Do you have a voice?

Micah 3:8 But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin.

Spoiler alert: Israel sinned again.  Okay, that’s not really new news to anyone who has read the Old Testament.  Those poor saps just couldn’t get it right.  We like to scratch our heads about their ongoing failure, even though we probably have some of our own.  We live in a world full of sin, don’t we?  Much like in the time of Micah, sin abounds around us.  So what do we do about that?  What’s our personal response?

The first, is to choose to be different.  Micah said, “But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord…”  He wasn’t filled with sin; he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord.  Filled.  In other words, there was no room for anything else except the Spirit of the Lord.  The word full means that there isn’t room for anything else.  So Micah chose to live with the power of the Lord in his might.  He chose to live according to the spirit rather than the flesh.

Because of that decision, he had a voice.  He was called to tell Israel about their sin.  You don’t get the privilege of prophesying about sin when you are entrenched in it.  If you tried to, everyone would know you were a fraud, a fake, a hypocrite.  That’s why it was so important that Micah chose to be filled with the Spirit rather than consumed by the flesh.  Living in sin like the rest of the people would have undone his message. 

Sometimes we think we should live like everyone else so we don’t look “religious.”  We engage in all the world’s activities and embrace it’s philosophies.  We participate in culture because we don’t want to alienate people.  Here’s the problem: we are called to be set apart, holy, children of the Lord.  Our participation in the drinking night may not build bridges but instead reveal hypocrisy.  We are the church, we are not the world.  Like Micah, we have a voice.  But our voice is to be used to speak into a situation that grieves God’s heart; it’s not to speak into a situation in which we are a part.  Do you have a voice?

The principal is only the bad guy when you are too

Micah 2:7 Should it be said, O house of Jacob: “Is the Spirit of the LORD angry? Does he do such things?” Do not my words do good to him whose ways are upright?

You don’t meet many people who can say, “I like discipline; I like to be corrected.”  Because correction hurts.  Even if it comes in love and is true, it doesn’t feel that good. Think about it.  When you discipline your kids, you completely understand the necessity of it.  Do they feel good about it?  No, they don’t.  Most kids don’t enjoy discipline – neither do adults.  You know when discipline isn’t scary, though?  It’s when you didn’t do anything wrong.  Yes, when you are upright, you don’t have to fear discipline and correction.  You won’t get called into the principal’s office for something bad when you didn’t do anything bad.  You might still get called in there, but it will probably be for another reason.  Maybe it will be to build you up or encourage you.  Maybe it will be to give some advice for success.   The principal is only the bad guy when you are too.

This is essentially what God was saying to the people.  Why do you think I am angry?  Why are you so afraid of my discipline?  Why are you terrified about what I am going to do to you?  Well, it’s because they were being naughty little children.  And naughty little children should expect some discipline.  But to the upright, the words of the Lord do good.  They aren’t scary even if they are discipline.  Because there is a recognition that the Lord disciplines those He loves.  So I can take His correction without fear because He loves me and I am upright.  When I strive to live upright, His words of discipline challenge me and encourage me.  As I see His heart, it changes me – not because I am afraid of Him, but because I see the gap between His heart and mine.  I see the grand canyon between the way He loves and the way I love.  And His words do me good.  They challenge me and transform me.  Yes, they do me good.

He wears big shoes

Micah 1:3-4 Look! The LORD is coming from his dwelling place; he comes down and treads the high places of the earth. The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope.

Last summer, I was at a waterpark with my family.  My 3-year-old wanted to play in the sand section because she wasn’t real fond of the slides and such.  So I headed over to the toddler zone and we began to build.  In all of our creativity, we decided we should build a mountain.  There wasn’t much to it except pouring bucket after bucket of sand on our spot and watching it get bigger.  We started with a little hill and as we went, it grew.  We had an awesome mountain until we went to get some water to pour on it.  I looked back to see another child heading straight toward our mountain.  He proceeded to jump on it, flattening half of it with a single step.  Mountain big, kid bigger.  And there went the mountain.

Imagine now with me a real mountain.  You could pick Mount Rainier or Mount Everest – it doesn’t matter really.  People climb those mountains, tiny specks amidst an enormous object of nature. But God could step on it and crush it as fast as that kid and our work of sand.  Mountain big, God bigger.  Since we can’t see God and we know Jesus was the size of a Hebrew man, we may not imagine God with that large of a footprint.  But the truth is, He wears some pretty big shoes.  With a single step, He could flatten Mount Rainier.  With a simple jump, Mount Everest would be squashed into the ground.  He’s just that huge.

It’s miraculous to me that the same God who wears big shoes and holds the whole universe in His hands would care to know tiny little me.  It’s humbling to know that this mountain crushing God used His power to crush the evil one and rescue me. He used His might not against me, but for me.  So today I stand in awe of a God who can melt mountains and split valleys.  I marvel at His greatness, His power, and His might.  And I wonder why I ever get afraid when the obstacles of life seem too big to face.  He’s bigger.  He’s stronger.  He’s my God.

Rhetorical

Jonah 4:4 But the Lord replied, “Have you any right to be angry?”

Jonah was being a baby.  He did his job and told the people of Nineveh that God was going to destroy them.  Because of their response, God decided to spare them and Jonah got ticked off.  God was making a liar out of him.  I mean, what kind of a prophet would he be if the prophesy he told didn’t come true?  His reputation was at stake; he had wasted his time delivering a message that God changed His mind on.  “It’s just not fair, God. Why are you doing this to me?  Why won’t you just destroy them like you said you would already!?” So he sat down and sulked.  He had a little temper tantrum.  Yes, the anointed man of God had a hissy fit.

At this point, God asks a very pointed question:: “Have you any right to be angry?”  And He asks it again in verse 9.  The second time, Jonah answers the question.  The problem is, it was a rhetorical question – God wasn’t looking for an answer.  Because in reality, God was saying to Jonah, “you don’t have the right to be angry.”  You see, it wasn’t Jonah’s right to judge the nation of Nineveh.  He thought he had the privilege of announcing their impending doom, but God’s real purpose was to use him as a catalyst for change.  It wasn’t his right to decide what God would do next.  It wasn’t his right to be angry about what the Sovereign Lord might decide to do.  God didn’t give him rights, He gave him responsibilities.

A river can’t flow higher than it’s source.  An object can’t be greater than it’s creator.  These truths are captured in God’s rhetorical question.  I do love this about my God.  When He asks, “do you trust me?” He means “trust me.”  When he asks “will you worship me alone,” he means “worship me alone.”  Did Jonah have the right to be angry? Did he have the right to tell God what He should do?  The answer, my friends, is no.  We must let God be God and be content with being his messengers, his servants, and his children.  That’s the way the relationship is supposed to work.

Let’s try this again

Jonah 3:1-2 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time:“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

Christmas will be here soon and the kids will be opening gifts that require power tools to get them out of their packaging.  So I will grab my power screwdriver and skill saw and hope for the best.  But that’s only the beginning of it.  Once I get the 137 parts out of the package, I will have to assemble it.  And in true guy fashion, I will throw the directions aside and try to make sense of how the parts fit together.  I will push, shove, grunt, smash my finger, and somewhat successfully assemble the toy with 14 parts left over.  “Something must be wrong”, I will think to myself.  From the corner, the directions book in broken english will mock me saying: “You no fellow drection.  I tell 23 step to assemble toy.  Why no look at me?”  So I resign myself to picking up the book and looking at pictures with numbers and letters and hoping the text somehow leads me to success.  With a deep breath, I say: “let’s try this again.”

Let’s try this again.  That’s really what God said to Jonah.  He had already given Jonah the task and sent him on his way.  But this prophet of God ran the other way, trying to do his own thing. He blew it completely.  God could have picked another man to do the job or he could have let him drown.  He could have left him inside that giant fish until he was digested and dead.  But God didn’t do any of these things.  No – He walked over to the corner, picked up the instructions and said, “let’s try this again.”

Today I am overwhelmed with the grace of my God.  I have failed Him many times trying to do things my own way.  I have smashed my finger, made a bunch of noise, and probably even tried sailing to Tarsus.  But He picked me up and embraced me.  He poured over me with His mercy and grace and stood me to my feet.  He dusted off the dirt and filled my heart with peace and joy.  And He gave me another crack at it.  He didn’t let me drown, He gave me a second chance.  Like Jonah, I intend to walk straight into the calling He has for me.  I commit to follow His instructions, even though I won’t always understand everything He tells me.   Sometimes I will feel like His instructions are written in another language.  Even so, I will do my best to live my life HIS way and not mine.  I am thankful for, “let’s try this again.”  I am humbled by those words and in awe of a God who would speak them to me.

What have you vowed?

Jonah 2:8-9 “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”

We can all appreciate someone who does what they say they are going to do.  Empty promises are frustrating.  “I forgot” is too.  But people let us down, don’t they?  What’s wrong with those people?  Why can’t they keep their word?  I mean, it’s not all that hard to be somewhere you said you would be.  It can’t be that difficult to finish the task you said would get done. It’s easy to say these things about others, isn’t it?

I certainly don’t like to say these things about myself.  But as Jonah was hanging out inside of a giant fish, he offered this prayer to the Lord: “What I have vowed I will make good.”  For Jonah that meant going to Nineveh and preaching.  It meant obeying God rather than running from him.  Good for Jonah.  He was finally ready to face his fears, his laziness, his frustrations, and do what God had asked of him.

“What I have vowed I will make good.”  What have I vowed to the Lord?  I said I would make Him Lord of my life.  I promised a whole lot of times that I would stop sinning.  I have committed to spending more time with Him – in the Word and in prayer.  I told Him I would strive to be a better husband and father.  I vowed that He would be the center of my life.  Am I making good on my vows?  Do my heart, will, mind, and emotions follow through with what my mouth said?  Maybe there are some things I still need to make good on.  Thanks, Jonah, for that word today.  Apparently I needed the reminder.

I prefer the coast guard ship

Jonah 1:17 But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah was in a heap of trouble.  God gave him an assignment and he ran the other way.  As he traveled by ship, the seas grew restless while he took a nap.  The boat was going to capsize and there was no hope in sight.  That is… until the sailors threw Jonah overboard.  The sea chilled out but Jonah started to drown.  It seemed like he was doomed to die due to his disobedience.  Instead, the Lord sent the coast guard to rescue him.  No?  How about a life raft or at least a large piece of driftwood?  No, the Lord sent an enormous fish to swallow him.

Am I the only one who didn’t see that one coming?  The first three words of verse 17 are: “But the Lord provided.”  That statement gets me excited, makes me think about God’s great power and might.  Maybe God will even reach down from heaven and pull Jonah out of the sea.  The Lord is about to provide, Jonah.  Hang on – this is going to be awesome!  Chomp.  Down the hatch he goes.  Inside a giant fish or whale of some sort.  That’s provision?  That’s provision.

When God says that He is my provider, maybe I have put that statement in too small of a box.  I think that means a paycheck, the means to live comfortably.  I doubt Jonah was comfortable inside that fish.  Imagine the smell.  Barf-o-rama.   But it was the Lord’s provision, even if it didn’t look like a coast guard ship.  You know, the Lord promises that He will provide for His people.  He promises that He will take care of us.  Look, I prefer the coast guard ship, but I have found that He sometimes provides in unconventional ways.  It’s not about money, it’s about Him taking care of us.  He might send the life raft, but He also might send the fish.  Do you need the Lord to rescue you today?  Call out, but brace yourself for whatever He sends your way.  It might look strange, but it will certainly save the day.