Sunday, July 1, 2012

New Series: Jonah 1

The Problem with Calling.   神から召命を受けたことに関する問題。

   WHAT WAS JONAH’S PROBLEM? He got a call from the Lord…do this for Me!  A very clear calling.  Go to the people who live in the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before Me. What was Jonah’s problem that he would run away from God? It was the people he was to go to.  The people of Nineveh (ニネベ) had been the arched enemies of Israel.  They hated each other.  Most people living in Israel at that time would have had a deep anger and hatred toward them. Saving them from destruction would be the last thing any good Jew would want to see happen.  Throw them all over a cliff and watch them die!  
The Call 召命。
   Here is your calling Jonah.  I have chosen you to take this great message to these evil people so that they could be saved.
Jonah’s answer ヨナの対応。
   Jonah’s answer:  Doesn’t even give one.  He takes off heading the direct opposite and runs away.  It is kinda funny, if it was not so sad! God sent me East—I’m going west!  Got to get away from this task.  I want the people of Nineveh to DIE!  BURN! Be dashed on the rocks!
   In short, he rejects God’s call on his life and runs away.
   The modern name for the city of Nineveh is Mosul, Iraq.  Today, Mosul is once again on the map of Iraqi hotspots.  On one of the two most prominent mounds of Nineveh’s ruins is the Mosque of Prophet Younis "Jonah", the son of Amittai, from the 8th century BC, which is believed to be the burial place of the fishy prophet. I have read that this old shrine is standing on the site of a Christian church which is a mere stone's throw from the built-up walls and gates of Nineveh.
   In our story of Jonah, we learn that Jonah uses the power of information to convince the citizens that there’s a better way. Jonah is hesitant at first, believing that God really ought to smite or thrash the Ninevites. But Jonah comes around and uses straight teaching to persuade the citizens that there’s a better way. He just tells the truth and look what happened!
   There is a great deal of bigotry that plays into this story, but not in the way we often think.  We tend to assume that Jonah simply didn’t like the people of Nineveh and simply didn’t want to go on that basis.  But it might be more accurate to say that Jonah was afraid of the success of his mission.  Sure, he and his people really hated those people—and why not?  They have been trying to kill off the Hebrew nation.  Why get them saved?  His questions might be our questions!  彼の疑問はわたしたちの疑問でもあるだろう。  Do we reflect his concerns as well?
  • What if that terrible family down the street becomes Christians and starts going to our church?
  • What if that guy where I work became a believer and started expecting me to mentor him in his Walk of Faith?
  • What if so-and-so in our extended family got serious about reading the Bible and started asking me why, if I’m also a Christ-follower, have I done some of the things I’ve done?
  • What if those homeless people I prayed with downtown and left my phone number with really expects us to help them out?
  • What if all the people who put up their hands at the Christmas outreach…would come to next week’s service, there would be more of them than us?!
  • That’s the woman who hit our car in the parking lot last month.  What’s she doing at our small group meeting?
   If that is the case, we’d better start looking for a ship bound for Spain! God does want that family down the street to believe in His Son. It would be great for you to start mentoring the man at work. Our life style should be honest and without blemish. We really should be helping the homeless. What if they all did become believers—would not God supply all our needs? And if that lady who hit your car does show up at the Bible study—she needs to be there and so do you.
   That is the problem of a call of God.  He calls us to Know Him. He calls us to serve Him. And He empowers us to complete the task.  Do we really believe that?  So many Christians want to see people come to Jesus.  We really do, but, what if they DID!?  We’d have to be ready to set up more chairs on Sunday. Might have to dig a little deeper in the teaching to get all the new believers up and running.  We might have to be really about the Master’s Work.

   In truth: Prejudices hold us back.  偏見がわたしたちに二の足を踏ませる。They tend to be deeply hidden inside our feelings. (or not!)  When we go to the airport, and in line, we see a couple who are dressed like Arabs, we get concerned…could be terrorist!  We get on the bus, and the only seat that is open is next to a foreigner… do we sit down next to that person? I have seen this during this past week more than once.  The train is full and I am sitting alone.  We see a homeless person sitting on the curb and we tend to walk a little faster, looking away from his gaze.  I know I am not alone in this!

   It is also true that pre conceived ideas trick us into believing those misconceptions.  思いこみがわたしたちを惑わす。 What if Jonah did go right away to the city of Nineveh? What then? The people on the boat would not have this divine encounter and they would not have had the chance to praise the God of Israel.

   The people of Nineveh would have heard sooner rather than later.  Jonah’s reputation would be different now had he just done what he was told!

But life is not like that.  We find excuses for going the other way.  We make up falsehoods to support our own agenda.  Why do we do that? Because we are just like Jonah and he is just like us.  We are human. We make mistakes.  We blow it—sometimes in a really big way.  And when we blow it and when we disobey the Lord’s call on our lives, He is willing to forgive us and to restore us with a closer relationship.   より身近な関係への命。  Psalm 51:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.  Ps 71:20 Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.  One more: Ps 58:4 Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us.

   Why does God do that?  He has a story to be told through our lives.  In the weeks to come, I’d like some of you to tell of your story.  あなたの話しを語るべき。 Tell us how He led you to follow Him.  Tell us of His way with your heart. Give testimony as to how the Lord restored your soul and put your feet on solid ground.  Might be a story of being in the belly of a large fish, and that one has already been told—but never mind!  Tell it and give Glory to God.  That is coming up in two weeks.  Covered Dish Sunday.  Be here to hear and to give Him praise for what He has done among us.
Now back to Jonah.  A very crazy thing about this man Jonah, the Prophet of God, is that he accurately HEARD the voice of God to do something – heard the voice of God speaking to him.   
   Look at 1 Cor 2:14~17 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”  But we have the mind of Christ.
   You see that a man with the Spirit of God cannot receive that information.  Jonah was able to hear it! The problem was—and here is the dangerous truth—he did not act upon it! He understood what were God’s good purposes—which His good graces were going to be extended to these people and he refused to do what God wanted him to do. It was worse than unbelief; it was believing what God was, in fact, going to do JUST what He had planned and then, not acting on it. Setting that aside and refused to do God’s best for him and for the people of Nineveh.

   Even WITH the Mind of Christ  (キリストの心), we really have to be careful! Was Jonah living in open rebellion? We see that even his sleep was not bothered. HE SEEMED TO BE AT PEACE! Even with the storm, he was not shaken! (See Jesus on the lake in the storm.)  What can be our guard against this way of responding?  何が間違った? Having an open, growing relationship that is ALWAYS on guard for the lies of the evil one. God’s choice was not a wrong one when He choose Jonah; God needed to be patient with him—while Jonah was being partially digested inside the large fish—tenderizing him to the Ways of the Lord.  We will see in the weeks to come that even with a willing prophet, Jonah still has a few things to learn…(as we do) as he deals with the problem of a calling from God.