Monday, August 21, 2017 was a very significant day. It was not only the 2nd day of the week, the day God created the sky, but it was the day a rare astronomical event occured. Millions, if not Billions, looked up towards the sky and viewed a total solar eclipse which passed through the middle of The United States. In fact, this eclipse was called “America’s Eclipse." Throughout the U.S., meteorologists reported what the weather would be like well in advance of the eclipse. Masses prepared to view the darkened sun by purchasing the right glasses, having parties, traveling long distances, paying outrageous hotel rates, and people around the World were glued to their television news channels all in an effort to see the sun darkened. Many businesses even closed on Monday to give their employees a chance to celebrate this celestial holiday. Towns and Cities planned “Official Eclipse Events.” While many were searching for rooms, flights, views, bars, not many prepared their heart, mind, and soul, and searched to understand the bigger meaning of this "Sign of Jonah."
I love history, especially biblical history. I have learned that ALL World historical events entwines with God’s Word. In fact, we are living history. God has given us signs or warnings in the skies throughout time. HE did so even at the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ and so many other times. Jesus himself spoke about the "Sign of Jonah" being a total Eclipse. Jesus observed how many will turn to the meteorologist but will lose sight of the bigger meaning. If you recall, when Jesus’ spirit left his body, a total eclipse came upon the land and the ground was shaken. The sky is God’s tablet.
16 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
2 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.
Did you know that when the eclipse starts on Monday at 17:16 UT time or 10:16 am in Salem, Oregon, (named after JeruSALEM) the sun will be setting in Jerusalem, Israel? I don’t believe in coincidences. God is the creator of the heavens and the earth. HE has a plan. There are no coincidences. Don't take this the wrong way... I DON'T have a "Que Sera Sera -Whatever will be will be" attitude either. God clearly gives us choices and our choices can affect an outcome. If prayer and conversation can't change God's mind... then why would HE want us to pray? Why would we pray? Throughout history there is a multitude of evidence that prayer changes God's mind.
I have been drawn to look up and learn more about Jonah, even before I really heard about this eclipse. Many scholars parallel the most memorable events of the account of Jonah with Jesus’ life. However, I can see a lot of myself in Jonah’s rebellious and pouty side. I believe that every single person, Saint, and event in God’s Word existed to teach us. We can all relate to every person in the Word of God, if we read it. As King Solomon wrote, nothing is new under the sun. The reason it is so important for us to read God’s Word and truly dig in and study it, is so we can be able to know what we should do and what we shouldn’t do in our own lives and situations and what consequences will most likely follow. God’s Word is as relevant today as it was 5776 years ago.
To be able to see the WHOLE picture clearly and put ourselves in Jonah’s sandals, we need to go way back in time, gather all the facts. Who exactly was Jonah? What made Ninevah so bad that a man close to God ran away to avoid going there? What is the bigger picture, the bigger meaning? What is God trying to tell us or warn us about?
To see just how rebellious and wicked Ninevah was, you have to know how it came to be. Today, Ninevah is known as the city of Mosul, Iraq.
Ninevah’s character is the result of lewdness, pride, self-indulgence, disrespect, lack of consideration and just plain evilness. This goes back to the great flood. You see, Noah had 3 sons; Shem, Ham and Japheth. After a dove came back with an olive branch and the waters receded, Noah and his family came out of the ark and began their new life. In Genesis 9:20 God describes Noah as “a man of the soil.” In other words, he loved to plant seeds, cultivate them and then harvest them. He planted a great vineyard and after harvesting he celebrated and partook of a little too much of his wine. Noah got drunk. So drunk, he passed out naked as a jaybird IN THE PRIVACY OF HIS OWN TENT! He wasn’t dancing around naked in the streets or riding around flashing everyone, Noah was in the privacy of his tent, free of clothes, where he passed out. A person he trusted to respect his boundaries, Ham, sneaked in and purposely took a good look at his father’s nakedness. NOAH GOT HACKED! Turns out, Ham was a malicious pervert. After he got his eyes full, he didn’t even cover his father up. The scum bucket ran to his brothers and told them. These are malicious actions to humiliate and intimidate. I can just see Ham snickering and laughing. Thankfully, Shem and Japheth didn't join in. They were disgusted. Thank God there wasn't FACEBOOK or TWITTER or Ham would be sure to have post and spread it. (no pun intended.) Shem and Japheth didn’t want to look upon Noah’s nakedness nor did they want Noah to lay there uncovered, so they took a blanket and backed their way into the tent so not to view him. They threw the covers from their back and covered him as he slept. Ham did not help them nor was he remorseful for his perverted “Peeping Tom” actions. The next day, as the fog lifted, Ham's actions were revealed. Noah was so mad and humiliated that he cursed Ham and his sons.
Now...Fast forward…..The great warrior, Nimrod was Ham’s grandson. He built the cities of Babylon, Sodom, Gomorrah and NINEVAH! Get the picture! See what they all have in common? See what Ham’s actions gave birth to? They are all cities of lewdness, unlawfulness, disrespect for others, huge egos, criminal behavior, violence, corruption, evilness, etc… Actions have long lasting consequences.
Now, who was Jonah? The name Jonah means DOVE. Hum..... You know, that bird from the sky which came back to Noah with a sign. Jonah was a man of God. He sought God. Long before God told Jonah to go to Ninevah, God had told Jonah that Israel was going to become great again after years of losing power, wars and land. Jonah spoke these words of encouragement to the people and the King of Israel. This was during a time when things weren’t looking so good. When Jonah’s prophesy came to pass, word got around about Jonah’s direct connection with God. After this, Jonah was like the famous financial broker of the 70s, E.F. Hutton. When Jonah spoke, everybody listened. But when Israel became great again, they didn't remain humble. They gloated and became complacent about their favored status with God. They focused on the day of judgement when God’s darkness would cover other nations, but leave them in the light to shine. Israel really looked forward to the day those wicked cities and people, who had given them such grief would go down in flames like Sodom and Gomorrah.
It was during this time that God spoke to Jonah again and told him he wanted him to go to Ninevah and give them a chance to escape disaster. As you know, Jonah got scared and ran in the other direction. YEP, THAT’S ME! I can so relate to Jonah. Has God ever urged you to share your story and God’s love with people who might not only judge you and make fun of you, but with people who HATE YOU? Has Jesus put it upon your heart to step up your walk with HIM? He has me. Jonah became like Israel. After surviving one hard and long ordeal, they both just wanted to enjoy “Easy Street” for a while.
(Please don't ask me. After surviving a tornado and other storms in life, can I just relax, receive some pats on the back and accolades while ignoring and avoiding lost souls? Send someone else. I don't like these people and they don't like me. )
Jonah and his country also looked forward to God’s vengeance. YEP... that has been me too! I have laid so many things, over the years, at Jesus’ feet, not sought retribution all while praying and waited for God to seek vengeance for me. Now what if God told you to go warn those people to change? Not just strangers but people who have harmed you and yours and wish you and yours dead? People with no moral compass and who have great power, more power than you. I'm embarrassed to admit, I would be like Jonah. I would say, "They won't listen to me! They will just try to kill me! Send someone else." How many hands would go up in church if asked for volunteers to preach the gospel in Mosul, Iraq? How many would be willing to encourage their worse enemies to change and turn to Christ?
YEP, I’m ashamed to say, I would be putting on my most comfortable sandals, a pair of shorts and t-shirt and heading to the beach.
When Jonah took off the other way, God didn’t chase him. He let him go. The further Jonah got away from God’s will, the worse his situation became. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He doesn't expect or want all of us to go to Iraq or Iran to preach, but HE does want us to be a living testimony. To share OUR STORY with others. When we as Christ Followers run the other way, go to the beach, God patiently waits as we get ourselves in a pickle.. or in this case.. a belly of a whale. He is not anxious. He allows whatever it takes, until HE gets us in a place of solitude. Just YOU and HIM. IF and hopefully WHEN we come to our senses and seek HIM, God is right there. Yes, God controls all things... ALL THINGS, including a whale’s digestive track.
Life is not all about “Easy Street.” There are battles which have to be fought. There are tasks which have to be done. There are people whose actions need to be confronted, all in an effort for them to turn to God and change. We can’t just run away, ignore, keep our mouths closed about the truth, turn our heads and wait for God’s judgement upon them. God really does want US ALL to straighten up.
By the way, while Jonah was sitting in the belly of that whale, which God’s Word so humorously states that “God provided”…. God was preparing Ninevah for Jonah’s arrival. God is always at work. The “Bur-Sagle Eclipse” happened in Ninevah in 716 B.C. followed by an earthquake, just days before Jonah's arrived. As vile and unfaithful as the people of Ninevah were, they didn’t ignore the meaning of the eclipse. When Jonah walked in they were ready to hear what this famous man of God had to say. God KNOWS what it is going to take for each of us. He puts us ALL in a position to change, but HE doesn't force us. The people of Ninevah knew Jonah was telling them the truth when he foretold of God's plans to destroy them in 40 DAYS.. yes 40 DAYS. There's that Noah thing again. They fasted and prayed and changed.
I have been through so many trials and storms in my life. God has "PROVIDED" many of whales to swallow me to get me in a position to have a heart to heart. Each phase has changed me, strengthen and drew me closer to God and has prepared me for my next assignment. I have come to realize that is what life is all about. We can’t just isolate ourselves behind iron gates, sitting on a sofa with a "live and let live" attitude, while we wait to enter heaven after a hundred healthy years. It's time to sling off the slime and live in God's purpose. He wants to use us to touch and hopefully draw others to HIM.
Now I just can’t end this without mentioning Jonah’s reaction to the salvation of Ninevah. I too can relate to this. Jonah got mad. He had waited so long to see God’s vengeance upon these wretched, stupid, people. Now, suddenly, they quickly, change. They turned from their evil ways and as a result God held back his anger from them. That is what made Jonah get so mad. He pouted. He felt let down. There was a side of him who wanted to see these mean spirited, cruel people punished. While Jonah was having his own little pity party, God tenderly and patiently opened Jonah's eyes and heart. God revealed the present and the future to Jonah once again. He used a plant to represent those who Jonah had just led to salvation. While Jonah sat under the sun, God made a plant spring up quickly, give him shade and then die quickly. Then, God spoke….
Jonah 4:9-11New International Version (NIV)
9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
Those are the last lines in the short book of Jonah. The WORDS OF GOD. There is no need for any other words. ENOUGH SAID.
Fast forward a 100 years. Ninevah's salvation quickly died and they reverted back to their wickedness, cruelty and pridefulness, just as that plant. God sent another prophet, Nahum, to warn them again. Amongst other things, Nahum pre-told that the city would be flooded and would be taken over while their citizens laid drunk… (humm....sound familiar?) Ninevah did not fast, nor pray, nor change.... They fell just as said. The great city was taken after heavy rain made one of their walls fall. They were exposed! Assyrian Empire's army. (Assyrians were also descendants of Ham. "A kingdom divided shall fall." ) barged in. And yes... Ninevah's King and people were drunk as the city was burned down.
Let us look to the sky, to the heavens and PRAY, for ourselves, for our families, friends, our nation, for strangers and our enemies.
IT IS TIME FOR A CHANGE!
Matthew 12: 39
39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.
43 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”