for sinful rebellion against him. Over and over God shows mercy and grace… to both Egyptian and Hebrew. Since God is immutable, does not change, he is just as sovereign today as then, mankind just as responsible to respond properly to God’s acts of mercy.

A. God’s purposes:

hardened Pharaoh’s heart on purpose (1a)

sounds harsh, unloving, maybe you can think of other words – God himself hardening Pharaoh’s heart… against God!

yet what has Pharaoh done? – repeatedly, in face of repeated reminders of what is right, hardened his own heart – Pharaoh freely chose to rebel against God, not because he didn’t know any better, because he didn’t want to do differently

Pharaoh acting naturally, just like fallen sinner he was, and God justly allowed Pharaoh to have his own way – wanted to stay enemy of God, so God said “ok”, gave what he wanted, holding Pharaoh accountable for actions

same held true for magicians and officials of Pharaoh’s government – freely chose loyalty to Pharaoh in rebellion against God, so God gave them what they wanted

God’s purpose in all this extended far beyond Pharaoh, even beyond Pharaoh’s court and Egyptian people – God had whole world in view, how Pharaoh’s circumstances and story would impact generations of people

show miraculous signs (1b)

God identified 3 expected outcomes from hardening Pharaoh’s heart – first outcome: provided the stage on which God would display power through signs… plagues and what followed

has already begun – remember this is plague #8, another instance of signs God performed before Pharaoh so he would have no excuse

God’s issue with Pharaoh: Satan and sin had deluded him into thinking he was God, could rightfully expect and accept worship due to YHWH alone

God took no pleasure in Pharaoh’s punishment and humiliation – had Pharaoh responded properly God would have ended plagues

yet plagues had purpose: to show to all the world utter futility of idol-worship, powerlessness of Satan against God, God’s power and authority over his creation to use for his own glory

you will tell your son and grandson (2a)

Father’s Day next week, this an important principle every Sunday and all days in between: dad, you are #1 person responsible for religious instruction of your family

get help, of course, your children / grandchildren / great-grandchildren ought to hear about God and his ways from you

instruction here directed to Moses… who was to be leader of God’s people, teaching by word and example how to live pleasing to God

role of husband and father hasn’t changed since Adam – are to be head of home who leads by word and example

many of you know from experience – in spite of best efforts, children don’t get everything passed on to them… is why God expects us to be involved in training up grandchildren

you may know he is the Lord (2b)

lesson in Pharaoh’s hard heart for the world, for the next generation, for Moses… and eventually us: there be no question in Moses’ mind or ours who is true God

B. how stubborn will you be

from God (3-6)

“God says how long will you refuse to humble yourself?” – from God’s perspective the first / most important issue… for all

God of course looking for permanent change of heart, not temporary giving in to demands from one who presently holds an advantage

Pharaoh, like everyone, made in image of true God, had knowledge of true God that he either distorted or suppressed

at this point in time, had seen and experienced enough to have no good reason to doubt existence of true God

obviously rhetorical question from God, he knew exactly how long Pharaoh would remain stubborn, question intended to make Pharaoh and others think

from Pharaoh’s servants (7)

had pretty good understanding of just how much trouble they were in already – economy in trouble, people anxious and complaining, God was threatening to destroy rest of food

servants could see at least in part how disastrous locust plague would be to entire nation, putting survival in serious jeopardy

servants probably believed had little to lose, challenging Pharaoh this way – no food, might all die anyway

from Pharaoh (8-11)

as if “how stubborn will I be? let me show you…” – even from real position of weakness, tries negotiating as if still in charge

“ok, you can go… who’s going?” – Moses’ response, according to YHWH’s instructions, all of us with our animals

responds with open threat – ” if that ever happens, God better be with you, and even that may not be enough!”

little did Pharaoh know… is precisely how it would turn out – God would be with Hebrew children, destroy Pharaoh’s army

for Pharaoh, had become personal contest between him and God, winner take all, one he intended to win regardless of cost to his people

God’s response (12-15)

yet again God demonstrates his authority over creation – wind, blowing now from east, later from west, now bringing locusts in unprecedented numbers… and they were hungry, maybe even hangry

every last shred of green consumed by locusts – flax and barley destroyed by hail, now wheat and grain eaten

not only were they facing severe grain shortage for both man and beast, would have no seed for planting next crop

this a multi-year disaster, would exact huge toll in lives and fortunes, showing no favoritism toward any

C. deceit in face of mercy

if only God will… (16-17)

clear from outcome that Pharaoh’s apparent repentance completely insincere – really had no intention of keeping promise

notice Pharaoh’s mindset about sin: states he has sinned, probably something said with his fingers crossed so wouldn’t count

asks for forgiveness for this one sin – only one worth bringing up, believes will not sin again, maybe doesn’t think this one is that bad… most likely only wants relief from consequences

doesn’t state it but seems to imply – if God honors request for forgiveness and relief, he will honor God’s request to let people go to worship him

God does (18-19)

even though Pharaoh probably had no intention to let Hebrew children leave the country, God yet again shows mercy

was entirely of God’s mercy that Egypt still existed – had God brought down perfect justice on them, would have been thoroughly and completely destroyed

God, knowing Pharaoh’s heart, responded to Moses’ plea for an end to locusts – caused locusts to go for swim in Red Sea

was this foreshadowing what lay ahead for Pharaoh and his army – as locusts met their end in Red Sea at God’s command, so army would be drowned in Sea at God’s command

but Pharaoh doesn’t (20)

in spite of spoken repentance and God’s faithfulness, Pharaoh once again fails to follow through, refusing instead to let Hebrew children go as God had commanded

fallen human nature such that repeated rebellion makes future sin even more likely, makes habit / pattern more difficult to break

see that in living color on regular basis – career criminals, repeat offenders, recidivism rate typically above 80 percent

So what do we see here of man’s character, man’s need? Natural man like Pharaoh hopelessly lost, deceived about true nature of sin, blinded and enslaved to Satan and sin and selfish desires. Not that the lost are dumb, they are deceived and further deceive themselves. Truly do not recognize sinfulness of sin. Anytime get close to thinking of something as sin redefine it as disability, disorder, addiction. Somehow perpetrator of sin becomes the victim. Last person they want or think they need is God, believe they can succeed well enough on their own.

You say, I’m not like that… now; used to be maybe but not any longer. May not be enslaved to sin, may not be enemy of God way Pharaoh was. But… every Christian in this life still subject to sin, temptation, even deception at times. Set ourselves up for failure when we try to handle problems on our own. Got something you think probably should change? Just won’t go away? Can’t seem to overcome it? Have you given it to God, depending on his strength and help?

Something in your life pretty sure God doesn’t approve of? You redefine it to make it less of problem? Make excuses for it – just the way I am, that person’s a good Christian and they do it too, no one’s perfect you know. Stop it. Call it what God calls it, seek forgiveness, be reconciled to God and depend on him to help you please him.

And remember this: God was faithful to his promises when Pharaoh wasn’t. When Moses wasn’t. When Aaron wasn’t. God still faithful, will receive all who come to him by faith, will forgive his children when they confess their sin to him. What will help us please God more by sinning less? Seeking our satisfaction in Christ – he prayed for our satisfaction… that his joy would be fulfilled, made complete in us. Closer we are and stay to Jesus, more satisfying he will be to us.

Mercy in the Midst of Judgment

Exodus 9:8-35

People are funny… and inconsistent. They want justice for others, mercy for themselves. Black and white for others, gray for themselves. Simple yes or no relationships in complex world. Categories to put others into while declaring “don’t fence me in”. In situations like what we find in Exodus, want to make it contest between good guys / bad guys – Pharaoh / magicians / Egyptians all bad guys, Moses / Aaron / Hebrews good guys. Like nothing better than turn Pharaoh’s palace into smoking cellar hole, drive Egyptians off cliff into Mediterranean, give spoils to children of Israel and move on.

Huge problem with that – not how God viewed the situation, so… not how we should either. Same applies to other similar situations – time after time God patiently endured rebellion, rejection, shameful sinful treatment. Time after time God provided tailor-made opportunities for repentance and reconciliation between rebellious wicked sinners and himself. Result – at various points along way, while God brings waves of just punishment on his enemies, shows mercy to them and some respond. See that take place in present text – plague of boils followed by lesson break, God displays both mercy and judgment, and Pharaoh’s heart gets harder.

A. boils v.8-11

unannounced… yet public (8)

Moses and Aaron given instructions – no warning for Pharaoh/Egyptians before this plague, just told what to do and how

includes “in the sight of Pharaoh” – unlike opponents (Satan and agents) no skulking around in dark, secret incantations, simple act done in broad daylight according to God’s instructions

God intends Pharaoh have no illusions – regardless of outcome… Pharaoh’s response, would know for certain who made wonders occur, who would make them come to end

increased intensity and danger

boils on both man and beast (9-10)

don’t know exactly what specific affliction was – do know was potentially more dangerous than previous plagues

risk of infection or worse – hindrance to productivity for both man and animal, probably no known treatment or cure

hope for best, use whatever remedies they thought best, try to tough it out even though crippling or even deadly

same word used for Job’s affliction, also Hezekiah when was sick unto death – Job wished could die, God told Hezekiah he would die, then relented and healed him

a big deal given Deut. 28:27 “The LORD will strike you with the boils of Egypt, with tumors, with the scab, and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed.”

that Egyptians and animals survived demonstrates God used restraint, kept plague from being as bad as might have been

humiliates magicians along with everyone else (11)

previously magicians failed to duplicate God’s wonders, now they are personally afflicted, unable to stand in public

God’s hand of judgment even closer to Pharaoh… and Satan – among Satan’s most powerful henchmen sidelined

B. lesson break v.13-19

command (13)

get up early – slothfulness not to be found among God’s servants; are to put forth effort working out our salvation, make every moment count for something useful to God

stand – don’t always get to serve God from sidelines: this a time when God speaking thru Moses confronts enemy directly

say – Moses/Aaron simply mouthpiece, not making news, simply reporting as God instructed “thus says the Lord God of the Hebrews”

no ambiguity there, no question who originated message; also no question about God’s redemptive purpose

was going to deliver his people so they could serve / worship him – strongly implied that Pharaoh and his people should worship true God, not idols

God’s mercy on display – young sibling watch older receive consequences, modify own behavior – God giving Pharaoh another opportunity to repent, avoid further judgment

consequences (14-15)

plagues will get personal – no escape for Pharaoh from this point on: privilege that came with position and power no longer helpful to avoid full weight of God’s anger

same purpose – God had redemptive plan for Hebrew children in view, at same time God had all aspects of our redemption in mind… along with millions of others

God intended story of deliverance of Hebrews to be vehicle that carries Gospel far beyond borders of Egypt or Palestine

God graciously continuously provides ways and means for lost people to see the unseen – to come to knowledge of God through biblical record… including this book

God holding back – not boasting, stating simple truth: had he brought full weight of righteous judgment against sin of Egyptians, they would have perished

doesn’t mean they escaped, does mean God mercifully gave reprieve… breathing room for repentance and obedience

cause (16-17)

show My power – twelve specific occasions throughout first 14 chapters of Exodus when God demonstrated his power

initial encounter with Pharaoh (rod to serpent), subsequent 10 plagues, overthrow of Egyptian army in Red Sea

declare My name – taking away excuses for unbelief, giving opportunities / incentives for repentance, warning to people of all kinds from around the world

submit to My authority – really the bottom line for everyone: when confronted with truth of who God is, what God has done, how do you respond?

Pharaoh continued to rebel, daily growing more stubborn in opposition – knew truth but refused to bow the knee to YHWH

caution (18-19)

tomorrow – another merciful delay coupled with instructive warning: what will happen, how to escape, window of opportunity

hail like never before – will be supernatural natural occurrence: rain and hail and lightning not unknown, but… no precedent for this kind of event; clearly hand of God

take shelter or die – gracious and clear communication from true God, unlike false gods who never speak; another witness to fact God’s purpose not to destroy but to deliver

C. mercy and judgment v.19-26, 31-32

responses (20-21)

those who feared the word of the Lord – not all among Egyptians determined to rebel against true God like Pharaoh

were at least to point of taking YHWH and his word seriously – were they converts? don’t know, but did heed and obey God to some extent

God didn’t write them off, neither should we – should not treat people according to particular label: homosexual, adulteress, alcoholic, Muslim, Mexican

need to see as God does – lost sinners headed for eternity without Christ who need to hear Gospel, see it lived out

those who despised the word of the Lord – treated warning as of no consequence, not worth listening to, sort of like how listened to own gods… who never spoke

devastation (22-25, 31-32)

supernatural weather event – this one a true “act of God” no insurance could cover… just as God had warned

destructive of man, beast, plant

kind of storm that destroys everything – took life of man and animal, destroyed trees and plants, consequences far beyond current growing season

food for man and beast, clothing, commerce – flax for making clothing, barley for feed, contributing to national economy

mercy shown – not all the food, not those who heeded God

kinds of wheat crops not damaged by hail – plague could have been severe enough to prevent wheat crop from maturing

not told specifically yet we know God keeps his word – those who feared God and his word spared effects of hail and fire

another way God showed he was indeed holding back, was being merciful at same time as bringing down judgment

providence (26)

God caring for his own – as before, land of Goshen, children of Israel spared effects of the plague, further evidence of God’s power and sovereignty

not because they earned it – make no mistake, were spared because God committed to caring for them in spite of sinfulness

D. heart of stone gets harder v.12, 27-35

false repentance (27-28)

said the right things – “I have sinned, YHWH is righteous, we are wicked” – all true, yet not spoken sincerely, instead saying what he thought God wanted to hear

betrayed by actions – promised to do right thing if hail stopped, then when it did Pharaoh refused to follow through

merciful honesty (29-30, 33)

end to devastation… to demonstrate God’s supremacy and authority – shown just as much in making it stop as in starting it, confining it to all but Goshen

as God said earlier, could have struck them so they died, chose to show mercy instead… setting model for us

you are not sincere – confident Pharaoh did not intend to keep his word, was not ready to submit to God’s authority

reminder – God doesn’t play games, wants sincere heart: obedience better than disobedience, joyful obedience better still

more sin (34-35)

pressure relief leads to more sin – as soon as hail stopped, went right back to former behavior: wanted relief from affliction, not relationship with YHWH

behavior modification only temporary – works as long as incentive is enough to govern behavior; as soon as constraints removed or self-discipline weakens, old behavior returns

Pharaoh/servants heard same message as other Egyptians, experienced same hardship – different response due solely to work of God in hearts

not because some smarter, more easily persuaded or intimidated – was work of Spirit of God that enabled some to respond to truth

Same is true for all present here – those who have responded to Gospel call were graciously enabled to do so by power of God. Same commands of God hardened Pharaoh and softened some of countrymen. Same Gospel hardens some, drives them further into Satan’s camp, draws others into saving faith in Jesus. How have you responded?

A Second Chance

Jonah 3:1-3a

God does not allow us to fail or disobey and then just move on. There is purpose to such experiences for our good. In fact, God has a purpose in all things he does, all things he permits. Big purpose over all subordinate ones – that God would be glorified. Next to that, God is working all things out for the good of those he has called – necessary steps to conform us to image of his Son. Don’t forget… we were called “according to purpose”, in this case… God’s purpose.

Shouldn’t live in past, at same time must not simply forget either. Things that took place before our past were done and written down for our instruction. God intends our past experiences to change and equip us for greater usefulness to him, more conformity to Christ. True as much for Jonah as for us. God did not expect Jonah to live in fish’s belly, is why he ended up back on dry land. Yet, even if he could forget, God did not want Jonah to leave that experience behind and not be changed by it.

Regardless of what he thought, Jonah not in good place when God first told him “Arise, go to Nineveh”. Jonah perhaps comfortable where he was, yet lacking one essential trait – not comfortable in obeying / pleasing God in all things. Could obey willingly, could do what was pleasing to God so long as God didn’t ask him to do certain things… like witness to people he disliked, ones he thought of as enemies. Jonah demonstrated unwillingness, yea, outright rebellion… until ran head-on into God’s firm hand of discipline. Notice, I said discipline, not punishment. God’s goal in Jonah’s life was correction, not simply consequences. In fact, God’s desire was for Jonah to do right thing for right reasons… because Jonah desired to do what was pleasing to God

Once again are introduced to God’s plan for Jonah’s life, at least his next assignment. Then are informed of God’s instruction to Jonah, finally the impact Jonah’s experience had on him.

A. introduction v.1

God takes the initiative

has not abandoned Jonah – did not tell fish to spit up Jonah, then leave to fend for himself as best he could… like we would

true in more than ultimate sense of eternal destiny – think of John 10:28-29 in that sense, no one can snatch sheep out of either Jesus’ or Father’s hand… at any point during this life either

makes clear: Jonah’s time in submersible meant to correct, not condemn – don’t know for sure the exact way Jonah “heard” God, but he knew who was speaking and what was said

when heard God again, same tone of voice, letting Jonah know they were reconciled – perhaps there on shore when Jonah got reoriented, perhaps after sacrifice and paying vows

God still sovereignly working his Plan A – Jonah’s bad behavior had not forced God to come up with another plan for Nineveh

God’s original plan A included that piece… for Jonah’s learning and for all those who hear his story

communicates verbally, not visually

primary way God communicates with mankind – words, spoken or written – prophetic intro: “thus says the Lord”

when God did use visual aids, always included explanation – Passover, dad explained; Ezekiel, living visual aid… with explanation; true even in Revelation

btw, written word carries same weight as spoken – authority comes from source of the word, not the means of communication

parent, leaves instructions, expects same response as if spoken in ear; God expects no less from his children, his Word

pictures illustrate what words say/mean – pictures rarely communicate whole story… movie adaptation of book for example

picture of OT sacrifice, NT Lord’s Supper aid understanding and remembrance, still need words to get details

a second time

Jonah a competent prophet, but… was lacking one of essentials that would make him even more useful to God

did not have thorough understanding of God’s mind and heart toward lost sinners, thus how he should think/feel/act

divinely provided instruction – gave Jonah small preview of what would be like to face imminent death without sense of God’s presence

took Jonah most of 3 days and nights to catch on but he did – decided he really didn’t want to go that route

now, let’s try that again – do that often when training children: explain wrong behavior, remind of right behavior, give another opportunity for practice

same for Jonah – bad behavior not going to earn him a pass; God wanted Jonah and all those who hear story to know just how determined God is to take Gospel to world

B. instruction v.2

Get up

“let go and let God” sounds pious but is unbiblical – at least in sense of quietly, passively letting God do whatever he wants

Jesus said “take my yoke”, means some kind of work; Paul pressed toward the goal, told Corinthians to run so as to win, Philippians to work out their salvation

“let’s go and follow God” what was expected of Jonah – let go and let’s go… let go of prejudices and follow instructions

often need to let go of things so we can be useful to God – pet ways of doing things, comfortable places to be/things to do, hangups that get in way of willing service

get out of recliner – Jonah not to be in cheering section but in the game, involved as God’s mouthpiece with skin on

God wasn’t going to pick another prophet to do Jonah’s assignment; same true for his people today – each has a divinely appointed place of service

Go

beyond limits of your comfort zone – Jonah would be content to stay within boundaries of what he knew and liked

had no desire for minstry to Nineveh, partly because knew God intended to change his mind about people of that city

place / people you think undeserving – God and Jonah not on same page about Ninevites, especially value of their souls

Jonah convinced (like most of Jewish people) that enemies were worthy only of condemnation and destruction

obvious friends welcome to immigrate, put down roots, maybe even convert to Judaism but not those treated as enemies

couldn’t come to terms with truth of God’s perspective – Jews apart from God just as lost as Ninevites… or any other people

all are just as undeserving of God’s grace and mercy, yet God loves all kinds of people and intends to redeem them from ruin

don’t expect them to make first move – even if Ninevites figured out what was missing in their lives, would never go to Israel to find it… animosity went both ways

Jonah got a fair hearing because of his experience – his story probably known, may have even been obvious from appearance something strange had happened

God uses all sorts of ways to bring people within hearing of Gospel – we need to be careful what means we try to use

Give the message

don’t add – particularly needful for Jonah to stick to script: very tempting for him to add all sorts of harsh things to message

God’s gonna get you, it will be horrible, prepare for long slow excruciating death, and there’s no way to avoid it

don’t subtract – Jonah really didn’t want Ninevites to get saved, could easily left out things that would lead to genuine repentance

whether in evangelism or other teaching, God expects his entire truth to be told – remember warning in Rev. 22:18-19

“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book;and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

from God’s message – whether Bible as Jonah had it, as we have it, or smaller portion intended for Ninevites, was God’s word

Jonah had no authority on his own, nor do we – authority and power of Bible comes from God as he accompanies proclamation of his Word

work of preacher as well as prophet – to “declare to you the whole counsel of God” – not sticking to easy parts, comfortable ones, popular texts

one of merits of preaching and teaching through books or large portions of Scripture – get to cover it all

good reminder: we cannot make God’s word and Gospel more attractive or effective by modifying it; God has expressed himself perfectly and we must be content to communicate what He said

Grasp the change

1:2 “Cry out against it” – same as calling down judgment on city because of sin of its people… similar to God’s action against Sodom and Gomorrah

3:2 “Preach to it the message” – specifically the message God would give to Jonah, no more, no less

in change of wording a hint at least of grace God was planning to show to people of Nineveh, in spite of Jonah’s reluctance

C. impact v.3

he got up

same as before – as soon as God spoke, Jonah moved… he arose from his comfort zone, knowing where he needed to go

so far so good – obedience is good even when only incremental baby steps; besides, God knows us, is patient

he went

first time he ran – pretty sure he knew what outcome of his prophetic ministry in Nineveh would be, wanted no part of it

second time he went in proper direction – north, then east over several hundred mile journey, thru dangerous territory

he obeyed

this behavior nearer goal God had for Jonah – ultimately God would be pleased if Jonah developed same heart and mind for Ninevites (the lost) as God has

doing right even though not feeling it – to do less is to increase guilt before God… not following instructions and bad attitude

God prefers undivided heart – one that is fully loyal to him, desiring to obey him and please him in all things

graciously works with less than perfect instruments – this is really good thing, none of us will arrive in this life, yet we can be blessed when we serve God to best of ability

God still gives second chances, still expects us to move past comfort zone. Closer we are to Jesus, easier it will be to be obedient, more useful will be to him.