1 Samuel 21-22, Ezekiel 32, Philippians 4

Read 1 Samuel 21-22, Ezekiel 32, and Philippians 4.

This devotional is about Philippians 4.

Paul experienced many difficulties and stressors during his ministry. So, it must have been incredibly encouraging to have the Philippians as his friends. While they had some interpersonal problems (cf. 2:3-4 with 4:2-3), they were loved deeply by the apostle and they returned that love, even sending Epaphroditus to help personally (2:25) as well as financial aid (4:10-18).

There is so much joy in this letter that it is easy to forget that Paul was in prison when he wrote it (cf. 1:12, 17). The Philippians’ friendship and Paul’s imprisonment form the background out of which he wrote the chapter we read today. His imprisonment, particularly, was the circumstance he lived in when he wrote verses 6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Undoubtedly Paul was a man who had practiced these commands in his own life repeatedly. His command to the Philippians to deal with their fears that way rose out of his own experience as well as from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

In verses 8-9 he commanded them to discipline their thoughts toward good and godly things instead of focusing on their problems, complaints or fears.

Many of our negative emotions rise out of undisciplined thinking. We attach meaning to things that happen, then tell ourselves negative stories about the meaning we’ve made up.

It is easy to do and we’ve all done it, at least at certain times in our lives or with certain events of our lives. God’s word, however, gives us a different story–a truthful one–to tell ourselves about anything and everything that happens in life. A sovereign God has ordered the events of your life for his glory and your good. There will be problems, pains, stresses, heartbreak, sorrow, and grief in this life. That’s because this life and this world have been broken by sin, not because God doesn’t love you.

The solution to the problems of life is to trust God’s promise and put your hope in his future kingdom. When it comes, the pains of this life will be forgotten and the perfect life that you and I want will be real; it can never be real until then.

When life tempts you to think thoughts of despair, replace those thoughts with truth: God loves you and redeemed you from the guilt of your sin and the punishment you deserve for it. He is preparing a perfect, eternal kingdom for you and is re-making you into a perfect person by his grace.

While we have much less to fear than the martyrdom that ultimately took Paul’s life, his teaching reminds us that, no matter how little or much we fear, the Lord is waiting to hear our prayers and give us peace as we look to him.

Ruth 1, Ezekiel 11, Acts 28

Read Ruth 1, Ezekiel 11, and Acts 28.

This devotional is about Ruth 1.

The book of Judges was a difficult, depressing account of how Israel failed to follow the Lord and the results of that failure. The events recorded here in the book of Ruth took place in the same time period as the book of Judges, according to Ruth 1:1. As was often the case in the book of Judges, Israel was suffering; this time it was due to a famine (v. 1b). Worried about feeding his family, a man from Bethlehem named Elimelek took his wife Naomi and his sons Orpah and Ruth to Moab (v. 1c). 
 
A famine like this one was not supposed to happen in Israel. If God’s people worshiped the Lord and obeyed his word, God had promised prosperity for them. What is ironic in this passage is that “Bethlehem” means “house of bread,” yet Elimelek left the house of bread because of famine. A famine in the house of bread is like IHOP being out of pancakes. But the wickedness of Israel brought God’s discipline on them through this famine. 

Elimelek was not supposed to leave the land of Israel, nor were he sons supposed to find wives among the Moabites, but both things happened. Elimelek died in Moab (v. 3) and his sons, who married Moabite women (v. 4), also died ten years after the family came to Moab (v. 5). Was this an act of judgment for leaving the land and marrying foreign wives? The author of Ruth does not say. Maybe this was just part of God’s providence; maybe it was the consequence of their actions. The truth is, however, that it is never safe nor wise to choose disobedience, no matter how dire your circumstances are.

Meanwhile, God lifted the drought that caused the famine and there was bread again in Bethlehem. Naomi, the widow of Elimelek, determined to return to her homeland (vv. 6-7). Her daughters-in-law pledged themselves to return with her. Maybe that was expected in their culture. Maybe Ruth and Orpah felt bad for Naomi or were uncertain about their prospects for remarriage. Naomi, however, graciously released them from any obligation to come to Israel (vv. 6-13). Orpah took this exit ramp and returned home (v. 14a) but according to verse 14b, “Ruth clung to her.” After another attempt to get Ruth to return home (v. 15), Ruth delivered to Naomi this beautiful statement of faith in verses 16-17: “…Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

It must have been a great comfort to Naomi to have Ruth with her, but it did not make the situation any easier to manage. This first chapter of Ruth ended with Naomi returning home, but with a bitterness in her soul (vv. 19-22). It is hard to blame Naomi for feeling the way she did. No one wants to lose a spouse prematurely, but to bury both of your sons as well must have been a particularly painful experience. Not only was she bereft of their love and companionship, she now had no visible means of support. Women in this era who did not have a husband or a son to provide for them had to beg or, in some cases, turn to prostitution for survival. 

And, yet, despite all that God had brought into Naomi’s life and how painful it was for her, Ruth saw the one true God in her mother-in-law. As weak as Naomi’s faith may have been in that moment, she still held on to God as the source of her hope. Ruth, then, became not only a convert to the Lord but, as we’ll see in the chapters to come, Ruth would be an unexpected means of grace in the life of her mother-in-law. This should encourage us to know that, no matter how imperfect our faith, God can and will still use the flickering light of our faith to show others the truth about God and draw them to faith in him.

Deuteronomy 27, Jeremiah 19, Proverbs 15:18-33

Read Deuteronomy 27, Jeremiah 19, Proverbs 15:18-33.

This devotional is about Proverbs 15:18-33.

“It’s for your own good” is a phrase people say when they are about to say something you won’t like. Oftentimes, they’re not really saying for your good but as justification for the verbal punishment they are about to let you have.

Every one of us hates criticism. It hurts to receive and often feels unfair. Yet the Bible says that wisdom comes through hearing critical feedback and changing your life accordingly. Verse 31, which we read today says, “Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.” If you receive criticism–even harsh, punishing criticism–and learn something from it, you will become a wiser person.

By contrast, verse 32 says, “Those who disregard discipline despise themselves….” We do ourselves no favors–and lots of harm, really–when we hit back at our critics and refuse to receive anything they say. The path of wisdom is found through correction; wise is the man who listens carefully to any criticism and tries to learn and get better from it.

Is that who you are? Ask God for the grace to grow through the negative encounters we have with others in our lives.

Deuteronomy 20, Jeremiah 12, Proverbs 15:1-17

Read Deuteronomy 20, Jeremiah 12, and Proverbs 15:1-17.

This devotional is about Proverbs 15:3.

According to one security expert, over 70% of shoplifters do not plan to steal something when they walk into a store. They choose to steal, instead, when they see an opportunity to conceal an item without being seen and leave with it undetected. Secrecy creates a feeling of security which exposes people to the temptation to steal.

The creation of security cameras has helped reduce the amount of theft in retail stores. Cameras that record everything, of course, can help identify a thief after he has stolen. But cameras that are visible to customers and signs that warn of the existence of cameras are more effective in reducing theft altogether than they are in bringing thieves to justice. Awareness that someone may be watching reduces temptation to steal because it increases one’s chance of being caught.

Long before any kind of camera was invented, God warned his people that he is watching us at all times. As we read today in Proverbs 15:3, “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.” According to this verse, God sees every act of disobedience ever committed by anyone whether that person is seen by another human being or not. God observes everything you do and knows everything you’ve ever done even if you are certain your sin will not be detected and that you will not get caught.

Someday we each have to answer to God for our lives on this earth. The Bible warns repeatedly of a day in the future when everyone will give account to God for our lives on this earth. Given that God sees everything and forgets or misinterprets nothing, the day of our judgment should be a fearful thing to us. But this is why Christ came! He took the judgment of God for our sins on himself so that we might escape God’s wrath on the day of judgment. If you are in Christ, you can be confident that God will declare you “not guilty” on the day of judgment because of the perfect atonement of Christ.

But what about this life? If you sin and no other human being sees it, won’t you get away with it–at least until the final day of judgment arrives? You might; however notice Proverbs 15:10 which we also read today: “Stern discipline awaits anyone who leaves the path; the one who hates correction will die.” God has a way of exposing sin even when we think it is undetected and can be covered up. This exposure is designed to discipline us, to provide us with correction. In other words, God is less interested in punishing us when we sin and more interested in preventing us from straying too far from his will if we are in Christ.

Sin usually takes us further than we want to go. It has a deeply deceptive power that draws us in by offering us pleasure and trapping us before we realize how far we’ve strayed and try to escape. One aspect of God’s love for his children, then, is not to allow us to stray as far as we would go or could go but, in his loving providence, bringing discipline into our lives to return us to the path of obedience. You may get away with sin by concealing it in the sense that no human being holds you accountable, but God has his ways of correcting our disobedience and nothing escapes his notice.

There is another aspect of God’s watchfulness in Proverbs 15:3 that we should note. The verse says that the Lord is “keeping watch on… the good.” Your service to the Lord, your obedience to his commands is not wasted if nobody sees it. God sees it and he promises to reward every good that is done in his name. This is the positive aspect of God’s all-knowing, all-seeing nature.

Let the truth of God’s watchful eyes be in your mind and heart always. Let his attention to your steps help you to choose not to sin when you feel like you can keep your sin hidden. Let his careful observation comfort you that the things you do that are good for his name will be rewarded in eternity, even if they are unseen in this life.

Deuteronomy 6, Isaiah 65, Psalms 66-68

Today read Deuteronomy 6, Isaiah 65, and Psalms 66-68.

This devotional is about Psalm 66.

Psalm 66 opens in verses 1-7 by calling us to worship God based on what he has done. “All the earth” (v. 1) is commanded to do this worship, so every created person and thing is meant.

The content of our worship is focused on what God has done. As verse 3 put it: “Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!’”

But what are those “deeds”? Some of them are described in the verses that follow. Namely,

  • God’s miraculous works in the past for his people (v. 6)
  • His present sovereign administration over the nations of humanity (v. 7).

But then the focus turns in verses 8-12 to reminding us of the Lord’s discipline. While we don’t usually think of God’s discipline as gracious, it is gracious because God uses discipline to refine us morally in holiness and purge out sins from our lives (v. 10).

In verses 13-15 the Psalmist stated his resolve to keep the vows he has made to worship the Lord in his temple. These vows were made when the Lord’s discipline was on him for, according to verse 14b they were made “… when I was in trouble.”

The Psalmist then testified to the grace of God in verses 16-20. Having promised his worship and obedience to God when he was under discipline, the Psalmist calls for all who “fear God” (v. 16a) to listen to the Psalmist’s story of how the Lord heard his prayer and rescued him when he repented (vv. 17-18).

Have you recently or currently experienced the painful consequences of sin in your life? Has it ever occurred to you that this may be God’s loving discipline, preventing you from wasting your life in disobedience and calling you to turn to him in repentance?

When we come before the Lord, turning from our sins and bringing him the worship he desires and deserves, we will find joy again in our worship (v. 20). Follow the example of the Psalmist and turn to God in repentance so that you can experience the joy of praising him.

Leviticus 26, Isaiah 24, Acts 9

Read Leviticus 26, Isaiah 24, and Acts 9.

This devotional is about Leviticus 26.

Great blessings continued to be promised here in Leviticus 26. If only Israel had believed God (vv. 1-3), they would have:

  • abundant rain in season yielding fruitful harvests (v. 4).
  • a consistent supply of food (vv. 5, 10).
  • peace and security from wild animals and invading armies (v. 6)
  • military victory if war did break out (vv. 7-8)
  • growing population base (v. 9)
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: fellowship with God, who would live among them (vv. 11-13).

Following those positive promises were promises that there would be consequences if they disobeyed God’s word (vv. 14-39). This is what Israel actually got, for the most part, because they disobeyed God.

But notice that God described these consequences in verse 23 as “my correction” and he said that the purpose of these punishments was to “break down your stubborn pride.” This is what God does for those he loves. He blesses us when we follow him in obedience and he brings correction, painful though it may be, to humble us and teach us to follow him.

Here in the church age, God’s blessings to us are not necessarily the material prosperity he promised to Israel. We will enjoy that when his kingdom comes to earth, but that is not always his will for his elect in this age.

We can, however, enjoy God’s fellowship (vv. 11-13) in this life while we wait for the kingdom to fulfill all the other promises he made. We can also enjoy the conviction that God will not forsake us when we sin against him but that his correction is designed to humble us and to turn our hearts in confession and repentance to him.

How is this working out in your walk with God these days? Are you enjoying the comfort of his fellowship even if you may be experiencing some trials? Or are you stubbornly living in disobedience and, maybe, experiencing his correction in your life? If you are walking with God and not harboring any sin, then keep going. Don’t allow the lies that sin tells us to rob you of the blessings of God’s fellowship.

If you need to repent, though, claim God’s promised forgiveness and have your walk with him restored.

Leviticus 2-3, Song of Songs 6, Psalms 39-41

Read Leviticus 2-3, Song of Songs 6, Psalms 39-41.

This devotional is about Psalm 39.

Psalm 39 is a lament, a type of Psalm where the song expresses sorrow to God.

Usually Psalms of lament express sorrow regarding Israel as a group. This one, however, is an individual lament so the psalmist is sorrowful about his own individual pain and problems. Unfortunately, the psalm tells us nothing about what his problems were. Aging? Disease? Personal betrayal? A crisis of faith?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Clearly, though, something was deeply bothersome to him and affected his relationship with God. Although he was determined not to lose his testimony by saying something against God in the presence of the wicked (vv. 1-2a), he could not contain his pain completely. In verses 2b-11, he cried out to God. He asked God for wisdom in managing his life as he senses his days were few and fleeting (vv. 4-6). Then he asked God for salvation from whatever was oppressing him (vv. 7-13). He seemed to regard the problem as God’s discipline in his life (v. 11, 13a) and he begged God to remove it from him as the Psalm closed (v. 13b) so that he could enjoy what little time he had left in life. Unlike so many Psalms that end with an encouraging note of hope and confidence in God, this one ends with one man’s desperate plea for God’s help.

A Psalm like this may not stimulate us to worship, but it is helpful for us as believers. It shows us that there is an emotional range to our prayers that is much greater than we think is allowable or safe. Our praying tends to be very cautious, very measured, and very predictable. We’ve been taught that it is OK to ask God to save people, to ask God for healing, to ask God for his will to be done, to ask God to bless and help us. Of course these are biblical ways to pray, but Psalms like this show us that there is so much more.

God desires for us to speak to him from the heart. While we should remember that he is the Creator and we are the creation, we should also remember that he is our Father, that he loves us and wants us to pour out our hearts in humble dependence on him. Your questions, your tears, your screams of pain and anguish are not inappropriate expressions for God; they are a sign of your authentic faith. So, if you’re hurting, confused, sad, desperate, or whatever emotion you’re feeling, God gave you the gift of prayer so that you can speak to him from the heart. So, speak up!

Leviticus 1, Song of Songs 5, Proverbs 9

Read Leviticus 1, Song of Songs 5, and Proverbs 9.

This devotional is about Proverbs 9.

This chapter in Proverbs continues comparing wisdom to a woman and folly is also compared to a woman. You remember from high school, maybe, that this is a literary device called “personification.” Solomon has already “personified” wisdom as a woman; now folly is also personified as a woman. I will refer to them as “Wendy Wisdom” and “Polly Folly.”

Both of these women call out to people “from the highest point of the city” (v. 3b, 14b). This means that their invitations are broadcast and can be heard from far away.

They both invite people to come in to their homes and eat. Wendy Wisdom offers her own nourishment (vv. 4-5). It is the nourishment of a godly life (v. 10) which results in a disciplined life. Like healthy food, it isn’t always the most tasty, but it is healthy and will extend your life (vv. 6, 11).

By contrast, Polly Folly offers “stolen water… and food eaten in secret” (v. 17). This is a reference to sin. It is immediately enjoyable, even addictive, but like all addictions, it will kill you (v. 18).

In between the contrasts offered by these two women, Solomon talked about correction. There are two kinds of people: those who reject correction (vv. 7a, 8a) and those who accept correction (v. 8b).

Those who reject correction will turn and attack the person who tries to give it to them. If you’ve ever tried to show someone a problem in their life and they turn and accuse you of being unloving, unkind, critical, judgmental or the bad guy, this is the kind of person you’re dealing with. Of course, there are some people in the world who are unloving, unkind, critical, judgmental, and bad guys. The difference is in the motivation and delivery of the person bringing correction. A loving person cares about you; they want to see you avoid sin or help you get unstuck from a sinful situation, habit, or temptation. They speak up because they want to help you not to hurt you. Those who are unloving, unkind, critical, etc. just want to hurt you. It is the difference between a surgeon who cuts you open with a scalpel and a solder who cuts you open with a sword. Both of them are cutting–which wounds you–but they have very different motivations and results.

The person who accepts correction is wise (v. 8b) and is on a pathway to greater wisdom (v. 9). On one level he may love the sin you are correcting him for, but as a believer, he will recognize his sin is wrong and that it will bring pain and destruction if he persists in it. So your correction will help him grow and he “will love you” as a result (v. 8b). All of this points again to the importance of humility. People resist correction out of pride but those who are too proud to accept correction will eventually pay a much more painful price than wounded pride.

If you want to be wise, you have to start by being humble. Humility calls us to fear the Lord (v. 10) which “is the beginning of wisdom” but we progress down that path by continuing to accepting the truth in humility. That truth may come from the correction of God’s word or the correction of another person but if it is true, we should receive it even though it hurts.

Did you receive any correction this week–any criticism from your boss or a complaint about your actions or character? Criticism delivered lovingly is easier to take, but even our harshest critic can still help us onward toward wisdom if we have the humility to accept the criticism and change accordingly.

Genesis 39, Job 5, Matthew 27

Read Genesis 39, Job 5, Matthew 27.

This devotional which is about Job 5.

Job 1 and 2 record the discussion God and Satan had about Job and the calamity that God allowed Satan to bring into Job’s life. At the end of chapter 2, Job was visited by friends who wept with him and “…sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights” (v. 13). Job broke that silence in chapter 3 with a bitter expression of the turmoil in his soul.

The first of Job’s friends to speak was Eliphaz the Temanite. His response to Job began in chapter 4 and extends to our reading today, Job 5. He began his speech by complimenting Job’s wise words for others who were in trouble (4:1-6), but then Eliphaz began to rebuke Job gently for not applying his words of wisdom to himself (4:7-21). 

Here in Job 5, Eliphaz continued his response to Job. His message is, in summary:

  • Don’t be bitter (vv. 1-7, but especially v. 2).
  • Appeal to God to fix all this if you think you’re really innocent (vv. 8-16).
  • But be honest with yourself and realize that God is putting you under discipline (vv. 17-27).

The assumption that Eliphaz and all of Job’s friends had was that Job was suffering because he had sinned and was now experiencing the discipline of God in his life. While Eliphaz did not directly call on Job to repent, his instruction “do not despise the discipline of the Almighty” (v. 17b) insinuates that Job should repent. Eliphaz’s sweeping description of what a good life Job could have in verses 18-26 is all designed to persuade Job to stop hiding his sin, stop living in denial about it, and come clean with God. This chapter, and Eliphaz’s speech, ends with these words, “We have examined this, and it is true. So hear it and apply it to yourself.”

If we didn’t have Job 1-2 or God’s speech at the end of Job, I think we’d be tempted to agree with Eliphaz. I know I would be tempted to agree with him. Job’s problems came so fast and so ferociously that it is hard not to see them as deliberate acts of God. If Job were as innocent as he claims, why would a good and loving God treat him so badly? it makes no sense to us, humanly speaking.

That’s a big reason why the book of Job exists. It exists to challenge and correct our simplistic ideas about suffering. People tend to see God’s blessings as proof that he approves of how they are living. We also tend to see problems as proof that something is wrong. That’s what Eliphaz thought, but he didn’t know anything that he thought he knew. Instead of being spiritually helpful to Job, Eliphaz compounded Job’s suffering with his words.

We should learn from the book of Job that God works in this world in ways that are more complicated than we think. If you are talking with another believer about his or her problems, you don’t know why God allowed those problems to happen. So, it is unkind and unhelpful to make assumptions and then apply God’s word based on those assumptions.

Are you kind and loving when you talk with other believers who are suffering? Or do you–even if you mean well–make the suffering more painful? By all means do what you can to speak truth to other believers, but ask God for wisdom and discernment and make sure that you are kind and loving instead of self-assured and harsh.

Genesis 32, Esther 8, Matthew 23

Read Genesis 32, Esther 8, and Matthew 23.

This devotional is about Matthew 23.

This chapter continues the teachings of Jesus during the Passion Week–the last week of his life before the crucifixion. The vast majority of this chapter prophesies against the Pharisees for the many sins Jesus saw in them.

The chapter opened with Jesus acknowledging that the Pharisees had some legitimate authority over the disciples (vv. 2-3a). But Jesus immediately warned his disciples not to follow their hypocritical example. Verses 3b-4 say, “But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

Christ’s condemnation, “they do not practice what they preach”, is a warning to every disciple, especially those of us who serve in teaching roles in the church.

Every Christian, including every elder and teacher, remains a sinner who struggles daily with the desires and habits of our sinful nature within us as well as the weakness of being human in a fallen world. That means that all of us will preach better than we practice most of the time.

Jesus’s instructions in this passage are not a requirement to be perfect before we teach and lead others spiritually. Instead, they are a warning not to exempt yourself from what you command others to do.

When I was a kid, the pastor of our church was fired for a number of reasons. One of those reasons was that he did not tithe, even though tithing was required of all members and was something he taught. When confronted about this he said, “We tithe our time.” In other words, he felt that since he worked more than 40 hours a week in the church’s ministry and his wife volunteered to serve a lot in the church, then he was not required to tithe. The time they spent serving, in his mind, offset the lack of financial giving from himself and his wife.

That’s hypocrisy.

That is what Jesus condemned in this passage–an intentional exemption of the preacher from the things he commanded and demanded of others.

If a man preaches that the fruit of the Spirit is self-control but then loses his temper, he is not automatically a hypocrite. He is a man who continues to struggle with his sinfulness.

But if he preaches self-control, yet frequently loses his temper and sins with his tongue but never expresses repentance or changes his ways, then he is acting in the kind of Pharisaical way Jesus condemned in this passage.

Do you require your children to be better Christians than you are? Do you allow yourself to do things that you’d never allow them to do? Do you condemn your children when you catch them sinning even though you do the same sin(s) in private?

Then repent of your hypocrisy and ask God to develop in you personal integrity. Learn to practice godliness in your life then learn to preach what you practice.

2 Chronicles 2-3, Nahum 2

Read 2 Chronicles 2-3 and Nahum 1.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 2.

David, his father, commanded Solomon to build a temple for the Lord and, here in 2 Chronicles 2, Solomon went to work on it. What stands out in this passage is Solomon’s desire that the temple be excellent. In his message to Hiram king of Tyre Solomon wrote, “The temple I am going to build will be great, because our God is greater than all other gods” (v. 5). Because greatness was the goal, Solomon asked for “a man skilled to work in gold and silver…” (v. 7).

The contemporary application of this passage is not that a church building must be extravagant. The building is not the church and the early church met in homes and, later, tombs but still managed to glorify and worship God. God doesn’t require luxury accommodations from us; what he wants is our love.

But when someone loves God, they want to give God their best. That may dictate decisions about how a building is designed and built. If a church has the means to build a magnificent church building and doesn’t have to go deeply into debt to do it, then a magnificent church building might be a fitting expression of that church’s love for God.

The contemporary application of this passage is to serve God with excellence. When you prepare to teach, give the best effort you can to studying and developing the lesson. When you serve in any other way, don’t show up late and wing it; if you love God, serve him with the very best effort and ability you have.

Are you giving your best effort to serving the Lord with excellence? What area(s) of your ministry need the kind of disciplined effort and high standards of excellence that Solomon demonstrated in this chapter?

1 Chronicles 18, Jonah 2

Read 1 Chronicles 18 and Jonah 2.

This devotional is about Jonah 2.

Jonah seems like such a rare person–a disobedient prophet. Surely all the prophets struggled with disobedience in their everyday lives as all believers do. Jonah’s disobedience, however, was disobedience to be the prophet God commanded him to be. He refused to go where God commanded him to go because he did not want to deliver the message God wanted him to deliver.

What is often misunderstood about Jonah, however, is the reason for the fish that swallowed him. This passage is sometimes taught as if the fish was God’s judgment, God’s dungeon to punish Jonah. The truth is that the fish saved Jonah’s life. Verses 5-6 describe a man who was drowning until “…you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit (v. 6c). And why did God do this? Because Jonah was repentant: “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple” (v. 7).

The fish was an unpleasant place to be, I’m sure. It was certainly part of God’s discipline in Jonah’s life. God’s discipline is never “pleasant at the time, but painful” (Heb 12:11). Yet those painful, unpleasant times save us from the self-destruction of our sins. When God allows you to drown in your own sin but saves you through his discipline, the proper response is the one Jonah brought: “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.’”