Wednesday, December 7, 2016

TheStoryOfJonah : The Second Key to Repentance

We've been looking at the keys to repentance here. The first key is to understand and believe in the importance of praying for help. Second, as we look at this very small section of Chapter two, we discover the second key : Accepting discipline.

I don't know if you shudder at this word, but I've been reflecting on it for the past couple of years and I am still unpacking all that it means (I think I'll be on this track for a while). My question, that I will flesh out further I'm sure in this devotional, is why the LORD seems to need to teach me all things only in discipline? Another way of asking it is why does it seem we are only able to learn things through hardship? Why does it take Jonah to be in the belly of a whale, with most likely all sorts of decomposing filth around him, to come to his senses and repent and learn? The main point and suggestion of this text that I wrestle with is that I need to re-define discipline not as a hardship (or negative thing in and of itself) but a necessary addition to understanding and becoming closer to the Heart of the Father. Discipline should draw us towards the Father, not away from Him. Because His discipline is good.

Jonah acknowledges that this whale experience was coming directly from the LORD. Note his accusation - For You had cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas...Didn't the guys on the ship throw him overboard? Literally, yes, but what this is so clearly describing is Jonah acknowledging and believing that God was orchestrating this experience of his, as He oversees everything. God is in Sovereign Control over everything that we experience. Yes, even the times when we're thrown overboard!

Wiersbe comments further on this to remind us of a very important aspect of Jonah's experience: 'According to Hebrews 12:5–11, we have several options: we can despise God’s discipline and fight (v. 5); we can be discouraged and faint (v. 5); we can resist discipline and invite stronger discipline, possibly even death (v. 9);11 or we can submit to the Father and mature in faith and love (v. 7). Discipline is to the believer what exercise and training are to the athlete (v. 11); it enables us to run the race with endurance and reach the assigned goal (vv. 1–2)'.

It's this verse 7 in Hebrews 12 that God seems to be teaching Jonah (and me) about: It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Jonah, though he doesn't particularly enjoy it, is acknowledging that God is in this experience of his and is disciplining him because he was off track. But Jonah is also acknowledging that this discipline came not only from a Sovereign God but from a Loving and Caring and Good God - [God] disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:10, 11).

If accepting discipline is the second key to repentance, than acknowledging we are wrong is one of the grooves on the key and righteousness is the rays of light that shine on our faces once we open the door.  

Acceptance always comes at a cost. Jonah is humbled and brought to his knees. He realizes his waywardness, but instead of wallowing in his own filth of sin, he looks up and cries out for help. Jonah cries out to the LORD within the belly of the whale and acknowledges his sin before a righteous God and accepts His discipline. Jonah does this for the purposes of being renewed into a right relationship with God who is disciplining him for his good. 

How are we, today, at accepting discipline from the LORD? Do we see it as good? Are there things we would rather not have in our lives? How would our lives change, here and now, if we believed it was given for our good and the LORD's honour?

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