Humbled by God – Jonah 1:17

It Is A Terrible Thing To Fall Into The Hands Of The Living God

Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Angry Answer

Jonah was faced with, in his mind, an impossible situation:  Preach destruction to a people that he wanted God to destroy, knowing that God would show them mercy.  Rather than proceeding with God’s plan, Jonah fled in the hopes that he would not be embarrassed should God relent of his stated position to destroy Nineveh, also greatly desiring the destruction of his enemies.

The sailors who drew lots to determine who was responsible for their difficulties determined it was Jonah.  When confronted with his disobedience by the sailors, Jonah does something odd.  Rather than repent, or tell them to take him to a port near Nineveh, he instructs them to throw him overboard!  He would rather die, drowning in the water, than be responsible for the Ninevites repenting to the Lord.

Powerful Provision

God calmed the storm immediately after Jonah was thrown overboard.  Not only did God relent against the ship and crew, they began to fear God and worship Him.  God, rather than destroying Jonah, wanted to bring about some character refinement in him, and instead of letting him drown, sent a fish to swallow him.

God often wants to do more with us and through us that we would like.  We sometime fight Him kicking and screaming, because our flesh interferes with our obedience.  And, as in the case of Jonah, it was so much so that he forgot to take into account the lives that were with Him, to the point that he probably didn’t really care if the sailors died with him.  But even in that, God provided for both the sailors’ safety, and for the safety of Jonah.  We can be assured that God will provide for us in our time of need.

Contemplative Confinement

Imaging the stench of being in the belly of a fish for three days and nights.  Jonah was so angry and distraught with what God was asking him to do, that it took him THREE DAYS AND NIGHTS before he could bring himself to repent.  How much anger would that take?  It must have been something very powerful to compel Jonah to wait so long in such a difficult situation.

Most likely, a root of bitterness had taken great hold in Jonah’s heart towards the Ninevites.  God will often use a situation where we are called to be compassionate towards, and reach out to, our enemies to remove a root of bitterness that grown within us.  Jonah’s root was very well entrenched.  How many of us would have waited THREE DAYS AND NIGHTS to finally surrender to God?  Most of us would probably, in that miserable condition, have surrendered in the first few minutes.

Regardless of the situation that we find ourselves in, God will use the perfect situation to humble us in our pride, anger, bitterness, or whatever situation that we have that causes us to act contrary to the will of the Living God.  For it is only God who is able to get us to see ourselves for who we really are, and to provide opportunity for reflection and repentance.  We can only hope it won’t take being in the belly of a fish to do it.

Awesome Acknowledgement

And out of these trials comes a greater understanding and acknowledgement of the character and nature of God.  Jonah’s prayer to God shows that He yields to God’s sovereign rule in his life:

1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. 2 He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
3 You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
4 I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
5 The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.

7 “When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.

8 “Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.'”

When we come out of the other side of our humbling, we will praise, honor, and glorify God in Heaven for who He is and for our salvation through the difficulty.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  What does it take from God to help us to change our minds and humble ourselves before Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are able to humble the proud and bring low all who resist You.  You are full of mercy and grace, patiently dealing with me in Your own way.  Help me to not resist Your discipline, Lord, but rather to embrace it and be changed by it so that You would be glorified.  Help me to remove all resistance to You in my heart, that You would have unfettered access to the deepest, darkest regions of my soul, places where even I dare not visit.  Shed Your perfect light in all of the areas of darkness, and redeem what was lost by me through sin and pride.  Show me what You desire of me that I may do it, and do it with a cheerful heart, knowing that it is Your will.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Philippians 4:8-9

All Character Building Starts in the Mind

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Clarifying Contemplations

Paul lists several things upon which Christians should meditate (fill your mind with the Word of God, then prayerfully seek to understand the meaning of what you are dwelling upon as it relates to the rest of the Word of God and its application in your life as the Holy Spirit reveals its meaning to you):

  • True
    • Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”  He Himself is worthy of thinking upon and pondering.  Additionally, we should see what is true.  So much of the world we live in is built upon historical revisionism and incorrect understanding, that it is worthy to seek the truth and then to dwell upon it.
  • Noble
    • From the Greek, semna – to be grave, honorable, venerable
    • We are encouraged to seek out that which is deserving of honor and dwell upon that as well.  So much in the world is crass and dishonorable.  This helps us to remember what should be kept in a place of honor.
  • Right
    • From the Greek, dikaios – to be just, righteous
    • God is both Just and Righteous.  We should also think about events and actions that exemplify these Godly characteristics
  • Pure
    • From the Greek, hagna – properly, clean: i.e. (figuratively) innocent, modest, and perfect; and therefore chaste, clean, pure.
    • We are to discard the filth in our lives – anything that brings crassness to our speech, actions, or thoughts.  Instead, we are to focus on what is chaste, clean and pure.  This will realign our thinking from the base things of this world and remind us of the purity of things above.
  • Lovely
    • From the Greek, prosphilE – pros (to be for or inclined towards) and philE (to love with a brotherly love)
    • The fruit of the spirit starts with love.  We should think upon things that are lovely since God Himself is love.  It will help us to align our character with His.
  • Admirable
    • From the Greek, euphEma – well-spoken of, respectable, of good report
    • We should also dwell upon those things that are commendable.  They remind us of what we should be doing, that our actions would be commendable as well, that God would be glorified through them.
  • Excellent
    • From the Greek, aretE – valorous, excellent, to be praised, virtuous
    • We are to set our minds upon those things that are courageous, excellent, virtuous, rather than what is despised, selfish, and otherwise deserving of shame.  We are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ.
  • Praiseworthy
    • From the Greek, epainos – a commendable thing, praiseworthy
    • Since all glory, honor, praise, power, dominion, and strength belong to God, and we are the image-bearers of God, we should also focus our minds upon those things that are praiseworthy and commendable, as they will help us to train our minds to do the same when we are in difficult situations.

Experience Exercised

Paul encourages believers to look at his life and to do what he is doing that fits this criteria.  We should be looking towards leaders who exemplify these characteristics, and then emulate them as we are enabled to do so.  It is through practice that we are able to refine our skills and hone them to a sharpness that is able to cut through the garbage and be effective.  Watch what good leaders are doing.  Identify their commendable traits as proscribed by the Word of God, and implement them practically into your everyday life.

Peace Perceived

Paul leaves us with a promise.  When we put these characteristics into practice, God’s peace will be with us.  These do not make us any more commendable to God, for it is the righteousness of Christ that is upon us that does that.  The implementation of these characteristics by dwelling upon them in our minds will lead to actions of like kind.  God is pleased when we are living out our imputed righteousness, as we are image-bearers of God, after all…

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Is what I am putting into my mind going to lead to the type of character development that God is seeking?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I praise You for You are worthy of all honor, glory, praise, power, strength and dominion.  You have seen fit to make me, and to give me the task of bearing Your holy image – Your character.  Father, install within me today a better sense of Your holiness, that as I put things into my mind, that they would be beneficial to the growth of the type of character that You desire to see in me.  Help me to put aside anything that does not glorify You, and fill my mind with all that does.  Strengthen me that I would be able to put into practice all that You teach me through this.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?