Archive for the ‘Second Saturday Scripture Spotlight’ Category
Well, I accidentally skipped last month. It’s been harder than I thought to get into the swing of full-time work. I feel so busy all the time. But, I’m trying to work on disciplining myself more to keep my blogs coming. And over the summer, I’ve been going to a Bible study where our final “assignment” is to write up a teaching on Jonah (the book we’ve been going through), and so I’m using the blog as my audience! So that will cover this month’s “Scripture Spotlight”. (Though I’m gonna be gone this Saturday, so I’m posting it now, just because.)
I’ve read the Biblical account of Jonah more than once, heard the story a million times in Sunday school, and seen the VeggieTales movie (which I think does a good job; still, it’s VeggieTales).
You can read this story and get a lot out of it: the importance of obedience, God’s wrath, getting second chances, Jonah as a symbol for Israel… but what kept hitting me as I was reading through this was God’s heart.
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“Mercy” is the word that sticks out to me in this book. Maybe it’s because it goes along with my personal tendencies towards mercy rather than wrath; maybe it’s because I’ve experienced a lot of it. But I love looking for God’s mercy and grace in all of His stories, and I see it a lot in Jonah.
First off, you see God’s mercy on the sailors. As soon as Jonah is thrown overboard, the storm subsides and the sailors are saved. Literally, I don’t know about spiritually. But, God uses Jonah’s disobedience to reveal Himself to the sailors. Whether their sacrifices and vows were sincere and they stuck, it doesn’t say. Maybe they went back to their other gods; maybe they just added Yahweh to their list to worship; or maybe they turned to worshipping Him only. Whatever choices they made that the Bible doesn’t say, we know that God revealed Himself and gave them an opportunity to see Him for who He was.
Next, He shows mercy to Jonah. I used to always think, in my memory, that chapter 2 is about Jonah lamenting about being in the whale. But as I reread it, that’s not what he’s doing. Jonah’s rejoicing that God saved him. He talks about how he was drowning and suffocating, but that He looked toward the temple and God rescued him. God could have let Jonah die and sent somebody else to Ninevah to teach the Israelites a lesson in obedience, but instead He delivered Jonah from the ocean and only left him in the whale for 3 days. (Hehe, though I’m sure he would’ve been happy to get out sooner.) Anyway, Jonah got a reality check, and knew that His loyalties and vows lay with God. God is consistently loyal about rescuing those who call on Him throughout the Scriptures.
Lastly, God has mercy on the Ninevites. It’s not that God had a problem with wiping out whole nations on principle (because He does that a lot); but He needed to show the other nations, and Jonah, and Israel, and us, that He values more than just justice. He values mercy and grace. And when they repented, He relented.
While I don’t have another example of a PERSON He showed mercy to in chapter 4, Go has a discussion with little emo Jonah about it. Jonah is not happy that God is sharing His lovingkindness and mercy, and so he whines and gets hot and then has shade and then does not and then whines some more. And God basically tells Jonah to get his priorities straight, as He says that the people of Ninevah are far more valuable than the plant that shaded Jonah, and yet Jonah would rather God blot out the city and keep the plant for himself. (Though it’s not like it has to be a choice between the two, but you know.)
Though it’s hard to understand how to put together what God did in the OLD Old Testament (like killing every living being in multiple nations to make way for Israel) with the New Testament gospel of grace for the Gentiles, I think Jonah offers a transition. God always valued mercy as well as justice, but He had different times for showing each. And while He calls for repentance first, as it shows in Jonah’s and Ninevah’s cases, His desire is for all of humanity, that He created in His image, to know Him and receive His mercy.
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That’s all I got. And to close out this blog, here’s the video of the VeggieTales song that’s been stuck in my head all day today! 🙂
Guess what? I’ve managed to be organized enough to remember that the second Saturday of each month, I’m doing a Scripture Spotlight! 😀 I had this all prepared early, too.
I could write about something I’ve read in my regular Bible reading lately, but I think I’m going to talk to you about Psalm 145.
I realized that I haven’t spent much time memorizing Scripture in a long time. And I’m not saying that, to be a good Christian, you have to have regular Scripture memory time. I know it’s hard for some people to memorize things, particularly the references. It’s not about the knowledge you accumulate; it’s about hiding His Word in your heart. There are many people who really KNOW and understand the Bible, even without knowing bunches of verses and references word for word.
But anyway. That disclaimer aside, I am trying to GET to the point where I KNOW His word. And since memorization doesn’t come that hard to me, I’ma try to work at it. I’ll start by picking passages that have been comforting or encouraging or challenging to me already in my walk, and trying to get those down. So I’m going with Psalm 145. Or at least the last 8 verses or so. It starts off with 13 verses of praising God for His mighty works and many miracles, and about how the Psalmist will declare His wondrous deeds and all that. Then, from 14 on, is my favorite part of the passage:
14 The Lord helps the fallen
and lifts those bent beneath their loads.
15 The eyes of all look to you in hope;
you give them their food as they need it.
16 When you open your hand,
you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
he is filled with kindness.
18 The Lord is close to all who call on him,
yes, to all who call on him in truth.
19 He grants the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cries for help and rescues them.
20 The Lord protects all those who love him,
but he destroys the wicked.
21 I will praise the Lord,
and may everyone on earth bless his holy name
forever and ever.
(I usually use NASB, but when I first read this I had a New Living Translation Bible with me, and that’s how I remember the wording hitting me. So I’m going to use that version for this blog.)
I remember first coming across this Psalm one morning in New Life, when I was out by myself praying and feeling discouraged. I don’t remember what I was discouraged about, but I remember parts of this really hitting home. Let me go through the 4 verses I mediated on the most.
14: “The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.”
It’s easy for ministers to feel “bent beneath their loads”. It’s easy for ANY person, Christian or otherwise, to feel that way. Sometimes you feel like you’re not good enough, or you feel like nothing’s making a difference. Weariness and discouragement run rampant across the lives of people. God says that He cares about those burdened, falling people, and that He will help us and lift us up. It’s a great promise.
15: “The eyes of all look to You in hope; You give them their food as they need it.”
God takes care of us and provides. But He does it “as we need it”. Which means sometimes we feel hungry and cry out for God to answer right away, because we can’t see how we can possibly take any more. But He doesn’t always answer right away. Just how parents sometimes tell their children “no” when they whine that they’re starving 15 minutes after lunch, sometimes God just says, “Remember what I just did for you? I’ve taken care of you, and you’ve forgotten it already?” Maybe that was why He put the emphasis on Moses and the Israelites telling the stories of His miracles to their children. (And why it’s at the beginning of this chapter.) God always comes through when HE knows we need it, and sometimes we need to just remember His faithfulness and trust Him.
18: “The Lord is close to all who call on Him; yes, to all who call on Him in truth.”
What does this mean? There are lots of verses throughout Scripture that have these encouraging promises, followed by a… a condition? I feel like that word will bother some people. But it’s the best I can think of. Does “all who call on Him in truth” mean that we have to understand the gospel? Or does it merely mean that our hearts are truly calling to Him for help? Is there a level of repentance or understanding that is required, or does He mean that He knows when we’re faking and when we’re genuine?
19: “He grants the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cries for help and rescues them.”
Again, God doesn’t just promise to willy-nillily (heehee, makin’ it an adverb) fulfill the desires of everybody ever. He CARES about us and our desires, but He cares about our hearts. And He promises to take special care of those who fear Him. When we cry out, He rescues us. Now, we as Christians have plenty of desires. Smaller things like getting a specific job to dating a specific person… or heartfelt passions, like wanting to make a difference in people coming to Christ, or yearning to understand more of God and His Word. And sometimes God DOES give us all of those desires, even the little ones. His heart is for us. But I think, most of all, He wants to nurture our holy and God-given desires for Him and for the kingdom. He is pleased when we’re passionate about Him, and He wants to fulfill us and use us for His glory.
Those are the verses that stuck out to me when I first read it. I think the whole passage just shows you a lot about God’s character; the first 13 verses extol Him for His miracles and wonders, and then it’s followed up with a look at His heart and His compassion. It’s an encouraging chapter, and I’m looking forward to figuring out the best way to memorize it.
P.S. Update: earlier this week I put most of the lyrics of these verses into a song! I ended up using the NASB because it worked better rhythmically. I’ve always wanted to try it to see if it will help me memorize. And it worked pretty well!
So I decided to create the blog category “Second Saturday Scripture Spotlight”, where once a
month I will write a blog on some Scripture I’ve been reading and how it’s struck me. This is not because I’m all like “I WILL TEACH YOU WISDOM, PEOPLE!” No, hehe, it’s because I want to get back into reading Scripture better than I have been, and I think committing to writing about it publicly at least once a month will help me stay motivated. If it works well, or I feel like I need an extra push, I may do it twice a month, but for now I’ll start off slow.
Disclaimer: Hopefully my future SSSS’ will be a little more put-together. I kind of just edited my original jumbled thoughts and posted them for you to read, so I apologize if this post feels extra rambly or sporatic. Hopefully they’ll make more sense in the future. 🙂
Anyway, so last fall I started reading through Isaiah randomly and journaled about it for a little while, but I ended up getting sidetracked and didn’t get very far. So the other day I picked up where I left off, in chapter 5. I was planning on reading the whole chapter, but the first 7 verses stuck way out to me. Here are my thoughts on them.
1 Let me sing now for my well-beloved
A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard.
My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
2 He dug it all around, removed its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
And He built a tower in the middle of it
And also hewed out a wine vat in it;
Then He expected it to produce good grapes,
But it produced only worthless ones.
3 “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
Judge between Me and My vineyard.
4 “What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?
Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?
5 “So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard:
I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed;
I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.
6 “I will lay it waste;
It will not be pruned or hoed,
But briars and thorns will come up.
I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.”
7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel
And the men of Judah His delightful plant.
Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.
Well, as I was trying to figure out what this analogy meant, my first thought was “The ‘H’ on ‘He’ is capitalized, so clearly it’s talking about God”. 🙂 (Thank you NASB for doing that!) So that helped to make that clear. But then of course, the last couple of verses kind of EXPLAIN the analogy. So, so much for the glorious genius of THAT observation.
So this parable (is it a parable?) is about how God is viewing Israel. My favorite phrases in it are, “What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?” and “Judge between Me and My vineyard.” I think they’re really interesting.
However, as I started writing about it, I got myself a little confused. Well… let me just show you my thought process. Here is a slightly more coherent version of what I first wrote when I was journaling about this passage:
“God doesn’t say He’s going to remake the vineyard or ‘prune’ it. He’s going to destroy it, and let it become a waste and a deserted garden. This is quite an interesting analogy about God. …. So, He’s God and all, but He’s basically saying that they (Israel) became evil and worthless of their own choices. It wasn’t because He hardened them, because He did everything He could to produce good grapes. Clearly, it wasn’t out of His control because nothing is… but isn’t that what this implies?
“You have to take this with all the knowledge of God, of course. But with this, you have to understand that He prepares and works and does what He does, but choices are still made. And… He lets it happen? But He didn’t WANT the bad grapes!
“I know, I know, I can’t take this one parable and base all my knowledge of God on it. I know that God is all-powerful and so there’s no way that this is ‘out of His control’. And there’s context and the rest of the Bible and all that. But this IS a picture of God versus people. And there is some way in which He lets us “take control” and do our own thing, and become whoever we are to become. How does this fit? Who is our God? How much does He allow, and how much does He try to prevent?”
As I was wrestling with my thoughts, and putting this newfound passage together with what I know to be true about God, it suddenly started making sense. And the answer was in the passage.
“Well…. perhaps it’s because God LETS them grow. He could have snapped His fingers and made good grapes, but instead, He wanted to prepare a vineyard and let them grow however they would. Just like we can go buy grapes if we want to be sure to get good ones when we want them, but sometimes people choose to make them themselves, understanding the risk but still willing to make the sacrifices in the hopes of what will come.
“So, like a farmer, God did everything that one does when preparing a vineyard, but then He let the natural process take place. His desire was not to just snap a perfect feast into place, but to create opportunities for growth and then allow us as free-will beings to become good or bad. And THEN He took action, depending on how the grapes (His people) turned out.
I’ve had a lot of discussions with people over the past couple of years about free will versus predestination. And even though the term “free will” doesn’t show up in the Bible and the term “predestination” shows up multiple times, there appear to be clear examples and evidence for both. From what I can gather from this passage, God sees Israel as a people that He guarded and protected, set apart and fed in every possible way, and yet they still refuse to listen to His prophets and they turn away in rebellion, idolatry and bloodshed. This is all a part of what God’s ultimate plan is and everything works out for good, but the fact that He created them to make their own choices doesn’t mean that those choices are pleasing to God. It is part of His plan for consequences to come after the choices.
My final random thoughts:
“In this passage, because the grapes were bad, clearly we’re going to see His wrath. But again, who is “we” and when is all this? Has all of this prophecy happened, like during the exile of the Israelites? Or is it perhaps end-timesy stuff? No clue. But I thought this part was really interesting.”
SO! 🙂 That was my first Scripture Spotlight. Hope it made sense for the most part. Anyway, talk to y’all later. 🙂