Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.
With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation. Isaiah 12:3
The first step in reading the Bible is to ask God to help you understand it…Don’t go to Scripture looking for your own idea; go searching for God’s…we also need a listening heart… Max Lucado
Let’s revisit a familiar story that may have some unfamiliar details, and may provide some significant insight.
The prophet Jonah thought he was a righteous man.
God chose Jonah to warn the people of Nineveh that He was going to destroy them all if they would not repent. They were sinners in the most evil of ways. The Bible does not give us specifics – that is left to our imagination. The only thing it tells us is, “their evil has come up before Me.” (Jonah 1:2) We know it must have been great evil, because God was about to destroy the entire city and everything in it.
Jonah, because he despised the Ninevites, didn’t want to warn them. Jonah fled in the opposite direction of Nineveh. He boarded a ship to sail even farther away. Of course, Jonah couldn’t hide from God, who sent a great storm to warn Jonah that he better get his act together.
The captain of the ship, although a non-believer knew something was wrong. He threw dice to determine that it was Jonah who was at fault. When asked, Jonah admitted that God was angry with him, and told the captain to cast him overboard or his ship would surely sink. Jonah preferred to die rather than be a party to saving the Ninevites.
However, God wasn’t finished with Jonah.
Jonah was thrown into the sea, only to be saved by a huge fish. Inside the fish, Jonah had three days to meditate on his disobedience, pride and arrogance. Jonah appeared to be convicted, prayed and confessed the Lord’s sovereignty. At this point, God allowed the fish to vomit Jonah out onto the beach, and gave Jonah a second chance to deliver His message to the Ninevites.
Upon Jonah’s arrival at Nineveh, he told the people they had 40 days to repent of their evil ways or be destroyed. “And the people of Nineveh believed God.” Jonah 3:5 All the people, including the king, fasted and repented of their ways.
“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” Jonah 3:10
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.” Jonah 4:1-2
Justice is not pointing an accusing finger. It is not using Scripture as a sword to cut the legs off sinners. Jesus told us what justice is. “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:13, Hosea 6:6
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Romans 2:1)
How many of us are free from the sins the apostle Paul lists: Greed, envy, malice, gossip, slander, sarcasm, arrogance, boastful, disobedient, foolish, doubting, heartless, ruthless, sexual infidelity.
In our quest to be self-righteous, do we forget about God’s righteousness? In our desire to be right, do we neglect mercy? In our zeal to follow the law, do we fail to follow Jesus?
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” John 7:37-38 (Isaiah 12:3)
Next Week: Passing Forward God’s Great Mercy