Not Yet Like Him – January 20, 2023

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.
Jonah 3:10, 4:1

Military Devotion – January 20, 2023

Devotion based on Jonah 3:10, 4:1

See series: Military Devotions

The only God, the holy God, likes us. But we are not like him.

The play on words is to draw attention to a critical truth revealed in Scripture.

The Old Testament prophecy named the Messiah “Immanuel,” that is, “God with us.” The message is that the one who is divine would become human to rescue humans from the deadly consequences of their rebellion against him. We celebrate this good news at Christmas.

During the Epiphany season, we look at the evidence that the prophecy was fulfilled. He looked like a human, talked and acted like a human. He ate food, he grew tired, and he cried tears.

As final evidence of his humanity, we are told that he bled, and he died.

But clearly, he was more than human. The Roman soldier who watched him die was convinced. “Surely this was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:19).

He did work many amazing miracles. Yet, the miracles, of themselves, do not show the primary way he is different from us. After all, humans have done some amazing things, too. Remember Moses parting the waters of the Red Sea? Recall the time Peter walked on water—for a while?

In the book of Acts, Saint Luke tells us: “The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people” (Acts 5:12).

Some humans have worked miracles because God worked through them. Those humans were not divine—and did not claim to be.

But Jesus was God and clearly claimed the same. Though he was human, he was not exactly like us. Beyond divine power and wisdom lies an essential difference between him and humankind.

God is love. We are not. Not yet.

Jonah gives evidence of the difference.

Commanded to warn the citizens of the great city, Nineveh, Jonah defied the order by running away from the mission and—foolish as it was to try—away from the Lord God.

We might assume he was afraid of the failure this mission might bring. To bring these people to a state of repentance seemed like a mission impossible.

But that’s not why Jonah tried to run away! He wasn’t afraid they would reject the warning; he was afraid they would accept it—and God would spare them!

When that did happen, Jonah complained, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:2,3).

Almost unbelievable, isn’t it? He actually wanted those people to be crushed by the mighty arm of God. Would he have jumped up and down in glee to see the burning sulfur fall down upon Sodom? Would he have laughed at the prisoners being led away to Babylon?

Why would Jonah delight to see people being punished by God?

Could it be because he had a sinful human nature? Could it be that we are inclined the same way? Don’t we get some satisfaction out of being able to say at times, “Well, he got what he deserved!”

Do we not want justice? We do. So does the Judge of all.

But his justice is always tempered with mercy. It gives him no joy to see people get what they deserve. We read of his warning call: “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11).

Only when we realize our name is on the list of the wicked, only when we understand that we deserve no punishment less than that given to Satan, then we begin to understand how merciful the Lord has been to us.

Then we begin to grasp the wonder of the words, “God so loved the world…”

Could it be that he loved someone like me? The amazing answer is, “Yes!”

But there is even more to the story. We are told, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

Not only does God like us so much that his Son died for us—one day, we will be like him!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, your Word clearly reveals how guilty we are and how severely we should be punished. So, we must be astounded to learn that we are pardoned. May we never lose this astonishment. May we strive to be more like you until the day comes when we shall truly be like you. Grant that for your name’s sake. Amen.

Points to ponder:

  • Is it wrong to rejoice to see justice being served? Why or why not?
  • How do we keep ourselves from feeling, “I’m better than them!”?
  • How can we become more merciful—like God?

Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.

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