Bible Readings and Devotion for April 1, 2020
Here are the references for the readings. Please look these up in your print Bible, your smartphone app Bible, or your online Bible:
Devotion for April 1, 2020
By Pastor David Tinker
The Book of Jonah is a very special book in my faith life and my study of God’s Holy Word. See my notes on this in yesterday’s devotion. Today we read chapter 3 of this little book in the Old Testament. It is one the 12 books of the Minor Prophets, or the Book of the Twelve. These are simply shorter, prophetic books. This is in contrast to the Major Prophets, which are a few longer books by prophets. These include the large books Isaiah and Jeremiah. The message of all of these books, both Minor and Major, are important, for these are messages from God himself.
Chapter 3 of Jonah is about God giving people a second chance. It starts at about the mid-point of the book. The first half is about Jonah’s disobedience and God’s action to stop him with the storm and the giant fish. The second half shows how Jonah is given a second chance to obey the Lord’s calling. It begins with the statement, “1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2 “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”” This was the second calling of Jonah by God, and this time the prophet headed in the right direction. In a very real sense, God reaches out to Jonah. The prophet then responds with repentance. He stops doing the wrong, and gets back on track with the Lord.
The prophet who was given a second chance is sent to the great city of Nineveh to preach. As with all prophetic messages in God’s Word, the Lord’s goal is to bring people back into relationship with the Lord. It is to give people a second, 100th, 1 millionth, etc. chance. We are reminded in Ezekiel 18:23 the following: “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live?” God’s goal in sending Jonah was not to destroy the city and its people. Rather, it was to get their attention and to urge them to return to the Lord. It was to give them a second chance with the Lord.
When given this chance, the people of Nineveh repent in mass numbers. The king and all the people return to the Lord. They show their repentance by putting on sackcloth and ashes. This was a typical symbol of repentance, similar to the ashes on Ash Wednesday. The Lord responds to this repentance as we see in John 3:10: “10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.”
Our loving God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is one who offers second chances to each of us. Any confrontation of sin in our lives is there to bring us back to God. In the Lutheran Theological Tradition, we have the three uses of the Law of God. The three uses of the Law are:
- Curb – Through fear of punishment, the Law keeps the sinful nature of both Christians and non-Christians under check. This does not stop sin, since the sin is already committed when the heart desires to do what is wrong, yet it does stop the open outbreak of sin that will do even further damage.
- Mirror – The Law serves as a perfect reflection of what God created the human heart and life to be. It shows anyone who compares his/her life to God’s requirement for perfection that he/she is sinful. It drives us toward the Good News, the Gospel, of Jesus Christ. This is where we are urged to be reconciled to the Lord through what Jesus has done for us in his death and resurrection.
- Guide – This use of the law that applies only to Christians. The law becomes the believer’s helper. Empowered by the gospel truth of forgiveness and righteousness in Christ, the believer’s new self eagerly desires to live to please the Lord.
All the work and teachings of God in Holy Scripture are there to help us connected with God and, ultimately, to follow in the way of Jesus Christ our Lord. We know that we are not always following his ways, for we are sinners. More importantly, we know that we are loved by God and are invited to receive what he has done for us in Jesus. The Holy Spirit reminds us that when we have not done things in God’s way, we are given a chance to return to God and his way. He did it for Jonah. He does it for us. He offers it to all in the world who will receive his love, forgiveness, and abundant life, both now and forever.
Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit: we give you thanks for you are the God who gives us second chances. May your Holy Spirit lead us back to a relationship with you. Turn us from our sin to live for you alone. We pray this in Jesus’ Holy Name. Amen.