Sunday, July 8, 2012

Jonah 2 Prayer Changes The Heart/祈りは心を変えます

Last week in review:  Jonah 1    
He calls us to Know HimHe calls us to serve Him.  He empowers us to the task.
          BUT--     Prejudices hold us back   Pre-conceived ideas trick us
The Problem with Calling
Jonah 2  ヨナ2    July 08, 2012
Prayer Changes the Heart-esp. in the stomach of a fish-at times, life at times, is hard as well…祈りは心を変えます

Last week, we had the chance to start our voyage with Jonah and his un-happy crew on the good ship to Tarshish.   Remember that he had received a call of God to go to Nineveh, but instead, he goes the very opposite direction.  In the entire Bible, Jonah is the only prophet who does not obey God’s call on his life.  Others might not have liked it or misunderstood the call but only Jonah said “no”.

Chapter Two opens with a prayer.  It is in a very different tone than Chapter one and done in a different style.  The first chapter was in a third-person narrative, but here, a first person prayer.  Let us listen to his prayer and learn from it information that can help us in our times of stress. (Being inside a large fish is stressful!)  Read Jonah 2.  Prayer changes the heart—but not yet for Jonah.  He has yet to learn some important facts about prayer.

The sailors understood that someone was to blame for this storm. He had told them before that he was running away from the Lord (1:10).  He had told the shipmates: 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.”  They heard him but they were not ready to perform this strange act!  They also had a hard time being that ‘mean’.  These men from all sorts of different ‘faith walks’ had a hard time dealing with killing an innocent man.  They tried to work things out humanly.  Try as they did, they could not bring the ship to land.  
Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for You, Lord, have done as You pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard,
This was not the response I would have expected of sailors of that time.  In fact, sailors of any time!  No one wants to drown.  Seemed like a good idea.  One less person’s weight to deal with. He was not helping anyway.  Get rid of the unwanted baggage.  So they cried out to the God of Jonah…the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land, and asked for forgiveness!  THEN they cast him overboard.  And…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.
These unbelieving men gave God the glory.  Not the prophet of that same God.  Jonah was sinking into the deep. And as he sank, he prayed                     

Ps 139:7+9 might be something Jonah could have prayed…
Jonah is cut off from humans. --Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible "No place is amiss (incorrect) for prayer. Men may shut us from communion with one another, but not from communion with God." How true it was for Jonah. With the Lord, there is always an opening.  “Come to Me and taste and see that the Lord is good!” 

Prayer Changes the Direction of my cries:  He cries to the Lord. Verse 2 私の叫びの方向:   彼は主に泣く。 “In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me.  From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and You listened to my cry.”
Once I realize where I am and that I am away from where God wants me to be, I need to direct my heart and my prayers toward Him.  When I am distressed, I call on Him.  When I am in doubt, I call on Him.  When I am lost, I call on Him.  When I am in pain, I call on Him. When I am in Joy, I call on Him. And guess what?  He will answer.  Have you found that true yourself? You will have a chance to tell that life story next week at Covered Dish Sunday.  Tell how He answered you when you called on Him. 
For Jonah, he must have felt he was ever so close to death.  In the belly of a fish, under the ocean…and for three days!  He was indeed in the realm of the dead and it was from this bottom position, he called out for help.  As I understand the workings of AA, a person in need can really only help himself when he is at the bottom and helpless-unmanageable life.
These are the original Twelve Steps as published by Alcoholics Anonymous: (1)   匿名アルコール中毒患者の12のステップに注意してください)
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol —that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a higher Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10 Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11 Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12 Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The great truth here is that this also covers any other areas of concern.  Another program called Celebrate Recovery is a program designed to help those struggling with hurts, hang-ups, and habits by showing them the loving Power of Jesus Christ through the recovery process. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—hurts, hang-ups, and habits —that our lives had become unmanageable. It really looks like Jonah was one of them.  He followed the steps very well.  There is a CR program at the Ekoda Biblical Church.  If you are interested, please contact them for help.  A very successful program in Japanese.

Prayer Changes the Direction of my devotion [verse 4 ] 私の献身の方向:
Nevertheless, or yet…  Here is the recognition of REDEMPTION that only comes from the Lord. He could have complained: “O, what a mess I am in!  Oh, me!  Woe is me!  I am undone!  Look at the problems I have!  If it were different, I would be happy!  IF God really loved me, this would not have happened.  If only…  If only…  If … “

In truth, Jonah comes to understand NOT the why of the situation but that the situation was as it was.  God alone held the key to life and to salvation.  Even when it appeared that God had pulled the plug on life, as he knew it, he needed to turn to Him.  Jonah messed up, no question.  Here he was sitting in a very uncomfortable location—inside the fish—and here Jonah is having a prayer time.

Much like later, under different circumstances, Paul and Sails are chained in a Philippi's jail—late at night—after a beating.  They started singing.  They started praising the God of Israel and they came close to God—rather, God came close to them.  He not only broke the chains that held them to the walls of the jail. The chains of disbelief were broken in the life and family of the jailer and the Church grew…from the inside of a jail.  Here with Jonah, Jonah also sees beyond the guts of the fish and see God where He really sits. On the Throne of Life and even when Jonah could not see Him, Nevertheless God’s eyes were on Him. And Jonah knew that!

Ever experienced that reality? Darkness, confusion, disbelief, pain, lostness? And God was there.  When we hit the bottom of what life throws at us or when we threw away most of what the Lord has given to us, we, like Jonah will “look again toward Your Holy Temple.”  We see Him high and lifted up. Our own eyes and the eyes of our hearts are lifted up to His Face.  We get a redirection of our devotion.
1Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish, 2and he said, "I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me.  I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice.  3"For You had cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me.  4So I said, 'I have been expelled from Your sight.  Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.'"

Prayer Changes the Direction of my life: Verses 6 & 7  私の人生の中における方向:
Here Jonah was…the farthest from where life and heart wanted to be.  He is all tangled with the weeds of the sea... (Pride of his own life that kept him from the surface).  In short, Jonah was very close to death’s door.  The door of Death sure looked different for him then he had thought.  Like a good Jew, he wanted to feel the presence of the Good Shepherd.  He wanted to hear Abraham’s voice calling to him.  Instead, all Jonah got was a fishy smell and of rotten sea weeds and who knows what else?!

Close to death experiences make good drama.  I have found them exciting to read.  I, however, do not really wait for that in my own life.  Not really.  I’m excited about going to Heaven like you all, but this life is what I know.  I rather like it here.  I would not mind being in Hawaii one more time, or fishing in VA or in Cape Cod Bay or off the coast of Mexico—looking for Yellow Tail!  To walk thru the National park in MT.  Visit the Solomon Islands.  But to be really AT the door of death—no thank you very much.

When Jonah was at that location, his heart was drawn to seeing his God. (I hope that would be true for me as well when the time comes.)  

Prayer Changes the Direction of what I hold on to: verse 8-9 私が固持している方向:
It is very true that prayer does change the way we look at things.  When we become honest with God, and allow ourselves to see things the way He sees them, we are changed.  We need the change anyway.  Again, our ways are not His ways SO we need to stop what we are doing and thinking and look at what He is doing and saying and follow His lead.  Depending on His Holy Spirit is what is needed.  Is it really necessary to be placed in the belly of a fish to get our attention?  We are smart people! Why do we wait so long before we allow His Hand in our lives? Really?!
 8 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.  9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to You.  What I have vowed I will make good.
What is it that you cling to?  What is your idol?  Come on now, we all put something in front of us to replace His Heart because the Scriptures say that we are wicked in every way!  For Jonah, he put something in front of himself that did not allow for God’s Hand to move him.  These past three days and nights in the belly of the fish were long enough for him to see the light.  He sees the error of his ways.  Jonah placed a vain idol before himself and that got him in deep water.  This vain idol was put there by himself replacing his first call. 

Jesus asked His followers to follow Him, knowing very well that they will be pulled away by fear or unbelief—but He still calls them and then assures even Peter that AFTER he returns to the relationship, God will hold him up and forgive him.  All Jonah needed to do from the first was to do what he was told to do.  Jesus says for us to do what He says for us to do.  Nike says, “Just do it!” and that sells shoes.  Why is it so hard to do it for Jesus?  Jonah let go his faithfulness in his God and was experiencing almost death because of his choice.  So we let go of the worthless things and cling/turn to God!

Because… Salvation comes from the Lord—ALONE 9B 救いは主から来る
Remember those men up in the boat three days and nights before?  They started to praise God and made vows to Him.  Even in their very little knowledge of the Divine, they knew what to do.  Their lives were spared. They were thankful.  They responded.  Maybe not the same way we would respond BUT they responded.  Some of us would remain silent and not say a word. We would let others do the praising.  We would not allow ourselves to be put into that position.  Would it be pride that holds us back? Or would it be that we just don’t get excited over things like salvation.  Don’t get excited over changed lives.  (or we don’t pray/ or we just don’t see it!) The Scriptures say—I would suggest command us—to give Him praise! Sure made a huge difference to Jonah’s life!  Jesus told the religious leaders when He came into Jerusalem that if His People did not cry out praises, the rocks would. We know, deep within our hearts that we are to be thankful people. We are to give back to Him in our tithes, offerings and life in such a way as to show gratitude and praise.  Being joyful—giving back to Him of what He has given to us. We would be deeply amiss if we were not thankful people.  Think of why those sailors AND Jonah gave praise.  They recognized that their salvation was only from His Hand.  He had done a good thing.  He kept all of them alive...alive for another time-chance-to follow His direction and obey Him.  Salvation is from the Lord.  Prayer changed Jonah’s heart as the Lord had placed Jonah in just the right place to gain his attention.

Where does He need to get us to get our attention? Maybe you feel like you have been thrown overboard and feel you might be in a fish’s belly.  Prayer changes things. Prayer can change you!

 (1) Alcoholics Anonymous (June 2001). "Chapter 5: How It Works" (PDF). Alcoholics Anonymous (4th ed.). Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. ISBN 1-893007-16-2. OCLC 32014950