What happened when God asked Jonah to take a message to a city that Jonah didn’t want to go to.
Let’s continue a thread we spoke about yesterday, shall we?
How can we do that when we were in 1 and 2 Corinthians? Because this is God’s Word, He doesn’t change, and He is the divine author of Scripture. The manner in which He dealt with people in the OT was different, but His ultimate goal is the same. Don’t believe it when people say that the God of the OT was angry and vengeful, but the God of the NT is loving and forgiving. He is the same God.
We talked about a believer who chooses to sin and then is rebuked, is ostracized, repents, and then is brought back into a loving fellowship of believers. Remember?
Well, in the first two verses we read today in chapter four of Jeremiah, we read, “If you will return, Israel, return to me,” announces the Lord. “Put the statues of your gods out of my sight. I hate them.
Stop going down the wrong path. Take all of your oaths in my name. Say, ‘You can be sure that the Lord is alive.’ Let all of your promises be truthful, fair and honest. Then I will bless the nations.”
So in these two verses God is inviting His people to repent of their sins. To really turn from them and live lives pleasing to God. Sound familiar? Sure.
And then He says, “Then I will bless the nations.”
Ok. So what does that mean? It means that when outsiders see these people who so obviously turned their backs on their God, who began to live like the heathens around them, give all that garbage up, their God blesses them. He welcomes them back with open arms. He forgives them.
And when they see that, they begin to believe that He is a loving and forgiving God, and they follow Him.
When, as people of God, we forgive others as God has forgiven us, the world sees that God is real. They begin to believe that they can be forgiven, too. And the so called outsiders, or “nations” are blessed.
Do you agree with me that our world is in bad shape? Seems like things are bad and getting worse. I couldn’t help but think of our present condition when I was reading chapter 64.
Isaiah, in verses 1 and 2 said: Why don’t you tear the sky open and come down? The mountains would see you and shake with fear. They would tremble like water boiling over a hot fire. Come and reveal your power to your enemies, and make the nations tremble at your presence!
Wouldn’t that be an awesome thing? I think so. If the world could see what God is like, perhaps they would begin to honor Him and He could begin a healing of the things that are so wrong around the globe. Because, let’s face it, most of the world denies Him and does whatever seems right to them.
And those of us who love Him, if we are honest, would have to agree with Isaiah when he said in verse 6: All of us have been sinful; even our best actions are filthy through and through.
Come on. Let’s be honest. We fail God every day. All of us do.
So what is the answer? Look at the beginning of verse 7. Isaiah says: No one turns to you in prayer; no one goes to you for help. You have hidden yourself from us and have abandoned us because of our sins.
We don’t pray, friends. Oh sure. We say grace over meals. We say cursory prayers now and then when we’re sick or in trouble or need something. But do we really take hold of God on a regular basis and really talk to God as if He were a real and powerful and involved Person? Do we make it a daily priority? Do we talk to Him, expecting to honestly touch Him and to hear from Him in response to us?
If God is far from us, who moved? If God doesn’t hear us, is that His fault or ours? If we truly want Him to heal our land, why would we think that anything less than a total devotion to prayer would bring that about? We as a people need to return to him with contrite hearts and a commitment to seeking His face. We need to hold onto Him as if our lives and our nation and our world depends on it, because it is true! We will not see change unless we fully devote ourselves to this critical mission. We need to cry out to Him and ask Him to change us into the people He wants us to be.
Like Isaiah prayed in verses 8 and 9, we say: But you are our father, Lord. We are like clay, and you are like the potter. You created us, 9so do not be too angry with us or hold our sins against us forever. We are your people; be merciful to us.