JOHN SHIRK – As Jesus entered the holy city on a donkey, a very large crowd was there to spread cloaks on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds were shouting, “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
Hosanna is a word that means “save.” This word was a cry of the Old Testament. Psalm 118:25 says, “O LORD, save us.” In Jesus, the prayer for salvation becomes a declaration of praise. “Salvation belongs to our God.” Jesus rode into Jerusalem with shouts of joy from a welcoming crowd.
In a matter of days, the cry on the streets would not be for Jesus to save them, but for Pontius Pilate to crucify Jesus. What Jesus’ opponents did not know was that by going to the cross, Jesus was fulfilling God’s purpose of saving His people from their sins. Our plea for salvation becomes an answer to prayer through Jesus Christ.
The shout of Hosanna is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – Jonah is a fascinating book of the Bible recalling the journey of Jonah to Nineveh to preach God’s word and declare His warning of impending calamity.
In a significant development, the city responds favorably to Jonah’s message and the city is spared destruction.
Jonah became displeased. He became angry, and vented his anger to the LORD. He said, “Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Sometimes, even the prophets needed an attitude adjustment. There was a time when Elijah was fearful and wanted to die. There was a time when Jeremiah was timid to become one of God’s prophets. The LORD had to remind him not to underestimate what God could do with His help. Jonah needed an attitude adjustment too.
The LORD shared His heart of concern for people with Jonah. He said, “Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”
The LORD’s word with Jonah challenges us to share God’s concern for souls, and is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – Nineveh’s wickedness had come up before the LORD. Their time was running out if they continued on their destructive path. But God was calling Jonah to preach His Word. When he got there, Jonah proclaimed, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
Not only did the people respond in brokenness; they also called urgently on God and gave up their evil ways, which included violence. 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. A city was spared from destruction.
Sometimes, it may appear that someone is far, far away from God. By seeing the violent culture of the Ninevites, we might be skeptical that the people would ever acknowledge God. But what is humanly impossible is possible with God. From a human point of view, we see Nineveh on the verge of a breakdown. From God’s point of view, the city was on the verge of a spiritual breakthrough and was ripe for revival. He worked through one of his prophets to accomplish the task.
The revival of Nineveh was a display of God’s patience and compassion and is lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – Jonah had run away from God’s mission to go to Nineveh and ended up in isolation after being swallowed by a great fish.
That is where he came to his senses and made a commitment to get on board with God’s mission.
With his heart more aligned with God’s purpose, Jonah 3:1 says, “Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh.
Because of unwise decisions in the past, we might be tempted to think that God has given up on us and will not call us to service again. However, the Bible talks about several godly people who had second opportunities after making serious blunders. Just 50 days or so after Peter denied knowing Christ, he gave a bold sermon on Pentecost that led to the salvation of 3,000 souls. Jonah’s second opportunity also yielded productive results. The Ninevites were receptive to what he had to say, and humbled themselves in the eyes of the LORD. If you are on the sidelines of regret, remember: it’s not too late to get back to the place of service that honors God and touches lives with His grace.
Jonah’s second opportunity is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – After Jonah ran away from God, he ran into a violent storm that threatened the safety of everyone on the ship. Jonah knew that he was the cause of the storm, and so he told the crew to throw him overboard. Reluctantly, they did.
Then, the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.
When a parent disciplines a child for disobedience, sometimes that discipline takes the form of a time out. The child has time to think about what happened, and how they might do things differently next time.
Jonah had a three-day time out. While he was inside the fish, Jonah stopped resisting God’s will. His turning point is a prayer found in Jonah 2.
“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed, I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”
Jonah’s prayer of commitment is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – It happened in Jonah chapter 1 of the Bible. The word of the LORD came to Jonah to go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness had come up before the LORD.
But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. The map would indicate that Tarshish was in the opposite direction of Nineveh.
Why did Jonah run from this assignment? We learn later in the book he was more afraid of a successful mission than a failed mission. He said to God, “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.”
Jonah did not share God’s concern for the people of Nineveh. Consequently, he went the opposite direction and found himself in a storm of his own making. If apathy causes us to run away from God’s will, He may bring a storm to shake up our world, not to destroy us, but to wake us up to the urgency of responding to His voice.
Jonah’s reluctance shows us the importance of being filled with God’s love for people, and is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – Goliath was the bully of the Old Testament, ridiculing the army of Israel, challenging someone to step forward to fight him man to man. He was an imposing figure, a champion fighter, who was over 9 feet tall. Every one was intimidated by him, except David.
When David approached Goliath, he said, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” David was making the point that it is the LORD who saves, not someone’s physical weapons. This battle was the LORD’s and the LORD enabled David to strike the giant down.
The Bible says that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm. God has provided us with help to fight the good fight of faith, such as the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, and others. You can find the complete list in Ephesians 6. Using God’s weapons of righteousness, we can overcome the giants that threaten and intimidate us.
David and Goliath is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – In Luke 5:31, Jesus responded to a question as to why He was eating with sinners. His response was this: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Jesus is especially good at heart surgery. This is where the seat of ambition and desire is found. Jeremiah 17 describes the heart as “deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” This is our condition without the transforming effect of God’s grace on our hearts. The words of Jesus pierce the skin and serve as a cleansing agent for our corrupted heart. His grace changes us to follow after His heart rather than trusting our own heart. His desire becomes our desire. His passion becomes our passion.
So, why did Jesus relate with sinners? He came to heal hearts that were broken, sick, and deceitful. Ezekiel 18:31 says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
The influence of Jesus as our Great Physician is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – In faithfulness, we fulfill our commitments. At work, we take responsibility for our assignments. At home, we fulfill our vows to our spouse, and responsibilities to our children to raise them up in the ways of the LORD.
As we look to the LORD and His strength, we see His faithfulness expressed in love. The cross is an example of His faithful love. That is where Jesus laid down His life so that we might be brought back to life and brought back to a relationship with God.
Deuteronomy 32:4 says about God, “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just; a faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he”
Faithfulness is a dependable quality. We can fully rely on the love that God has for us because of His faithfulness. His influence on our lives motivates us to express our love for others with honesty and faithfulness. First Corinthians 13:6 says, “Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.”
Faithfulness is a quality of love and is a lesson of faith worth remembering.
JOHN SHIRK – Forgiveness can be one of the hardest things to do and one of the most powerful things we can do.
God sent His Son to die a cruel death on the cross, and as He was dying, Jesus prayed for those who were putting Him to death. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Someone nearby was noticing that Jesus was different, not like the others who were crucified. The centurion, who was a commander of 100 men in the Roman army, was near Jesus. When he heard Jesus cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely, this man was the Son of God.” He probably would have heard that prayer for forgiveness that Jesus uttered on his behalf.
Forgiveness does not excuse sin as okay. Forgiveness does not give someone license to hurt us with the same actions again. Forgiveness does give someone a second chance, and forgiveness does release us from the attempt to seek revenge. Because we are sinners, we have a great need to be forgiven, and we have a need to forgive others.
In Luke 17:3 and 4, Jesus taught, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent’, forgive him.”
Forgiveness is a quality of love and is a lesson of faith worth remembering.