Greetings! Welcome to Lechem Panim! We continue today our study on Jonah. You will remember that he has been commanded by God to go and preach to Nineveh (the persecutors of his people) so that they might repent and saved. But Jonah instead boards a ship going the opposite direction in order to flee; but (as you remember) a storm comes upon them; and the captain orders them to pray to their gods. And they cast lots to find out who is to blame and it is revealed that it is him. And he tells them that he has been running from God.
Was Jonah’s request to be thrown into the sea really noble?— And [At a loss to know what to do, the sailors asked Jonah for his advice (v. 11). He told them to throw him into the sea (v. 12). At first this seems like a noble response, but a closer examination reveals otherwise. The proper response would have been for Jonah to repent on the spot and to agree to go to Nineveh. But despite the captain’s exhortation (see v. 6), Jonah never does pray in this scene, at least as far as we can tell. His instructions to the sailors betray his obstinate refusal to obey the Lord. It is as if Jonah is saying: “Okay, if he won’t let me go to Tarshish, then I’ll just die in the sea! But I’m not going to Nineveh!”] And so instead of telling the captain to turn around and take him back, which would have allowed God to stop the storm, he tells them instead to help him commit assisted suicide. And the captain and crew are reluctant to at first, but they eventually consent after they try everything else. They throw him in the sea; but to his dismay, he doesn’t drown, but is instead swallowed by an enormous fish!!! And what is crazy is that this fish not only foils Jonah’s attempted suicide, but also acts as his submarine to carry him back to the shores he originally came from; actually (I and many others believe) shores that were actually closer to Nineveh.
The Fish god and The Fish-- Now it is so ironic that God chooses to use a fish to carry Jonah closer to Nineveh because [The name Nineveh is thought to derive from “ninus,” i.e., Nimrod, and means the residence of Nimrod or “nunu” (Akkadian for “fish”). The people worshipped the fish goddess Nanshe (the daughter of Ea, the goddess of fresh water) and Dagon the fish god who was represented as half man and half fish.] So while Jonah says I’m going to abandon Nineveh to its religious perversion; I’m not going to have anything to do with redeeming them from all that fish-god nonsense, God places him right in the belly of what was at the heart of what the Ninevites worshipped. They were enslaved to the fish god; Jonah doesn’t care; and so God puts Jonah in the belly of a fish; right in the middle of their spiritual problem.
Time to Reflect-- And Jonah, needless to say, is probably feeling a little down in the mouth at this point. But he has some time to reflect. And on his way back, he’s praying. God needed to do something in him; He needed to change him. But what part of Jonah did God want to change?
Heartbeat Prayer-- One way I like to go through the scriptures and have been doing so recently is by listening to it being read, which is how so many people throughout history have received the Word of God. And my favorite reading is the Word of Prosmise Audio Bible. Although it is pretty much a word for word reading of the NKJV, it incorporates a variety of actors and sound effects to make you feel like you are there. And not long ago I listened to the book of Jonah. And you hear the wind and the waves; the froth of the ocean beating against that ship. And then Jonah being picked up and heaved into the sea. And as he’s splashing about you hear air being released form the blowhole of the whale (or fish) (LONG PAUSE) and then everything goes silent. And moments later you begin to hear Jonah praying; but that’s not all you hear. In the background you hear a horrifying sound; the massive heartbeat of the whale. All throughout his prayer is the steady (thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump). And I thought to myself; what a haunting thing to have going on in the background of your prayers. That probably gave his prayers a little bit of focus, don’t you think?
But I began pondering what effect that may have had on Jonah. Or even more; what was God trying to say to Jonah through that whale’s heartbeat? God, why do I find it so difficult to love those who are different from me? (thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump). God, what part of my life has caused me to run from you? (thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump). God, what part of me do want to change? (thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump). I wonder how many times Jonah had to hear that heartbeat before he began to hear God’s message to him.
Was Jonah’s prayer truly repentant?— Actually, I’m not sure he got that message; at least not yet. Now I love his prayer; it is an absolutely beautiful piece of composition. One author writes how: [The prayer takes the form of a thanksgiving song.… Jonah recalled his time of desperate need, his prayer for deliverance, and the Lord’s saving intervention (vv. 2—7). Contrasting himself with pagan idolaters (v.8), he then promised to thank the Lord publicly and to fulfill the vows he had made when he sought the Lord’s help (v.9). He concluded the song with the declaration, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” Jonah’s prayer is surprising. We expect a penitential psalm in which the prophet confesses his sins, but, much to our surprise, he did not acknowledge his disobedience. He simply celebrates his deliverance, boasted of his superiority to pagans, and made promises.] I mean it’s absolutely astounding to me. He didn’t repent on the ship in the midst of the storm; and he can’t even bring himself to truly repent in the belly of the fish.
Obedience not Enough-- He commits to obey God (out of fear, no doubt), but as we will see, that is not enough. God doesn’t want to just make Jonah obey Him. God wants Jonah to have the love and compassion for the people of Nineveh that He Himself has. But Jonah has not reached that point yet. He has committed to obey; but he does not yet love these lost Ninevites. For the moment, however, obedience is enough. So the text says “10 And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.”
The Call Re-given-- Then we have again in 3:1 the repetition of that same phrase used when God first called Jonah: 1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”
Jonah’s Run-- Now he didn’t listen to God the first time. But now he says, “Well ok then!” And Jonah gets up and runs. Now how do we know he ran? If you look at a map, you will see that Nineveh was a 3-day journey from the coast of the Mediterranean all the way to the heart of the Assyrian empire. Jonah made it in a single day. He runs into Nineveh, smelling like fish; his flesh no doubt bleached white from digestive juices of the fish and begins to proclaim the Word of the Lord. And, to his dismay, all the people (beginning with the KING) do exactly what he himself didn’t do. They OBEY!!!! They humble themselves and repent in sackcloth and ashes. Just imagine that; the king of Nineveh, in the midst of his people, puts on sackcloth and ashes and leads the entire pagan city of Nineveh into true repentance. And Jonah can’t believe it.
Jonah 4 (ESV)— 1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly,[a] and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”
5 Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. 6 Now the Lord God appointed a plant[b] and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort.[c] So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
We don’t know their circumstances-- You know, one thing we must remember is that anger or hatred towards another person is always ignorant of that person’s personal circumstances. And that is because selfish anger is focused on how that person has offended me; not why they have offended me. We only see the effect; what their circumstances have driven them to: offending us. But what brought them there? If they are truly horrible, what did it take to bring them there? What circumstances shaped them into who they are today? And I have often wondered if I could observe the entirety of someone’s life; if I could see those circumstances; if my frustration towards them would not instead be replaced with compassion and understanding. I may look at that person and say, “Wow, if somebody had just taken time with them; if someone had just reached out to them, then maybe they would be a better person today. And you know that is exactly God’s point. Jonah is stewing over his frustration that God has forgiven these wretched people that have injured him and his people and God is saying, “Jonah, who did they have?” “They had nobody.” Just like this vine. See how it died? Why did it die, Jonah? Because nobody took the time to love and care for it; to cultivate it. Nineveh has 120,000 people in it who have never heard of me or been discipled. How can you judge; how can you be angry?
Our Response of Forgiveness and Recognition of Their Own Hurt-- God’s point is that we have no right to harbor unforgiveness and anger towards those who have offended us. Not only because we have also been forgiven for much (just as Jonah had been forgiven for his disobedience) but also because we don’t know their circumstances; what brought them to that point. “Hurt people hurt people.” If they are hurting you, chances are that they themselves are hurting. And as Christians, we are called to forgive the offense and reach out to them in love; to offer Christ to them; because only HE can deal with their hurt. And once their hurt is dealt with, then their lives begin to change. Hatred does nothing; anger does nothing; compassion and love changes everything. And I think what God is calling us to do is to recognize that they are people who have probably never been cultivated and who need you to play the part God has for you to play in making them disciples. Let’s be faithful to that call. Let’s be faithful to love even when it hurts, as Christ did for us. Amen.
Greetings! Welcome to Lechem Panim! We appreciate your choosing to make our program a part of your day and hope that our message today will be a blessing to you. We will be beginning a study on the life of Jonah, which is an interesting one.
“Then You Ask Him”— You know, some time ago [There was a Christian lady that had to do a lot of traveling for her business so she did a lot of flying. Since flying made her nervous, she always took her Bible along with her to read and it helped relax her. One time she was sitting next to a man. When he saw her pull out her Bible he gave a little chuckle and went back to what he was doing. After a while he turned to her and asked “You don’t really believe all that stuff in there do you?” The lady replied “Of course I do. It is the Bible.” He said, “well what about that guy that was swallowed by that whale? She replied, “Oh, Jonah. Yes I believe that, it is in the Bible.” He asked “Well, how do you suppose he survived all that time inside the whale?” The lady said “Well I don’t really know. I guess when I get to heaven I will ask him.” “What if he isn’t in heaven?” the man asked sarcastically. “Then you can ask him.” Replied the lady.]
A True Story-- Now all joking aside, the story of Jonah is not pretend; it’s not just a nice little story meant to teach us a lesson. No; this really happened to a real man by the name of Jonah in the Old Testament. Jesus Himself treats this account as a real historical event and uses it as a living and breathing picture of His own death and resurrection. So keep this in mind as we go through the story today. This story may sound like a big fish story (and it is); but it is also one that happens to be true. Now none of us know exactly how this happened. We don’t even know what kind of animal this was. It could have been a whale; it could have been a fish. The Hebrew word for fish here (dāḡ) can mean either a whale or a fish. Dagon (the god of the Ninevites) gets his name from this word, which we will see is significant. But we don’t know what exactly it was. But what we do know is that it happened and that this creature (whatever it was) was prepared by God for a special purpose. And we will see that purpose unfold in our story today.
Now Jonah was prophet of God; meaning he would hear from God and then tell God’s people what God had said. He was a preacher. And one day this preacher was either in or near his home when God gave him a special message. It says…
Jonah 1:1-2 (ESV)-- 1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”
Nineveh-- Now this was not good news to Jonah. Because Nineveh was the capitol city of Assyria. And Assyria was the enemy of Israel. They were the Nazis of the ancient world. And the reason Jonah saw them this way was because they had killed a lot of innocent people (including Israelites), and mutilated and tortured their captors in some unspeakable ways. And so Jonah rightfully saw them as the bad guys. And so he naturally doesn’t want to go. He would much rather stay in Israel. After all, THEY were God’s people; not Nineveh; and he was supposed to be Israel’s prophet, not Nineveh’s; at least that’s what he thought.
Feel-Good Times-- And these were good days to stay in Israel. Israel was doing pretty good. The Assyrians were elsewhere in the empire, occupied with other matters. This allowed for Jeroboam II (the king of Israel) [to capture much of Syria for Israel.] [he … expanded Israel even farther than his father did, matching the boundaries in the days of David and Solomon (2 Kings 14:25)] So the kingdom is doing better; [And it’s interesting that 2 Kings 14:25 says that all [this was “according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher” (2 Kings 14:25).] Jonah had prophesied concerning this time of prosperity. God had also prophesied about it through Elisha. But because Israel wasn’t being bothered by Assyria right now, they were all just kind of relaxing, feeling good about themselves. And we see from Amos chapters 5 and 6 that they were feeling pretty good about how they were God’s chosen people and were excited about how God was going to come one day and cover all their enemies in darkness, and leave them basking in the light. The only problem is that God didn’t want Israel to stand and everyone else to burn. He wanted Israel to be a light and an instrument of salvation to the nations, leading them into worship of Him. And so God reveals that He has compassion for everybody; not just Israel. But the people of Israel (and particularly Jonah) don’t want God to show that compassion on their enemies; they don’t want them to be saved.
Noah’s Dove of Deliverance-- In the story of Noah, what animal brought the olive leaf to Noah? A dove, right? Why a Dove? Well, the dove was a symbol for Noah and His family of God’s delivering them from the floodwaters; there was dry land. It showed them that God had compassion on them and had delivered them. Similarly, we see in the New Testament how the Holy Spirit, the one who brings inner deliverance; inner cleansing from sin, takes the form of a dove at Jesus’ baptism. But did you know that the Hebrew word for dove is “yonah” (“Jonah”)? And I think, isn’t it interesting that Jonah’s name literally means “dove”. Why is that? An accident? I don’t think so. God’s mission is often revealed in the name’s of God’s prophets. I believe the reason Jonah was named “dove” is because Jonah is God’s means of sharing hope with the people of Nineveh. He himself is bringing to them an olive leaf; the hope that through repentance they might be forgiven their sins and experience the compassion of God. However Jonah, though he has a name that may reflect and look forward to the Holy Spirit of God, does not yet have a heart that reflects the heart of God because he does not yet care about the lost. He’s not living in accordance with His name. So we see that God wants to change Jonah’s heart; Jonah’s understanding of how God wants to save (not just Israel, but) the entire world. God has compassion on everyone who needs Him. And because He does, so ought Jonah.
We Are Here Because of Others’ Faithfulness-- And when you think about it; the only reason you and I are here today is because some Jewish Christian in the past was willing to obey God’s call to cross social and racial barriers so that you might know Jesus. In the great commission Jesus challenges us to embrace a new way of viewing ourselves, a new way of viewing ministry, and most importantly a new way of viewing people. And even here in the Old Testament, in the narrative of Jonah, we see God challenging his people (through Jonah’s life) to start to think differently.
Jonah’s Hardened Heart-- But Jonah’s heart is hardened and He will not allow God to soften it. He hates those Ninevites. And Jonah doesn’t want God’s mercy for them; and if anyone is going to show it to them, it is certainly not going to be him; a Jew. So what does the scripture say? It says in…
Jonah 1:3 (ESV)-- 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
Running from God?!!!— Whenever I read this story, I think to myself, “Jonah, how can you be so foolish? Don’t you know that you can’t run from God?” After all, he was a prophet; he spoke for God; he was supposed to know God. Yet he still thought that he could run from God; that he could hide from Him; as Adam and Eve thought similarly in the Garden of Eden. But often there are times when you and I also can be tempted to run from God. Let me ask you this. Is there anything God has ever called you to do that you have sought to avoid? Maybe it’s doing the right thing in a bad circumstance; maybe it’s being a friend to somebody who is being bullied; or maybe (like it was with Jonah) it’s being a friend TO the bully. Whatever it is, we might try to avoid it, like Jonah did. We can act on your hate by doing evil to somebody; or we can hate them simply by withholding something they need; by not telling them about Jesus.
“Went Down”-- You know that phrase “went down” is a very interesting phrase in the book of Jonah; and really the entire Bible. Jonah went down to Joppa (1:3); he gets in the ship and the text says went down into it (1:3); then later during the storm it says of Jonah that he had gone down into the inner part of the ship (1:5); Jonah says in his prayer: I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; (2:6). Now “went down” can mean simply descending or going to a place that is geographically lower. But [Went down (twice in this verse; see also v. 5; 2:6) is also a euphemism for death (e.g., Gen. 37:35). The suggestion is that each step away from the presence of the Lord is one step closer to “going down” to death (see notes on Jonah 1:4-5; 2:6)] And what is the place of death? The land of the dead; Sheol, which corresponds to the New Testament word “Hades.” That is where all sin leads; to death; the land where the dead dwell. And similarly with us, our sin (whether it be un-forgiveness or the un-acceptance of others as it was with Jonah; or whether it is something else); sin always leads us down. That is where sin leads us and that is where it led Jonah. Consider his prayer. He says: out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice….weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains…Jonah (metaphorically) began to descend to Sheol. And it is important to note that Jonah’s journey to Sheol does not begin after he is swallowed by the fish. No; it begins right at the beginning of the book. The moment Jonah sins and takes that first step down, he begins his journey to death; to Sheol.
Lewis & Heaven-- One of the most awe-inspiring books I ever read on heaven was a book by C.S. Lewis entitled The Great Divorce. In that book a man takes a bus ride first to hell and then to heaven. And Lewis’ depictions from a philosophical perspective on what both heaven and hell must be like is mind-blowing. I have never thought about either the same way since I read the book many years ago. But in the story the man discovers that hell and heaven are not disconnected from earth, but eternal extensions of heaven and hell. When you are moving towards God, you already have your feet on the threshold of heaven. When you reject God, you are already passing into hell. And that is exactly what the Bible describes. The moment the decision to go and do your own thing is made, you begin to experience the fruits of that choice, which are amplified in eternity. The decisions we make now either lead us up or they bring us down, depending on our obedience in following God. And so today I want to encourage you with the words of the author of Hebrews: So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Hebrews 3:7-8a). Choose to obey God’s calling on your life no matter how difficult; whether that is to forgive someone, witness to someone, or perhaps both. And in so doing, we will be moving in the direction of life. Let’s commit to that obedience today. Amen.
Welcome to Lechem Panim. Last week we began taking a look at perhaps the most tragic personal encounter Jesus had in His ministry; and that was His encounter with a rich young ruler. The young man had asked Jesus what it would take to share in His life. And Jesus said: “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:21-22)
Porcelain Elephant-- My dad and his brother both grew up overseas while my Grandma and Grandpa were missionaries in Taiwan. Now my Grandmother (we call her Geemo) is a simply incredible person. If there is a godlier person on this planet, I can honestly say without hesitation or exaggeration that I do not know them. A woman who in everything she does seeks the face of Christ. And she cannot put more than a few sentences together without praising the name of God. But because she is so heavenly-minded, she is very unattached to stuff. Now this is a very good thing, but the problem is that whenever we try to give her gifts she rarely keeps them. She is so generous she will often times just give it away to somebody. And I’m not just talking about cheap stuff. I mean she clings to nothing but Jesus; and she will tell you that. And when I was a kid she used to pray that my family would be poor...so that in everything we might be fully reliant on Jesus. And for many years the Lord honored her prayer. (PAUSE FOR LAUGHTER). In all her years my family has only ever known her to cling to one thing besides Christ. When my dad (Thane Ury) and his brother (Bill Ury) were kids, my Grandmother was given this beautiful porcelain elephant from a dear friend of theirs who was a US diplomat in India. And she treasured that porcelain elephant. But one day my dad and my uncle were playing and, in the midst of their horsing around, they shattered that porcelain elephant. Now my dad, the smart one, turned tail and ran before my grandmother entered the room, but my uncle stayed. And my Grandmother entered the room. And my uncle was understandably terrified. But when she came in, she looked down at the shattered porcelain elephant and, turning away, my uncle heard her mutter these words, “Thank you Jesus. I’m free.” (PAUSE) “Thank you Jesus. I’m free.” And never since then has she ever allowed herself to become attached to stuff.
How attached are you and I to our things? What would happen if Jesus challenged us with the same command He gives the rich young ruler. Would we succeed where the rich young ruler failed? Now of course Jesus is talking here about living the life of the cross; giving up those things that we have allowed to hold claim on us so that we might embrace Jesus and the life He offers. And we talked about that last week. But there is something else we often miss (my Grandmother hasn’t, but I and many Christians often do). And that is what comes next after Jesus says sell everything you have. He gives a second command. He says, "give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” Now why does Jesus say this? I think it’s because taking your wealth and using it to invest and help the poor is eternal. You are sowing fruit that will not perish. You are using physical wealth to produce eternal fruit. And I think that is the drive behind what Jesus is saying. Jesus cares about how the resources we have on this blip on the screen called life can effect the eternal needs of others. Jesus is saying, “Give up control of your resources and invest in those I care about.”
Solomon: Vanity, vanity!— King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, looked at how people were enslaved to the get-wealth system. He writes some pretty depressing things in his book of Ecclesiastes. “Vanity, vanity.” “Everything is vanity.” "Everything is meaningless.” Now does Solomon hate everything? No. But what his frustration was was that, in looking at people’s lives, he saw them striving to gain wealth and then, after they die, leaving that wealth to another. Then that person dies and his wealth that he had focused on amounting was also given to another. Solomon saw the futility of the pursuit of wealth. He (being wise) saw that nobody could take their wealth with them beyond the grave. Therefore, everybody is caught in a system of amounting wealth that bears no eternal fruit either for them or for others.
Not a Side-note— Now Jesus’ point in saying “give to the poor” is not a sidenote. We often make it kind of a nice afterthought. But I had to ask myself in my study on this passage if this last part about giving to the poor is not the focal point or climax of the whole passage.
Sowing for Eternity-- Solomon saw how all things we strive for eventually pass away. And Jesus wants us to realize this now so that we don't accumulate wealth just to lose it. He wants us to, when we get to heaven, to still have the fruit of that wealth in the people we chose to invest it into. Jesus wants you to be wealthy. But not the kind of wealth the prosperity gospel prophets teach. “If you believe God can make you wealthy and make you a millionaire and give you a fancy Lamborghini, He will. All you have to do is claim it!” That’s not what Jesus says. He wants you to give UP so that in heaven you will gain.
Old Tapes— Some time ago my dad gave me I think the most meaningful gift he could have ever given me; a box of my late Grandfather’s sermons on tape. And although I had listened to a couple of his sermons on tape before, I had only ever been able to attend one of his messages; at a church in Michigan. That was the only time I had ever seen him preach; and then I was probably in my very early teens. And I just remember him sharing about what was closest to his heart; people who needed Christ. He had devoted his life (along with my Grandmother) to sharing the Gospel in Asia. And, working with Trans World Radio, they broadcast the Gospel into countries that could not be reached (legally) with the Gospel; and because of their ministry, millions of people in Asia and elsewhere heard the Gospel through the radio for the first time.
My Wife and TWR— My wife, when she was just a girl living in poverty in Ukraine, would huddle close to her radio. She had to fool with the dials just right to catch the broadcast (because during Communist times in the Soviet Union they would do everything they could to block the signal); but there, curled up by that radio my wife (listening to Trans World Radio) was having the very first seeds of the Gospel sown in her heart.
“There are people”— Now as I was listening to my grandfather preach that night, he started weeping. And the only words I remember him saying he said in that moment, “There are people.” “There are people.” What kind of people? People who need Jesus. His mind was so bent on the eternal, he could see in his mind those people like my wife who (living in a culture void of hope; void of Christ) were waiting for someone to be courageous enough lay it all down and follow Christ in bringing the hope of the Gospel to them.
Everything is Meaningful— When we get to heaven, we will be greeted by those we chose to invest in. This giving to the poor is more than an afterthought of Jesus. Investing yourself in eternity with every aspect of your life is what Jesus is after. He wants all your resources devoted to Him because only by investing in people can you take your wealth into eternity. Then, because we invest in eternity, we can cry out, “Everything is meaningful!” Now Jesus has just said to the rich young man, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” And then comes the man’s response. It says…
Mark 10:22-26 (ESV)— 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”
Wealth = Alms = Salvation-- And the reason they asked this was because the Jews of that day (as recorded in the Talmud) believed that you could purchase your salvation with alms. And so if you had more money, you could give more alms, more sacrifice and offerings, and thus purchase your redemption. And yet here the disciples’ asking Jesus this question in verse 26 makes it clear that they understand that Jesus is saying that not even the rich can buy their salvation. And they are shocked. “Well Jesus, if that is true, who then can be saved?" And it says…]
Mark 10:27 (ESV)— 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
Complete Surrender-- And of course Jesus is making the point that it is not by any kind of wealth that we are saved, but rather salvation is a free gift given by God. But to follow Jesus, we will have to surrender and give Him control of all of who we are. And so it says…
Mark 10:28-31 (ESV)— 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Let me ask you something today. If you were to take an inventory of how you spend your resources and your time right now, would that inventory reflect a kingdom-focused, needy-focused, lost people-focused mindset. If you got a text message from Jesus right now asking for that inventory to be emailed to immediately, would you be filled with fear or excitement. Would there be any porcelain elephants you might try to hide? This passage is about embracing a Jesus who abandoned His heavenly throne so that He could die on a cross in order that we might have life. That was the sacrifice He made to make our relationship with God work. What are you willing to give Him? I want to challenge you today to surrender everything to Him; to love Him with all of your heart. And when we do, we will love those He loves, we will care for those He cares about, and we will join Him in a serving real people with real needs in order that in some way we might point them to Him and the eternal life He offers. Let us commit today to living lives invested not in the world, but in eternity. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.