Psalm 16 Utmost confidence in my Safe Place!

Where do you find confidence?  When everything around is in turmoil, when life gets, overwhelmingly, loud and there is a constant demand for your attention where can you find some peace?

Do you have a safe place?   This is a question those who are on the spectrum need to have an answer to.  They need a safe place to regain confidence when melt down is imminent.  A safe place to go when the stims of life have turned an otherwise healthy environment toxic.  But they surely aren’t the only ones who need to know where their safe place is.  Even King David the writer of this Psalm spoke of his safe place.  The place where he turned and found renewed confidence and inner peace to carry on.

This Psalm of David has no specific point in history for us to look up.  No heroic battles won, or near death escapes for the King of Israel.  It is simply a declaration of what David knew to be true.  So, if you have your Bible or app along you might want to turn there and follow along.  Each version has its nuances so follow along in which ever version you prefer.  We’ll look at each verse this morning out of the NIV and the NLT and see if we too have discovered David’s safe place.

Psalm 16 (NLT)

David begins,(1)   Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge.”   You and I know that God is a person not a place.  So clearly David isn’t suggesting otherwise here?  Yet repeatedly David has taken refuge in His God.  Psalm 7:1, “O LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me…” (NIV).   Psalm 11:1, “In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain” (Psalm 11:1 (NIV).  David’s confidence was clearly in the Lord, he rejected the idea that refuge was to be found elsewhere.

As I wrote that, I suddenly found myself thinking of the refugees out in Summerland that Sylvia and Renee mentioned a while ago.  If you remember, after escaping war-torn Syria, enduring horrendous living conditions, they sought refugee status in Canada.  And like winning the lottery they were granted visas and sponsored by caring Canadians.  Then they traveled to the other side of the earth, looking for a safe place to raise their family. Looking for a refuge.

And as they settled in Summerland it surely looked like safe refuge for them.  But then, as we have often seen as of late; when the vacancy rate of rental properties dips below 1%, and prices of those few remaining rentals increase with demand, these refugees had the house sold from under them.  At the point S&R asked us to pray for them, they had two months to move and it was causing great inner turmoil for them.

They thought they had found refuge in a house but it was sadly temporary.  Yet David clearly expressed much confidence in his Refuge, his safe place.  A confidence that seemed unmoved by circumstances.  David, “(2) …said to the LORD, “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.”   David’s Refuge was found in the same place that S&R asked us to pray for those refugees.  In fact, God was the source of everything good in David’s life.  Can we pray for better refuge than that for them?

In verse 3 David thanks God for that which God has blessed him with.  (3) The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”

The Godly ones!  Did you notice that?  Psalm 84:10 says, A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked” (NLT)

The day I began to write this message Rika went home to her Refuge.  She had lived a long and sometimes difficult life but in the end, there was no doubt how godly she had grown.  Like some versions of your bibles, the word godly and saint were interchangeable.  Rika was a delight to be around even though she was feisty at 97, there was no doubt that Jesus was her Refuge!

David delighted in the saints because of Who their refuge was.  He didn’t worship them, but he sure admired them.  Called them heroes!  They were the people he enjoyed being around the most.

I hear sad things at times out of the mouths of people who call themselves Christians.  Like when they say they prefer the company of the ungodly.  In fact, they’d rather be out with the ungodly than be with the godly at church.   I just shake my head.

How is that possible I wonder?  How is it that a professing Christian finds more in common with the people who find nothing in common with the one whom they profess to be their Refuge?  What does this really say?  Are they truly whom they claim to be?  Or have they never actually met those “godly people” …David’s “true heroes”?

Seriously if you would rather keep the company of the ungodly that says more about you than you think.  I know you will likely come back with “but Jesus hung around with “tax collectors and sinners”, “prostitutes” and shady characters”.  “And He was God in the flesh. If it was good enough for Him it is good enough for me”

But really?  Did he hang out and party, cursing and carrying on like them?  Enjoying what they enjoyed and doing what they did?  Worshipping what they worshipped?   And did those people carry on doing the ungodly things they had always done once they had been with Jesus for a time?    His record is spotless how about yours?

Delitzsch writes, “The expression of his abhorrence attains its climax: even their names… he shuns taking upon his lips” (1:224: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs.)

David said, Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods. I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood or even speak the names of their gods” (Psalm 16:4 (NLT).   Basically, he said, “I’m not with them, I’m with the godly ones.” He taken a stand.  Which doesn’t mean he thought he was perfect like you and me!   Clearly there is a line that you and I ought not cross even as we try to bring the ungodly folks that come into our lives to further a relationship with our Lord.  But it does mean he’s all in.

 “LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine” Psalm 16:5 (NLT) David has things that are dear to him.  He’s not some ascetic monk living in the wilderness.  The truth is God has given that once shepherd boy a kingdom full of things that his heart desired.  Fancy clothes, horses and chariots and clubs and swords….  Gold and silver and precious stones, even land!   “The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!” (Psalm 16:6 (NLT).  He possesses much but it doesn’t possess him.  He doesn’t worry about leaving it to go and do what God is calling him to because he knows that God gave it to him and will keep what he needs for him.

How does he know this?  Well, David gives us a clue in verse 7.   “I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me” (Psalm 16:7 (NLT).  That’s a personal relationship with the almighty that David is getting at.  A relationship that he clearly cherishes.  His counselor is the creator of everything and he acknowledges his reliance on the God who guides.

I don’t know about you but I know I have times when my days are hectic and so full that time to think things through just doesn’t happen.  And Like David I have experienced those times when I finally go to sleep and sure enough in the middle of the night the answer suddenly comes.  I try to get up and write it down.  Or I’ll make a note beside my bed on the tablet.  Cause sure enough I’ll forget it by morning.

Now I can ask other Pastors, and talk with smart people, even Google answers when I need to know something but trusting God as your counsellor – is the safest place to go to and the safest to listen to.

David was that confident.  He was so confident in his safe place that he wrote, I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me”
Psalm 16:8 (NLT).   Put your confidence in man, and even the most loyal one will eventually fail you or not be there when you need him.  Trust in technology and you’ll find out quickly when the power fades how poor a safe place that is.  But when you have a friend who sticks closer than a brother, now you’re in your safe zone.   Now your confidence has a resting place.

I think David surprised himself with his declaration in verse 7 because in verse 8 he writes, “No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety”
Psalm 16:9 (NLT).   With God, right beside you, what have you to fear?  Yet I find, as I wander at times, that the assurance the David proclaims doesn’t hit home.  And in those times, I don’t sleep so well.  I may toss and turn all night long…ever been there?  David is doing more than instructing us and giving God praise in these verses.  These things he writes are for instructing his own heart, telling it what the truth is.  Not accepting the counsel of the wicked, or giving into fear and superstition. He reminds himself where His refuge is found and he instructs his heart to go to his Safe place when even death threatens to rob him of his peace.

He thanks God that,God will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave” Psalm 16:10 (NLT).     David didn’t want death to be the end of it all.  And now he knows that the best is yet to come! But at the time he wrote this do you think he understood the resurrection?

I’m aware that the Apostle Peter used these very verses in Acts 2:23-25 as he spoke of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, our Safe Place confirmed according to Paul.  Peter looking back confirms what David spoke in faith, looking ahead.

He was told by the prophet Nathaniel; the account is found in 2 Samuel 7:12-16, that David’s legacy would live on through his children.  But was it more than a spiritual resurrection as they call that?

Nathaniel said to him, “(12) When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, (euphemism for dying or death.  David did know that like his fathers he would die.)  Nathaniel goes on to say, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, (this would be a physical, blood line descendant) and I will establish his kingdom.  (And we know that Solomon, David’s son did carry on as King of Israel).  Nathaniel goes on to say, (13) “He shall build a house for My name,  (Still speaking of Solomon.   Solomon’s Temple is a historical, traceable fact of history…you can read all about it.  It happened as the prophet predicted.) Nathaniel predicted, “He shall build a house for My name,  and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever”. (David was told about a throne that will last longer than a man lives.  Forever. One of David’s descendants’, Jesus Christ, His Kingdom would last forever.   Jesus – the son of David, the Son of God whose body never saw decay nor did it stay in the ground!  Because on the tird day He rose from the dead in accordance to the scriptures.  Jesus would literally live forever! )   But wait for it…).     Nathaniel speaking for God goes on to say, (14)  “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, (15)  but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you”
2 Samuel 7:12-15 (NASB).   This king would suffer taking on the sins of the world, being corrected by man’s devices, beaten and hung on a cross to die, but unlike Saul who went to the grave, whose body did decay this son of David would continue to reign under God’s protection and refuge and history confirms this too.  But wait for it… Nathaniel then says, “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever’2 Samuel 7:16 (NASB).  Jesus rose bodily from the dead, “did not see decay” ascended to the right hand of God, the place of absolute authority and reigns forever.

So when David said confidently, For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.  You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever (Psalm 16:10-11 (NLT).  If this was written after Nathaniel’s prophecy, David already understood that he was of the lineage of the coming Messiah and spoke of the joy of being in God’s presence with his son forever.   Is that cool or what!  No wonder he had such confidence!

Romans 8:10-11 says, “(10)  And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. (11)  The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you” (Romans 8:10-11 (NLT).

Make this your safe place and you can never be shaken!  Amen?

You think you’ve done some dumb things…check this guy out: Jonah 1

When I mentioned the book of Jonah what first that comes to mind?

Like many stories from HIStory the book of Jonah causes our creative juices to flow.   Artists throughout the ages have depicted this tiny book in several ways but none more than a whale of a tale.  Sea monsters, sperm whales, and other giant sea creatures are the usual depictions for the book of Jonah.  But frankly I think they may have missed the point.   This book is not about a giant whale!  Though to be sure a whale plays a part in this book.

And this book isn’t about a city named Nineveh, though to be sure that city is in HIStory and not only in this book.  They have found artifacts from it dated back even before 786bc.

slide1To be perfectly honest this book isn’t even about a man named Jonah though once again a man named Jonah does play a predominant role in this book and he may have even written it according to many scholars.  But this book isn’t here today because of Jonah’s story.  His story was included in it because of HIStory.  This book is all about a living relationship with Jesus Christ!  The maker of heaven and earth.

The book teaches us about our freewill and divine sovereignty.   It is about the invitation given by God, even today, to be change agents in HIStory.  Willing change agents or otherwise as we will see. And it tells of the consequences that human choice set in motion.

In this book you can find both divine wrath and amazing grace, the very hallmarks of HIStory, as you follow this man named Jonah who was called by God to bring correction to the inhabitants of Nineveh.   And from that point of view it is an extraordinary missionary story.

Today we’ll look at the first chapter and see Jonah receive merciful correction after making a few wrong choices in life.   If you have your Bible with you turn to Jonah chapter 1.

 

 (1)  The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: (2) “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (3)  But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. (4)  Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. (5)  All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. (6)  The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.” (7)  Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. (8)  So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

 (9)  He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” (10)  This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.) (11)  The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” (12)  “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” (13)  Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. (14)  Then they cried to the LORD, “O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased.” (15)  Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. (16)  At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him. (17)  But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.  Jonah 1:1-17 (NIV)

This portion of History shows us that with God you are always free to choose.  He has given us autonomy when it comes to making choices.  We human beings are entirely free to make even really dump choices. We can even choose to ignore God Almighty Himself!

In Deuteronomy 30 we read, (19) This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (20)  and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him…” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NIV)  God has given mankind freewill.  You are truly free to choose as you will.

slide5I mean just look at Jonah!  Here was a prophet of God’s own choosing.

As this book begins Jonah is in the ministry.  He has already been used of God to deliver a powerful and clearly life altering messages that got King Jeroboam to restore the boundaries of Israel (cf. 2 Kings 14:25).   Jonah was living in the limelight because of it.  Things were going good in his ministry.  And then God sent forth this word to Jonah that he had a new assignment to attend to.  A huge assignment!

Jonah was to go and prophesy in a city that historians tell us was more than a half a million people!   A huge city in that time!  Later in Jonah we find out it takes a person 3 days to go across this sprawling city (cf. Jonah 3:3).  So this was a big assignment for the prophet of God’s own choosing!  And Jonah was even to tell them that God was royally ticked off with their behavior as of late.  This is usually a favorite thing for prophets to do, in fact you find this is as you read through the entire Bible.  It’s the usual job of the prophet to bring warnings from God.   So you’d think Jonah would be happy to oblige.   After-all he’s in the ministry.  This wasn’t his first assignment.  He was a prophet of God Most High.  Frankly there was no higher calling known to man.

But verse 3 tells us that instead of embracing the call, Jonah ran away.  He basically said I quit, I’m out of here.  Not only am I not going to Nineveh I’m going in the opposite direction just as fast as I can.  And he seriously tried to do exactly that.

He took his own money and bought himself passage on a freighter heading 2500 miles in the opposite direction.  That would soon prove to be a real waste of money.  And you know what?  Jonah was absolutely free to make that choice!

You see God has really given every human being this thing called freewill.  That just means we have the freedom to choose to ignore even God Almighty.  And if we are perfectly honest with ourselves we’d have to admit that you and I have done this on many occasions for even lessor reasons than Jonah.

So why did Jonah do it? Well, after researching Nineveh, part of me can’t blame Jonah for not wanting to go to there.  He knew Nineveh’s reputation.  Nineveh was known for the cruelty and wickedness that ran rampant in that city.

slide6Nahum, another prophet who actually proclaimed it’s downfall said of Nineveh, (1)  Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! (2)  The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses and jolting chariots! (3)  Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses–” (Nahum 3:1-3 (NIV).   This was a pagan city where evil knew no bounds.  Killing was done just for sport.

Historians paint graphic images with the idolatry and hideousness of their wickedness running rampant.  slide7Even God Himself said, “its wickedness has come up before me” (2) And …Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, …Should I not be concerned about that great city?” Jonah 4:11 (NIV)

But Jonah was “a Hebrew that worshipped the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land” (10).   That’s what he calls himself in verse 10.  A man who worshipped God.  And it is clear from not only his actions in this passage but his later discourse with God that Jonah thought he was above the likes of those nasty gentiles.  Why should he go and warn them?

Clearly he had little compassion for those whom God had much compassion for.  But this too he was free to choose!  God had bestowed upon mankind freewill.  Jonah was absolutely free to choose to show his prejudice, and his lack of compassion and concern for Nineveh.  Which he promptly did by boarding a boat headed in the opposite direction.

And that’s when things got real interesting right?

Have you ever noticed God doesn’t take no for an answer?  While it is absolutely true that God gives us the freewill to make choices it is also absolutely true, as clearly seen in this passage, that God does not give us the freedom to determine the consequences of our choices.  You are always free to choose but remember He alone determines the consequences of your choice.

You are free to choose to take drugs or abuse alcohol but you are not free to choose the consequences of taking them. That may include marriage breakdown or kidney failure, poverty or homelessness.  You are free to choose to ignore the laws regarding drinking and driving but the consequences of doing so are out of your control.  You are free to tell your employer to take this job and shove it, but the short or long term consequences of doing so are beyond your control.

slide8I think Jonah certainly got to learn some of that lesson in this passage don’t you?   It began with that powerful wind that came up just after they had entered open seas.  This was no ordinary storm.  Those were hardened sailors in that boat.  They had been through storms before but not like this one.  This one caused them to get out their idols and pray like never before.

They were so afraid that they started throwing cargo overboard.  That cargo was their livelihood!  And few things cause man to jettison their livelihood other than a near death experience.  That’s what was unfolding before them and they recognized it and were terrified.

But Jonah, we’re told just went below deck and fell asleep.  His guilty conscience likely had tired him out completely.  Saying no to God has that effect.  While God gives strength and power to those who do His will; “there is no peace …for the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22).

Jonah is not a type of our Lord as some might call him.  They usually point to the way he slept during the storm, saying he had not a worry in the world.  And they compare that to Jesus who also slept peacefully during the storm.  But this was in no way like our Lord who after a busy day of miracles and healing the sick went out on the water with His disciples to rest.  As they rowed to sea Jesus was found sleeping in the hull of the boat.  And when the raging storm threatened their peace Jesus slept through even that stormy blast.  But that’s where the similarity ends.   Unlike Jonah when Jesus was jarred awake by the frightened disciples Jesus merely rebuked the waves and the storm died.

Even the captain of the boat wanted to know why Jonah was sleeping when they were about to perish.  He ordered Jonah to get up and pray to his God!

Funny, isn’t it, that those who show little faith in daily life often get very prayerful when calamity strikes?  Yet these men, captain included, were about to learn the difference between false gods made of wood and stone and the God of the Hebrews who made the sea and wind.

As the storm raged on those men in desperation cast lots hoping to determine whose fault it was that they were in peril.  And God caused the lots to fall in the right direction.  God would make sure they knew who to blame when the lot fell to Jonah.

The sailors demanded to know what he had done to piss off His God so royally. And it was here that Jonah began to do the right thing.  He confessed his sin before those men.  Admitted that he rebelliously ran away from God’s clear calling.  And then Jonah even told them what they could do to remedy the situation.  Just get rid of him and the trouble will end.

Euthanasia is what we might call it today.   Or maybe death by cop would be a better example?  Jonah said, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” … “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” (Jonah 1:12 (NIV)

Seriously?   God would actually do that?    He would actually cause a deadly storm as the consequences of Jonah’s poor albeit free choice?  The consequences of his choices could have hurt or killed everyone on that boat?  Does God really do that?

Absolutely! 

And you know how I know?  Just look what happened next?

At first they tried to spare Jonah by rowing like crazy.  They didn’t want to throw a man into the sea.  But when the storm grew and their self-effort failed their only choice left was to follow what the man of God told them to do or they too would suffer the consequences.

So they prayed some more! But did you notice to whom they prayed this time? (cf. Jonah 1:14)   It wasn’t to their idols.  It was to Jonah’s God.  The God he told them that was in charge of the storm.  And did you notice what they prayed?  They asked for forgiveness for what they were about to do.

slide10“Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm (Jonah 1:15 (NIV).

You should underline that in your Bible.  The raging sea grew calm!  The storm immediately ended the moment they obeyed God.  And what was the immediate effect of calm seas on those sailors?

At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him” (Jonah 1:16 (NIV).

Well, would you look at that!  They actually began their faith journey at that very moment.  And why do you think that you might be asking?  Because their actions showed that there was no doubt in their minds that God, Jonah’s God, was the real deal.   He really does control the storms in life.

But where did that leave Jonah?  Well in the belly of the whale of course.

God had not only chosen the consequences for Jonah’s actions He also provided a way out from what would have been certain death.   Any man tossed overboard into the sea stands little chance of being found alive but God in His mercy provided a new and more humbling mode of transport for Jonah.

There is lots of debate about what this fish was.  The Hebrew basically says “big fish”.  But Sir Francis Fox, was told by a captain and crew of a whaling ship, that a sailor fell overboard and was swallowed by a sperm whale. The sailor was rescued alive, some twenty-four hours later when the whale was captured and cut open. After being mental deranged for two weeks the sailor recovered. (Tenney, pg45)”

So I wouldn’t rule out a whale.  But then again God who instantly calms the seas could have wrapped Jonah in an air bubble and got him safely to dry land.  The fact is a fish of some sort was provided by God.  How it happened is somewhat a mystery.  Why it happened is not a mystery.  As I said at the beginning of today’s lesson, this book is not about a whale, a city called Nineveh not even about Jonah.slide12

This was all about Jesus Christ, God incarnate, sovereign Lord of the universe who later would look back at this event and say,

(29)  … “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. (30)  For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation…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 one greater than Jonah is here. Luke 11:29-32 (NIV).

Jesus spoke not so much about the judgement as about the remedy for man’s sinful choices.  The miraculous provision of God that saw Jesus die, entombed three days and rise again to new life.

 “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God” (Romans 6:10).

The Bible says, (19) This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (20)  and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him…” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NIV) 

Beware of the consequences of your choices today, for it is beyond your control. If God has made it clear to you what you must do, choose to do it His way.

 



Dig deeper into HIStory: Jonah 1:1-17

Discussion Starters:

  1. Do you prefer to be on the giving or receiving end of correction?
  2. Has there ever been a time when you chose not to do what you were told to do?  Why didn’t you?
  3. Has there been a time when being disciplined helped you?

 

READ Jonah 1:1-17 in several versions if available.

 

  1. Who was Jonah and what do we know about him from the OT?  (Jonah 1:1; see also 2 Kings 14:25)
  2. What do we know about Jonah from Jesus? (Matt. 12:39-41; Luke 11:29-32; Matthew 16:4)
  3. Where and what was Nineveh?  (Gen. 10:11; Jonah 3:3, 4:11 )
  4. Why did God tell Jonah to Nineveh? (Jonah 1:2;  Nahum 3:1,7,19; see also Gen 4:10; Gen 6:13; Gen 18:21; Ezr 9:6 Rev. 18:5).  What was their sin? Exodus 20
  5. How did Jonah answer God’s call at first? (Jonah 1:3,10)  Why? (Jonah 4:2; Matthew 16:4; Heb. 3:15; James 1:22; Psalm 119:27) see also (Exodus 4:13; 1 Ki 19:3; Jer. 20:7-9; Eze. 3:14;  Luke 9:62).
  6. What did God do about it?  (Jonah 1:4) How do we know it was God? (12b,15b) (see also Exodus 10:13,19; Exodus 14:21; 15:10; Num. 11:31; Psalm 107:24-31; Psalm 135:7; Amos 4:13; Matthew 8:24-27)
  7. What affect did that have on the people in the boat? (Jonah 1:5,7-8 see also 1 Ki 18:26; Isa 44:17-20; Jer. 2:28)  Where was Jonah as the storm raged? (Jonah 1:5b,6 ) Was Jonah like Jesus in Mark 4:38; Luke 8:23?
  8. What right thing did Jonah do in verses 9 and 12?  (Luke 13:3; Proverbs 28:13; Rev. 2:5; 1 Jn. 1:9, see also 2 Sam. 24:17; John 11:50)
  9. What did the sailors do? (Jonah 1:13)   Did it work?  So then what did they do? (14-15)
  10. What was the immediate effect of throwing Jonah overboard? (Jonah 1:15b, 16a)
  11. What happened to Jonah (Jonah 1:17)  (see also Hab 3:2)
  12. How is being swallowed by a big fish God’s grace? (Rev. 3:19; Joel 2:13; Matthew 3:2; Romans 6:23; Romans 10:9-10)
  13. In what ways has God pursued you?
  14. Who can you share with this week what you know Jesus has done for you?

Number 21:4-9 Listen your Father has heard you!

Psalm 121:1-8 (NIV) “ 1 I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? 2  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3  He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; 4  indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5  The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6  the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7  The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; 8  the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

Slide2Ever since I got those silly drones my passion for the great outdoors, and the beauty of God’s creation, has been rekindled in new ways.Continue reading

Exodus 14:10-17 Like learning lessons the hard way?!

To see all of today’s study questions, click here.

How many of you like learning lessons the hard way? Have you ever noticed that you learn some lessons much harder than others? 

I was out flying my quad-copter-camera near Vaseux Lake this spring and had just taken off to do a sweep over a rock outcropping.  We were safely off on a secondary, and what seemed a rather private bit of a road, when suddenly I found myself distracted by a big truck coming my way.  Seriously we had been in that spot for like fifteen minutes setting up, checking wind speed, watching traffic patterns…and there was no traffic what-so-ever.  But the very moment I put my DJI Phantom 2 quad-copter-camera in the air a big truck just showed up!

Now to be fair to the Phantom 2 this was like the fourth or fifth time I had flown the copter so I was certainly a bit of a noob.  And in that split second of noticing the truck my copter turned and headed straight for a tree.   I took my eyes of it just a split second!  And disaster struck my quad-camera.

I’d like to think I learned my lesson that day but I’m sure that there will be other lessons to learn with this new type of camera along the way.  Fortunately, this lesson was not too costly.  The camera was fine and the copter had about $60 damage.  And no trees were harmed in the filming of this crash.  But some lessons in life can cost us dearly especially when we refuse to heed God’s warnings and harden our hearts in the process.

One of the greatest examples of this from HIStory is found in the book of Exodus at a time when Pharaoh’s hardened resolve to let God’s people go cost him everything.

So in today’s Scripture portion we see that even lessons learned the hard way by others can be used to teach us “to fix our eyes upon Jesus the author and prefecter of our faith” (cf. Heb. 12:2).   So if you have your Bible with you, turn with me to Exodus 14:10-17 and lets learn from the lessons they had to learn the hard way.

10  As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. 11  They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12  Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” 13  Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14  The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” 15  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16  Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17  I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen.” (Exodus 14:10-17 (NIV)

Slide4 “They were terrified and cried out to the LORD” (10).

And can you blame them?  I mean really?  Just look at the circumstances they found themselves in.   Pharaoh had just lost, his pride and joy, the first born son, the heir to his kingdom.  It was the final straw that seemed to break his grip on the Hebrew slaves and he reluctantly said they could go and worship their God!  He likely said…good riddens! But grief is a powerful motivator as we all know.  And one of the stages of grief that often rears its ugly head is sudden uncontrollable anger…even rage.   And to top it all off the Bible tells us that Pharaoh wasn’t the only Egyptian royally ticked that day!  Every household that wasn’t ‘passed over’ was effected.  So there was plenty of grief ridden anger driving those chariots into battle against the Hebrews.

Combine that with the fact that as they left Egypt the Israelites took with them tons of plunder; gold, silver, bronze and plenty of animals and grains and you have even more motive for chasing after them.  Sure the Egyptian people were motivated into generosity by God’s plagues (see Exodus 12:36) but that doesn’t mean they wanted to release their slaves and lose their material processions.

Along with the Hebrew slaves, also standing there at the water’s edge the Bible tells us are many others, non-Israelis, that joined with the mass Exodus also taking with them large droves of livestock (cf. Ex. 12:38).

Now remember these folks had only seen the power of the God of the Hebrews do terrible things to their lands and people.  They didn’t have the benefit of knowing and understanding God’s redemptive plan handed down through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and foretold by the prophets of old.   They got out of Egypt because the getting was good or so they thought until that storm began blowing in.

Combine all that with the fact that God himself had directed Israel’s path away from the Philistine territory which would have been the most direct route to the Promised Land and made it so they were boxed in by the advancing Egyptian army and you have plenty of reason to be afraid.  The Bible tells us that God did this detour because He knew that Hebrew slaves would have high tailed it back to Egypt the first sign of war (Ex. 13:17).  But still caught between the armies of Pharaoh and a deep blew sea these folks felt trapped by circumstances.  And they had no armies to fight back with either.

The Hebrews knew how to raise crops and herds and build edifices but they were not yet warriors.   The Philistines whose territory they avoided on the other hand were a fierce people so God was actually showing  great mercy by detouring his people towards the Red Sea.

They were exactly where they ought to be at that moment.  At least physically…perhaps not quite so spiritually or emotionally.   We know that they were supposed to be exactly there because we’re told that God Himself led them with a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night through Succoth, which was Egyptian controlled territory, and then straight to the edge of the Red Sea.  Or as it is directly translated in Hebrew, ‘the Sea of Reeds’.

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That’s modern day Gulf of Aqaba.  Today the Gulf averages 18km wide and is at it’s deepest point more than 1800 meters deep.  They have in the last century recovered many artifacts that show where Israel crossed that day.  But remember these people fleeing Egypt had no boats as they saw Pharaoh’s army and Chariots in the distance baring down on them.   They were terrified!

Because these folks were not hardened warriors, and didn’t have any avenues of escape God had effectively brought them to a point where it was trust Him or die.  It was a humanly impossible for them to escape.

So when our Scripture portion says “they were terrified”, you can see they clearly had very good reasons to be terrified.  And their first instinct was to cry out to God.  This was music to His ears!  That is the most appropriate response when we are in fear for our lives.

The Bible says,  “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17 (NIV).
Slide7Proverbs we read, “The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” (Proverbs 15:29).

David, a man who had the kings armies chase him, and had to hide out in caves before becoming King of Israel, wrote, “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chron 16:11).  ).

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And Paul an apostle who was beaten many times, stoned, left for dead, ship wrecked, and who went hungry, thirsty and was imprisoned several times, wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil 4:6).

But the armies of Pharaoh were raising a cloud of dust …and their bugles were blaring and there was nowhere to go!  They were terrified!

So Israel cried out to God and then in frustration took out their fear and anxiety on God’s mouth piece, Moses, as though he was the one moving the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that led them to the very spot in which they stood.

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11  They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12  Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:11-12 (NIV)

I know he’s the leader and the buck stops with him…but really?  Did they think that his boss wasn’t listening in?  When they shouted at him were they not blaming the One who sent him?

Fear and anxiety can cause us to respond in ways that truly show those around us how much we believe in God.  In anger and rage…not much but certainly there were those who had faith in that crowd.  They just weren’t as loud as the fearful ones.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t to be the last time that Moses would have to deal with mob mentality run a muck.  In fact they were just getting started.  But Moses also showed some extraordinary leadership skills that day!

Unlike the newest recruit on examination day.

The story is told about “A young police officer that was taking his final exam.   One of the exam questions went like this: ‘You are on foot patrol in central Vancouver, down near BC Place, when you hear an explosion on a nearby street.  On investigation you find a fire hydrant has been taken out and a geyser of water is currently flooding an overturned van.  Inside the van there is a strong smell of alcohol.  Both occupants – a man and a woman – are injured.  You recognize the woman as the wife of your staff Sargent who is presently away on holidays.  A car stops nearby to offer you help and you recognize the driver is wanted for terrorist related offences.

When suddenly a man runs out of a nearby condo, shouting that his wife is with child and the accident has made the birth imminent.  Then you notice another man waving frantically and crying for help, having been blown into the harbor by the water geyser, and clearly he cannot swim.

The exam question was – Describe in a few words what you would do.’

The new recruit thought for a moment before writing his answer to the question: He wrote… ‘I would take off my uniform and mingle with the crowd.’” (Unknown)

But there was no mingle room for Moses that day! 13  Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  14  The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:13-14 (NIV)Slide11

His answer provided a three full response to help ease their panic and fear.  1. Having seen and been used by God to perform miracles Moses had the faith to say,  “Do not be afraid”(13).   Surely God had not done all those miracles to let the people succumb in Succoth.  To die in the dessert next to the sea!

When people are overwhelmed it often helps when you calmly remind them that they still have the ability to exercise some control in this situation. They can choose not to fear or they will have chosen to be overwhelmed by fear.

That’s  why Moses said, “Do not be afraid”.

Like King David, Moses knew, 1 The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).   Isaiah wrote, 4  say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Isaiah 35:4 (NIV).  Slide12

Moses reminded Israel, they should not fear because the Lord himself would deliver them and fight for them (cf. 13-14).

This wasn’t a matter of them bucking up courage and girding their lions for battle.  God had already demonstrated to them His mighty power.  In fact, Moses said they merely had to “stand firm” and watch what God would do.   But that’s hard for us men isn’t it?  I’m not sure how women handle it but as a man I can tell you that “being still, standing firm” is about as welcome advice as “wait upon the Lord” (cf. Isaiah 40:31).   It’s not that it’s bad advice but as a man there must be something I can do?

Am I right men?

I mean you come home and your wife gives you the look.  You think, oh oh, now what have I done?  You say hi honey?  But really your saying, what’s up?  She breaks down and starts sobbing uncontrollably. And you want to fix the situation right?  You start thinking about all the things it might have been that got her down.  And you are ready to do what it takes to fix this.  But just maybe what it takes is a hug, and a listening ear.  And the fortitude to not do anything in that moment, don’t offer any advice, just be there and be still and let her unload.  But men would much rather fix things, am I right?  Maybe I’m just weird.

But clearly there was absolutely nothing that Israel could do for themselves in this given situation.  This would require action from God!  And He was planning something much bigger than them.

15  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?”  Crying out? 

Ummm…I don’t see Moses crying in this passage do you?    We see what Moses said to the throng but no where do we hear him cry out.  Yet God heard Moses.  God heard the rather urgent plea from his chosen vessel as he tried to convince the throng.

Frankly,  I think Moses was more worried about that unruly bunch of grumblers before him than all of Pharaoh’s armies.   And just because Moses was their appointed leader doesn’t mean he’s less human then they are.  Remember he didn’t want the job in the first place.  So he may have wined just a bit to God.

God told Moses, “Tell the Israelites to move on. 16  Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground”.

Slide13Do you think Moses might have thought, “now why didn’t I think of that?”  I have this handy staff that has never let me down before.

But wait a minute…did you notice that Moses had just finished telling the people to stand firm, be still?  Wait for God’s deliverance! Seems exactly opposite of what God told them to do doesn’t it?

It wasn’t bad advice that Moses had spoken.  He had an unruly crowd that he thought could use some verbal reassurance.   But God corrected him.  It wasn’t time to be still, or stand their ground they needed to get out of dodge!

What Moses was told to say was, “move on!”  And fortunately for Israel Moses was clearly in very close fellowship with the Lord for when he heard the command to go  and stepped up to the plate reaching out his staff and the sea opened right up.

God trusted this man Moses more than most.  You know how I know this?  God took enough time to fill in the ‘why’.  Why was this lesson about to happen?  What was the purpose of it.

Why had God brought Israel to the end of the rope so to speak?

Why?  Was it so they would learn that GOD alone is their strong deliverer?   He alone is worthy of their faith!

Slide14King David would later write, 6  Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. 7  Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:6-7 (NIV)

God said, 17  I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen” (Exodus 14:15-17 (NIV).

Moses was indeed right that their strong deliverer was about to amaze them and cut them off from their foes.  Israel did need to stand firm in God, and be still and know that He could do exceedingly abundantly more than they had asked.  But would they actually learn the lesson of Pharaoh and not give into bad attitudes and wicked thinking that hardens hearts and kills faith?

I believe God is still working on that one …even with us many centuries later. The only difference is we have a Saviour who has overcome sin and selfishness and who bestows upon us the gift of righteousness.  One who is able to deliver us from anything that this old world or even anything Satan  throws our way.

And unlike Israel who were caught between a rock and hard place, we have a choice to make.  We can slip back into what we think is comfortable, our old thought patterns and lifestyle, go back to Egypt or we can choose to press on to the promised land choosing to trust in our Strong Deliverer every day as He leads the way.

We can learn from their lessons or we will learn it the hard way.  But do you really like learning the lessons the hard way?

 

——— Lesson Below ———–


Read Exodus 14:10-17 in several versions.

  1. Have you ever had to learn a lesson the hard way?  Can you think of one example?  What made it the hard way?
  2. Do you like learning lessons the hard way?  Is there any other way to learn?
  3.  Under what circumstances had Israel left Egypt? (Numbers 33:3-7)
  4. Who lead Israel to the Red Sea?  (Exodus 6:1; Exodus 13:9,16,18, 20-22; Deut 26:8; Neh. 9:9; Acts 13:7)  How did He lead them?
  5. So why was Israel terrified? (Exodus 14:9;10)
  6. What caused Pharaoh to pursue Israel? (see also Exodus 7:3,13, 9:12, 10:1, 20,27, 11:10, 14:4,8; 1 Samuel 6:6; Exodus 8:15,32; 9:34 )
  7.  Was God unjust in hardening Pharaoh’s heart?   (See Acts 10:34, Psalms 33:5, Deuteronomy 30:19 and Isaiah 10:5-11).
  8. What lesson was God teaching Israel in our passage today?  (Num. 14:9;  Duet. 20:3;  2 Kings 6:16; 2 Chron 20:15-17; Psalm 27:1-2; Psalm 46:1-3; * Isaiah 26:3;  Isaiah 41:10-14; * Isaiah 43:11; Lam 3:26; Hosea 13:4; * John 3:16,17 )
  9. What lesson is God trying to teach you today?  Do you like learning lessons the hard way?