Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Incapacitated Because of Sin

God's R&R

And [Jonah] said, "I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, and He answered me. Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice."Jonah 2:2

Recommended Reading

Psalm 32:1-11

Remember old Jonah? He had his personal plans made the day God approached him and asked him to go to Nineveh to preach to the Assyrians. Jonah thought better of that idea and jumped on a ship heading to Spain. Because this was not acceptable behavior for a prophet, the Lord allowed Jonah a few days of "R&R" (Rest and Regurgitation) to reconsider. After that, Jonah saw the light and also saw things God's way.

The very fact that God would set Jonah aside in an uncomfortable place in order to get his attention ought to be a warning for us. That doesn't mean that every time we disobey God He's going to do the same to us. But it apparently is an option. The psalmist David said, after he spent a number of months incapacitated because of sin, "Do not be like the horse or like the mule . . . which must be harnessed with bit and bridle" (Psalm 32:9). Instead, just do what you know you should. Don't give God a reason to consider setting you aside while you reconsider what He has asked you to do. Is there anything God has asked you to do to which you still haven't said "Yes?"

Going where God wants you to go might not be nearly as unpleasant as the alternative.

It hurts when God has to PRY things out of our hand! Corrie Ten Boom


Ezekiel 21:1 - 23:49

Turning Point Online


limpy99 said...

So what does this say about the "free will" that God is supposed to grant us? Isn't Jonah exercising his free will to say he'd rather holiday in Spain than preach to Assyrians?

I've been reading the latest homosexual battle over at Dani's, although I just don't have the patience to comment. Nonetheless, I do see the argument made, quite frequently, that the reason God can't make people quit being gay or waging war or whatever is that doing so would interfere with free will. Assuming this is true, I would argue that chucking them in the belly of a whale for a few days would also qualify as interfering with free will.

Christinewjc said...

Hi Limpy99,

If you don't mind reading long explanations about the significance of Jonah's experiences, then read Matthew Henry's commentary. (BTW, it's really really good!)

For a more modern scholar's commentary, (also lengthly) you can read Chuck Smith's. [Note: scroll down past the Obadiah post to Jonah.]

(In Smith's commentary, you see the miraculous is interwoven all the way through the book of Jonah.)

You said, "I've been reading the latest homosexual battle over at Dani's, although I just don't have the patience to comment. Nonetheless, I do see the argument made, quite frequently, that the reason God can't make people quit being gay or waging war or whatever is that doing so would interfere with free will. Assuming this is true, I would argue that chucking them in the belly of a whale for a few days would also qualify as interfering with free will."

God wants us to willingly love Him and willingly obey Him, not force us to do so. Part of loving Him is recognizing our sinful nature and agreeing with God what he calls "sin" and that we cannot save ourselves. We each have the free will choice (even after being born-again!) to follow the indwelled Holy Spirit's leading, or continue in our own willful fleshly desires which leads to disobedience.

Salvation occurs in a moment, but sanctification can (and usually does) take a lifetime.

Several ex-gay people have told me that ceasing homosexual acts and identity take time; sometimes years. But, when they allowed the power of the Holy Spirit working within their lives to overcome their fleshly desires, it is then when they are delivered!

However, it first takes repentance, which means agreeing with God about their particular sin. If someone is convinced that homosexual behavior is not a sin, then how could they possibly repent of it? They can't! (or, more likely refuse to.)

We can see this clearly when the sin is a more obvious, univerally "agreed to sin" by the culture. Murder is an act that most agree is sinful. If a person claims to repent of all sin (except a murder that they had done...let's say because they think that the person "deserved" it), then have they really "agreed with God" about their sinful nature and have they genuinely repented of their sin? We would have to conclude that they haven't!

If a person claims to have genuinely repented of a murder that they committed, but then goes back and commits more murders over and over again, what can we conclude from this? They are a "false convert."

Man looks upon the outside appearance, but God knows the hearts of men. A person cannot hide from God when he/she has not genuinely repented. He/she could be the "nicest," "most sincere," "caring," "good deeds oriented," person and appear to be a "saint" in the eyes of mankind, but in the eyes of God, the lack of true confession and repentance means that the sinner is not forgiven of his/her sins, does not have the Holy Spirit indwelling their heart, and has not had the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross as "cover" for his/her sin. They die with their own sin upon their souls!

Moral of the story. You can fool some people some of the time, but you cannot fool God at all! He knows your heart.

This story of Jonah demonstrates that even a prophet of God can choose to go astray. When this happened to Jonah, God allowed circumstances to occur in his life to get him (Jonah) back on the correct path again. God allowed Jonah to exercise his free will choice to ignore God's leading in his life for a time, but finally, when Jonah realized what God's plan for his life entailed, he bended his free will to match up with God's plan for his life. It took a lot; wouldn't you agree? But all the trouble, trials and tribulation that Jonah suffered and went through was for Jonah's sake and the sakes of the Ninevites that God had called him to preach to.

This portion of Scripture also serves as a warning to Christians today. Commentator Ray Stedman labels Jonah, "The Reluctant Ambassador."

He concludes his commentary thus:

"And God has sent us to them to declare this word of Jonah. Do you see how suddenly and subtly the Holy Spirit has insinuated us into this picture? Around us are unsaved people---the "godless," we call them, the lawless and the disobedient. We dismiss them from our lives saying, "Revolting, disgusting, they deserve damnation!" We sing of God's tender grace and his mercy and his compassion, but we avoid saying anything to them."

"Isn't there an awful tendency among us to be like Jonah?" Do we really demonstrate to others the heart of the God who loves a world that is staggering on in blind, willful ignorance and that does not know where it is going?

" He has sent us men and women to be a sign to this generation. And what is that sign? It is the sign of Jonah, the sign of resurrection, the sign of people who once were dead who have been made alive in Jesus Christ. Isn't that why the Lord said, "As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matt. 12:40) Isn't that the heart of our proclamation, that here is a God who can bring life from death, who can resurrect those who are swallowed up in the belly of a whale or fish---lost, hopeless---but redeemed? And the witnesses to this proclamation are the resurrected lives of those of us who, like Jonah, declare this message in our day.

limpy99 said...

"We may suppose there were those in the ship who, upon other accounts, were greater sinners than Jonah, and yet he is the man that the tempest pursues and that the lot pitches upon; for it is his own child, his own servant, that the parent, that the master, corrects, if they do amiss; others that offend he leaves to the law."

I confess, (get it?), that I couldn't finish Henry's commentary. I was getting eye strain.

My point it still this with regards to Jonah's story. When people are discussing homsexuality, (and I will give you credit for discussing it as opposed to others who might charitably be decscribed as ranting about it), your point of view is that it's a sinful lifestyle and you have a duty to warn its practitioners away from it before they wind up in hell. Sort of like Jonah had the duty to go to Nineveh and tell them that God wasn't happy with the city.

Then there's the typical response which is if God hates homosexuals why did he make so many of them. The counter to that almost inevitably comes up that God gives us free will to either follow or not follow our "fleshly desires", to use your term, and that if a person wants to be saved they need to overcome that and follow the letter of Biblical law.

My point with Jonah is that if this is true, God isn't playing by his rules. Jonah has exercised his free will to say "No. I'm not going to Nineveh. It's dangerous, and besides, only the Hebrews have title to prophecy." (See, I did read some of Henry). And then he lights out for Tarsis.

On a side note, I found it interesting that there seemed to be at least some indication that Jonah was insane, or at least tired of hearing voices in his head. Just an aside.

To me, this is a classic case of free will. God says do this, Jonah says no. I would argue that if we really have free will, that's the end of it. God finds someone else to go to Nineveh and Jonah pays the price for disobedience when he meets his eternal reward. But that isn't what happens. God says "Oh no you don't" and sends a tempest out after Jonah, one that threatens not only Jonah but several sailors who are innocent bystanders. Jonah gest tossed into the sea and swallowed by a whale, (or creature of some kind with a great big throat), and stays there until he agrees to do what God wants. How can that be free will? God says "do x" I say "I don't wanna do x, I wanna do y" God says, "well, you can try, but I'm putting you in the belly of a sea creature until you change your mind"

This reminds me of a college debate we had, in an English Literature class of all places, as to whether we preferred a universe with no god to a universe with a god who made sport of us. I believe everyone took no god, which bothered the professor. But I think it made sense, as I would rather live out my life without a god then face an eternity with a god who just wants to screw with me. I understand that this isn't your world view and I'm not trying to say it is. But in Jonah's case I see a bit of that argument, in that there is an omnipotent being going to great lengths to force a mortal to be his prophet.

That's why I cut out that quote from Henry's article. To me, it cuts to the quick of my argument. There may be worse people on that boat, but God leaves them to the law. Jonah has to bear the punishment because he disobeyed God. In this case, there is no free will. Jonah has to do what God wants, or else he's going to get a bit waterlogged.

If God uses those rules for Jonah, why isn't He doing that to homosexuals? Or better yet, why aren't pedophiles getting hit by lightning bolts? Why is there war, or rape, or murder?

In the end, I don't think the story of Jonah is consistent with the free will argument. And if the free will argument is correct, then it has to carry over to the gay folks and they should be left in peace to live their lives.

Christinewjc said...

I just have a quick moment, but I wanted to respond simply here.

The difference between Jonah and "the others," is the fact that Jonah is a prophet. The old adage, "to whom much is given, much is required" could apply here.

I want to go back and read about Jonah original "willingness" or "unwillingness" to be a prophet. From what I can recall from former studies, it appears that Jonah had a special "dislike" for the people of Ninevah. Perhaps it is for this reason that God chose him for this particular assignment and sending someone else wouldn't do. Jonah probably learned the greatest lesson in all of this. This account also served as a foreshadowing of Christ's willingness to go to the cross vs. Jonah's refusal to go to Ninevah. Even the greatest (or worst) prophets of the Old Testament could not fulfill what the Son of God was sent to do.

I probably sound like I'm rambling! Sorry about that. It's just difficult to condense in a small amount of words!

In my own personal experience, I had the former attitude of not wanting to speak against gay activists (I remember Anita Bryant's terrible treatment for speaking up for traditional family values in the 70's). But the Lord kept putting me in circumstances where I was needed to speak out against the gay agenda in schools. I remember thinking, "Lord, not this! Anything but this!"

I ran through all the excuses in my own mind. I don't know enough about gays to speak to them about the gospel. I don't want to be called a bigot, intolerant, or hateful. I don't know the words to say that will minister to them. etc.!

But God had an answer for me each time. He placed people, circumstances, acquaintances, situations, opportunities, new Christian friends etc. in my path to help guide me. I've made mistakes, missteps, said the wrong things, and have gotten "yelled at" by both liberal and conservative Christians alike!

I still don't know why the Lord has placed this burden upon my heart, but He has placed a huge burden for the sakes of ex-gay people. I have made several internet friendships with formerly gay men and women. Through my conversations with them, I had found that they are treated far worse as ex-gay Christians than they ever were when they were members of the gay community!! I was stunned! I thought that the tolerance crowd would never do that, but they absolutely hate ex-gay Christians!

The greatest surprise (and pleasure, I might add) is that the formerly gay people in ministry have often ministered greatly to my heart!. The Lord has supplied me with such abounding love for and from people who were going through such terrible trials and tribulations by gay activists! The Lord's mercy, grace and love shows so vividly through times like these!!

Ah! I hate to end abruptly right now, but it's time to cook dinner. My son goes back to school today :-( and I am going to miss him being around! But thankfully he will get to come home two weekends a month!

Thanks for reading my rambling! I enjoy our conversations...you are always kind, understanding and friendly! Even though we come from different worldviews, it's certainly a breath of fresh air for me to be able to say that about you!

Ubersehen said...

The difference between Jonah and "the others," is the fact that Jonah is a prophet. The old adage, "to whom much is given, much is required" could apply here.

Does this mean, then, that everyone has free will except prophets? I can't imagine that this would be your point, given what that would say about other prophets' choices. In any case, I couldn't really discern any further answer to this question in what you wrote. There was some stuff about Jonah not liking the Ninevahns (Ninevese?), but I wasn't sure how that pertained to free will, other than Jonah being free to dislike them.