Archive for August, 2011

Give Me Oil In My Lamp (Hymn)

Give Me Oil In My Lamp

Give me oil in my lamp
Keep me burning
Give me oil in my lamp I pray,
Give me oil in my lamp.
Keep me burning, burning, burning
Keep me burning till the break of the day
Sing Hosanna, sing Hosanna,
Sing Hosanna to the King of Kings,
Sing Hosanna, Sing Hosanna,
Sing Hosanna to the King.
…..Give me love in my heart, keep me serving
…..Give me faith in my heart, keep me trusting
…..Give me joy in my heart, keep me singing
I remember singing this song often when I was young.  I hadn’t heard it for years until I came across the words to it the other day.  I know that there are basically an infinite number of verses, but, no matter how many verses you know or don’t know, you just can’t help but start humming this tune once you hear it.  And there is nothing wrong with words like these getting stuck in your head!

The Lesson

And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief.  So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.  But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.  And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.  And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?  And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.  Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle.

Jonah 4:6-11

Jonah was “very displeased” and “angry” that the Lord had shown mercy to the people of Nineveh.  And, like we mentioned, God did destroy him for that terrible attitude.  Instead, God again chose to teach Jonah a lesson.  First, He caused a gourd to grow over Jonah to give him some shade from the heat of the day.  Then, He sent a worm to kill the gourd.  The gourd withered, and Jonah was stricken by the heat of the sun.  Again, Jonah said that it was better for him to die than to live.  And again, God asked him, “Doest thou well to be angry…?”  This time, Jonah said “I do well to be angry, even unto death.”

Jonah told God that, not only was he right to be angry over the gourd, but he was right to be angry to the death over the gourd.  Then God drove the lesson home in verse 10 and 11.  Jonah loved the gourd and was thankful for it because it helped him and gave him a little comfort.  But he didn’t love the multitudes of people in Nineveh had just been spared.  What a sad commentary.  What an even sadder commentary that we are so often like Jonah in this regard.  We can go day after day without caring about the people for whom Christ died, but we all worked up when some minor thing that makes our lives easier has a problem.  Our car won’t start; our washing machine starts making a funny noise; the mail is late; our tv show gets canceled.  Those things are the things that sometimes irritate us and make us angry.  That is because we have a love for ourselves, and not a love for others.

Jonah was “angry to death” over this gourd, yet didn’t care about people.  What is the “gourd” in our lives?

Still Working On Us

So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.  And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief.  So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.  But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. 

Jonah 4:5-7

I have said this before, and I will say it again.  I am glad that God is God and we are not.  God is merciful and longsuffering; far more than any of us would be.  The Bible tells us in Psalm 103:8 that “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.”  I am very thankful that He is merciful and slow to anger.  And I think that Jonah was, at some point, thankful for those things also.

The Lord was longsuffering and merciful when Jonah rebelled after being told to go to Nineveh.  Not only did God not destroy him, but restored him and decommissioned him.  The Lord was then again longsuffering with Jonah after Jonah became angry over God’s mercy on the Ninevites.  Again, God could have destroyed Jonah, but we find Him here again preparing a lesson for him.

How often has God needed to be longsuffering with us?  Long after we would have given up on someone, God is still working on them.  God is still bringing things into their lives and taking things out of their lives in an effort to teach them and bring them closer to Him.  He keeps working on us, which is fortunate because none of us are finished products.  We all have rough edges that need to be polished.  I am thankful that He is still working on me.  He could easily have given up on me long, long ago.  But I, like Jonah, am thankful for the lessons He teaches, though they may be tough to go through at the time.

Doest Thou Well

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.  And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country?  Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.  Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.  Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry.

Jonah 4:1-4

After Jonah goes off about the Lord having mercy on the Ninevites and tells God that it would better for him to die than to live.  In response to this pity party from Jonah, God responds very simply: “Doest thou well to be angry?”  God often asks people questions when He wants to get a point across.  Just look at the book of Job.  God asked Job a number of questions that were not meant to be answered, but were instead meant to make Job think and make Job see the truth about God.  This question is a great one.  It is question that we should ask ourselves when we find ourselves in Jonah’s shoes.  When we find ourselves angry at God for anything, we could just imagine God asking us this question: “Doest thou well to be angry?”

Should Jonah have been angry?  Of course not.  He rebelled against God and God, instead of destroying him, brought him back to his senses in one of the most miraculous ways ever seen in the history of mankind.  Not only did God save Jonah’s life, but He gave him a second change to obey.  And, when he did obey, God used him to bring an entire city of people to their knees before Him.  What an honour!  What privilege Jonah should have felt.  Did he do well to be angry?  Of course not.  The same could be said of us.

How often have we been angry at God (though we would never actually say that) for something in our lives?  Has He not saved us, forgiven us, and blessed us?  Did He not give us His only begotten Son to die for our sins against Him?  What more could He have possibly done?  The next time we feel a root of bitterness sprining up, let us remember this question: “Doest thou well to be angry?”

The Absence of Joy

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.  And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country?  Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.  Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.

Jonah 4:1-3

In the beginning of the fourth chapter of Jonah, we find one of the strangest prayers in all of the Bible.  Jonah is displeased and angry that the Lord spared the people of Nineveh after they repented of their evil ways.  He then goes on to say that the Lord’s great mercy and grace is the very reason that he rebelled against Him in the first place.  He knew that this is what would happen and, apparently, he knew better than God what should have happened.  Then, he gets to the end of his rope in verse 3: “…it is better for me to die than to live.”

Have we ever been there?  Maybe not quite that drastic, but have we ever just felt worthless?  When God didn’t do what Jonah thought He should do, Jonah probably felt rejected.  God told him to tell the Ninevites that they would be destroyed for their evil and Jonah was depressed when He changed His mind, due to their change of actions.  Jonah wanted to see the people destroyed.  When it didn’t happen, he went to the extreme of “it is better for me to die than to live.”

What caused Jonah (and what causes us) to get to that point?  I think it is simple.  Jonah started looking at himself before he looked at God, and before he looked at the people of Nineveh.  I have seen the acrostic “JOY= Jesus Others You”.  We have joy in our hearts and lives when we put the Lord first in His proper place, and when we put others above ourselves.  That is where we find joy.  On the other hand, the opposite is also true.  Joy will be absent when we put ourselves first.  Do we have joy today, or our we like Jonah again?

The Real “Reason” for Jonah’s Rebellion

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.  And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country?  Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.

Jonah 4:1-2

In verse 1 of this chapter, we learn that Jonah is displeased and angry that the people of Nineveh have repented, changed their ways, cried out to God for mercy and were spared.  Apparently, having the people to whom he was preaching respond to that message was enough to make him “very angry.”  In verse 2, he gives us his “reason” for rebelling against God and disobeying His word.

He says that the reason he fled to Tarshish away from Nineveh was not that he was afraid of the Ninevites.  It was not that he was rebellious.  It was that he knew that God, being a gracious and merciful God, would repent of the evil that He was going to do to Nineveh.  He knew that, if he warned the Ninevites of God’s coming judgment, they might cry out to God for mercy and God would hear them and not destroy them.  That is why he ran.

Whether that is the reason for his rebellion in chapter one or not, think about how ridiculous that sounds.  That would be the equivalent of us not telling someone about the Lord simply because we wanted to see God destroy them.  That would be the equivalent of us desiring to see judgment come on someone so much that it would make us angry if they came to the Lord and received forgiveness.  Believe it or not, I think that there is some of that going on in our churches.

When we see someone doing wrong, what is our reaction?  Do we pray for God to immediately judge them and destroy them, or do we pray for them to repent and seek the Lord?  Let us not let our attitude get to be like Jonah’s!

Jonah On The Rollercoaster

And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.  But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.

Jonah 3:10-4:1

I love the book of Jonah.  You could study it for a year and never understand everything in it.  Jonah is such a great picture of us as Christians.  Too often our lives mirror that of Jonah’s (though maybe not quite as drastic).  We run from the Lord and disobey Him when He tells us to do something that we don’t want to do.  Then we turn to Him, cry out for mercy, ask for forgiveness and get things right.  We then obey the Lord.  When then stumble and fall in some other area and are forced to start the process all over again.  I don’t know about you, but that unfortunately describes me more often than I would like to admit.

In the book of Jonah, we are now at another part of the roller coaster of Jonah’s life.  He had failed God, been swallowed by the great fish, repented in the belly of the fish, got recommissioned, preached to the Ninevites, and saw a miraculous turning to God by an entire heathen city.  One would think that after all of that, Jonah would be the happiest man in the world.  And, one would be wrong.

It blows my mind that this amazing change in Nineveh and this amazing display of mercy and grace by the Lord would “displease Jonah exceedingly.”  “He was very angry.”  It was not just that he was a little depressed or worn down and having a bad day.  He was actually “very angry.”  I would blast Jonah for this unbelievable display of “hard-heartedness.”  But then I realize that I have probably done the same thing at one point or another.  Let me say it like this:

Have we ever physically done what the Lord wanted us to do, but with a rotten attitude?  Jonah “technically” obeyed God.  He went to Nineveh and he gave them the message.  But he had a heart problem that was soon uncovered.  Does that ever describe us?  That stings me a little.  I think we all have a little Jonah in us.

A Friend I Have Called Jesus (Hymn)

A Friend I Have Called Jesus
Edna Worrell (1903)

A friend I have called Jesus, Whose love is strong and true,
And never fails howe’er ’tis tried, no matter what I do;
I’ve sinned against this love of His, but when I knelt to pray,
Confessing all my guilt to Him, the sin clouds rolled away.

Refrain

It’s just like Jesus to roll the clouds away,
it’s just like Jesus to keep me day by day,
it’s just like Jesus all along the way,
It’s just like His great love.

Sometimes the clouds of trouble bedim the sky above,
I cannot see my Savior’s face, I doubt His wondrous love;
But He, from heaven’s mercy seat, beholding my despair,
In pity bursts the clouds between, and shows me He is there.

Refrain

When sorrow’s clouds o’ertake me, and break upon my head,
When life seems worse than useless, and I were better dead;
I take my grief to Jesus then, nor do I go in vain,
For heavenly hope He gives that cheers like sunshine after rain.

Refrain

O, I could sing forever of Jesus’ love divine,
Of all His care and tenderness for this poor life of mine;
His love is in and over all, and wind and waves obey,
When Jesus whispers “Peace, be still!” and rolls the clouds away.

Refrain

I have quite a few “favorite” hymns, but this one has to be on that list somewhere.  My personal favorite line is: “I’ve sinned against this love of His, but when I knelt to pray, Confessing all my guilt to Him, the sin clouds rolled away.”  That would probably sum up my life in a nutshell.  This is just such an encouraging hymn.  Everything about it makes you want to “sing forever of Jesus’ love divine!”

God Repented

So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.  For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.  And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.  Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?  And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

Jonah 3:5-10

The simplest definition for the word “repent” is simply a change of mind or a change of direction or intention.  We usually hear about repentance dealing with salvation, but in these verses, it is God Who is doing the repenting.  He sent Jonah to the people of Nineveh with a simple message: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”  That message is short, simple and to the point.  Nineveh was a wicked place.  God had had enough of their wickedness.  God was going to destroy them.

I always found it interesting that the people of Nineveh repented and turned to Lord, crying out to Him and amending their ways, with no guarantee that He would even hear their cries.  The message was not “straighten up or I will destroy you.”  It was “I am going to destroy you.”  They realized that, whether the Lord would have mercy on them or not, He was their only chance.  They threw themselves on His mercy without even a promise or reason to hope.

We have promises.  We have written down promises in the Bible that, if we will turn from our evil and sin, the Lord will forgive us and have mercy on us.  But how many people continue to live defeated lives because they will not cry out for mercy?  The people of Nineveh exercised great faith in their actions.  How about us?

When God Shows Up

And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.  So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.  For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 

Jonah 3:4-6

When God moves in, things change.  People change.  The people of Nineveh surely changed when God came to them.  Jonah preached with the power of God, the people were convicted and they changed their ways.  Not only did they change their ways, they made a one hundred and eighty degree change.  Before God came, they were a savage, brutal, heathen people.  After God came, they repented in sackcloth and ashes.  Before God came, they were a proud people whose chief goal was to conquer other nations.  After God came, they humbled themselves before Him and cried out to Him.  What a difference the presence of the Lord made in the city of Nineveh!

His presence makes a difference in our lives, too.  II Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  His presence has the power to change our lives.  His presence can a drunkard off of the street and make him a child of the King.  His presence can help us to have victory over the Devil and over our own sinful flesh.  His presence can and does mean everything.

Imagine how yielding to the presence of the Lord could change our lives, our churches, our communities and our countries.  Everything changes when the Lord comes.  What a wonderful thing that is!