“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21).
Apostle Paul wrote these words to the church in Philippi when he was in prison in Rome. He was on the death row. He was not sure if he will live or die. But he did not care. His joy was full. He was totally sold to the Gospel. For him, the progress of the Word of God was all that matters. What about you? Can you say the same thing? Most people live for other things. If you replace the word ‘Christ’ with ‘money, fame, family, fun…’ you must change the second part of the sentence. It will be like this: ‘For me to live is money; and to die is loss’. Christ is the only word that will balance this scripture in the right way. May God give us the courage to run the race faithfully to the end! Worship the Lord!
Last Sunday ‘a big man’, a chief and politician, attended our church’ service with his driver. As the church is getting more crowded, we did not know that he was there. Yesterday he phoned saying that he loved the service very much. He once attended our church more than 15 years ago. He said that the Spirit of the church, the anointing, has not changed at all! It is the same Holy Spirit that he remembers, that makes sinners bow down, repent and then receive the joy of the Lord. He said that many churches start well but later, because of the love for money and fame, they deviate from the original vision. But our church is exactly as he remembers it long ago, only better. He also said that his driver who was seated beside him was moved to tears. That throughout the service he wept and wept begging God to have mercy on him. The big man was surprised… He said that since then, the driver was ‘sober’. He said that ‘the way I see-am, I de fear say every Sunday he will beg me to allow am to come to Father’s House!’
(Note: I want to thank God for this particular ‘big man’ for allowing his driver to come inside the sanctuary and even to seat next to him. Some big men tell their drivers and mopols to wait in the church’ parking lot… Father God please bless this humble big man!)
Lesson: Dear ‘big men’, if God is using ‘small’ people (your driver, house servant or your children) to bring you to the house of God on Sunday morning, this is wonderful! The ways of God are past finding out! God always wins! Hallelujah! To God be all the glory! Worship the Lord!
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” (Rom 11:33)
During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled ‘The Gospel according to Jonah’ “Jonah’s anger”. Her main text was taken from the Book of Jonah, chapters 3 and 4.
Anger (or wrath) is a strong emotion, a reaction to what people consider to be unfair or wicked treatment. It may be expressed as screaming, quarreling, loss or self-control, or physical violence. It is accompanied by the desire to punish or get revenge. Unresolved frustration leads to anger. Frustration is a feeling of disappointment because of lack of success. For example: you are trying to repair your car. After many hours of labor, you have not succeeded in fixing the problem. That is why you become frustrated and eventually angry or bitter. Passive-aggressive anger describes an attitude when anger is hidden most of the time. These people claim that they are not angry, but they are. They avoid situation that provokes them to anger. They express their anger in the form of fault-finding, withdrawal, stubbornness, resistance to authority, gossip, holding grudges, or procrastination. Anger is always destructive to man’s reputation and his relationships with others.
In the Bible we are told that anger is one of God’s holy emotions. God’s anger is always righteous. “God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps 7:11). Without the work of the Holy Spirit, man’s anger is always sinful. An angry man is a foolish man. “Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, For anger rests in the bosom of fools” (Ecc 7:9). The only man who can exercise righteous anger is a Spirit filled mature believer who is dead to the flesh and alive to the Spirit. His anger is an expression of God’s anger against sin, and it glorifies the name of the Lord. A mature believer never defends himself but defends God’s name. This righteous anger is a jewel. It is rare to find. It takes great peace, wisdom, spiritual strength, and self-control, to exercise it. It always glorifies God!
Jonah is a prodigal prophet. The hero in the story of Jonah is God. Like the sun rays seen behind the clouds, His Grace shines thru. Grace is the unmerited favor and kindness of God the Father, to the unworthy, based on the sacrifice of His Son on the Cross.
Jonah has a problem. He is angry with God. He has a grudge against God. Jonah’s anger is a passive-aggressive anger. In the first two chapters, his grudge is somehow hidden. He runs away from God and God’s work. In chapter 2 he prays in the belly of the fish, but he does not truly repent of his grudge. But He worships God by saying: “Salvation is of the Lord!”. Because of this true confession, God commanded the fish to vomit him unto dry land. The word of God comes to Jonah the second time. It is the same command. This time Jonah obeys God. He preaches to the people of Nineveh. He obeys God, but not joyfully. His sermon is short, to the point, intended to bring the fear of God to them. There is no love or grace in his words. Even so, all the people in Nineveh repented. God shows mercy and grace to them. One of the greatest revivals in the ancient world happens in that city. But Jonah is not happy with the events. Finally, Jonah’s anger towards God manifests openly.
“So, the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5). Like the mariners on the ship, these Gentile people believed in Jehovah, the God of Jonah. From the king to the lowest person, they all feared God, believed the word of His prophet, and repented of their sins. It seems that the revival started from the ‘grass roots.’ The people on the streets who heard Jonah, the were the first to repent. They started fasting and praying before the King heard of the matter. The King believed God’s warning too and he repented openly. He then officially declared a compulsory fast for all people and even for the animals. Just imagine the noise of the hungry animals… None remembered their idols. This was an emergency action trying to find mercy with Jehovah God.
This was the king’s decree: “Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?” (Jonah 3:7-9). It is interesting that the king did not have to explain to the people, what their sins are. It is like they all knew that their ways are evil and there is violence in their hands. The only explanation is that the Holy Spirit came and convicted them all of sin. Having such a hatred for them it is possible that Jonah wanted to judge them of their sins. But there was no need. God prepared the way. They all knew that they are sinners in need of a Savior by the power of the Holy Spirit. The people of Nineveh understood God’s Word correctly. It was a warning of grace and love. They knew that Jehovah God could have killed them like Sodom and Gomorrah without any warning. They saw an open window of hope in the prophet’s warning. For example, God told Jeremiah to go down to the potter’s house and see how he works. The potter has a vessel in his mind. He will use the clay to make that vessel. If the vessel had a fault, he would re-use the clay to make another one. The potter has total control over the clay. In the same way, God has total control over Israel and all the other nations. There is a warning to repent. There is a window of mercy and grace revealed in the warning. In the case of Israel, God’s warning thru the prophet Jeremiah was ignored. That is why God handed them to Babylon (Jer 18:1-12). God told Ezekiel that He has appointed him to be a watchman to the house of Israel. It is the responsibility of the prophet to warn the sinners, to repent! (Ezekiel 3:16-21). True revival always starts like this, with genuine repentance. What men need is not information about their sins. They know themselves. They need the conviction of the Holy Spirit to openly repent. May revival come to our Land!
“Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it… But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry” (Jonah 3:10; 4:1). Jonah was ‘displeased exceedingly and became angry’. In Hebrew, these are strong passionate words. Jonah hated that God used him to bless his enemies. He was selfish and proud. He wanted to control the prophetic office. But that can never happen! God is always in control. We are God’s servants. We do what God commands. We do not have personal preferences in the matter.
God relented from destroying Nineveh. The word ‘relent’ is defined as to soften the harsh attitude because of mercy; to act in a less severe way towards someone and allow something that you had refused to allow before. God decided to forgive the sins of the people of Nineveh. This forgiveness is not because of what they said, or their sackcloth fasting and prayers. It is because ‘God saw their works’. They truly repented with fruits to prove it. Their character and actions truly changed. Only God can detect if a repentance is true or false. Thiers was a genuine repentance that led to salvation. We shall meet our Nineveh brethren in heaven one day! Halleluiah!
We are not told why they repented so quickly. It is possible that their general Naaman has told them the story, how Jehovah, the God of Elisha, has healed him. Some say that Jonah was mentored by Prophet Elisha. Naaman was an Assyrian general who possible lived in Nineveh. He took soil from Israel with the promise to always serve Jehovah God. He also told Elisha that when his master, the king, goes to the temple to serve the Assyrian idol called Rimmon, he will follow but, in his heart, he will worship only Jehovah God (2 Kings 5). This is only one possibility that the people of Nineveh heard about Jehovah God, His power, and His mercy towards others and not only towards Israel.
Our Lord confirms that the people of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah. Their hearts were open to believe the Word of God. But the Jewish religious rulers, closed their hearts towards God’s Son and His Word. That is why, the people of Nineveh who got saved, will stand in judgment against all religious hypocrites. “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed, a greater than Jonah is here” (Mt 12:38-41). Our Lord used the story of Jonah as a sign to confront the religious unbelievers. He reminded them that Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights. In other words, Jonah died in ‘the heart of the earth’. The fish’s belly represents the grave of Jonah. On the third day, The Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah unto dry land, near the city of Nineveh. This ‘vomiting’ of the fish is a symbol of the resurrection of Christ. God is totally in charge of all events: the fish swallows Jonah and the same fish vomits Jonah. Once the fish vomited Jonah, he immediately does the work of an evangelist. His words are anointed because they were backed up by His miracle of death and resurrection. In the same way, God the Father sent God the Son to die for sinful men. On the third day, Christ rose from the dead thru the glory of God the Father! This is the Gospel we preach: Christ Crucified and resurrected! It has the power of eternal life, to save all who believe the Word! The power of resurrection is the true source of revival and fruitfulness in ministry. Glory to God!
“IS IT RIGHT FOR YOU TO BE ANGRY?”
Despite this extraordinary success in ministry and revival, Jonah is still angry with God. Most prophets were persecuted and even killed because of their words. But God preserved and blessed Jonah. The people believed his words. He should have been happy. But he was not. Anger breeds un-gratefulness to God. He should have celebrated this great deliverance with the people on the streets of Nineveh. He should have organized some Bible studies centers to help them understand God’s word better. But, no! Jonah is still angry! This is clearly a sinful anger. Let us study it… Jonah was not angry with himself, or with the people of Nineveh. He was mostly angry with the only Living Holy Gracious Merciful God of Israel. In the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed that God should help him live. Now, because of this anger, he wants to die. Jonah’s people, the Jews, praised God for His lovingkindness, mercy, and grace. But these are the very attributes that make Jonah angry with God. Jonah is angry with King Grace. His anger blinds him to his own sin, his persistent rebellion against God. Even so, God extends grace to him and rebukes him mildly for his anger.
Jonah built a booth outside the city. He was waiting for the destruction of Nineveh. He was there as the spectator of a great event, much like the Romans who were watching the killing of the Christians by the lions. But after 40 days, to Jonah’s surprise, Nineveh was still standing. Just as he was suspecting, God forgave them. He became greatly disappointed with God. Then, God reveals to Jonah the root of his anger. He made a plant grow to cover him in its shade. Jonah was happy with God’s provision of comfort for himself. Then God ‘prepared a worm’ to destroy the plant and, to make the matters worse for Jonah, God ‘prepared a vehement east wind’ that brought a heat wave. Jonah became angry again, wishing to die. He even claims that he is right to be angry with God.
But God has the final word in this Book. God says: “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” (Jonah 4:10, 11). God ‘finds a common ground’ between Himself and Jonah. It was the attitude of ‘pity’. In Hebrew, the word ‘pity’ means to be concerned about someone, to be grieved when another suffers, to show compassion, and mercy and to spare someone from destruction. God compares Jonah’s pity to the plant and His own pity to the people of Nineveh. What are some of the points of difference? Jonah had pity on a plant, but God has pity on people, who are more valuable than plants. Jonah had pity on a plant on whom he did not contribute anything to make it grow. God had pity on people whom He created and kept alive for His plan and purpose. Jonah had pity on the plant because it died quickly. God had pity on sinners. He does not want them to die an untimely death and go to hell. Jonah wanted all the people in Nineveh to die and go to hell. Jonah has compassion only on himself. His pity was selfish. He did not even care for the plant, only for his comfort. But God has compassion on others, including Jonah.
JONAH HATED KING GRACE
Grace is God’s unmerited favor given to those who are un-deserving. We are saved by Grace alone. Because Grace is a free gift from God, no man can boast of his salvation. Grace is given to the humble and Grace humbles men. God extended grace to the sinners in Nineveh. Jonah knew that they are un-deserving. Why Jonah hated this display of Grace is because now, he too is seen as underserving. In the presence of King Grace, he is not better than the Ninevites. And Jonah saw this as humiliation. That is why he hated Grace.
In the Parable of the workers, the owner of the field said to the workers who came early in the morning: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?” (Mt 20:15). They were jealous with the last set of workers who received the same payment like them. They were also angry with the owner of the field because he made them ‘equal’ with others. What is the lesson? God does not owe any man anything. Whatever blessing we receive is always only by grace. Sinful men hate King Grace! Jonah was saved but, in his backsliding, he hated the very Grace that saved him. Grace is given to men to make them holy, not happy. Grace brings us to God. Under the plant, Jonah was happy, but not holy. That is why God destroyed the plant to reveal to Jonah his selfish happiness and lack of holiness. When Jonah prayed that God would save him, it was from the belly of the fish. That was not very comfortable. Even to be vomited by the fish on the beach was not a nice sight. Jonah could have preferred to walk on the water like Jesus and to stop the storm with his word. That could have been a better ‘picture’ of a successful prophet. Grace does not promise us comfort but strength to bring us closer to God. Apostle Paul suffered from a thorn in his flesh, possibly a chronic sickness. Three times he prayed to the Lord Jesus to take it away from him. “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:9-10). Grace comes mostly as strength to endure trials. Grace changes us from selfish people to godly people. That is why we need to be grateful for all experiences, pleasant or not because thru them all, grace is revealed.
No man can control or manipulate King Grace. But Jonah hated that lesson of humility. Jonah was saved by grace. But his theology was wrong. He believed that he was saved by works. He believed that because he has been serving God, he deserves to be saved. He thought that he deserves the plant to protect him from the sun. He also thought that the Ninevites, because of their evil deeds, deserve to die and go to hell. You can see how wrong doctrines affects behavior. What you believe will manifest thru your words and deeds. Jonah was a self-righteous religious man, a Jewish tribalist. This type of man sees Grace as a gift for beggars, not for himself. He forgot that Israel became a nation, not because of their righteousness but because of God’s Grace. Jonah knew that God is “a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm” (Jonah 4:2) to those who love Him and keep His Commandments. The problem was that Jonah could not extend this mercy and grace to the Gentiles. Jonah also forgot that the initial promise of blessing to Abraham was that thru Israel, all the nations will be blessed. “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3). Jonah was a symbol of the nation of Israel. They thought themselves to be better than other nations. They ‘claimed’ Jehovah God only for themselves. They thought that God is obligated to reward them for their nationality. They saw Grace as divine ‘handouts’ given to people who were inferior to them. That is why Jonah hated grace. The Book of Jonah ends with a question. We do not know if or when Jonah repented of his self-righteousness. God’s question is a sign pointing to our Lord Jesus Christ. It is only in Christ that any man or woman can be found righteous before God. Salvation is by Grace alone, and by faith alone. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:28, 29).
ANGER IS CRIMINAL
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny” (Mt 5:21-26)
We shall study our Lord’s words concerning anger against people. Our Lord exposes the religious hypocrisy of the Pharisees. They twisted the law of God to benefit them. They were only interested in keeping the law outwardly, for men to see and admire their obedience. They ignored the spirit of the Law. They interpreted the law legalistically, without a spiritual meaning. They love to be seen and admired as religious leaders. But with all their visible religion, they behave as slave masters. They are hypocrites. They live a double life. In their private lives they are wicked, stingy, they lack compassion, and they exploit others. This legalism is an empty religion not pleasing to God. Our Lord exposes their error and reveals the true meaning of obeying the Law. God who gave the Law is Spirit. The Law is always spiritual. Obedience must start in the spirit, in the heart. Obedience that is only outwardly, in the flesh, is not true obedience. God looks at the heart and tests it. The Pharisees obeyed God only for men to see. Our Lord confronted and cursed this unspiritual proud religion (Mt 23:1-7).
One of the Ten Commandments given by God thru Moses is this: “You shall not murder” (Ex 20:13). The Pharisees added something to God’s law. They said: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment” (Mt 5:21). They added that if you murder a person, you ‘will be in danger of the judgment’. What they meant is that if any one physically murders a human being, that person will be in danger to be judged by a human court and found to be a criminal. To the Pharisees, murder was defined only as the act of killing a human being. But our Lord reveals the spiritual meaning of the Law, what God had in mind when He said: “You shall not murder!”. Our Lord says that anger in the heart is sin, and it will be judged by God, in His court, as murder. Religion is only concerned with men’s actions and opinions. Christianity is always concerned with the heart, with the thoughts and the motives that dwell inside, where no man sees but God sees and judges. Our Lord says that anger against men kills them. It may not be physically, but thru careless unkind words, anger kills another’s peace of mind, joy, and reputation. The Pharisees excused themselves. Because they did not physically kill anyone, they thought that God is pleased with them. They did not care about the purity of their hearts. They slandered others by calling them ‘Raca’ (which means worthless fellow, stupid, or ‘ye-ye man’). When they quarreled, they insulted others by saying “You, fool”. They thought that just because they are religious leaders, they are better than others. They were proud and wicked. Anger manifests as pride and slander. Anger and murder are brothers. Every insult towards another human being is a sin and makes you a criminal. You need to repent before God who created the man you have insulted. Repentance towards God is the first step. Secondly, you need to try your best to reconcile with the offended party and restore peace. Jesus said that if you worship God and the Holy Spirit reminds you of a quarrel you had with another, stop the worship. Go and ask for forgiveness from the person. Pray that you may find favor with the offended person. Try your best to change war into peace. After that, you come back, and you continue the worship. If not, that worship, that prayer is in vain. God will not listen to your prayer. Stubborn anger and unresolved quarrels between people are mighty hindrances in your prayer life. No matter how serious your need is, God will not listen to your prayer request. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear” (Ps 66:18).
A Christian loves God and obeys His commands, not for men to see, but in his heart. Jesus loved the sinners and He laid down His life for them, even unto death. If you are a true Christian, then you desire to be and behave like Jesus. You too should lay down your life for the brethren. To lay down your life it means to love the loveless, to humble yourself and to help those in need (1 Jn 3:16-23). Love is expressed in words, but it is not only words. Love combines words with deeds. Love is a verb! Love is action! Love is never stingy with his prayers, encouragement, and helping the needy with provisions. Once you love God and sacrificially help the brethren, you become a friend of truth. You lose the guilt and the condemnation of a backslider, or a hypocrite. You gain confidence before God. Your prayer life gets stronger. God answers your requests freely and without delay. You make spiritual progress. The worship of God is intimately connected with the practical love for all men, and especially with the love for the brethren. This is a simple test: if God delays your prayers, you should examine your heart towards people you dislike. Marriage is a territory of much misunderstanding and anger. The devil attacks the husband or the wife creating painful conflicts. Learn to repent quickly, to God and to one another. If not, your prayers are ‘blocked’ (1 Pet 3:7). Anger in the heart quenches the prayer life and your desire to worship. Your progress in life, your spiritual growth in a way, it is in ‘the hands’ of your brethren. You cannot escape this law. If you want to hear God always, learn the value of peace with all men! Worship the Lord!
LESSONS FROM JONAH
*God is sovereign! His providence always wins! “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable [for He does not withdraw what He has given, nor does He change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call]” (Rom 11:29; AMP)
*God’s dealings with men are always and only based on His Grace. We do not merit salvation, prosperity, children, or any blessings from God. Salvation is not a reward for labor. Salvation is a free gift found in Christ alone. The principle of Grace applies to all relationships we have with other people. We should be kind and forgiving with difficult people, even with the unbelievers. Let all people see King Grace living in us!
*This is the question the Lord asked: “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4). The answer is no! I have no right to be angry at God, His Word, and His ways. I am what I am by grace alone! Anger is a work of the flesh (Gal 5:20). Uncontrolled anger has damaged the testimonies of many Christians. It has done great harm to relationships, marriages, and the fellowship of the brethren. It divides the Body of Christ. Many struggles with wounds received from angry, bitter people. Words spoken in anger hurt more than physical pain. We are commanded to forgive those who hurt us. The best way is to control your anger and live in wisdom, humility, peace, and love! By the power of the Holy Spirit, flesh must die! Repent of your anger! Destroy its stronghold in you! Redeem your testimony! This is God’s command to His children: “My beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (Jam 1:19, 20). “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil” (Eph 4:26, 27). Give all glory to God!
*Hating the grace of God is sin. “Insulting the Spirit of Grace” is punished by God (Heb 10:29). It is a sin to grumble when we do God’s work, or because He blesses others more than us, because He does not give us what we think we deserve, or because God chooses to withdraw some of our blessings. Anytime you discriminate others based on nationality, race, gender, or social status, you sin against King Grace. The solution is to be humble, grateful, and satisfied with King Grace alone. This is a question: “Is Jesus enough for you?”
*Evangelism and revival are Grace gifts. Preach the whole Gospel, Christ crucified and resurrected. True repentance shows fruits of a changed behavior. Even when God grants you success in ministry, remain humble and faithful, giving God all the glory! Praise the Lord!
*Human anger bows to God’s anger. God uses all situations to glorify His name. Man’s anger and rebellion is an opportunity for God to display His power. God, in His providence, uses all things for His glory, even men’s sins and failure. God’s always wins! “Human anger only results in more praise for you; those who survive the wars will keep your festivals…Even the most angry people will praise you when you are furious… For the wrath of man shall praise You; With a remnant of wrath You will clothe and arm Yourself” (Ps 76:10; GNT; CEV: AMP). Like all His qualities, God’s holy anger against sin is eternal. He defeats all His enemies. With the overflow (remnant) of anger, God will dress in His ‘army uniform’. King Grace is the Captain of our salvation! He is the Lord of Hosts, the General of the heavenly armies! God can never lose! Worship the Lord!
*Jonah should do what Job did! Repent and submit To God and His ways! Job said: “I had heard of You [only] by the hearing of the ear, but now my [spiritual] eye sees You. “Therefore, I retract [my words and hate myself] And I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5, 6; AMP). Praise God!
Dear child of God, because of God’s grace, you are a special person. As a child of God, it is expected of you to behave well. Thru the study of God’s Word and prayer, become spiritually mature. Do not grumble when you pass thru difficult trials of life. Never doubt God’s love for you! Never allow grudges in your heart towards God. Don’t forget: God is in you! God is with you! Always! You may not like it, but because of sin, you need loving chastisement. God is interested in your soul more than He is interested in your body. He wants you to be holy more than He wants you to be happy. God is interested in your sanctification, that you may become holy like Jesus! When things are difficult, keep your eyes on Jesus, not on your circumstances! Remind yourself of the character of God, His loving-kindness, His faithfulness, His greatness, and His goodness. Remind yourself how big God is and how small you are. Your mind cannot understand God’s ways. That is alright. Accept that limitation. And still trust God! He loves you! The road from earth to heaven may be rough, but it is paved with the precious jewels of grace and glory! In all things give thanks to God! For He alone is worthy! Worship the Lord!
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:2)
*GRACE is not easy to define. There is some mystery associated with it. Generally, grace is defined as the unmerited favor of God to men. Favor is something you don’t deserve. You have no right to receive it in any shape of form. You are entirely unworthy and undeserving of such favor. Grace is the beginning of our faith and peace is the end of our faith. Grace is like the source of a river coming down the mountain. After a long distance, passing thru many places, the river enters the sea, which is the peace. Therefore, peace is the end product of grace.
*PEACE is more than the end of a war. It does not mean just quietness and rest, though it may include that. In Greek, the root word of the word peace is ‘union’. It means a spiritual union. It means two people who were separated, come together again. This is reconciliation after a quarrel. Two enemies who have been fighting put down their weapons, look at one another, shake hands and embrace themselves. That union is called peace. In Christ, both Jew and Gentile live now in peace (Eph 2:14). The middle wall of separation has been broken. The two former enemies are now one. They have peace with God and with one another. This is ‘the peace that passes all understanding’ and it is the work of the Holy Spirit (Phil 4:7). Only the believers experience this type of peace. It is independent of circumstances. It is the peace found in the center of the storm.
THE PEACE OF GOD
First and foremost, the Gospel of Christ gives a man peace in his soul. The Bible reveals that there are four types of peace:
*Peace with God (Rom 5:1). Thru the Cross, we have been reconciled with God. Because of what God has done by His grace, in Christ, the enmity between us and God is gone.
*Peace within (Col 3:15). This peace enables a man, for the first time in his life, to answer an accusing conscience; to have rest in his mind and heart. He can now live with himself without guilt and a restless heart. He now knows that all is well with his soul. The conflict between him and God has ended. He now understands for the first time the cause of all his troubles. He now sees that there is a way to overcome all his difficulties. He has a glimpse of the final victory awaiting him in Christ!
*Peace with others (PV 16:7). Having peace with God and with himself, the Christians now has peace with other people. From the moment he becomes born again, he sees everything and everybody in a new way. Nothing is the same to him. When he looks at his enemy, he pities him. He knows that his enemy is blind and in bondage to sin and to satan. He starts to pray for his enemy. The enmity has been abolished by this new view brough to him by grace. He forgives his enemy. He now desires to be reconciled with him and to live in peace with all men (Heb 12:14).
*The peace of God. The believer has not only peace WITH GOD, but also, he has peace OF GOD. He now has the same type of peace God Himself has. “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7). Not only that God has given you peace, but He has provided for the preservation of that peace. This peace is independent of the circumstances. It is a gift from Jesus, the Prince of Peace!
Please remember that this peace comes to us as a result of the grace of God. Grace and peace are always connected. As sinners, we deserve nothing, we do not even desire peace and we cannot achieve it. God comes to us and by His grace, He saves us and gives us His peace. How wonderful! Grace and peace are both free gifts of God. How does this grace and peace come to us? The source of it all is God, our Father in heaven! Before the foundation of the world, by His grace, God chose us to be in Christ Jesus. He decided in Himself that He will show infinite favor to some people (Eph 1:4-6; Heb 8:10-12). He said to Himself: “I will be their Father and they will be My people!” The amazing grace of God started our salvation! The same grace will perfect it! This grace has changed us completely! Hallelujah!
God is the Creator of all men, but He is Father to only the chosen ones. I can create a piece of artwork, a painting for example, and hand it on the wall. But I am not the Father of that painting. Fatherhood connotes kind. It implies resemblance. My children look like me and they speak like me. God has called us His children and He has given us His spirit of adoption (Rom 8:15, 29). The religious Jews mocked Jesus. He told them that they are the sons of the devil and not of God (Jn 8:44).
Not many Christians appreciate the grace of God enough. If you want to know how great this grace is, look first and see the depths and ugliness of sin. But no matter how bad your sin was, grace is deeper and higher than any sin! “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Rom 5:20). Grace is infinitely deeper than sin! Grace is older than sin! Grace was ‘born’ before the foundation of the world. Sin was ‘born’ only during the life of Adam. These revelations are difficult to understand. You need the Holy Spirit to understand them. The religious unbelievers will misinterpret this truth and will take the grace of God in vain. They will continue in sin that grace may abound. If you hear these words and you are not moved to repent and worship God for His grace, then you are not a child of God! You have crashed into the Kingdom of God ‘thru the window’, ignoring Jesus who is the Door! You may call yourself a Christian, but you are not saved!
Finally, let us appreciate God for His love, mercy, grace, and peace! We started by grace and we shall end by grace. Even in the journey of life, the grace of God is all-sufficient! It is all we need. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). What a Savior! “Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound; That saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now am found; T’was blind but now I see!” Worship the Lord!
(From a sermon preached by Pastor Richmond Sisan Leigh)
“Many waters cannot quench the flame of love, neither can the floods drown it. If a man tried to buy it with everything he owned, he couldn’t do it” (SS 8:7)
From the Bible we see that God invented marriage and God hates divorce. Marriage is God’s idea. As a pastor I counsel many women (and men) who struggle in their marriages. Many wives are ignorant of their husbands’ spiritual and physical needs. The devil takes opportunity of their ignorance and attacks their homes. That is why many marriages are like stagnant waters, boring and unhappy. From what the Bible says and from my experience as a wife I bring to you some time tested wisdom. Dear sisters, please try to answer these questions: “What does my husband want from me? What shall I give him so that our marriage will be strong, spiritual and happy?” These are the first five qualities most of the husbands expect from their wives (in this particular order): Respect, Sexual satisfaction, Faithfulness, Friendship and Understanding. Pray about each of them!
MY TESTIMONY AS A WIFE
My husband and I are happily married for 43 years. We got married as unbelievers. Then we became saved. Now we are pastors in full time ministry. We are parents to three adult children and have six grandchildren. Inspired from the Bible and learning from my experience, by the grace of God, I am now able to teach other women. I see marriage as a gift from God. I do not ‘merit’ to be called ‘a wife’. It is not because I am beautiful or educated. Marriage is ‘a grace gift’. Because I fear God, I fear to damage my marriage. I cannot be a happy wife without the help of the Holy Spirit. I read the Bible daily. I grow in wisdom and knowledge. Therefore my marriage becomes better. I pray daily for my husband, for our children, grandchildren, for our health and ministries. I pray to see Christ in my husband (in his words and deeds). I love peace in my home. I hate quarrels and divisions. I respect my husband not only thru my words and deeds, but even in my heart. I pray to be able to see him as a holy man of God. My prayer has been answered. I like to cook for him and serve his food. I like it when he is hungry and he sits at the table patiently waiting for me to bring the food. I like it when we eat together. I like it when he compliments me for the food I cooked. I like it when he encourages me to do better. I understand him and he understands me. We love each other and we take care of each other.
I like to wake up in the morning knowing that he is my husband. I do not dream about any other man. My imagination is limited only to him. Even after all these years, I appreciate his love for me. I appreciate the fact that out of millions of women he chose me to be his wife. He has his own favorite chair at the table. If a visitor comes and by mistake he sits there, I will not allow it. If we have visitors at the table, I do not use his (particular) plate for other people. These may not be ‘big things’ but to me, these are symbols of respect.
Long ago I knew that my husband will be a man of God and I will be a pastor’s wife. I started studying the Bible with great passion. The knowledge of the Word of God is for my own soul and to help my husband. I love it when we discuss the doctrines and new revelations from the Bible. I love it when I have something good to add to the discussion. I also pray for sexual compatibility. Sex is a great blessing from God that brings happiness to any marriage. It satisfies the bodies and the souls. It brings peace in the bedroom and in the home. We are colleagues in the ministry, we are friends and we are lovers. We rejoice with one another. We ‘gist’ and laugh a lot. Time has not reduced this joy. In fact, it has made it better. The water is now wine. The ordinary taste of life has become sweet. We drink from this cup of intoxicating love and have no apologies for it. We feel old and young in the same time. We feel weak sometimes and strong most of the times. The passion to love God and one another is the holy fire that keeps burning in our home, making it safe and secure. No man or devil can quench it.
May God bless you with the blessings of Christ and with the gift of a wonderful ever sweeter marriage! In Jesus name!
(I wrote these words in 2017. My beloved husband went to heaven, suddenly, in July, 2020. Since then my life has changed in some ways… But my passion for our Lord Jesus Christ and for the memory of my husband is getting stronger with time. “Many waters cannot quench true love…” (SS 8:7). The words I wrote then are still true and helpful to other married couples. Read and be blessed! And give God all the glory!)
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JONAH (6) “CHRIST IS RISEN!”
During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled ‘The Gospel according to Jonah’ (6); “Christ is risen!”. Her main text was taken from the Books of Jonah 1:17, 2:10, 3:1-5 and Luke 24:1-53.
THE SIGN OF JONAH
The story of Jonah is a sign prophetic pointing to the death and the resurrection of our Lord. God provided the great fish that swallowed Jonah. The belly of the fish is a form of a grave for him. As God provided the fish to swallow Jonah, so it was God’s will for His Son to die and to be buried for three days. On the third day, God commanded the fish to vomit Jonah on the dry land. Jesus too resurrected on the third day, thru the glory of the Father. Jonah now preaches the Word to the Ninevites. God blesses the ministry, and it becomes fruitful. Jonah gives all glory to God saying that “Salvation is of the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9). Our Lord resurrected from the grave and thru the Holy Spirit His Word becomes fruitful to the glory of God the Father! You see now why Jesus said that the story of Jonah is a sign for all unbelievers! “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed, a greater than Jonah is here” (Mt 12:38-41). Our Lord used the story of Jonah as a sign to confront the religious unbelievers. He reminded them that Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights. In other words, Jonah died in ‘the heart of the earth’. The fish’s belly represents the grave of Jonah. On the third day, The Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land, near the city of Nineveh. This ‘vomiting’ of the fish is a symbol of the resurrection of Christ. God is totally in charge of all events: the fish swallows Jonah and the same fish vomits Jonah. Once the fish vomited Jonah, he immediately does the work of an evangelist. His words are anointed because they were backed up by His miracle of death and resurrection. In the same way, God the Father sent God the Son to die for sinful men. On the third day, Christ rose from the dead thru the glory of God the Father! This is the Gospel we preach: Christ Crucified and resurrected! It has the power of eternal life, to save all who believe the Word! The power of resurrection is the true source of revival and fruitfulness in ministry. Glory to God!
THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST’ RESURRECTION
The doctrine of Christ resurrection is fundamental to Christianity. It is based on the belief that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on the third day after his death on the Cross. Resurrection means victory! When Jesus rose from the dead, He confirmed His identity as the Son of God and His work of atonement, redemption, reconciliation, and salvation. The resurrection was a real, literal, physical raising of Jesus’ body from the dead. Through His conquering of death all believers will subsequently share in His victory over “sin, death, and the Devil.” Together with Christmas, the celebration of this event, called Easter, or the Festival of the Resurrection, are the two major feast days in the church. Because of Christ’ resurrection, the believers who fall asleep shall resurrect at the second coming of Christ. They shall have new spiritual bodies like the Lord’s. They shall retain their personhood and their individuality, and they shall have an expanded memory and understanding. Many have tried to destroy this doctrine. It cannot be destroyed because the resurrection of Christ is a fact. There are some theories trying to deny the resurrection of Jesus. Some say that His followers stole His Body from the tomb. Some say that Jesus did not die, that He only fainted and later He came out from the tomb. Others say that all the believers who testified that they saw the resurrected Christ had a nervous breakdown and they were hallucinating. All these theories are all wrong and are even harder to believe than the simple fact of Christ’ resurrection.
The resurrection of Jesus was not some poetic way to express the victory of goodness over evil. Rather, the resurrection was something many of the earliest followers of Jesus experienced as a real, historical event. To be precise, they did not witness the resurrection itself, but the resurrected Jesus who, much to their surprise, had conquered death. This same power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us, the believers. Apostle Paul prays that you ‘may know… the exceeding greatness of His power towards us who believe, according of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead” (Eph 1:18-20). This power is greater than all our expectations. It dwells and works in us thru the Holy Spirit. It manifests especially as strength to obey God’s Word, to become godly and in doing ministry.
To appreciate the resurrection of our Lord, you must first understand what happened at the Cross. By His death, Jesus defeated at once and forever man’s five enemies: Satan, sin, death, the law, and the wrath of God. Man cannot be saved if any of these enemies are still standing against him. Jesus perfectly obeyed and fulfilled the law of God in two ways: actively, by living a life of total obedience to the Father; and passively, on the Cross, when He accepted to become a substitute and to die for man’s sin. The Cross was the greatest warfare field in the universe. At the Cross, Christ won the victory! By His death, Christ did three things relating to the devil: He cast out the devil from his position as the ruler of this world; Christ destroyed the works (the lies, the fears, the bondages) of the devil; and Christ made a public spectacle of the devil and his demons, openly displaying their defeat.
“Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” This He said, signifying by what death He would die” (Jn 12:31-33)
“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8)
“Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Col 2:15)
The Cross proved to men and angels that Christ is the eternal victor! The resurrection of Christ sealed His victory! Anytime you think of His resurrection, you should think of victory and triumph leading to eternal praise!!!
How did our Lord defeat and publicly disgrace the devil? The devil tried to kill baby Jesus thru King Herod. He failed. Later, the devil attacked Jesus thru his temptations in the wilderness. Christ defeated him thru the sword of the Word of God. Adam failed when the devil tempted him. Christ, the second Adam, conquered the devil by resisting all temptations and remaining obedient to God the Father. After the temptations, the devil left Christ for a season (Lk 4:13). He attacked Him again in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross. What was the devil’s strategy and weapon? It was the physical and emotional weakness of the human body. The devil hoped that Christ will draw back from the Cross because of the physical sufferings involved. He thought that Christ’ strength and faith will fail. The Cross meant more than physical sufferings. Because Christ accepted the sins of humanity on His body, for the remaining hours of His life, Christ will be separated from God the Father. In other words, Christ must live and die alone, without God. For the first and last time in the universe, sin separated the members of the Trinity. Father and Son must pass thru this road alone. The devil hoped that Christ will break down in fear at the idea to be Fatherless when dying alone. But the devil failed. Alone, rejected by God and man, Christ accepted the will of the Father and with our sins on His body, He went to the Cross. With His last breath, He cried a cry of victory, “It is finished!’ In other words, He said: “I have obeyed the will of My Father unto the end. I have finished His work. I passed thru this pain and shame, from death to life! My life and death shall bring eternal honor and glory to My Father! Many people shall be saved! I will be the first among many brethren! Life has conquered death! Glory to God forever!”
The devil’s hope that Christ will withdraw from the Cross failed that day! He has deceived Adam that God does not love him enough. His lies have influenced humanity since then. But on the Cross, as Christ died for our sins, God’s Love can never be hidden again. Light shines and makes this Love visible to all who believe! “Love is as strong as death” (SS 8:6). Glory to God!
What are some proofs of the resurrection of Christ?
*The empty tomb. The religious rulers had a great interest to deny the resurrection. They needed to find His body. But none could find it anywhere. Even today, people go to Jerusalem to see the empty tomb.
*The witness of the believers. Christ revealed Himself to many believers. He did not reveal Himself to Pilate, King Herod, to the High Priest or to the religious rulers. He only revealed Himself to the ones who believed in Him before He died. Later, He revealed Himself to the Apostle Paul!
*The changed behavior of the believers. There is no other explanation why all the disciples of Jesus changed from sorrow to joy once they saw Him. Their mourning ended once they saw their Lord in His resurrection body. They became bold and confident preaching the Gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected. They were ready to become martyrs and die for Christ’ sake! The fact of Christ’ resurrection is the only explanation!
*The existence of the Church cannot be explained outside the power of the Gospel and of the Holy Spirit. The Jews celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday. The Christians celebrated the Sabbath on Sunday. This is because Jesus resurrected on Sunday morning! Halleluiah!
*Faith in the Word of God is the ultimate proof that Christ is risen indeed! The true believers do not need to see Christ resurrected to believe in Him. They trust the Word of God! The resurrection power works in their faith! The unbelievers reject it! It will be so to the end of times!
CHRIST IS RISEN!
We shall revisit the story of the first Easter Day described in Luke 24. It is the first day of the week; it is Sunday morning. The women disciples who have been following Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and other women came ‘very early’ in the morning to the tomb. They carried burial spices to place on the body of their Lord. They saw where Jesus was buried on Friday evening. His body was wrapped with white linen. But there was no time then to add all the burial spices according to the Jewish custom. The next day it was the Sabbath day (Saturday), and nobody could work. Because the women did not finish their work concerning the burial of their Lord that is why they were coming very early on Sunday morning. See God’s providence: God did not allow the work of burial to be completed so that the women will come again to the tomb to witness that it was empty. Throughout the Book of Luke, the Person was Jesus Christ was the center of every action. Now, reading Chapter 24, we feel strange. Jesus is absent. At least initially. The women were shocked to find that the Body of Christ was missing. The tomb was empty! Or almost empty! They saw the linen clothes on the ground, but the Body of Jesus was not there. They were ‘greatly perplexed’. In their confusion, behold, they saw two men in shining garments. They were angels who rebuked them mildly saying: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Lk 24:5-7). Please observe the kindness of God the Father. He knew that these sisters could not sleep the whole night because of their sorrow. Now, the empty tomb created more pain. He sent the angels to help these women. They spoke the truth to them. They were seeking Jesus but in the wrong place. They re-directed the women to the Word of God, to the Gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected. Like the rest of the disciples, the women did not believe the words of Jesus who told them that He will die and rise to life again. This is a great lesson: doubt in God’s Word will lead you astray, to search for the truth in the wrong places. Always go back to the Bible! Find Christ in His Word! Praise God for His mercy in re-directing us!
Immediately the women ‘remembered His Word’ (Lk 24:8) they returned to tell the other disciples about the empty tomb and the words of the angels. When the apostles heard their story, their words seem foolish, like ‘idle tales’. They thought that the women’ sorrow made them to talk nonsense. That is why they did not believe them. But Peter did the right thing. He went to check things for himself. This is a good lesson: We should never reject the words of others. This is another good lesson: Search for yourself in the Bible and find the truth. You can see that because the story of Resurrection is a miracle, most people reject it, including many Christians. Peter saw the linen clothes on the floor of the tomb. He did not see the body of Jesus. He also did not see the angels. He must now humble himself, forced to listen to the women who became ‘the first preachers of the resurrection’ (St. Augustine). This is another great lesson: to see the empty tomb is not enough to make you believe in the Gospel. These people were still ‘perplexed’ with what they have ‘seen’. Faith comes thru believing the Word of God and not thru ‘seeing’! Even faith in miracles comes thru faith in the Word of God!
This is the Word the women remembered. This sanctified remembrance helped them to seek Christ, not among the dead, but in the Living Word of God. “And He (Jesus) began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Mk 8:31-33). Long before the Cross, our Lord clearly predicted His death and Resurrection. He told His disciples that the religious leaders will reject and betray Him, and that He will be killed. He also said that on the third day, He will rise again. Peter rebuked Christ for this word. Our Lord then rebuked Peter saying that Satan spoke thru him. Our Lord said that Peter in ‘mindful’ of the things of men and not the things of God. Satan did not want Jesus to die on the Cross and rise again! He knew that will be the end of his authority over men. This is another great lesson: anytime your emotions or your human wisdom control your speech, you will reject the Gospel.
THE ROAD TO EMMAUS
Two disciples were walking that same day from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a village located 7 miles north of Jerusalem. One is named Cleopas. His name means ‘The Glory of the Father’. The second one is not named. He can be me or you. Both disciples were deeply sorrowful. They felt disappointed by the death of their Master. They were talking about the Cross and the empty tomb. Then Jesus ‘drew near and went with them’. Their eyes were ‘restrained’ supernaturally. That is why they did not recognize their Lord. They called Him ‘a stranger’ who is ignorant about the things that happened for the past three days in Jerusalem.
Why were their eyes ‘restrained’? Why did they not recognize the Lord after the resurrection? In His spiritual body Christ looks like a man. But His body is not the same. All the wounds He received during the beating before the crucifixion have now disappeared. The only scars He kept were the nail scars on His hands and the spear wound on His side (Jn 20:20). His body has the power to pass thru material things, to vanish or appear at will. After His resurrection Christ decides who can recognize Him and who cannot. Mary Magdalene thought He was the Gardner until He opened her eyes (Jn 20:15, 16). Peter and the other disciples recognized Him only later, when He told them how to catch fish (Jn 21:1-14). In the same way, we cannot ‘see’ the resurrected Christ with our natural sight. We cannot believe the doctrine of His resurrection using our human wisdom. Christ reveals Himself as He wishes and to whom He wishes. He has already said that only ‘the pure in heart will see the Lord’ (Mt 5:8). The believer must humble himself, must have faith, and come to a place of worship so that Christ will grant him ‘open eyes’ to see Him! Apostle Paul prayed that ‘the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened’ to see Christ in His resurrection power and in His glory (Eph 1:15-23). Holy pacemakers are promised to see the Lord. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). Any spirit of unforgiveness, envy, bitterness, and division blind the eyes to the revelation of Christ resurrected.
The Lord asked the two disciples about the things they were talking about. It was Cleopas who spoke. He preached what some called ‘the gospel according to Cleopas’. He declares all the facts, about Christ, His ministry and death. He also says that the tomb is empty. He expresses his sadness and disappointment that his hopes were dashed at the Cross. He was looking for the Redeemer, but the Redeemer was dead. What is missing from this gospel? It is the faith in Christ’ resurrection! Cleopas was mourning his lost dreams and broken hopes. He was complaining about his pain to the very One who rose from the dead! Face to face with Jesus, his Redeemer, he was weeping for the loss of all hope. That is when Christ rebukes them mildly saying, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Lk 24:25-27). Christ’ word of rebuke is this: you are foolish and slow of heart because you allowed doubts to enter your heart! You are trying to understand spiritual things using your natural minds’.
It is the same word of rebuke when Apostle Paul addressed the Galatians: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?” (Gal 3:1-4). The Galatians believed the Gospel, which is Christ crucified and resurrected. But something happened to them. They allowed the devil to make them foolish, to ‘bewitch’ them. It manifested as doubt. They listened to religious lies and started to backslide in their hearts Foolishness damages the faith in the God of Resurrection and of miracles and it grieves the Holy Spirit! Foolishness is a sin to be repented of!
What is the solution? Christ directs them to the Bible! Observe that He does not reveal Himself to them at this point. The Living Word directs them to the written Word. The resurrected Christ preaches to them about Himself in the Old Testament. I would have loved to be there too, to listen to Christ preaching and teaching to the sorrowful and foolish disciples. This is a great lesson of how a sermon should be preached: It must be based on the Word of God, both Old and New Testament and it must be Christ centered. Christ helped His disciples to see the Grief and the Glory, the Cross and the Resurrection, the sufferings, and the victory of the Redeemer. The application of any Christ centered sermon should lead to burning hearts and open eyes to see Christ in His glory!
Christ and the two disciples arrived at their home at Emmaus. The Lord indicated that He wants to go further. But the two disciples insisted that He should stay with them for the night. Maybe they told Him that He will not be safe in the night, or they wanted to listen more to His words. But one thing is sure, they ‘constrained’ Him to stay for the night and share their home. I feel the joy of the Lord. When He was born, there was no room for Him. But now, after the resurrection, His disciples gladly welcome Him in their homes. They set the table offering the food they have. Bread was there and maybe some fruits. It was the tradition that the host of the home prays over the meal. But Cleopas submitted to his ‘Guest’, sensing that He is holier than him. Christ took the role of the head of the home. He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. At that moment the eyes of the disciples were opened, and they saw that the stranger they invited in was really the Christ, their Lord! Immediately they recognized Him, Christ vanished from their sight. They now had the word explained, their hearts burning with passion, and their eyes opened to see His glory. They now know that Jesus is not dead, but alive. In their excitement, they could not even relax to eat the food. They left the dinner on the table, and they went back to Jerusalem to tell the other brethren their whole experience. It was the same night. It was the same road. But oh, what a difference. Earlier on, they trekked that road in sadness and despair. But now, filled with the revelation of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, sure that Christ is risen from the dead, they now became ministers of the Word to others! This is the resurrection power at work in those who believe!
PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF DEATH AND RESURRECTION – PAUL’S GREATEST AMBITION
“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:10, 11)
The Great Apostle Paul had one great ambition: To know Jesus Christ better. Paul, who saw the resurrected Lord on the road to Damascus, Paul who had visions of the Lord, Paul who went to the third heaven, Paul who wrote three quarters of the Epistles in the New Testament, was not satisfied. He wanted to know Christ better. He is not saying just to study the Word of God more. He wanted to know the Person, the Presence of Christ better. He is talking of an increased intimate knowledge of the Person of Jesus Christ. He wanted a deeper experience than his initial experience he had on the road to Damascus. Secondly, Paul wanted to be more and more like Jesus! There are three aspects in his desire: To know the power of His resurrection, to have fellowship with Christ’ sufferings, and to be conformed to Christ death.
*To know the power of resurrection! Paul describes the doctrine of the union of the believer with Christ! In Christ, we have died with Him, we were buried with Him, we resurrected with Him, and we are now seated in heavenly places with Christ (Rom 6:3-11; Eph 2:6). These are spiritual facts. Paul knows them. But he wants that these facts become more and more spiritual experiential realities to him, to walk in the newness of life. Christ was raised by the glory of the Father. Paul wanted to experience this glory more and more in his life. The Lord told him that His ‘power is made perfect in Paul’s weakness’. “Christ said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor 12:9). Paul wanted to trust God more in his weaknesses so that the power of resurrection will manifest in his life, to experience Christ’ all-sufficient Grace.
*The fellowship of Christ’ sufferings. Christ suffered as a Man on earth. All His sufferings were because of sin. “He was despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and pain and acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3). Christ was rejected, misunderstood, betrayed, and killed by ‘His own’. He was grieved to see the damage sin has done to His Father’s creation. Christ suffered because He was holy and all the people around Him were sinners. That is why they hated Him. Because of that the Son of Man was lonely. Paul knew that the holier he becomes, the more the world will reject him too. But amid that rejection, he will understand Christ’ pain better. He wanted to identify with His Savior’s pain to know Him more.
*Being conformed to His death! Paul made up his mind, that for the sake of Christ and His Gospel, he is ready to die. Paul knew that ‘to die is gain’. Paul was in prison in Rome waiting to be killed. He has already suffered much, hated, stoned, beaten, and shipwrecked. But he discovered that Christ was always with him. He turned all his afflictions into opportunities for ministry. He now desires to be totally free from shame and fear of troubles. His ambition is to live and die in such a way that Christ will be ‘magnified’ in his body. He wanted to have the testimony of a servant of God not only in life, but also in death. He wanted to die as a Man of God. “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:19-21). Paul’s ultimate desire to is to go to heaven and be with his Lord forever! Is that your desire? Then you are truly a blessed child of God! Worship the Lord!
I love that you are able to find beauty in the mud, and diamonds (though unpolished) in the city trash cans. I love that you don’t waste your emotions, but you prune them and let them grow! I love that your words are like arrows, all gathered in the bull’s eye! I love that you help young birds learn how to fly! I love that you have the courage to pass thru the storms until you arrive at that miracle island called ‘Peace, be still’. I love that you have found the courage to speak, the strength to feel and the passion to sing! I declare that it is well with us!
God bless you with the blessings of Christ!
Love in Christ alone,
“Here am I and the children whom the LORD has given me! We are for signs and wonders in Israel From the LORD of hosts, Who dwells in Mount Zion” (Is 8:18)
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JONAH (5) THE DOCTRINE OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE
During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled ‘The Gospel according to Jonah’ (5); “The Doctrine of Divine Providence”. Her main text was taken from the Books of Jonah chapters 3 and 4 and Genesis 45:3-8; 50:18-21.
JONAH IS ANGRY WITH GOD
After his death and ‘resurrection’ Jonah finally obeyed God and preached a simple sermon to the Ninevites. God’s grace was given to the people. They all repented at the prophets’ message. This caused revival in Nineveh, the wicked great city. But Jonah became angry (again). He did not appreciate God’s mercy and grace given to these sinners. He was not happy that God used him to ignite the greatest revival in history. He was not grateful at the success of his ministry. He became angry and depressed. What is the reason for this depression? Jonah struggled with his emotions. The main reason is because Jonah does not understand God’s ways and in particular, he is ignorant of God’s Providence. May the revelation of this doctrine heal our hearts in the name of Jesus!
Reading the Book of Jonah, we discover great revelations about the character of God. Jonah is not the main hero of the Book. God is! The Grace of God is clearly manifested in the story. Another revelation is God’s providence, His work ‘behind the scenes’. Try to imagine, what type of God is this who provides a windstorm, a fish, a covering plant, and even a worm, all to achieve His purpose? As you can see, God is actively involved in the life of Jonah, not just in general, but in the details. This is amazing! Then this is another story… during the great storm, the disciples complained to the Lord Jesus, who was sleeping in the stern of the boat. Afraid and angry, they asked Him: “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”. He rebuked the wind and the storm stopped immediately. Then He gently rebuked them saying: “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:35-41). The disciples accused Jesus of not ‘caring’ for them. He told them that they do not have faith in Him, who is the God of providence. Doubt or ignorance of the doctrine of divine providence weakens the faith of the believer. May the Holy Spirit open the eyes of our understanding to receive this great revelation! For God’s glory and for our good!
THE DOCTRINE OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE – DEFINED
Before we start the subject, let us humble ourselves. God was pleased to reveal His mind, His will, and His purposes for His creation. He has done that thru His Word. Like Moses before the burning bush, let us not approach the Word in a spirit of adventure or curiosity. Let us remove the shoes of our fleshly pride and in worship, consider who God is. The doctrine of divine providence is one of the most difficult doctrines, to preach and to understand. We shall not study it just for intellectual and religious interest. We study it to know God better. Many children of famous people did not know that their parents were ‘stars’ until much later. There was a time in their lives when they discovered that their parents were rich or famous. That changed their attitude to their parents and matured them as children. God is pleased to reveal Himself to us. He wants us to grow up spiritually, to know that our Father in Heaven is the greatest Father in the universe. He wants us to know His plans, not only for us, but for His whole creation. We are co-heirs with Christ to this universe. Therefore, it is time for us to know the greatest inheritance of all. This doctrine is not for the unbelievers. Do not argue with them about God’s providence. This revelation is to strengthen and comfort only the believers. It helps in the spiritual battle against doubt, anxiety, and bitterness, which may lead to backsliding. Trials and sorrow in life makes many people confused, even the believers. The Bible does not explain the reason for every trial, but it gives us doctrines, and principles so that we can apply them. Some problems do not have a solution. We must trust God and His grace to the end even when we do not understand God’s ways.
Like the word ‘Trinity’, the word ‘providence; does not appear in the Bible. But the doctrine of providence is Biblical. The word ‘providence’ relates to the word ‘provision’. It means “to provide what is needed, to sustain and govern the world”. God’s name Jehovah Jireh is closely related to His work of Providence, by which He cares and provides for His creation, to bring it to its appointed end and all for His glory. Divine providence says that everything happens according to God’s sovereign will. That includes man’s thoughts, choices, and actions. God is sovereign in and over everything that happens!
The doctrine of providence is closely related to the doctrine of creation. God is the Creator of all things, visible and invisible, natural, and spiritual. God brought forth the universe that did not exist before. God created all things out of nothing, just by the Word of His Power. Creation has a beginning and has an end. God alone is not created. God never makes mistakes! He has no beginning and no end. As Creation is God’s work of making something out of nothing, Providence means the work of God by which His creation is sustained by Him in fulfilment to His own purpose. The word purpose is defined as the reason why something was created and exists. God always has a purpose for everything He does. “I am God, and there is no one else; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end and the result from the beginning, And from ancient times the things which have not [yet] been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will do all that pleases Me and fulfills My purpose” (Isa 46:9, 10; AMP). God’s purpose and His will are the same. What God purposes, He wills it!
Providence reveals the Government of God. The simplest definition for providence is this: God is actively in charge and He governs His Creation. This doctrine does not mean that God knows the end from the beginning. It is more than that. God is continuously involved in His creation. He works to make sure the universe continues to exist to fulfill His own plan and purpose for it. In particular, the doctrine of providence applies to mankind. God is the power sustaining and guiding all human destiny. God cares for men. This care in providence manifests itself especially as wisdom, power, and love. God controls human beings for His glory and for their good. God is good. He cares for all people, but He cares for the believers in a special way. He works ‘behind the scenes’ using all things, good and bad, even failures and sins, for His own purpose. He always brings them to ‘an expected end’ (Jer 29:11). This is a great definition: Providence ‘is God’s purposeful sovereignty in which He will be completely successful in the achievement of His ultimate goal for the universe” (John Piper). God’s providence is an amazingly good news for us who are in Christ!
CLASSICAL DEFINITIONS OF PROVIDENCE
Question: What do you understand by the providence of God? Answer: The Almighty, everywhere present power of God, whereby, as it were, by His hand, He still upholds heaven and earth with all creatures and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches, and poverty, indeed, all things come not by chance, but by His fatherly hand” (Heidelberg Catechism, 1563).
“God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1646). According to these definitions, the primary purpose of Creation therefore, it is to display God’s glory, wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy. The second purpose is to bless His Children!
A wonderful scripture to describe God’s work in providence is this: “But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now [He has never ceased working], and I too am working.” (Jn 5:17, AMP).
In the believers, God works mostly thru His Word in their hearts. Apostle Paul said: “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thess 2:13)
FALSE TEACHINGS RELATED TO CREATION AND PROVIDENCE
This doctrine stands in direct opposition to the idea that the universe is governed by chance. The philosophers who say that the universe exists by chance, they reject God as the Creator. For something to exists by chance, it means that it came accidentally, randomly, without a plan or a purpose. This is a false idea that has done great damage in the minds of many.
There are false teachings related to the doctrines of Creation and Providence. Some teachers say that God is inside His creation and not separated from it. They say this is how God upholds all things. This is the truth: God created the universe but as a Person, He is separate from it. Others say that God has created the universe, but that He withdrew from it. God is not actively interested in this world. He allows His creation to live according to the natural laws He created. He only looks from a distance. He intervenes in our lives only when something is terribly wrong. They say God is like a watchmaker. The watch He made works on its own. He only touches it if it needs repairs. Other false teachings say that God does not intervene thru miracles. They do not believe in miracles. Others say that God only cares for big things in life, and He ‘has no time’ for the small. These are false teachings and are not Biblical.
God is absolutely perfect. Think of God as a Father who has three main qualities: Goodness, Knowledge, and Power. God is perfectly good; He knows everything, and He is all-powerful. God does not learn anything new. He knows all things as they are from eternity. Nothing takes God by surprise. God does not forget anything. God cannot be deceived by anyone. Nothing is impossible for God to do. Therefore, God who created the universe, is able to sustain it, so that it fulfills God’s purpose for it. The doctrine of Providence has been rejected by many people. They say: ‘If God is good, all-knowledgeable and all powerful, then why there is so much suffering in this world. Every living being dies. Many people die without a clear purpose for their lives. There is poverty and war. Sin and evil seem to prevail. The rich oppress the poor, the strong bully the weak. They say, where is God in all these things? You need the Holy Spirit to believe God and to understand His ways.
THE BIBLE REVEALS THAT GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER ALL HIS CREATION
*Over the Universe: “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all” (Ps 103:19). “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11).
*Over the Physical and Animal world: “He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the service of man, that he may bring forth food from the earth… The young lions roar after their prey and seek their food from God” (Ps 104:14, 21)”. “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:45).”Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Mt 6:26).
*Over the Nations: “He makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and guides them” (Job 12:23).
*Over Man’s Conception, Birth, Death, and Every Decision of men: “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Ps 139:13-16). “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (PV 16:33)
*GOD PROTECTS HIS PEOPLE: “The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore” (Ps 121:7, 8). “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Mt 10:30)
*GOD PROVIDES FOR HIS PEOPLE: “He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years” (Deut 8:3-4). “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19).
*GOD ANSWERS THEIR PRAYERS: “O You who hear prayer, to You all flesh will come” (Ps 65:2). “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7)
*GOD PUNISHES THEIR ENEMIES: “The Lord tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. Upon the wicked He will rain coals; Fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup” (Ps 11:5, 6)
GOD HAS CREATED THE UNIVERSE THRU AND FOR HIS SON, JESUS CHRIST, AND HE SUSTAINS ALL THINGS BY THE WORD OF HIS POWER
God, “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power…” (Heb 1:2, 3)
God is the Creator. He has created the universe from nothing, by the Word of His mouth. God has created all things thru His Son and for His Son. The creation is separated from God but not independent from Him. God continues to be actively involved in His creation. God is absolutely sovereign and independent from His creation. The creation continues to exist dependent on God and His Word.
“You alone are the Lord; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and everything on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You” (Neh 9:6)
“He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Col 1:15-17)
God the Son is King overall! He rules in the Kingdom of God. All things must be according to His will, purpose, and pleasure. God’s government is universal and is eternally increasing in its manifestations. “For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with understanding. God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne” (Ps 47:7, 8). “Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Is 9:7). God, the Son, is King overall. Nothing and nobody can hide or withdraw from His government.
GOD’S PROVIDENCE IS MANIFESTED DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY
Most of the time, God works thru secondary means. God uses human decisions and the natural laws that He has created. Occasionally, God intervenes directly in the human affairs. When God does that, it is called a miracle. A miracle is the exercise of the sovereign power and will of God bypassing the laws of nature that God made at the beginning. Some do not believe in miracles. This is an error. The truth is that God has the absolute right to intervene directly or indirectly in the affairs of His creation.
God works thru men, not only when they do good, but even when they sin or do evil. God is not the author of sin or temptation (James 1:13). God does not condone sin. At the same time, God obviously allows a certain measure of sin. He must have a reason for allowing it, temporarily, even though He hates it. The doctrine of divine providence can be summarized this way: “God in eternity past, in the counsel of His own will, ordained everything that will happen; yet in no sense is God the author of sin; nor is human responsibility removed.” Man must take responsibility for his sins. But God works His purpose even thru men’s sins. God is God in all men’s actions. God initiate the action, accompanies man in every action, and makes that action effective for His purposes. Man does his work and God does His work. This cooperation is real, but it is never equal. God is always in charge!!!
We know that humans have a free will, but we also know that God is sovereign. How these two truths relate to each other is hard for us to understand, but we see examples in the Scripture. Study the way God dealt with Saul of Tarsus who became The Apostle Paul. Saul was willfully persecuting the church, but, all the while, he was “kicking against the goads” of God’s providence (Acts 26:14). God also sometimes works directly to accomplish His will. These works are what we call miracles. The blazing light that fell on Saul on the road to Damascus is an example of God’s direct intervention (Acts 9:3). The frustrating of Paul’s plans to go to Bythinia is an example of God’s indirect guiding (Acts 16:7).
DIVINE PROVIDENCE IS THE WORK OF THE TRINITY
God the Father designed and created the universe. He also invented and planed the salvation of sinners. God the Son volunteered to become a Man on earth, to live and die for the sins of men. The Son of God paid the price for salvation. By His Blood, Jesus ‘sponsored’ the Grace given to God’s children. God the Holy Spirit is the One who primarily works now on earth, even in manifesting the Divine Providence.
I am trying to explain these deep truths using a simpler example. In a big company, there is a CEO (Chief Executive Officer), there is the Owner and also the Managing Director. God the Father is the CEO, God the Son is the Owner and God the Holy Spirit is the Managing director. These are some of the qualities and functions of the CEO and the Managing Director as taken from the internet, relating to a big company on earth:
A CEO is at the highest level of hierarchy at any organization. He designs the overall strategy and vision of the company. His job includes making the most important decisions. He oversees all areas, whether operations or sales. He does not involve himself in the day-to-day workings of every department. He is more concerned with the overall running, strategies, and goals. He is also the face of the company in the public eye.
A Managing Director is, on the other hand, among the highest leaders at an organization and usually functions under the CEO. He might also be part of the board of directors. The Managing Director is responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the company. He oversees the daily implementation of the CEO’s strategy and works to align employees with the company’s long-term goals. A Managing Director reports to the CEO on updates. He is responsible for the smooth functioning of daily processes and manage the managers and other department heads.
Here are a few skills that both CEOs and managing directors share: Exceptional leadership and communication skills, Interpersonal skills, Organizational skills, Analytical skills, and Conflict resolution skills.
JOSEPH AND HIS BROTHERS – DIVINE PROVIDENCE RECOGNIZED – GOD MEANT IT FOR GOOD
“Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt” (Gen 45:3-8) …Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.” Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them” (Gen 50:18-21)
The way Joseph understands his life, his trials and triumph, is a wonderful example of wisdom and comfort knowing that God’s providence is at work. In Genesis 45:4–8, Joseph twice says that his brothers sold him into Egypt and three times that God sent him to Egypt. Both statements are true. Joseph is saying that God’s plan is sovereign even over the sin and wickedness of his brothers. As you can see, the doctrine of providence has practical value. Joseph is telling his brothers not to be grieved, angry, or fearful. In other words, he is telling them that he forgave them for their sins. They too should forgive themselves. This is because God’s providence intervened and overruled their sins. This is the Power of King Grace in action. They must humble themselves before King Grace and thank Him for His overruling decision. God has a purpose for their action, even though it was sinful. They should recognize the authority of King Grace and thank Him for all He has done. God has used their wrong choices and sins to glorify Himself and to promote Joseph. Good came out of bad. Thru Joseph’s promotion, the whole family was saved. Their family will become a nation. Recognizing the providence of God, Joseph is able to ‘comfort and speak kindly to them’.
Joseph stands for Christ, the Savior, who died for His people’s sins and rose to a new life. Christ alone defeated death with His death. Christ alone can change sin into righteousness. This is the Gospel. This is the power and the glory of the Gospel. This is Divine Providence at work for the glory of God and for the good of His people. Joseph saw God’s hand of providence thru all his suffering. Remember that Joseph had no Bible. He lived before the Book of Genesis was written. We have no excuse to be blind to the greatness of God! For seeing and honoring God behind all circumstances, God promoted him! Glory!
PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE
Knowing that God works thru men and does miracles should encourage our faith in Him. In the History of the church, the people of God always trusted God to intervene in their circumstances. They regarded the doctrine of providence as a great blessing. “Ignorance of providence is the ultimate of all miseries; the highest blessedness lies in the knowledge of it. “When we are unjustly wounded by men, let us overlook their wickedness (which would but worsen our pain and sharpen our minds to revenge), remember to mount up to God, and learn to believe for certain that whatever our enemy has wickedly committed against us was permitted and sent by God’s just dispensation. The Christian heart, since it has been thoroughly persuaded that all things happen by God’s plan, and that nothing takes place by chance, will ever look to God as the principal cause of things, yet will give attention to the secondary causes in their proper place. In the same evil deed, a godly man will clearly contemplate God’s righteousness and man’s wickedness, as each clearly shows itself” (John Calvin).
Knowing the doctrine of the Divine Providence, will help us see how Great God is. This revelation will humble human pride, encourage the faint, and help us to worship God more! God reveals Himself as the God of all Grace and Goodness, thru the story of the Bible, a world of sin, of pain, tragedy, betrayal, and death. To find God and His Grace is a world of sin, reveals the power of the Word of God and of the Holy Spirit! This is God’s world. See it thru God’s eyes, and not thru men’s opinions. “Let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1Cor 3:21-23). If you believe that in Christ, this world is yours, will not try to understand it better?
During painful trials, what should be our attitude? There is something negative and something positive. We should not grumble, we should not allow self-pity, and we should not doubt the love of God for us. Positively, we should actively seek to find what is God doing in the circumstances. Once you ‘find God’ with you, you will have peace. Finally, live a life of thanksgiving!
The providence of God shows God to be an artist painting beauty on a tattered scroll of sin. God does not want us to be passive lookers. He wants us to see His world with hope, gratitude, beauty, and amazement! The sun does not just rise in the East. God paints it on the sky, each morning with a different color! He never gets tired to paint it!
Knowing that God works to uphold His creation, thru men, circumstances or by miracles, should help us to pray with more confidence. Each morning pray like this: “Dear Heavenly Father, I worship You for You are God! You are my God! You care for me! I need You today! I need Your Grace and Help today. Please send helpers to me! Please help me to recognize and to accept them. Help me to remain humble and faithful! Help me to submit to Your loving Hand, in all things. Help me to see You in all things pertaining to me. I desire to cooperate with You as the God of Providence! I reject pride, fear, grumbling, ingratitude, doubt, and sinful anger. Help me to trust You for miracles, for nothing is impossible with You! Let my life be pleasing to You! I give You all the glory! I thank You Abba Father! In Jesus’ name I pray, amen!”. Worship the Lord!
“You saved the best until now, Lord Jesus” (John 2:10)
All marriages, no matter how strong, will eventually ‘finish’ their wine of joy and passion and end up ‘dry’: no hatred, no love, just ‘water- surviving’ arrangement. There is a moment when you discover that all the love has been exhausted on daily errands and the boring routine of life. There is a moment when fear will grip the heart that your secret relationship failure will become a public display; ‘They have no more wine…’
That place of loneliness, disappointment and shame is the moment for the true Friend to step in and help. The best marriage counselors are not found seated at the table waiting to be served. They are found in the background, among the servants, who know the secret of brewing the miracle of supernatural love that never dies. Once you taste from the latter wine, once you are willing to allow God to love your spouse through your heart, your marriage will receive the stamp of heaven and will survive divorce… in fact, will defeat even death. Never forget the power of the latter rain! That is where the glory dwells!
In Christ I declare:
My marriage belongs to God!
Jesus is the Lord of my marriage, the Red Cord that can never be broken!
I will never lose hope in my marriage for my spouse is a gift from God and God never makes mistakes!
My marriage shall last until death will ‘part’ us! Nothing else will be able to destroy it before death!
I hate divorce!
Like the wine, my marriage shall be better as we get older!
Holy romance shall always ‘bubble’ in my marriage!
The best is yet to come!
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
PS. My beloved husband, Pastor Richmond Sisan Leigh and I were married for 47 years when in July 2020, he suddenly went to heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ is now my Husband. He has given me supernatural peace, strength, courage and an inexpressible joy full of glory. He who changed water into wine is mine forever! This new Holy Ghost wine will never end… In the picture taken some years ago, my husband and I… To God alone be all the glory!
In the morning, the light of the rising sun is special, the color of the sky is more blue, and the plants look happier. Hope blooms at the beginning of a new day more than in the evening. There is an expectation of good coming this day. God hears your prayers!
Dear young people, this is your ‘morning’ in life. Rejoice and give thanks to God! Even the rest of us who live in the noon or evening of life, we too should thank God! For He is always good!
Let us pray: “Father God, please… when morning comes, let Your love satisfy all our needs. Then we can sing for joy, celebrate and be glad…” (Ps 90:14). The morning prayer gives the tune for the day! Don’t forget your ‘quiet time’. Good morning from my garden in Warri/ Effurun, Nigeria! @ 8am. God bless you all today!
‘My son (my daughter), pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it’ (PV 4:20-23)
There is good dating and sinful dating. Recreational dating is wrong. It is sin. Young people exercise their emotions by dating many without any clear purpose. These relationships are generally based on flesh attractions. They consume time, money and energy. Their foundation is wrong. The common ground of these worldly relationships is based on worshipping the same idols together. Sometimes, they are infatuated with different idols but they have ‘peace’ when these do not clash with one another. All these are sinful relationships, the wicked work of familiar, seductive spirits. There are ‘serial daters’ who become very skillful in manipulating others’ emotions. They are a stronghold of lust, pollution and wickedness in the church.
True relationships in the body of Christ must always be based on PURITY, PASSION AND PURPOSE. Like Job, make a covenant with your eyes not to look lustfully to others. Be sensitive with ‘the sign of peace’. The Holy Spirit will warn you if you go too close to one another, or if love degenerates into lust, and purity into wickedness.
If you feel led to marry, pray that God will open only one door and close all others to you. Marriage is not hunting. Marriage is not trial by error. Marriage is God’s gift to man and the Holy Spirit does the connection.
‘Do not awake love’ until you are ready to marry. This is a paraphrase of Song of Solomon SS 2:7, the most passionate, erotic Book in the Bible. The high levels of stirred emotions between a man and a woman are to be found only between husband and wife. During dating keep your emotions under the control of the Holy Spirit, controlling your body in a holy way. Please remember that your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit! Honor it! The worldly books and movies can never be your standard as you prepare to marry. Read the Bible and apply the principles you find there. Also, imitate other couples who clearly are mature spiritually and still intoxicated with the wine of the passion for Christ and for one another. These couples are rare to find even in the church, but if you seek, you will find them. They are treasures. Tell your pastors or other mature believers about your intent, even at the beginning of the relationship. Tell them you want to be accountable to them.
During courtship, do not touch one another physically except to hold hands in prayer. All this sacrifice is worth it as God watches and approves the laying of your marriage foundation. Under no circumstances have sex before the wedding! That fire will destroy the seal of anointing from the Holy Spirit and the marriage will be vulnerable and weak. Sexual premarital abstinence is good but purity of heart and motives is even better. Seek holiness and purity in your dating and marriage! Have purpose during your relationship. Do not propose marriage if you are not ready to marry. Long time indefinite dating is not good.
Purity in the relationships is like incense as you worship God. Hypocrisy in the relationships quenches the worship of God.
May God give you wisdom as you prepare your heart and your body for the marriage ahead! In Jesus’ name, amen!
Beloved children, I wish you well as I continue to pray for you!
Your mother in Christ,
(In the picture, our youngest daughter, Jemine and her husband, Matthew, on their wedding day)
“And God looked upon all that He had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). Even this little flower in my garden, was made by God. His works are wonderful! God bless you dear friends! May the Grace of God be upon you in a greater measure this week!
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JONAH (4) THEN JONAH PRAYED
During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled ‘The Gospel according to Jonah’ (4); “Then Jonah Prayed”. Her main text was taken from the Book of Jonah chapters 1 and 2; and Mark 4:35-41.
The story of Jonah is more than a children’s tale. It is more than an adventure about a great fish. It the revelation of God and His Grace towards men. It is the testimony of King Grace. Simply said, Grace means unmerited favor, undeserved Kindness for the sake of Christ! In the Book of Jonah, we shall find the Gospel of Christ Crucified and Resurrected. The study of this Book from the Old Testament will help us see that the Bible is One. In the Old Testament the Gospel is revealed in symbols and shadows. In the New Testament, we see reality of the Gospel. There are many deep revelations here, about salvation and the call of God to ministry. All people can gain wisdom and strength from the study of the Book of Jonah, but in particular the backsliders. Praise the Lord!
WHO IS JONAH?
Jonah was the son of Amittai. In Hebrew, the name “Amittai” means Truthful or Faithful. Jonah comes from a good Hebrew family. The Name “Jonah” means “Dove”. It is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Jonah was a true Prophet of Jehovah God. God wanted to use him as an ambassador of peace. He prophesied during Jeroboam II, a wicked king of Israel. Jonah lived in a small town called Gath Hepher, located at the north border of ancient Israel. It was part of the inheritance of the Tribe of Zebulun (Joshua 19:13). (Today, the town does not exist. There are some ruins there, and a stone said to be Jonah’s tomb. The ruins are five Kilometers north of Nazareth). Jonah must have lived between 800 and 750BC. Assyria was Israel’s neighbor in the north. At that time, the Kingdom of Assyria was the greatest power in the world. Its capital, Nineveh, founded by Nimrod, was at its peak. (The Kingdom of Assyria was conquered by Babylon in 600 BC). Jonah’s ministry started immediately after the prophets Elijah and Elisha. It is possible that Jonah was a disciple of Elisha.
THE THEME OF THE BOOK OF JONAH – SALVATION IS OF THE LORD!
The Book of Jonah is not a prophecy. It is the Prophet’s miraculous story, his testimony, and his relationship with Jehovah God. Jonah’s story reveals the way The God of all Grace deals with His people, even when they rebel against His commands. The greatest revelation in the Book of Jonah is that “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). In Jonah we discover the Gospel, the power of seeking Grace. It is not man looking for God but God seeking and finding the lost! “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai,,,” (Jonah 1:1). This is how the Book of Jonah starts. It is not Jonah’s word that matters. It is God’s Word that starts the story. God is always first! The Gospel is not man’s work but God’s. Grace always ignites the fire. But Jonah struggles with the Grace of God. He loves to experience grace for himself, but he does not what to extend that grace to others. The story of Jonah helps us to understand and appreciate the irresistible Grace of God in salvation and redemption. Throughout the story of Jonah, we see that God is all-powerful, kind, patient, and faithful. For not good reason, God loves Jonah from the beginning to the end! There is no other explanation for this love except the Grace of God!
Jonah’s rebellion ends in the belly of a great fish sent be God to arrest him. In that fishy prison, Jonah comes back to his senses, and he does two things: he repents, and he prays to God. All Bible commentators do not agree when did Jonah pray. Some say that he when he was thrown in the sea, he sank to the bottom of it and died. A great fish sent by God swallowed him dead. He was in its belly for three days as Lazarus was in the tomb for four days. Then God resuscitated Jonah as he did with Lazarus. After coming back to life, Jonah, in the belly of the fish, he finally repented of his rebellion, and he prayed with faith and thanksgiving. Then the fish vomited Jonah unto dry ground near Nineveh. Other Bible commentators say that the fish was close to the boat. When Jonah was thrown into the sea, the fish swallowed him immediately. Jonah stayed alive in the belly of the fish for three days. That is when he prayed. Either way, one thing is clear: Jonah encountered his God. He passed thru death unto life. Jonah experienced the grace and mercy of the Lord, his God. In the natural, there was no hope for him. He could not save himself from the belly of the fish, a watery grave for him. But God saved him by His Grace and by His sovereign will. This is a picture of the Gospel of Christ!
The Book of Jonah, in the Old Testament, gives us a clear prophetic picture of Christ crucified and resurrected. It is a reminder that a sinner cannot save himself. The wages of sin is death. The only way a sinner can be saved, is by the Grace of God! Our Lord identified Himself with Jonah. He rebuked the religious leaders who wanted a sign for Him to prove His authority. He said the only sign that will be given is the sign of Jonah. “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here” (Mt 12:38-41). Christ was crucified by these religious hypocrites. He died, and He was buried. By His glory, God the Father resurrected Him from the dead. He died on behalf of sinners who shall believe in Him. The Cross will convict all men of sin. Those who repent and believe like Jonah, will be saved. Those who continue in their unbelief and hypocrisy, are condemned already. God saved the sinners in Nineveh so that they will be witnesses in heaven to the Grace of the Gospel of Christ. They obeyed the command to repent! They became believers at the preaching of Jonah. Our Lord is ‘greater’ than Jonah. This is the Power of the Gospel to save those who believe! Glory!
In the belly of the fish, Jonah prays to the Lord, his God. The word ‘prayed’ means to cry to God and to judge himself. Jonah now repents of his sins, especially of rebellion. The prodigal son is ready to come back home! He prays to Jehovah Elohim, meaning the God of the Covenant, and the Creator of the universe. Jonah prays as a believer. He remembers that God is the Covenant keeping God who has promised to answer and help His people when they are in trouble. He also sees God as the Creator of the earth and the sea, having all powers over His creation. This prayer is a genuine prayer of faith. Face to face with death, we are all humbled. It is in times of crisis that the truth about us is revealed. That is why God allows troubles, to help us discover who God is and, to discover ourselves. This is God’s promise: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Ps 50:15). The word ‘trouble’ here means ‘a tight corner’. When in trouble, do not try to save yourself thru sinful imaginations and evil manipulations. Forget what men can do to help you! Remember God! He knows that you are in this trouble because He ‘supervises it’. He wants to use it to manifest His power and grace, to recuse you. The deliverance will end in giving glory to God and for your own good. All true believers have this testimony that when they were in serious trouble, and no man could help, God manifested Himself and saved them from death.
From ‘the belly of Sheol’ Jonah cries out to God in a desperate prayer of faith. He does not say from the belly of the fish. He says, ‘from the belly of Sheol’. This word means the land of the dead, the spiritual cemetery of hell. Jonah cannot go lower than that. But this is the miracle of true prayer: God heard His voice! This is a great lesson: when you are in trouble, run to God! Do not run away from God! After God saves you, live your life to the praise and glory of His name! Do not forget God’s help in times past. Live your life in thanksgiving to God! Passing thru the valley of the shadow of death should make us better people. We should study God’s Word, pray more, be more humble, more compassionate with others, and wiser in all our decisions. We should never take God’s help for granted. We should honor the God of all Grace! Be reminded that Grace is never given to demons. They will never experience the grace and mercy of God. Grace is God’s gift to His children alone! Selah!
King David had faith that God will not abandon him in the grave and his body will not see corruption. This is what he said: “I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps 16:8-11). He had hope that his soul is eternally saved, and his body will one day be resurrected. This is the faith and hope of all true believers in Christ. What was David’s secret of this confidence? It is the secret of all true believers. He cultivated the presence of God. “I have set the Lord always before me”. He made sure that his conscience was always free from guilt. He acknowledged God in all his ways. Because of this holy lifestyle, he was joyful even in troubles and had the assurance of salvation. When Peter preached his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, he refers to David’s prophetic words. Peter said that David referred to Christ, the Son of David, who resurrected on the third day. David’s body saw ‘corruption’, waiting for the resurrection day. But Christ’s Body did not see corruption. We, the believers in Christ, the Body of Christ, have this hope also. One day, when Christ comes again, our bodies will rise from the ground and become spiritual glorious bodies like our Lord’s. Listen to Peter: “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses” (Ac 2:29-32).
Jonah’s body did not see corruption in the belly of the fish. It did not decompose inside. Death did not have power of Jonah’s body and soul. This is a great picture of our Lord Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection. It is also a wonderful encouragement to us all, that God will not abandon us to the grave. This hope of glory should influence our thinking and attitude to life, especially when trials come. Jonah prays: ‘You (God) cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the floods surrounded me; All Your billows and Your waves passed over me’ (Jonah 2:3). It is true that it was the mariners who cast Jonah into the sea, and that action was at his request. But here, Jonah says that it was God’s will for him to be cast into the sea of death. The floods are sea currents. The sea was not calm. Jonah was cast unto the troubled sea. Now Jonah sees God’s sovereign hand in everything. This is a great revelation! Jonah is maturing spiritually! Praise the Lord!
There are other examples when men rejected God’s children and sent them to die. But God was using their evil deeds for His own glory. For example, Joseph’s brothers cast him into the pit for him to die. But God saved Joseph from death. From pit, Joseph went to Potiphar’s house, then to prison and at last, into the palace. The way up goes down first. It is God’s way. Later, when the wicked Pharoah commanded that every Jewish baby boy should be thrown into River Nile to die, Baby Moses was saved and became the leader of his people. This is another great lesson: men may reject you, may throw you away like dirt, but God always intervenes and saves His people. What men call ‘trash’ God calls ‘salvation’. This is the story of Jesus! This is our story! This is the power of the Gospel of Christ Crucified and Resurrected!
Jonah was running away from the presence of God. In the belly of the fish, he finally succeeded to run away from God’s presence. Or so he thought. But it is there, in the belly of Sheol, that Jonah starts to miss God’s presence. For a moment he thought he will never experience the sweet glory of His presence. “Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ (Jonah 2:4). The words ‘cast out’ mean to divorce. For a moment, like an unfaithful wife running from her good husband, Jonah thought that God has divorced him. But how little he knew the faithfulness of God. Amid the terrible fear of a life and death without God, Jonah says ‘yet’! There is a ‘yet’ for all believers who come to this point of no return! Jonah decided to use his last moments on this earth by ‘looking again to God’s holy Temple’. Jonah was born in the northern Israel where people raised a false altar to Jehovah God. It is possible that Jonah was going to Jerusalem on pilgrimage, to worship God in Solomon’s temple. He knew the presence of God. He felt it in that temple. He knew the promise God gave about people who pray trusting the God of the Temple. The promise was that if men pray towards the Temple in Jerusalem God will hear and God will help. That was the faith of Daniel who was rescued from the lions. At the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, King Solomon prayed: “may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive” (1Kg 8:30). From inside the belly of the fish, Jonah remembered God, and especially His promise of mercy and grace. “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple”. When the veil of death covered his eyes and soul, with the last breath of his lips, Jonah remembered God and prayed! It was not a usual prayer. It was a prayer that ‘went up’ to God. From dying lips, the prayer got resurrection wings, passed thru the fish body, thru the waters, and went to God’s heaven. God answered! Our Lord prayed on the Cross. His Blood shed, His body broken, He prayed and gave God his spirit! Do you know the power of such a prayer?
This is another great lesson: When you are in trouble, forget all people and all things but remember God! Remember His Love and Faithfulness! Remember His great acts of power! We change! Circumstances change! But God neve changes! He is forever the same! Promise me that when you weep, you remember God! “Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah! And I said, “This is my anguish; But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely, I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work And talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; Who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah The waters saw You, O God; The waters saw You, they were afraid; The depths also trembled… Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, And Your footsteps were not known. You led Your people like a flock By the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Ps 77:8-15; 19, 20)
Now, Jonah sees the foolishness of serving idols. These are called worthless idols or ‘lying vanities’ (Jonah 2:8. KJ). To serve anything other than God, that is an idol. For sinners, self is the greatest idol. If you want to do your will, that is an idol. Let God’s will be done! All idols are full of promises, but they can never perform. They are deceitful, and never bring satisfaction. Jonah says that if you cling to idols, you forsake the Grace and Mercy God offers, the source of all goodness and help. That is the tragedy of idolatry. Finally, Jonah says: “I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.” (Jonah 2:9). In other words, Jonah promised God to serve Him alone forever. He vows that once he is out of this fish, he will serve God! He will go to Nineveh and preach the Gospel to them. Praise and thanksgiving are sacrifices accepted by God. Jonah declares that ‘Salvation is of the Lord’! The word ‘salvation’ is ‘Jeshua’. It also means victory, deliverance, prosperity. These are found only in the Lord (Jehovah). In other words, Jonah has now declared that “Jesus is Lord”. It is only by the Holy Spirit that a man can truly declare that (1 Cor 12:3). This is the best and the last word of Jonah in the belly of the fish. God has heard his prayer and confession. Jesus is Lord! God’s decision is that Jonah shall live and not die and he shall declare the works of the Lord (Ps 118:17). Immediately, “The Lord spoke to the fish and it vomited Jonah onto dry land” (Jonah 2:9). What a testimony of the Grace of God! Hallelujah!
TWO STORMS – ONE LORD!
“On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mk 4:35-41)
Jesus said that he is ‘greater than Jonah’. We shall look at the story when Jesus stopped the storm. Like Jonah, Jesus too was sleeping in the boat. But there was a major difference. Jonah was a rebellious believer. Our Lord was obedient to His Father, even unto death. The mariners on the boat going to Tarshish were afraid that they will die. They repented of idolatry and surrendered their lives to Jehovah, Jonah’s God. The disciples of Jesus also were afraid that they will die. They learned many lessons, that ‘one greater than Jonah’ was their Savior and Lord! During the worse moment of his life, Jonah prayed to Jesus who alone could save him! And He did! The Gospel of Jonah shows us the pursuing Grace of Chastisement. The Gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected reveals the reality of Grace, Truth, Power, and Eternal Life. Worthy is the Lamb!
Leaving the crowd behind, The Lord commanded His disciples saying: ‘Let us cross over to the other side’! Jesus was tired and fell asleep in the stern, on a pillow. This ‘pillow’ was made of leather, and it was placed there for the captain. The way Jesus slept reveals to us the humanity of Jesus. As a man, He was tired, hungry, and thirsty. He was tired and sleeping as a Man, but as God, He was always watchful. “Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber [briefly] nor sleep [soundly]” (Ps 121:4; AMP). As they were sailing on the Sea of Galilee, suddenly, ‘a great windstorm’ arose (Mk 4:37) and ‘also came down on the lake’ (Lk 8:23). The Sea of Galilee is usually calm. Occasionally, strong hurricanes suddenly come on it. The reason is because the Sea is 700 feet below Sea level, and it is surrounded by great mountains. The cold air from the mountains comes down and ‘troubles’ the Sea. The disciples are all fishermen. This Sea is their ‘territory’. They are used to navigate during storms. But this ‘windstorm’ was different. In fact, it was a perfect storm! The sudden violent gush of cold wind, and the rain that accompanied it, was different that anything they have seen in the past. There was a fearful wickedness of the wind that could not be explained. The waves carried the boat high, on the mighty waves. Then the boat will go low, almost to the bottom of the sea. The water was going into the boat. There was a genuine danger that they will all drown. It was not just the boat that was flooded. Their hearts became flooded with fear! The disciples tried to manage the situation, but all their efforts were in vain. The fear of death became their master now. Drenched, shivering cold, afraid they ran to Jesus! This is good! We should always run to Jesus!
DOES JESUS CARE FOR US?
The disciples complained: “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”. It is possible that it was Peter who asked the question, but he represented all of them. The question reveals their hearts. They were impatient, angry, and even rude with their “Teacher’. They blamed Jesus that He does not care about them. In Greek, the word ‘care’ means to be anxious, to be concerned. To care it means to be interested about someone, to feel concerned, to take responsibility about someone, to love, protect and provide for his needs. For example, parents care about their children. Often, God’s people feel that God does not care enough for them. At the root of it, this is a sign of unbelief!
For the disciples to complain that their Lord ‘does not care if they die’, they indirectly accused Him to be a hireling and not a true shepherd. Listen to what our Lord said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep” (Jn 10:11-13). The hireling is an agent of the devil. He shepherds the sheep for money. When the wolf attacks, the hireling is not ready to protect the sheep with his life. He runs away. Jesus said that He is the Good Shepherd, and He gives His life for the sheep. To accuse the Lord that He does not care for them, the disciples accused Him to be a hypocrite, to be a devil. The Lord rebuked their lack of faith in Him, their Savior, who came from heaven to die for them, that they may live!
Sister Martha asked a similar question. Mary was ‘wasting time’ seated at the feet of Jesus and listening to His Word. Martha was busy in the kitchen, cooking and serving food to the guests. Tired of all that labor, she complained to the Lord saying that He ‘does not care’. Our Lord gently rebuked her saying that her labor makes her worried and troubled about many things. Our Lord also said that ‘only one thing is needed’. Mary was wiser than her. She has chosen ‘the good (or the better) part’. We need to work for our daily bread but to listen to God’s voice, to study the Word of God, will always be ‘the better part’ which is eternally ours (Lk 10:39-42)
Later Peter encouraged all believers to trust the Lord because He cares for us! “Casting all your cares
[all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all]
on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]” (1 Pet 5:7, AMP)
JESUS MUZZLES THE STORM
Jesus arose and rebuked the wind and the waves. He stopped the storm with a Word! The wind stopped immediately, like Christ switched it off. He said: “Peace, be still!” Immediately, the storm ceased and there was a great mysterious supernatural calm in the atmosphere. In Greek, the words spoken by our Lord: “Peace, be still” mean this: ‘Be silent! Be dumb! Be calm! Be muzzled!”. Jesus ‘muzzled’ the storm the way a dog is muzzled so that it cannot bark or bite anymore. The result was immediate. There was ‘a great calm’. This was a perfect storm that ended in a perfect peace. By stopping the storm, Jesus proved to be God, the Lord of Hosts, the Captain of the hosts of heaven. “O Lord God of hosts, Who is mighty like You, O Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You. You rule the raging of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them” (Ps 89:8, 9).
During the storm, the disciples were restless and confused because of fear. Jesus alone was calm and composed. This is a great lesson: your attitude during your ‘storm’ will determine the result. Praying with fear and praying with faith is totally different. Once peace reigned again, The Lord asked them: “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”. This was a gentle rebuke, but nevertheless, a rebuke. The boat became the classroom. The storm revealed that the disciples did not totally trust in Jesus. Their fears almost drowned their faith. They forgot God’s Word: “But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Is 43:1-3)
There were some ‘little boats’ following the main boat. The disciples were so worried about their problems that they did not see that there was other ‘little boats’ around. They too were in the storm. They had the same problems, but Jesus was not in these boats. But after the storm was stopped by Jesus, they too shared in the victory. These little boats represent people who come to church, are friends with the Christians, but are not yet saved. I said: ‘yet’. For none can experience the power and grace of the Lord and remain the same! They are followers of Jesus but not converts! Yet! Let us pray for the people in these little boats, who are here in the church, right now! Let us pray for their salvation! Amen!
WHAT MANNER OF MAN IS JESUS? (Mk 4:41, KJ)
The disciples feared the storm and feared death. Now, a greater fear overcame them. It was the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom.
What are some of the lessons for us?
*The Lord Jesus Christ is the Sovereign God! Our Lord Jesus Christ is completely Man and completely God. He is the Creator of everything. He made the sea, and He alone can control it. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (Jn 1:3). “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Col 1:16). The Lord Jesus ‘has the power to bring everything under His control’ (Phil 3:21). The Lord gave authority to His disciples to heal diseases and deliver the oppressed, in His name. But Christ did not give them the authority over nature. During the storms of life, we must run to Jesus. He alone can stop the storm and bring peace once more! Our sufferings may come suddenly, but these never take Jesus by surprise. The Holy Spirit uses the storms of life to bring us closer to God, to purify and increase our faith, to wean us from the love of the world, and to make us spiritually mature. We now appreciate salvation and heaven like never before!
*The Lord Jesus Christ is the best example of how to behave during the storms of life. He went to sleep during the storm. Why? Because He completely trusted His Father. You need to learn to sleep like Jesus! Peter did it (Ac 12:6). Jesus knew that He and His disciples cannot die before the appointed time. He trusted that the Father would wake Him up when it is necessary for him to act. Most people cannot do that. They sleep, but they do not sleep well, because they are worried about things that can happen around them. They think that by worrying, they help themselves to live longer. They think it is their duty to remain alert in the night, just in case… But Jesus went to sleep in the shalom of God! ‘It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep’ (Ps 127:2). Do you sleep well?
*We should fear not! We should live by faith! Our Lord is in our boat! The symbol of the church is a boat on the water. Jesus is in the boat of our hearts, individually, and in the church as a congregation. Jesus said: “whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn 11:26). At God’s appointed time, we shall ‘sleep’ in Christ, but we can never die! During the storm, the disciples feared death. After the storm they ‘feared exceedingly’ and said to one another: “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” They knew Jesus as their Teacher. Now they experienced Him as God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Lord over every storm and the Ruler of all creation!
Jonah bowed to the storm! The storm bowed to Jesus! One in Christ, we died with Him, and we rose with Him!
*Cross over the storm before you arrive at greater success! It was the Lord that said to them: “Let us Cross over to the other side”. After an unforgettable night, they arrived at the region of the Gadarenes. It was a Gentile territory on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. The Lord delivered a demon possessed man and was rejected from that area. These were more lessons for the disciples. Before a breakthrough in ministry, we may have to pass the test of faith in the storm. May God help us!
*We should fear God always! We should trust in Jesus Christ, always! Like Jonah discovered: “Salvation is of the Lord!”(Jonah 2:9). Jesus is Lord!
*Jesus cares! Yes! Even right now, in your suffering and weakness, Jesus cares! Jesus is Our Compassionate High Priest. He left heaven and lived among men, to know men. He knows the power of temptation, of the sin of grumbling, of unbelief. He suffered. But He conquered death and hell. Jesus became a man so that He can die for men. He is now in heaven interceding for me, and for you. He invites us to come boldly to meet with Him at His throne in heaven, that we may receive mercy and grace in time of need! Let us go to Jesus! Today! Right now! “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:14-16). I DECLARE TODAY: JESUS IS ENOUGH FOR ME! Worship the Lord!