Shepherd, Lamb, MidWinter Conference
I hope you each experience a blessed Holy-day season of celebration and are enjoying the beginning of the New Year. January to me is when I begin reading the Word of God afresh. Today I am reading in Genesis and Matthew and receiving new insights as the Spirit teaches me from the Living Word.
I closed out 2023 in December by reading the prophets from Daniel through Malachi. I was particularly impacted by the account of Jonah and the big fish. Most followers of Jesus are familiar with Jonah and when asked to give a summation of his journey could readily do so. They would begin with a prophet called to go to Nineveh, who disobeys God, and while on a boat in a huge storm, is swallowed by a big fish where he spent three days and nights. He then completes his assignment to preach in Nineveh, where his message to repent is received by the entire city. He is not happy about the results, especially when his shade plant withers.
As I read this year, God helped to change my perspective. Instead of thinking about Jonah, I focused on Jonah’s God. Jonah’s adventure is extremely interesting and riveting. It took me a little effort to step back, look up, and see what I could learn about My Heavenly Father.
Jonah knew God was merciful. “I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.” (Jonah 4:3) He was not only merciful to the people of Nineveh, He was gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness to Jonah. Even as Jonah fled, He Who never changes, patiently pursued His servant.
God was merciful to Jonah’s shipmates. He redeemed the storm, and everyone on the ship learned about this compassionate and yet powerful God. “The men feared Jehovah exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to Jehovah and made vows.” (Jonah 1:16). God knew those men, protected them, and cared for them. It appears they met the living God in a new way through this adventure. Truly when God’s judgements are in the earth, the inhabitants learn righteousness.
God used this historical event to foreshadow the death and burial of His Son. “(Jesus) answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. Had His purpose fulfilled through His chosen servant.’” (Matthew 12:39-41)
God enabled Jonah, often against his wishes and desires, to nonetheless fulfill the works which had been uniquely prepared for him to accomplish. This is so encouraging to me, for each of us has been designed for a specific task, and God is faithfully helping us to fulfill it. “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10).
I had read most of the Bible by the time I came to Jonah a few weeks ago and I was familiar with Assyria, this mighty military nation. When I consider the wholesale repentance from the citizens to their ruler and what transpired in that huge city, it is miraculous. It took three days journey to travel through this sprawling metropolis that housed thousands of people. God what not only prepared Jonah to preach, He had prepared the hearts of the Assyrians people to hear.
I was also blessed by the little verse, where God reminds Jonah, “Should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:11) God not only cares for the people but for the animals as well. This is our kind and compassionate God. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” (Matthew 10:29)
God is a really good teacher. Our Rabbi knows how to tutor each of us. He knew that Jonah would learn after he spent three days in the belly of the large fish, which God had appointed for His prophet. Jonah’s prayer is sublime and inspired. “Jehovah appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed to Jehovah his God from the belly of the fish, saying, ‘I called out to Jehovah, out of my distress, and He answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice.’” (Jonah 1:17-2:2)
Three Upcoming Events
1) Join me in Xenia, Ohio on January 27 for a Family Discipleship Day.
2) On February 9-10, I will be speaking to men in Alexandria, VA.
3) February 23-24 is the MidWinter Encouragement Conference for Parents and Teens in Lancaster, PA. See who is coming and how you can make plans to come yourself! The cost is low and the speakers are amazing. In the middle of winter we can all use a time of refreshing and renewal.
Bible Reading Schedules
If you are considering a schedule to follow and keep you on track for 2024 and beyond, consider these three schedules, one for the New Testament and Psalms, one for the Old Testament, and another simplified Old Testament. I have used these since 1989 and described them in Podcast 387, “By Every Word” a phrase taken from Matthew 4:4 and Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
These are posted weekly here and on Facebook.
387 By Every Word, #1, Man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
388 By Every Word, #2, It is never too early to read Scripture to your children.
389 By Every Word, #3, He shall read in it all the days of his life. Instructions for kings.
390 By Every Word, #4, Walking the light of His Word.
391 By Every Word, #5, The Word of God is living and active.
392 By Every Word, #6, All Scripture Points to Jesus
May you each taste the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” this Holy Day Season. (2 Corinthians 13:14)