TEXTS AND APPLICATION: Here is one example of where reading the Bible chronologically has been helpful to me this year. Jonah is first mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25 as a prophet who foretold the expansion of Israel’s territory. In the book named after him, his story is much more fully developed.
That story calls me to self-reflection at several levels:
1. Am I running from anything God wants me to do? Jonah had no question what God wanted, but he still ran as far as he could run — even so far he thought he could outrun God.
Jonah 1:1-3 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because their wickedness has confronted Me.” However, Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence.
2. Can I sleep in disobedience? It is both amazing and alarming that Jonah could be fully out of the Lord’s will, nevertheless sleep well, and still claim to fear God.
Jonah 1:5 Meanwhile, Jonah had gone down to the lowest part of the vessel and had stretched out and fallen into a deep sleep.
3. Do I recognize the miracle of prayer? From the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed — and he recognized that God was so much different than the pagan idols. His God actually heard his prayers.
Jonah 2:7-9 As my life was fading away, I remembered Yahweh. My prayer came to You, to Your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forsake faithful love, but as for me, I will sacrifice to You with a voice of thanksgiving.
4. Am I amazed by God’s grace? God used an imperfect fleeing prophet to preach a message that led a vicious pagan society to turn to Him. Do I believe such responses to the Word still happen?
Jonah 3:5 The men of Nineveh believed in God. They proclaimed a fast and dressed in sackcloth—from the greatest of them to the least.
5. Is there anyone I do not want God to forgive? Jonah’s largest concern was that God would be Himself: He would be compassionate toward Jonah’s enemy, the Ninevites.
Jonah 4:2 He prayed to the Lord: “Please, Lord, isn’t this what I said while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to become angry, rich in faithful love, and One who relents from sending disaster.”
6. Do I pay more attention to stuff than to people? Jonah was more concerned about a plant than people. My objects of attention may not be plants, but I know I sometimes worry more about “things” than people.
Jonah 4:10-11 So the Lord said, “You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in a night and perished in a night. Should I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than 120,000 people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?”
7. If my story were to end today, how would it end? Jonah’s story ends with the prophet still displeased, with no indication that he responded positively to God’s rebuke. I want to put my head on my pillow tonight knowing that my walk with God is marked by purity, consistency, and a burden for the lost.
PRAYER: Reading the Word often reminds me that I have much heart work to do. Pray for me to hear the Lord clearly even when what He says to me through His Word hurts.
TOMORROW’S READING: 2 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 26