The Art and Science of God
Cracks in the Foundation
Praise for Deliverance from Oppression
O Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you, I will praise your name;
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
For you have made the city a heap,
the fortified city a ruin;
the palace of aliens is a city no more,
it will never be rebuilt.
Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
For you have been a refuge to the poor,
a refuge to the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.
When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,
the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place,
you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;
the song of the ruthless was stilled.
Probably the biggest criticism of Christian Theology is the problem of evil and suffering in the world. It is the “catch-22”) of humanity. We want to have freedom of choice and we want to have God be in charge of everything… except ourselves. We want God to control our neighbors but leave us alone. We want to have our cake and eat it too… and can you really blame us?
That’s our perspective. God however, has long been in the business of cleaning house. Sometimes our own dirt gets in the way and we get cleaned up ourselves. It is often a painful ordeal. Especially when we fight Him over it. It is not always easy to tell whether it is God cleaning us up or suffering coming down upon us from some other source. Saul – who would later be renamed Paul, the Apostle, had a famous conversation with a Jewish leader shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Saul spoke with Gamalial while he tried to figure out what to do about the growing number of disciples following Jesus, who was supposed to be dead. Gamalial cautioned him and the other Jewish leaders:
“Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!”
Sometimes, instead of humanity trying to bend God to our will, we submit, surrender, and put God in charge. Yes, it doesn’t seem to happen often enough, but it does indeed happen. Most of the time, it takes very little human effort to encourage us to make those decisions, and more self-reflection upon the path we are headed down.
Jonah, for example, finally did go to Ninevah, and preached probably the shortest sermon in the history of the world. There was no worship band. There was absolutely nothing entertaining about it. He may have still smelled of fish guts out in the marketplace. Worst of all – he gave no instructions on what the people should do to get their lives right! He literally just told them their life was over and left them to deal with it all on their own. (This is one of the worst examples of preaching I have ever come across.)
However, in spite of this pitiful effort (or lack thereof) from Jonah, one of the world’s greatest revivals broke out here. The entire nation repented, fasted, and prayed. They even made their livestock fast. Can you imagine the backlash that would occur if our own country – supposedly founded upon Christian principles were forced to fast and pray to God. Even our own Christians would throw a fit. Americans don’t fast. But the pagan Ninevites did, and God won them over with the worst example of preaching and pastoral guidance.
Conversion of Nineveh
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So 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. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.
When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.”
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. “
Mark Batterson has a really good concept of this surrender and submission to God’s will. I have not read his books, but I have heard him speak about his idea of circle making. The short of it is that we draw a circle and pray for God to bring revival (think surrender and submission to God’s will) within that circle. More importantly, we do not start by drawing a circle around our neighbor’s house. We draw the circle around ourselves. Revival begins with ourselves.
Jonah didn’t get this. But Saul/Paul would. Peter would. John would. The wonder of this all is that even when people do not get it, and refuse to let God come and change their lives, God still works in, around, and sometimes through them to bring salvation to those all around them.
God is using us all as examples. That is His business and His way of keeping His all-powerful hand at the helm of creation. We have the freedom to choose whether we will be good examples or bad examples. I can’t help but think that when the people of Ninevah saw Jonah puked up out of a giant fish upon their shores, they gave a second thought to whether they should ignore the threat of destruction from a God who was not afraid to treat even His own prophets with such creative severity. If Jonah, who was one of God’s people, faced that kind of gross discipline from God, what hope would a nation of God’s enemies had. I think even Jonah’s disobedience added to the effect of God’s message to Ninevah. The cracks in the foundation of God’s power to work in this world only continue to show us that the world will not hold together without Him holding us together Himself.
If God brought revival into your life, even in a small circle around you today, what would you have to submit to and surrender to Him?