Major in the Minors

Day 28 » Jonah

  This blog post was written by Karen Keyser. Karen is the Director of Chi Alpha International at Georgetown University.

This blog post was written by Karen Keyser. Karen is the Director of Chi Alpha International at Georgetown University.

First of all, is the book of Jonah a true story? Though the book of Jonah seems pretty crazy, Jesus referred to it as history: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40) If Jesus indicated it happened, I think it did, too.

God wanted Jonah to go preach in the city of Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire. The Assyrians were the evil, hated enemies of Israel and her people.

Chapter One – Jonah’s rebellion
Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh so he disobeyed the Lord & tried to flee from His presence. Why? We know from chapter four that mainly Jonah did not want the Assyrians to be forgiven. Also, Jonah may have felt God was asking too much from him since Nineveh was over 500 miles away by foot.

Jonah’s rebellion and disobedience were costly to himself and others. Disobedience against God may start out fine, but will eventually send you on a costly path.

Chapter Two – Jonah’s repentance & God’s forgiveness
God loved Jonah too much to let him go to Tarshish and ruin his life. God could have gotten someone else for the job, but He was concerned about Jonah & wanted to see Jonah learn & grow.

After being tossed overboard in the boat, Jonah finally reached a low point and called out to God, acknowledging where his salvation comes from: Jonah 2:9: But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD."

Chapter Three – Jonah’s Obedience & God’s loving grace
God has always been a God of the second chance. Jonah got the opportunity to go back to Ninevah to call them to repentance. The people mourned over their sin and turned to God. So, God had mercy and relented from calamity.

Chapter Four – Jonah’s Bitterness & God’s loving lesson
Jonah was mad! Why? Jonah hated the Assyrians and didn’t want them to be saved. He knew that God was “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.” Just as Jonah predicted, God saw the lost souls in Nineveh as a great loss, and since they had repented, God relented. Jonah hated this.

God cared about Jonah by continuing to teach him through the lesson of the plant that gave him shade and then died:

10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

That is the final verse of the chapter. What a profound punchline to end the book! It speaks to me today. Am I more concerned about cold temperatures or a favorite T.V. show than thousands of Georgetown students who, spiritually speaking, cannot tell “their right hand from their left?”

Dear God, give us your heart for people and the strength to obey you when you ask us to take a risk for you. May we have Your compassionate, forgiving heart to share the message of the gospel to others, even when it is uncomfortable.

Ideas adapted from “Jonah Study Notes,” Calvary Chapel Edinburgh, 2008.

Day 26 » Zechariah 13-14

  This post was written by James Kim. James is an intern at Georgetown Chi Alpha. He graduated from Georgetown in 2014 and is serving the ministry that helped him grow spiritually during his undergrad years.

This post was written by James Kim. James is an intern at Georgetown Chi Alpha. He graduated from Georgetown in 2014 and is serving the ministry that helped him grow spiritually during his undergrad years.

We near the end of the reading plan today as we finish Zechariah. After reading the Minor Prophets share over and over again about the sins of God’s people, their destruction, and their restoration, Zechariah was refreshing to me.

This book is a turning point for several reasons. The children of those who have lived through the destruction of their homes are given a warning. They are told to remember the sins of their fathers and head towards righteousness. God shows favor to them by protecting this new generation from its enemies. Then, there are the prophecies that are as terrifying and confusing as the ones from the prophet Daniel. Though they include the first coming of Jesus Christ, the book ends with an apocalyptic image.

I am not a Bible scholar. Nor do I aspire to be one. But, as I make my best attempt to understand what God is saying through every part of the Bible, my goal is to figure out what I can do today for God, the things that I can practice in obedience to His word.

So, here are my thoughts from reading Zechariah.

God is very clear and direct about telling us that there will be a point in time when this will all end. All people judged. His people rescued and others condemned. Answering the how’s and when’s are not really my interest. After all, Jesus says that no one knows of the day or the hour (Matt 24:36). What is important is that it is going to happen. It is coming. As I’ve read multiple times throughout the Bible, and especially in the past few weeks, the end is near.

At a first glance, this seems like a scare tactic by God. But, remember, context. It is clear to me from reading Zechariah alone, and even clearer throughout the books of the Minor Prophets and also the Bible as a whole, that God has been chasing after us to warn us about the danger we are heading towards. Being omniscient and omnipresent God, He is fully aware of what He gave us, what we desire, and the consequence of sin. In all the times I read about the end times or God’s judgment, I am reminded that God is pointing to what I should avoid. He provided a yellow sign so that I will turn back in time.

The people of Israel experienced extreme favor from God. From God’s promise to Abraham to the exodus and to the land flowing with honey and milk, God did the impossible for them. But, they were quick to forget and their selfish hearts made the blind and deaf to the prophets’ warnings. God, on the other hand, is faithful. Although there are just consequences for the blind, God is full of mercy to those who repent.

For me, I’ve experience extreme favor from God. I am very thankful for how He watched over me and guided my steps. I am thankful for the brothers and sisters of His family He surrounded me with. I am thankful for the miracle of God coming down to earth as a baby to die on the cross and rise again for my sin. But, I admit that I am quick to forget and give into my selfish desires. If it weren’t for God’s grace, I would not repent. That’s why I am so thankful that in the moments I don’t cling on to God, He is clinging on to me, not willing to let go of my hand.

 

Day 24 » Zechariah 7-9

  This post was written by Nick Holmstedt. Nick is a staff at Georgetown Chi Alpha and specializes in sound and visual technology and leads a men's lifegroup.

This post was written by Nick Holmstedt. Nick is a staff at Georgetown Chi Alpha and specializes in sound and visual technology and leads a men's lifegroup.

Following the apocalyptic nature of Zechariah’s first six chapters, we enter a stylistic and contextual change in chapter seven.  Now in Darius’ fourth year as king, the temple at Jerusalem is nearly rebuilt.  One day every year for the past seventy had been set aside to remember the temple’s burning.  Many were wearied of this exercise.  The temple was now frequented, even in its unfinished form.  Why continue this ‘old’ tradition? asked the people of Bethel.

Here we approach Zechariah’s prophecy, words from God:

“…Was it really for me that you fasted?”

The Lord saw to their hearts.  As we read chapters 7 and 8, we find a firm commitment to the reality of these hearts.  Echoing words He had spoken to their ancestry, God reminded the nation what a callous heart would cause. 

“When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen…”

All the Lord wanted was truth and justice.  He asked for mercy and compassion, but the people had “stubbornly turned their backs and covered their ears.”  Would Israel now fall again into this broken habit?  Would they again forsake this love and power?  Would their hearts be “hard as flint,” as had their ancestors’?

Hope ran through the message of the Lord.   As we continue in chapter 8, we find God jealous to save.  He offered a vision of a right future, rich in peace and prosperity.  He asked for no more than to “Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this.”  Again and again we find nestled in the core of Zechariah’s prophesies a simple request:  live with integrity.

Though the circumstances change, our God does not.  He hated these wrongs in the time of the prophets and He hates these wrongs in the present day.

It is a simple truth.  Live with integrity.  Be honest to yourself.  Worship from truth, not selfishness.  I have been caught up in the self-lies before.  I care about my singing during worship.  I fast but don’t pray.  There are moments when emotion betrays, rather than supports, the work of Christ in me.

We need to turn away from those things the Lord hates.  In Chapter 8 we’ve seen the good in store for Zion.  Chapter 9 is the story of Jesus, whose victory is for us.

“The Lord their God will save his people on that day
    as a shepherd saves his flock.
They will sparkle in his land
    like jewels in a crown.”

With such beauty and majesty in store, we should worship in all peace and integrity.  With an end so amazing on the horizon, we should be moved to bow and praise!  Then we can be people of whom it is said “Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.”

Day 23 » Zechariah 4-6

  Today's guest blog was written by Jenny Herald. Jenny is a graduate of Virginia Tech and wrote this blog all the way in Germany where she works for Wunderlist. The best to-do list app ever. She also does many other impressive things, but if they were all written down there wouldn't be enough room in this blog to contain them. 

Today's guest blog was written by Jenny Herald. Jenny is a graduate of Virginia Tech and wrote this blog all the way in Germany where she works for Wunderlist. The best to-do list app ever. She also does many other impressive things, but if they were all written down there wouldn't be enough room in this blog to contain them. 

No doubt, interpreting scriptural passages concerning prophecies can get tricky. Thankfully, Zechariah has some help in Chapters 4-6. We find him talking to an angel. As I read through this passage the first time, I thought to myself, how frightening yet amazing would it be to a) see a vision b) have the word of the Lord come to me and c) get to discuss all of this with an angel?

While in conversation with an angel, Zechariah is shown a “…solid gold lamp stand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” (Zechariah 4:3) Naturally, as most of us would if in Zechariah’s position, Zechariah asks the angel, “What are these, my lord?”

The angel then answers with a question. “Do you not know what these are?” (Zechariah 4:4)

Zechariah doesn’t lie. He says he doesn’t know. (Zechariah 4:5)

So the angel explains—“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6)

Zechariah’s vision was the word of the Lord (in a symbolic form)! God’s word provides guidance for Israel (and continues to do so for us). Now, you might ask, what about the rest of verse 6? The angel imparts upon our prophet an important concept. **God is able to bring about his holy design without the aid of things we humans seem to rely upon—power and might.**

“Then the word of the Lord came to _Zechariah_: The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.” (Zechariah 4:8-9) Zechariah received the word of the Lord. Not only would the foundation of God’s holy temple be laid by Zerubbabel, it would be completed under his rule as well.

Zechariah then harkens back to the original vision. “What are these two olive branches beside the two gold pipes that pour out golden oil?” he asks. The angel replies, “These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth.” These ‘two’, if we go back to the previous interpretation of the vision symbolizing the Bible refers to the Old and New testaments—ultimately the Law and Christ.

In Chapter 5 of Zechariah we find two more visions. Zechariah sees a flying scroll. It measured “twenty cubits long and ten cubits wide” or 30 feet long and 15 feet wide (or about 9 meters long and 4.5 meters wide). 

Again, the angel explains what Zechariah is seeing. The angel says, “This is the curse that is going out over the whole land; for according to what it says on one side, every thief will be banished, and according to what it says on the other, everyone who swears falsely will be banished. The Lord Almighty declares, ‘I will send it out, and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of anyone who swears falsely by my name. It will remain in that house and destroy it completely, both its timbers and its stones.’” (Zechariah 5:3-4) The message is crystal clear: God will punish violators of His sacred law.

The remaining verses in Chapter 5 describe the other vision—The Woman in a Basket. The angel lifts the “cover of lead” and there sat a woman. (Zechariah 5:7) The angel then says, “This is wickedness.” (Zechariah 5:8) Then the angel closes the lid. Afterwards two women with “wings of a Stork” carry the basket away. (Zechariah 5:9) They carry the basket to Babylonia. (Zechariah 5:11) It is interesting that Wickedness is removed from the land of God’s people to Babylon, where they were previously captives.  What does that mean for us? **We, as God’s people, should avoid (or if necessary leave) environments that are destructive to our faith. Furthermore, we should reject idolatry (which is something Babylon was known for).**

Chapter 6 provides the last vision (in a series of eight) followed by another a word of the Lord. Zechariah sees four chariots of God. The angel tells Zechariah, “These are the four spirits of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world. The one with the black horses is going toward the north country, the one with the white horses toward the west, and the one with the dappled horses toward the south.” (Zechariah 6:5-6) These chariots symbolize God’s power being universal. **God is Lord over all.**

After this final vision, God told Zechariah to “Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jozadak. Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’ The crown will be given to Heldai, Tobijah, Jedaiah and Hen son of Zephaniah as a memorial in the temple of the Lord.” (Zechariah 6:11-14)

The crowning of Joshua is merely symbolic. After a brief coronation, the crown was given as a memorial in the temple of the Lord. Why? Because as seen in the final passage of Chapter 6, the scriptures reveal a foreshadowing of Jesus. Zechariah prophesied of the coming Messiah. The action of placing a crown on Joshua’s (the priest’s) head connects the dots for God’s people. The Jews would understand the word ‘Branch’ referred to the promised Messiah (see Isaiah 11:1, Jeremiah 23:5 and Jeremiah 33:15). Jesus, alone, was given authority to sit and rule on his throne over all of heaven and earth (see Matthew 28:18) Only He combines both priesthood and kingship in perfect harmony. Praise be to God!