Thursday, December 8, 2016

TheStoryOfJonah : The Third Key to Repentance

At some point, the only way is up. You travel so far away from God (and everyone else for that matter) that all you're left with is to look in the opposite direction (the only direction) and hope that there is a way out. This is how we see Jonah now. He had prayed to the LORD for help, and accepted His discipline and now (the third key to repentance) he places his trust in the LORD.

It seems strange to me how often it is that the LORD allows us to stray so far. As I reflect on Jesus' many parables about our waywardness, I remember how quickly and immediately He chooses to leave the ninety-nine for one that has gone astray (Matt. 18:12-14; Luke 15:4-7). 

Jesus teaches,

What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance (Luke 15:4-7).

The intertwining of our waywardness and the LORD's faithfulness deserves our attention for the rest of our lives. How one, describing us in many parts of our lives, goes astray and the One, the ever-faithful God, consistently runs after us with a holy abandon go together, will always be a mystery to me. And to think that the one who is restored back to the fold is rejoiced over more than the ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance (!). Incredible.

But to add to this dynamic further, please remember that discipline, as we have already looked at, is the second key of repentance. It's as if we can read the context this way (following along with the 'keys to repentance'): Jonah prays for help, while receiving and accepting the discipline of the LORD, trusts in the LORD, yields his life to the LORD and receives redemption from a Holy God. Each of these keys are on the same key-ring and when you shake them together on that ring, they make a beautiful sound. They each unlock one of the magnificent doors into the House of Righteousness and when they are all in use simultaneously, they are the most beautiful aroma to the LORD. There isn't rejoicing because the wayward sheep had gone astray - please notice that. There is rejoicing that they had accepted the Shepherd's hand and was brought back through His discipline and care. 

Yet I need to add one last thing. Notice that the circumstances that Jonah was in did not change when he said,  But You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, And my prayer came to You, Into Your holy temple (vs. 6b-7). I believe this is very important for us to notice today. This is the essence of Trusting in the LORD. Not only did Jonah pray for help and accept the LORD's discipline, but he is trusting the LORD in his circumstance and continues to trust Him regardless of the outcome. I don't believe he knew that the LORD would command the whale to spit him out. He saw his circumstance and knew that he needed to lay his life down in trust to the LORD who allowed this to take place in his life. This, I think, is a key factor to trusting the LORD. It is the same concept we find in the Story of Job. Within the hardships that Job experienced, he proclaimed, Though He slay me, I will hope in Him (Job 13:15). It wasn't because he believed his circumstances would change that he prayed this prayer of trust; as already described, he knew there was no other way than up. But he trusted that the LORD would see him through - even if the circumstances wouldn't change. Note his statement, 'Though He slay me...' The circumstances were dire, but there was a 'But'. Though the circumstances may not have changed for Jonah, he still chose to trust the LORD. 

I do not believe that Jonah knew that he would find a way out after this prayer he prayed. I believe with all my heart that this was a sincere prayer on Jonah's part. He knew that his heart was wrong towards his Saviour and LORD and he needed to make right what was wrong. And so he renews his Trust in God and accepts what may come. He yielded his heart to Him, once again.

Perhaps a hard word to hear today, but we must, with our whole hearts, abandon our dreams and entitlements, and simply lay our lives at the LORD's feet and say, as Jesus did, 'Not my will...yours be done!' 

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