They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord . – Jonah 2:8-9 NOT
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The Assyrians had been used to punish the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel for their unfaithfulness, with Jehovah allowing them to be defeated and taken into captivity in Assyria. On that occasion, King Shalmaneser replaced the Israelites residing in Samaria with Babylonians and other foreigners, as the Israelites began their sojourn in captivity in Assyria – 2Kgs. 17:1-41.
It was never going to be a good experience for anyone in such circumstances and the Israelites were no different, as the Assyrians gave them the treatment that those in captivity should expect. This was a case of a people who were not worshippers of the Sovereign God being permitted to oppress a people known as His beloved, and that further confounded them, as they must have wondered how such a scenario would be permitted by a god that is supposed to love them.
The Assyrians too, with their capital city in Nineveh, also probably thought that their victory over the people of Jehovah was due to the support they got from their gods, so even when the king assigned Priests to offer sacrifices to the god of the land of Samaria, they did not stop worshipping their gods, but more poignant was their actions which Jehovah considered as being wicked.
Though the Israelites were in captivity, they too never stopped worshipping Jehovah and looking up to Him with belief that He will deliver and restore them as He has always done. Their faith was rewarded when Jehovah reached out to Jonah, who was a prophet called to preach and teach His Word to the captives in Assyria, with a message for the Assyrians through their king, revealing His intention to overturn Nineveh because of all their wicked acts – Jonah 1:2.
Jonah, like most people in such situation would have been happy that Jehovah was eventually going to react to the wicked acts of the Assyrians, and was not willing to inform them of the imminent danger, after all, he with his people have been the victims of some of those wicked acts. So, with the intention to avoid warning them, he journeyed in the direction of Tarshish through Joppa, rather than join the ship to Nineveh (Jonah 1:3) but unknown to him, his desire to have their oppressors get rewarded for all their acts was making him commit the grievous act of disobedience to Jehovah. Jehovah was to express His disapproval of Jonah’s action when he was swallowed by fish, and he remained in its belly for three days until he was ready to implement the instruction of Jehovah – Jonah 1:3-18.
It was in this discomfort that he made a plea to Jehovah and the scripture for today’s Devotional is the part of his prayer where he admitted his ignorance about the ways of Jehovah with regards to issues of such. Though the earlier sections of the prayer was simply a recap of the events that led to his being in a fish and how he had lost all hope, today’s reference scripture was the action he took, probably after realising that Jehovah was capable of hearing prayers from any location including the belly of a fish and was also merciful and always ready to forgive. He had come to the following realisations;
- That they that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. The truth is that everything in this world is vanity but present a picture of value and permanence. Nothing can be as deceptive as that, as all that is in this world will end in this world and they can never justify any steps taken by anyone that will deny such of comfort in eternity. Jonah revealed that the one who does not take such caution may end up losing the mercy of God for life.
- That in such situations, the Christian should rather concentrate on presenting sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. No matter the situation, the Christian must never stop worshipping and praising Jehovah as relief will only come from doing so. The Israelites were in captivity in a strange land just as he was also in a fish and Jehovah still heard their cries. He was always going to hear prayers as long as such prayers come from a honest and sincere heart.
- That the Christian in such situations should continue to pay all that has been vowed. Nothing should stop one from redeeming a vow. That is why it is always advisable that the one who is making a vow think about it deeply before voicing such vows, not only in the Church but also amongst individuals.
- That the Christian should know at all times that salvation is of the Lord. He is the only one that can save from any situation, irrespective of who or what is behind the discomfort. Understanding this basic fact will make the one in one form of discomfort or the other intensify efforts at improving the relationship with Jehovah during such times.
It was only after his admission of these realities that Jehovah instructed the fish to vomit him on the shores of Nineveh – Jonah 1:3-2:10. He was really lucky as only Jehovah knows what could have followed the period of his residency in the fish had he not come to the above realisations about life.
The Christian today must also realize;
- That no matter the situation, the personality being used for any act of oppression is working on behalf of Jehovah as such would not have been able to do so, had Jehovah not permitted it.
- That such tool of oppression should never be considered a target of negative actions or thoughts as the Christian may find him/her self targeting God instead.
- That Jehovah it is that knows the limits of the task he gave to the tool of oppression, He only knows when boundaries have been crossed and the commensurate penalty that should follow such.
That situation may be very discomforting with the tool of oppression seemingly enjoying all that he/she had been divinely empowered to do but the appropriate reaction of the Christian is to remain calm in that situation and confidently await His arrival having sincerely acknowledged all errors before Him. He is the only One that can save in such situations. May God continue to intervene in all our difficult situations to our advantage in Jesus name. Amen.