December 16 – Day 16
Ornament – Whale
The word of Adonai came to Jonah the son of Amitai.
“Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and proclaim that their wickedness has come to my attention.”
But Jonah, in order to get away from Adonai, prepared to escape to Tarshish. He went down to Yafo, found a ship and headed for Tarshish, paid the fare and went aboard, intending to travel with them to Tarshish and get away from Adonai. Jonah 1:1-3
The city of Nineveh was part of the nation of Assyria, ever enemy of Israel. The Assyrians served as a constant threat before and after the days of Jonah, though during his days, there was peace due to great political turmoil in Assyria and the military successes of Jeroboam II.
Israel stood tall, politically, but not spiritually. All effort was aimed at expanding borders to the greatest extent. The increased prosperity of Israel led to a rampant growth of materialism. There was little concern about injustice or care for the poor and oppressed.
Jonah, as a boy, would have grown up under the threat of Assyria and the influence of a people who would have readily celebrated judgement upon Assyria for its violent vendettas and pagan practices. Those in the small border town of Gath-Hepher, where Jonah lived, were unwilling to minister to Gentiles the secret of salvation. In fact, such a thing was unheard of, until God spoke. To Jonah.
With other plans in his pocket, Jonah found water and wood. His flight wasn’t from the new position he’d been given. Nay, he fled from the very presence of God. This newly appointed prophet was poised, not to sail as far in the opposite direction of Ninevah as he could, but to get as far from Pappa as possible.
Jonah’s compass pointed away from ‘pani’, the overwhelming presence of God. Adonai existed everywhere Jonah entered, so he stormed across sea to a place he felt Pappa would not follow. He missed the part of the communication saying he was to take Pappa with him.
Tarshish was a city of mercantile. Surely at a center of commerce, there wouldn’t always be something there to remind him, of the God who sent him. Safe at sea, Jonah must have sighed with satisfaction over his newfound freedom. With an exaggerated exhale, he may have looked up and reckoned with reality. How would he clear the canvas of creation? Could he take down the stars or compel the moon to cease its sheen?
Might it have been when Jonah remembered the God he was fleeing far to forget that the words etched upon his heart began to echo? Pappa didn’t command or call Jonah to go to Ninevah. He cried out, that Jonah would consider sharing His message of mercy. Pappa opened His heart and revealed a grace greater than wrath. Jonah it seemed, needed to make the same turn as the Ninevites, so at the fork in the road, he veered with a vengeance.
‘Parah’ (presence) is spelled pei-nun-hei.
‘Pei’ is the powerful activity of speaking and communicating. From this creation came.
‘Nun’ removes walls and barriers. It is the faith that causes crumbling, such as that of Jericho jostled by Joshua.
‘Hei’ is the open door that delivers Pappa’s presence.
Jonah may have boarded a boat, but he was the vessel from which Pappa wanted His presence to pour.
When Jonah tried to escape, Pappa became his hiding place. The belly of a whale became a temple. God will meet us wherever we are and take us where we always wanted to go. After three days inside the whale. Jonah was ready for a resurrected heart. When the stone was rolled away, Jonah no longer had a task to perform but a people to see, an invitation to give and a God to reveal.
Things got a bit interesting once Jonah was spewed from the womb of a whale and landed upon Ninevah’s shores. You see, one of the gods of their land was called Dagana, which is a fish god. So, Jonah was swallowed by their god and rescued by his.
Assyria was experiencing famine when exposed to Jonah’s God. The king of the land recognized this God’s heart, within the words of Jonah and called a fast. The people of Ninevah had become aware of their hunger for God.
So desperate were the needy of Ninevah, they put on sackcloth and ashes. The Hebrew word for “sackcloth’ is ‘saqaq’. Lettered from the language, it means “to bring peace through sacrifice and holiness.” The people sacrificed their livelihood and drew near. And they cried, mightily, to God.
Their cry was an echo of God’s to Jonah. Such a cry is called ‘chazak’ and means “a scream from silence, earnest and sincere, with no agenda.”
The longing of the Ninevites to know Him caused a quiet turning. Mass repentance made its way through the town, overthrowing everything seated before Pappa, and transforming all in its wake.
A revived people returned to a place they’d never been. One which resonated with Pappa.
Jonah, he returned also and was used by God, from there, because of who he loved, not what he hated. His prophecies where purposed towards Pappa’s presence and tethered with his testimony that salvation comes ever and only, from the Lord.
God is with us! He knows all about being sent into hard places with nary a nook to dwell and only weary welcome to greet. He sent himself. To us. Because there is no place He would rather be. He comes to the bottom of our boat, the end of our rope and our last chance.
This God Incarnate, found in flesh, framed in light and clothed in glory–doesn’t just come. He never, ever leaves. Jesus joined us and now journeys with us, in our baby steps and big leaps. He’s here for our trembling tries and our beautiful braves.
He is in our valleys and upon our mountains. He occupies everything – especially our passionate praise.
Sundown 7 – KINGDOM
As Mary carried the light OF Christ, Joseph carried the light FOR Christ.
Joseph and Mary’s beginning would not be considered rife with romance. Unless you know the Romancer, who invites us into their story of woo and wonder. My breath catches as He weaves them through past and present. And deep sigh comes as He dances them beyond perception and towards promise.
Such awe I find within the lines and light of their story. They found the depth of each other as they were navigated through the breadth of Him. They never sought to reverse their roles. Never contended for the greater part. Simple and resplendent, they completed the story and each other.
Mary knelt and nurtured. She intimately and intricately held and beheld. She labored through the humiliation of the world for the Conqueror who would forever triumph.
Joseph guided, ministered, mentored, taught and trained Jesus, so He could be given as the carpenter for the world. Joseph taught Jesus to build.
The immense inheritance of their story unfolds again and again, as the blueprint of Christ is revealed and remembered. Cradle, cross and cave.
Tonight as you light the candle, celebrate the blueprint you carry and all the Kingdom that will be revealed through you.
Giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has made us for the participation of the inheritance of the saints of light. For He has rescued us out of the authority of darkness and translated us into the reign of His Son of love. Colossians 1:12-13
BEATITUDES (Let this be our attitude)
Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the sons of God.
In a world wild for war, a peacemaker isn’t one docile or dormant. Peace isn’t about escaping war, but being with God in every battle. Battles He has prepared us for find their victories assured.
‘Shalom’ means peace in Hebrew. It is fierce thing as it invites us not to wage war, but to find victory. Victory resurrects and returns. Making peace means restoring every supply line and provision He ever established for us.