Staff Blogs

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 22 » Zechariah 1-3

  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.

Zechariah was both a priest and a prophet who ministered during the same time as Haggai. His name, Zechariah, means “Yahweh remembers.” Because God remembers, there is hope for the people of Israel. God will remember His covenant and will keep His promises.

Zechariah was written to comfort and encourage the returned remnant to repent of their evil ways, to return to the Lord and to rebuild the temple. His message also proclaims that God would send the Messiah to establish His Kingdom.

The book opens with a call to remembrance. The Israelites are to reflect on the discipline that came to their ancestors who ignored the prophets in the past. The Israelites are to repent, recognizing that what God had done in discipline was what was deserved.

Then the book records a series of visions which portray God’s plans for Israel’s future. First a report of horse riders reveals that God is angry with the nations that are at ease, or self-satisfied, because, although He wanted these nations to discipline Israel, they went too far. In response, God is going to choose by grace to restore the prosperity of Israel and place his temple in Jerusalem.

Zechariah then sees four horns and four craftsman. The horns are the foreign nations used to discipline Israel and to bring humility. These Gentile nations (the horns) used in discipline are followed by other nations (craftsmen) who come along to discipline these Gentile nations who became arrogant in their domination.

Zechariah then sees a man on his way to measure Jerusalem to ensure that there will be enough space for all the people who will dwell there in the coming prosperity. But an angel says Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls because of the multitude of men and cattle and God’s glory in her midst. This is a comforting and encouraging message to the people that Yahweh will come to dwell in the midst of Israel (probably a reference to the millenium).  

Joshua the priest is then accused by Satan. Joshua seems to represent the nation of Israel. Satan is pointing out Israel’s unfaithfulness as being unworthy of God’s favor. But God’s answer is that God has chosen Israel and Israel will be saved. The Lord is going to put clean clothes on Joshua symbolic of purifying the nation. “In that day,” Israel will sit under the shade of their own tree and invite their neighbor to sit under the tree with them. In other words, they will fulfill their God given task of being a witness and blessing to the nations.

From these chapters I am reminded that not only is God gracious to discipline his people to humble them, but He is faithful to encourage them about the sure hope for the future. No matter how difficult our present struggles may be, the Messiah has come, has purified us, and has brought a future hope that is sure.

Ideas adapted from Hampton Keithley IV, bible.org, “Zechariah”, June 18 2004.