Bible Tuesday for Sunday, January 25, 2015
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
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.’ 3So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. 4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ 5And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. 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.
Nineveh was the capitol of Assyria, that dominating world power that bullied Israel and eventually overran and captured the northern Ten Tribes. For God to ask Jonah to prophesy to Nineveh is the same as if God sent us to prophesy a message of mercy to Osama bin Laden. God sent Jonah to preach to the capitol city of his captors, to preach judgment and mercy. And these Ninevites took God seriously and repented. They put on sack cloth and ashes; they even put sack cloth and ashes on the livestock, even chickens! And their actions brought about a change in God’s mind!
1For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.
2He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.
3How long will you assail a person, will you batter your victim, all of you, as you would a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
4Their only plan is to bring down a person of prominence. They take pleasure in falsehood; they bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. Selah
5For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.
6He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
8Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah
9Those of low estate are but a breath, those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.
10Put no confidence in extortion, and set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.
11Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God,
12and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord. For you repay to all according to their work.
This psalm sounds like it influenced Luther’s thoughts as he wrote “A Mighty Fortress”. The psalmist addresses his foes in the first several verses, beginning with testimony about God and then accusatory questioning. In verse 4, the psalmist then gossips about his foes, but by verse five returns to testimony about God. Verse 9-11a address the reader of the psalm while verses 11b-12 address God directly. Psalms like this model the freedom with which any person can address God.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
9I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none,30and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, 31and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
Paul, and all of the early Christians as best as can be surmised from early writing, expected that Jesus would return any minute. Life for Jews was tense and precarious as unrest under Roman rule percolated, which fueled the apocalyptic hope of those early followers of Jesus. Paul admonishes the congregation in Corinth to set aside the rituals of daily life: weddings and marriage, funerals and mourning, business and commerce. Instead, focus should be on relationship with and service to God, in Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news* of God,* 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;* repent, and believe in the good news.’*
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen.17And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Jesus grew up in Nazareth, went down the Jordan near Jericho to be baptized, was driven into the wilderness of which scriptures give no geographic location, and then heads back up to Galilee. It would have made sense for Jesus to begin ministry in and around Jerusalem, where he could follow the usual route of itinerate preachers by latching onto a rabbi/mentor and rise up through the ranks. But, the ministry to which Jesus is called by God will being Jesus into even more conflict with the Jewish powers that be than John had and face the same fate as John. So, Jesus returns to Galilee because it is the backwater territory of Israel and Jewish authorities tended to ignore it.
Instead of becoming a disciple of some respected rabbi in Jerusalem, Jesus became a rabbi himself and hunted down his own disciples. Last week we learned of Philip, Andrew, and Nathaniel. This week the gospel of Mark tells us of Capernaum fishermen.
“Fish for people.” There is an obscure passage in one of the minor prophets where God says that he will take a grappling hook and sort the good fish from the bad. Launching from this passage, it is thought that “fish for people” became an idiom for faithful rebellion in Israelite culture. Imagine what those first disciples thought when Jesus walked up unannounced and said, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And they did!