Good books

One thing I could not do with my weekly emails was tell you about the books I am reading.   Psalm 119:11 says, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.”  Our first avenue towards increasing in the knowledge of God is to study and learn His own words.  Then it is our additional pleasure and privilege to benefit from others’ experiences and insights.

God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels I am currently reading and enjoying Surprised by Grace:  God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels by Tullian Tchividjian.  The book is based on a sermon series on the Old Testament book of Jonah.

It won’t take anyone long to figure out that I love the Old Testament: the stories, the way God speaks through His prophets, the stark reality of the cycles of God’s people seeking after Him and their sinking into disobedience.  As ancient as some of these writings are, in the Old Testament we are confronted with man’s need for God and God’s great and ongoing mercy towards man.

This book takes a look at the story of Jonah, and one thing the author emphasizes is the repetition of the Hebrew word transliterated gadowl . According to Strong’s, this word is translated in English as great, meaning large in magnitude, large in number, large in intensity, loud, older (age), important things, important as distinguished, importance as in God Himself.

Jonah is sent by God to the great city of Nineveh.  This is a city of importance, large in size and number, and great in its wickedness (1:2, 3:2-3, 4:11).  In this account, Jonah rises up but takes a ship in the opposite direction.  The Lord sends a great wind and great storm (1:4, 1:12).  The sailors become greatly frightened (1:10) and upon Jonah’s instruction, they throw him overboard.  As the sea calms, their fear of the LORD is great (1:16).

God is not caught unaware or unprepared by Jonah’s flight.  He has appointed  a great fish (1:17) to swallow Jonah and keep him for three days and three nights.  The large fish vomits Jonah onto dry land where the Lord God once again tells Jonah to go to the great city of Nineveh (3:2-3).

Jonah cries out the warning to the people in Nineveh and they believe him.  From the greatest to the least of men (3:5, 3:7), they fast, mourn, and call upon God.  This activity is so comprehensive that even the animals are included in the fast.  Their repentance is so earnest that God relents from the calamity He had declared for them.

This display of mercy towards the people of Nineveh greatly displeased Jonah (4:1).  He goes out of the city and sits to watch.  I have to wonder if he wasn’t hoping to still see their destruction.  God causes a vine to grow and give Jonah some shade and this greatly delights him.  Then God causes a worm to attack the plant and Jonah is subjected to a scorching hot wind that must have matched his anger.

The story of Jonah ends with a question from God.  “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” (4:11)

I don’t know exactly what this question means.  Perhaps I will return to it by the time I finish the book.  I am reminded of the great mercy and compassion I receive from God.  “I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify your name forever.  For Your lovingkindness toward me is great, and You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.” (Psalm 87:12-13)


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