Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
The first lesson contains the great big miracle in the Book of Jonah. Many people get sidetracked with little stuff, such as the size, oxygen content and digestive processes of the fish. I have no trouble imagining God manipulating any of that. When, however, I read that the preaching of one man causes the repentance of a huge city–without any manipulation from God–I am truly impressed!
Without the benefit of any form of mass media, and without so much as a megaphone, let alone P.A system, Jonah pronounces a word of Judgment from God and everyone–“from the greatest to the least”–fasts and puts on sackcloth. Can this fellow preach or what? Jonah tells them that they have forty days to make up their minds, but they repent immediately! Actually, the power here is not the profundity of the preacher, but the Word itself and the One behind it, but it is still quite amazing.
The Gospel Lesson is the only one of the three that uses the word “repent.” The story of Jonah contains some major repentance, but the word does not appear in the lesson. Repentance leads to a change for the better. God calls us away from distractions and attractions that are subtractions from our faith in Him, but He always calls us to something as well–to faith, to commitment, to service, to something.
In the Gospel Lesson, Jesus calls four people to follow Him so that He can make them “fishers of men.” All four are commercial fishermen. All four drop everything to follow the Lord. They left everything and didn’t look back, no pillars of salt these four.
When God called Jonah to his prophetic post in Ninevah, he responded by sailing to Tarshish. There are many attractions and distractions in life that lead us to sail away in our own directions. Jonah’s attraction was his own nationality and piety. He believed that one or the other or both earned a special place with God. He did not want to warn the Ninevites because God would forgive them when they repented. Jonah didn’t want them forgiven, he wanted them punished!
If we hate someone and want them anihilated, most of us could never imagine God forgiving them. We tend to think that God is like us–if we hate them and want them dead, so will He. Jonah imagined God’s forgiveness, even anticipated it, but he resented it! Jonah thought that he and the rest of Israel somehow deserved God’s love and blessing, not that God gave them freely in forgiveness, mercy and grace.
We have seen God’s forgiveness, mercy and grace in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Don’t ever be distracted by your own obedience and piety into thinking that these have earned a place which someone less obedient and pious could never have. If it isn’t a place of grace, don’t go there! If you could pick the lock on the gate of heaven, why did God give us the key of forgiveness? If you could live the Christian life and defeat death on your own, why did He come here for you, live for you and die for you?
Could Jesus be calling you to quit fishin’ and get in His mission?