You Loved Me Back

It seems He is always loving my soul back either from the edge of the pit, or pulling me out if I’m already down there stuck in the muck.

Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. Isaiah 38:17 

The word translated bitterness above is the Hebrew adjective mar or marah. It means angry, bitterly chafed, discontented, great (as in greatly or bitterly distressed), heavy (as in have a heavy or bitter heart).1 It comes from the same root as the name Mara, or bitter, which Naomi called herself after her sons and husband died, leaving her bereft in a foreign land. 

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” Ruth 1:20 

We have all, or I’m betting at least many of us, have felt like Naomi. Life has not turned out as expected. We have been dealt a bitter blow. We have lost loved ones. We have been left alone. It can be easy to become angry at God, bitter, discontented.  

In the verse above from Isaiah, Hezekiah is recounting how very bitter he was when he was told that he had a terminal disease. He even repeats the word twice for emphasis in the Hebrew. He literally says “it was bitter, was bitter unto me,” or “I had such bitterness, such bitterness.”  

But then he declares the most wonderful thing: but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. 

Do you know what that says, literally, in the original Hebrew? “Thou hast loved me out of the pit of corruption,”2 or “thou hast loved my soul back from the pit of destruction – as if God’s love, beaming on the monarch’s soul, had drawn it back from the edge of the pit.3 

You have loved my soul back! Oh, yes! What amazing grace! How many times has He done that for me? It seems He is always loving my soul back either from the edge of the pit, or pulling me out if I’m already down there stuck in the muck. Loving me back from anger and discontent and bitterness. Pulling me up out of depression, fear, despair and hopelessness. He has loved my soul back. 

But the most wonderful thing is: for you have cast all my sins behind your back. Picture that – God throwing my sins behind His back “Where they could be no more seen, and therefore would be no more remembered.”3  

And what does Hezekiah say about why all this happened to him? It was for my welfare. Literally, it was for my shalom: my completeness, soundness, welfare, peace. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 

It was for my completeness, soundness, welfare, peace that I had such bitterness, such bitterness. But you have loved me back from the brink – from the pit of destruction, corruption, failure, nothingness. For you have cast away, thrown, flung, hurled all my sins behind your back.  

“The worst-case scenario is that all the very worst things happen, and I am still loved.” — Ann Voskamp, excerpt from the WayMaker Study Guide 

Yes, we are still, always, loved, even when the worst-case scenario happens. And He is drawing us – me and you – always loving us back. Back to Him. Praise for His amazing grace! 

I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them. Hosea 11:4 (ESV) 

I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. Psalm 40:1-2 

“Salvation means rescue from the pit of destruction, from the miry clay of ourselves.” — Elisabeth Elliot, A Path Through Suffering 

1Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance 

2Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers 

3Pulpit Commentary 

Image, Killer Cliffs! by Martin Cathrae https://flic.kr/p/jqrf5

Justice to Victory

“We deserve bare bones justice, and what we get is grace upon grace upon grace.”

Here is My Servant,  

whom I have chosen,  

My beloved,  

in whom My soul delights.  

I will put My Spirit on Him,  

and He will proclaim justice to the nations.  

He will not quarrel or cry out;  

no one will hear His voice in the streets.  

A bruised reed He will not break,  

and a smoldering wick He will not extinguish,  

till He leads justice to victory.  

In His name the nations will put their hope. (Matthew 12:18-21) 

This prophecy about the Messiah, which first appears in Isaiah 42:1-3, says that he will proclaim justice to the nations, and that he will lead justice to victory. I wondered, what does that mean – leading justice to victory? Does it mean what it looks like at first glance, that He will finally bring justice and condemnation on all the evil in the world? Will He finally judge all the rebellious and sinners? I know that will happen someday, at His second coming. But I think that the “justice to victory” that He brought the first time was something else. Something wonderful. 

Matthew is clear in repeating this prophecy about the Messiah from Isaiah that he is referring to Jesus first incarnation, or first coming, for the verses leading up to it say: Large crowds followed Him, and He healed them all, warning them not to make Him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah (Matthew 12:16-17). 

The Hebrew word translated “justice” in the original prophecy is mishpat, which means judgment. It comes from shapat, which means to avenge, condemn, contend, execute judgment. Throughout the Bible God warns that the judgment for sin is death: 

And the LORD God commanded the man … “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:16-17 

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Romans 5:12 (NLT) 

Each one shall be put to death for his own sin. Deuteronomy 24:16 

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 

Pure justice then is death for all who sin. That’s all of us, who in our selfishness and greed and lust have killed and maimed and impoverished each other – physically, mentally, spiritually.  For what we do, even secretly, even what we secretly think, affects those around us – “so death spread to everyone.” 

But, instead of pouring out His judgment on us, God’s judgment on sin was poured out on Jesus at the Cross. As Pastor Troy Gentz preaches, “we deserve bare bones justice, and what we get is grace upon grace upon grace.” In willingly dying as a sacrifice for our sin on the Cross, Jesus was victorious over sin and death. He brought justice to victory. 

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8: 3-4 

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. Colossians 2:13-15 (NLT) 

“He [Paul] applies to us personally what Christ accomplished perfectly. When we are united to Christ by faith, his punishment becomes ours and his righteousness becomes ours, and God counts our sins against us no more.” — John Piperi  

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:25-26 

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57 

Thanks be to God that He brought my justice – the justice due to me – to victory by the shed blood of Jesus for us on the Cross!

Come to Him, wounded and fading and He will give you life. For “a bruised reed he will not break and a smouldering wick he will not extinguish.” Salvation 

iHow Did the Cross Disarm the Devil? https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-did-the-cross-disarm-the-devil 

Image by Jack Bair

God is Pleased

This pleasure doesn’t just mean to be happy, but reaches out to embrace me by accepting the sacrifice made on my behalf.  

For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Psalm 40:12 

“My heart fails.” How often lately have I felt that way! I was drawn to look closer at this verse and was amazed (but I shouldn’t have been!) to find it leading me to the passion of God for the reconciliation of the world to himself. It all leads back to the Cross where the way back to God was opened. Everything leads to the Cross. 

Though I went looking specifically at verse 12 and the “my heart fails” part, it was the next verse, Psalm 40:13, that arrested me. 

Be pleased (with me, delight yourself to make me acceptable, accomplish, accept the sacrifice, satisfy my debt, reconcile me, pardon me) to save (deliver, rescue) me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me. Psalm 40:13 

It was the “be pleased” part that struck me. When I looked at the Hebrew I saw that it doesn’t just mean to be happy, but reaches out to embrace me by accepting the sacrifice made on my behalf.  

The Hebrew word is ratsah (רָצָה). It means, according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, “to be pleased with; specifically, to satisfy a debt.” It means to be acceptable, approve, delight yourself, enjoy, pardon, be favorable, reconcile.  

God is pleased, delights even, to make me acceptable. He takes pleasure in accepting the sacrifice satisfying my debt. He delights to reconcile me, pardon me, save me!  

For God was pleased (took pleasure, was willing) to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1:19-20 

What amazing grace! My heart fails from sin. I am oppressed and trapped under impossible debt. What is God’s response? He is pleased – takes pleasure, enjoys, is willing – to reconcile me to Himself, through the shed blood of His Son. It is not because He has to, but because it makes Him happy. It gives Him great pleasure. It delights Him. And even more than this, God is pleased to give me the kingdom, an everlasting inheritance with Him. God is pleased to do this as Jesus affirmed in Luke 12. 

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased (takes pleasure, is willing) to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32 

I am overtaken now, not with my inescapable sin, but with His overwhelming, unfailing, unending, amazing grace and compassion. 

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion (inheritance, allotment) forever. Psalm 73:26 

Jesus’ Spit

For everything they did to him, there was a counterpart of love and mercy.

I was reading the account in Matthew 27 of the soldiers mocking Jesus before they took him to be crucified. When I got to the part about how they spit in his face (oh think of that! The Face of God, the Presence!) I thought about what Jesus had done with his spit. He had used it to heal the blind and the deaf.  

And then I looked at all of the things the soldiers did to Jesus that day and saw that for each one there was a counterpart of love and mercy. Where Jesus was stripped, we have been clothed. Where he was mocked to belittle and shame him, we are encouraged and comforted and named. Below is Matthew 27:27-31 with what Jesus endured from the soldiers interspersed with His compassionate response. See what great love the Father has lavished on us! 

Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him.  

They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him 

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness … Isaiah 61:10  

and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. 

Bless the Lord O my soul … who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion … Psalm 103:4 

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 1 Peter 5:4 

They put a staff in his right hand. 

… your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 

Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said.  

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. Revelation 1:5-6 

As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and, “In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’” Romans 9:25-26 

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1  

They spit on him 

There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. Mark 7:32-33  

He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” Mark 8:23 

After saying this, he [Jesus] spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. John 9:6 

and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.  

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5 

Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle. Psalm 140:7 

After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. Matthew 27:27-31 

On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:16 (ESV)

Image in the Public Domain

Rahab

Do you see the message of grace and mercy printed right into the DNA of Jesus? 

So she [Rahab] let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. Joshua 2:15 

The story of Rahab, described as a harlot in Jericho, is told in Joshua chapters 2 and 6. She hid the Israelites who were spying out the city, and helped them to escape, and in doing so saved herself and her family. In Hebrews 11:31 it says that Rahab did this by faith. She decided to put her faith and life in the hands of this wonder-working God she had heard of.  

Rahab, and her actions hiding the Israelite spies, is mentioned twice in the New Testament as an example of faith showing itself in good works. But, did you know that Rahab was the great-great grandmother of King David, and therefore in the genealogy of Jesus? 

But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day. Joshua 6:25 

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham … Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. Matthew 1:1, 5-6 

Here’s some commentary on Rahab’s marriage to Salmon: 

The Old Testament records are silent as to the marriage of Salmon with the harlot of Jericho. When they were compiled it was probably thought of as a blot rather than a glory; but the fact may have been preserved in the traditions of the house of David. It has been conjectured that Salmon may have been one of the two unnamed spies whose lives were saved by Rahab, when he was doing the work which Caleb had done before him. The mention of Rahab in James 2:25, Hebrews 11:31, shows that her fame had risen at the time when St. Matthew wrote. —Elliott’s Commentary for English Readers (emphasis mine) 

I always thought that this was why Boaz had no qualms about marrying a despised Moabite, Ruth, because his own mother was a Canaanite outcast. Both Rahab and Ruth had converted and chosen to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What is so wonderful is that these two foreigners and outsiders are prominent in the family tree of Jesus (see Matthew 1:1-16).  

And they are not the only ones in the genealogy that raise eyebrows. There is Tamar, who acted as a prostitute to lure Judah into obeying the command of God. There is Bathsheba, whose extramarital tryst resulted in an unplanned pregnancy and the murder of her husband. Not to mention Mary, who became pregnant out of wedlock. And that’s just the women. There was also David, who committed the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Ahaz who sacrificed his children to false gods, and Manasseh, about whom it is written that he “shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end.” 

You know that saying, “you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family”? Well, God could have. God could have arranged that Jesus be born of a spotless, totally righteous bloodline of perfect people. But he did not.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones has written that when Jesus left heaven “he left heaven as God, God the Son, but when he returned to heaven he was God and Man. He has taken human nature with him.”1 How wonderful! How amazing! Right from the start, and on into eternity, God, through Jesus, embraces humanity, embraces the sinner – even the most horrible, detestable of sinners. By taking on human nature and living a perfect human life, Jesus has made a Way to take us back to heaven with and in him.

Rahab’s scarlet cord, that she tied in the window to ward off the attackers, was a foreshadowing of salvation by the atoning death, the shed blood, of Jesus. Ruth laying down at the feet of Boaz and asking him to marry her is a picture of Christ and the Bride, the Church. Do you see the message of grace and mercy printed right into the DNA of Jesus? 

It doesn’t matter what you have done, you can come to God and be accepted into the family through the blood of Jesus shed for you. Turn from your sin. Put your faith in what He did for you on the cross. Bow down at his feet as Ruth did. He wants to receive you, cleanse you, save you, and marry you as the holy Bride of Christ, the Church. 

Salvation 

You can use this as a free Bible study here.

1Sanctified through the Truth, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Crossway Books. 1989

Image free download from pixabay 

Compassionate and Gracious

Like a lover, totally focused on the beloved, leaning forward wanting to hear every word, every sigh.

He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalm 103:7-8 (ESV) 

And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness … “ Exodus 34:6 

The psalmist says that God made his ways and acts known to Moses. God always wants to be known. I am thinking that I should pay attention when God defines himself. God describes himself this way: compassionate and gracious (or merciful), slow to anger and abounding in love. I looked at the first two attributes and was overwhelmed. I would like to save the second two for a future blog. 

The first two words are the Hebrew rachum and channun. These two words are each used thirteen times in the Old Testament. Linked together, to describe God, they are used twelve times. Alone or together, they are always only used as attributes of God. Rachum means full of compassion, merciful; channun means gracious, “as hearing the cry of the vexed debtor.”i 

John J. Parsons has this to say about these concepts: 

“Notice first that the LORD calls himself rachum v’chanun, often translated ‘merciful and gracious.’ The noun rechem means ‘womb’ in Hebrew, indicating that God’s compassion is like a mother’s deep love for her child. The word chanun (from chen, grace or favor) indicates that God is a graceful giver who is favorably disposed to help those in need. God is compassionate and favorable to those who call upon Him.” — John J. Parsons, Hebrew for Christiansii  

The adjective rachum comes from the verb racham, to love, to have compassion, or to compassionate. A.W. Tozer explains it this way: 

“According to the Old Testament, mercy has certain meanings: to stoop in kindness to an inferior, to have pity upon and to be actively compassionate. It used to be a verb form of the word compassion, but we don’t use it anymore — maybe it’s because we don’t have the concept anymore. God actively ‘compassionates’ suffering men — I like that wonderfully well. For God to feel compassion at a distance is one thing, but for God actively to compassionate with people is something else.”– A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God  

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:8-9 

The second word, channun or gracious – hearing the cry of the debtor and being favorably disposed to help – reminds me of the parable Jesus told in Matthew 18 of the man who came before the master with overwhelming, impossible debt. But when he cried out for mercy “the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.” 

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15 

The compassion and grace of God are tightly woven together. God’s rachum, the deep love of a parent for a child, moves him to be gracious. Tozer notes in his book, The Attributes of God, that grace and mercy are not things that God does, but who God is. God is forever the compassionate Father favorably disposed toward those who cry out to him, always welcoming home the prodigal. 

And Jesus was saying to us, ‘You went away in Adam, but you’re coming back in Christ. And when you come back, you’ll find the Father hasn’t changed. He’s the same Father that He was when you all went out, every man to his own way. But when you come back in Jesus Christ you’ll find Him exactly the same as you left Him–unchanged. And the Father ran and threw his arms around him and welcomed him and put a robe and a ring on him and said, ‘This my son was dead, and he’s alive again’ ([Luke] 15:24). This is the grace of God.” — A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God (emphasis mine) 

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:11 

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to confidently draw near to God because of these two attributes. 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy (pity, compassion) and find grace (kindness, “the Lord’s favor – freely extended to give Himself away to people because He is ‘always leaning toward them’”)iii to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

Isn’t that amazing and wonderful? The word for “grace” in the Greek includes the picture of God “freely giving himself away to people” and “always leaning toward them.” Like a lover, totally focused on the beloved, leaning forward wanting to hear every word, every sigh. Like a parent leaning forward to catch the newly walking toddler. Like the father leaning forward, straining to see the very first glimpse of his returning child. 

For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him. 2 Chronicles 30:9 (ESV) 

… as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:12-14 

Come back. If you have wandered far away, come back. If you are near, but have hardened your heart, come back. Come. Jesus has freely given himself for you on the cross. He is leaning toward you. He is the same unchanging God that introduced himself to Moses, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” 

Salvation

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Mount Ebal

It struck me as kind of weird that God commanded Joshua to build the altar there.

Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites. — Joshua 8:30 

After the Israelites had come into the promised land and won a couple of battles, Joshua built an altar to the Lord and offered sacrifices – the burnt offering and the fellowship offering. It struck me as kind of weird that God commanded Joshua to build the altar there on Mount Ebal because it was the mountain of cursing. 

When the LORD your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses. Deuteronomy 11:29 

Half of the tribes were to stand on Mount Ebal and call out the curses that would incur to those who failed to obey the commandments (Deuteronomy 27:14-26). And half were to stand on Mount Gerizim and call out the blessings. Wouldn’t God want the altar to be built on the place of blessings? 

But then I saw that this is the whole point.  

God didn’t turn his back on those who committed sin. He didn’t say that he would only receive sacrifices from the ones who perfectly kept the commandments. He knew that the blessing was unattainable without the altar of repentance. But mostly, it was unattainable without the One to whom the sacrifices pointed. God left room for mercy, looking forward to the final sacrifice for sin, to Jesus, the Lamb of God, who would set us free from the curse forever. 

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Galatians 3:13 

Don’t cover over your sins and try with all your might to obtain the blessing through self-righteousness. Go to the mountain of cursing. Admit your failures before God. That is where the altar is. 

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Luke 5:32 

Image, Mount Ebal (Eival) in Samaria, by Bukvoed in Wikimedia Commons 

Mercy

This week, through the blogs and devotionals that I follow, came a clear message from God of mercy and hope.i Keep praying! 

“… Jesus declared: “The fields are ripe for harvest. And there is still time for laborers to go forth.” Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the Holy Spirit has fled the scene, leaving behind a withered harvest. God’s Spirit is still at work, convicting, wooing and drawing the lost to Christ, including those in apostasy.” — David Wilkerson (1931-2011) 

The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him. Daniel 9:9 

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners … Isaiah 61:1 

“Every ransomed man owes his salvation to the fact that during the days of his sinning God kept the door of mercy open by refusing to accept any of his evil acts as final.” — A.W. Tozer 

i (Special thanks to Beholding Him Ministries! https://beholdinghimministries.org/

Photo by Jack Bair

Provided

We might not be happy with all the things that God “provides” for us, but we have to keep in mind that God always has his heart and mind focused on something greater.

But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah … (Jonah 1:17 NIV) 

I was reading the book of Jonah again recently and that word “provided” in this translation caught my attention. Besides the whale, God also “provided” a vine for shade, a worm to kill the vine, and a scorching east wind and hot sun (Jonah 4:6-8).

It is kind of an amusing translation to me because the meaning of “provide” that I always think of is “to supply or make available (something wanted or needed).”i Kind of like the amenities offered at a hotel. But, the only thing here that Jonah I think wanted or thought he needed was the shade of the vine, which made him “very happy” (Jonah 4:6). Certainly not the whale or the discomfort of the blazing desert heat.  

But there is another, what Merriam Webster calls, archaic definition of this word which is closer to the actual Hebrew meaning. And that is “to prepare in advance.” The Hebrew word is manah (מָנָא), which means to count, reckon, number, assign, tell, appoint, ordain, or prepare. In this case, God assigned to Jonah, or appointed/prepared for him the whale, vine, worm and weather. Jonah is not too happy about most of what has been assigned to him – including his assignment, in the first place, to go to Nineveh and urge repentance. We also have assignments prepared in advance. 

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 

Many times, it seems, the things that God provides for us are, as in Jonah’s case, the means to gently (or maybe it feels not so gently) change our attitudes and nudge us into these good works.  

The Hebrew word manah also can mean count or number, as in “counted among” or “numbered with,” as in this verse: 

Therefore I will give him [Messiah] a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12 

Messiah himself had an assignment; things prepared in advance for him to accomplish. We might not be happy with all the things that God “provides” or assigns to us, but we have to keep in mind that God always has his heart and mind – his very being – passionately focused on something greater. Something greater than our comfort or temporal happiness or personal preferences at the moment. And that is always the salvation of people (including us!). 

“Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” Jonah 4:11 (NASB) 

Unlike Jonah, who ran in the opposite direction, Jesus, the Messiah, gave us the perfect example of accepting that which God has provided for us. He “for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Hebrews 12:2), and resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem and the cross that awaited (Luke 9:51).  

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” John 18:11 

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39 

Lord, I pray that you would work in me “to will and to act according to your good purpose,” that I might do the good works prepared in advance, and that you won’t have to “provide” for me very many whales – or worms. 

So [Jonah] complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you were a gracious and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. I knew how easily you could cancel your plans for destroying these people. Jonah 4:2 (NLT) 

i Merriam Webster 

Image attribution: Pieris rapae caterpillar, by James Lindsey at Ecology of Commanster 

Another Lost Sheep

Jesus came for the ones who have been written off.

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:
“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.  Luke 15:1-5

This fellow welcomes sinners. One of my favorite verses. He welcomes us sinners! He doesn’t just tolerate us. That word means to receive or give access to one’s self, to admit into companionship, to accept and not to reject. It comes from a word that means to receive into one’s family, to embrace, make one’s own. What glorious grace! And, praise God, he doesn’t wait for us to come to him, because if he did, most of us would never find our way. This fellow goes out and tracks us down.

Everyone will be lost at one time or another. Or many times. Some of us chronically wander into narrow canyons where paths stop so abruptly you can’t even turn around and go back out. Only a shepherd’s crook from an overhanging ledge in the hands of a strong shepherd can haul you up to safety.—Suzanne Guthrie

I love that – everyone will be lost at one time or another. I love, too, the title of the above image by Kristen Klein: Found – Another Lost Sheep. Yes, another.

There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God … (Romans 3:22-23)

And that lostness does not merely mean the meandering wandering of a confused sheep. The word translated “lost” is the Greek word apollumi, which means to destroy, mar or render useless, perish, be lost, die or kill. It comes from two words:

apo = the separation of a part from the whole; separation of one thing from another by which the union or fellowship of the two is destroyed; a state of separation, that is of distance

olethros = ruin, death, destruction

Isn’t that what sin is all about? Separation from the family. Separation from fellowship, leading to ruin, death, and destruction. It’s a hopeless word; it’s a seemingly final word. Yet (yet!), Jesus said he came for us destroyed, ruined, marred, perished, dead ones. He came for us, who by our sin and wandering from the way, have been separated from the flock, separated from fellowship with God, headed toward ruin, death, and destruction.

If you are trapped in one of those dead-end canyons and feel like you can’t turn around, that you can’t go back, that it’s too late for you, know this: Jesus came for the ones who have been written off. The ones, who in the eyes of world and maybe their own eyes too, are already dead. But not in the eyes of God. Never in the eyes of God.

He is seeking you right now. He welcomes you. Cry out to him and the strong Shepherd will be there instantly.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 1 Timothy 1:15

For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. Romans 3:22-24 (MSG)

 

This blog is also available as a Bible study, free to copy and use, at Another Lost Sheep Bible Study

Image, Found – another lost sheep . . . by Kristen Klein https://flic.kr/p/iZRiZV

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