The Stories in the Bible are Stories of Us
No matter how much the times change, people continue to remain the same. Whether its people who lived thousands of years ago, or people who share the streets with us today, everybody’s life moves in and out of love and crisis as they search for hope, provision, and purpose. The stories of Ruth, Nehemiah, and Jonah illustrate different levels of crises, from the local family, to the community, to international dynamics. They also illustrate how people of God worked to resolve crises in their midst, whether they were personal crises, or crises of those around them. Every story is a movement from problem to resolution, including the stories of our own lives. We seek to solve the problems of loneliness, fear, complacency, death, loss, pain, as well as many others. And in God we find that resolution can be found in Jesus Christ, in faith in God, in the fellowship of friends and family, and in the mutual investment we make in one another’s lives. The stories of the Old Testament may be centuries old, but they are our stories still today. And in them we see how our service as the people of God to our families, our churches, our communities, and our world impart hope and transformation to all who are in need, even to ourselves.
August 20 – The Old Man and the Sea (Jon 2) The prayer from the belly of the fish takes the form of a Psalm of Thanksgiving. This is decidedly NOT the tone we would expect as Jonah spends three days and nights in the heart of the sea, in the stomach of a great fish. It almost speaks on the other side of delivery, recounting the prophet’s fear and dread, his panic and despair, and ultimately his resignation to death. As such, its words remind us today that even in our own darkest days, God is still able to reach us, and to save us, and to carry forward his plan for our lives and give us purpose. Thanks be to God who saves us and who still sends us to serve the world even from our own disobedience.
August 13 – Pride and Prejudice (Jon 1) The book of Jonah is quite possibly the most peculiar in the entire Old Testament. It breaks so many rules and does the exact opposite of what is normal in much of the rest of the Bible. But its theological messages are fairly clear and easy to pick up on. God sends his prophet to deliver a message to a foreign people. His prophet refuses to obey. God is not in the mood to take “no” for an answer. These themes remind us that God still has a message for his people to deliver to all nations, and that his people today are still quite reluctant to go and to tell. Jonah surely had his reasons for running, and people today have their reasons for keeping quiet about the message of God, but no reason is a good one for not obeying the Lord in this objective: Go and Tell.
Previous Series (Nehemiah):
August 6 – The Grapes of Wrath (Neh 5) Social ills and community problems don’t just materialize out of thin air. They are the result of sinful behavior present within those communities. The topic of the Israelites’ moral choices and disobedience to God surfaces numerous times in both Ezra and Nehemiah. Nehemiah 5 serves as a case study where the greed and excess of some members of the community was leading to poverty and slavery among other members. Nehemiah addressed the matter by challenging those in the wrong, and they, instead of bristling at his challenge, recognized the truth in it and took steps to make changes. As a church, we want to continue working in the realm of social issues and community transformation, but may we be ever reminded that the greatest need people have is for a relationship with God and a lifestyle becoming ever-more in line with his best. For social ills are really moral matters, and their solutions must include the spiritual component.
July 30 – The Fountainhead (Neh 4:1–23, 6:1–14) We all encounter opposition in our lives. Anyone who attempts something great will encounter opposition. Sometimes it comes from expected places, other times, it catches us by surprise. Opposition hurts. Responding to opposition is an important demonstration of who we are and how we act. Nehemiah gives us a good example of how we can learn about opposition and how we can respond. Just like Nehemiah, when we confront opposition with grace, character, and hope we show others how Jesus has changed our lives.
July 23 – The Call of the Wild (Neh 2:11–3:32) Ok, so maybe Nehemiah 3 never made it into a “treasury of favorite Bible stories,” or anybody’s “top 10” list of most dramatic biblical moments. But in its broader context, these verses provide a beautiful picture of the people of God rallying together for the common good. It just may be one of the Old Testament’s closest parallels to the frequently cited New Testament notion that the people of God are one body, serving together, each one playing a unique role. The lists and names may not be riveting reading, but the image of teamwork, when considered appropriately, is clearly an inspiring one. May it inspire us to bond together even tighter as a church family in our efforts of building something special in our community in the modern day.