Tag Archives: psalms

Jonah’s Tree

The short book of Jonah “struck” me this time through.  Here are some thoughts, aided by the ESV Study Bible (be sure to get to the end, where God gets sarcastic).

But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. – Jonah 1:3

Ah, Jonah, nice try.  But the Lord isn’t a local God; He is everywhere.  “Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7).  You can’t escape Him by getting out of town.  Tarshish might be a reference to somewhere in Spain or in Carthage, so Jonah would be going from Israel to somewhere in the far West.  But crossing the known world doesn’t put a dent in God’s power.

What happens when you flee God?  Death.  Images of death and descending to Sheol abound in the first two chapters:

  • He went down to Joppa…
  • Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and… was fast asleep [during a fierce storm – as one dead].
  • Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish [a tomb-like place]…
  • [Jonah says,] “…out of the belly of Sheol I cried…”
  • “The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains.  I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit…”

Jonah’s flight from God was a foolish one that led towards death.


Some neat thoughts on structure:

  • Jonah 1:1-3 parallels Jonah 3:1-3: The Lord calls to Jonah and Jonah goes somewhere (Joppa or Ninevah).
  • Jonah 1:4-16 parallels Jonah 3:3-10: The pagan (sailors or Ninevites) responses to God’s judgement – in both cases, they turn to God.
  • Jonah 1:17-2:10 parallels Jonah 4:1-4: Jonah prays (from the fish or from Ninevah) and the Lord responds.

For those of you following along at home, that leaves out Jonah 4:5-11.  This structure means that the final section of the book is its climax, and it’s a doozy.  (It’s puzzled me for many years, but now I feel like I understand it.  Somewhat.) (Go read it; I’ll wait.)


Here, Jonah is upset that God saved the wicked Ninevites when they repented, and God is responding to him.

God gives Jonah a shade tree that grows up out of nowhere.  Jonah enjoys it greatly, but then it withers and dies.  Jonah is angry at God.  “Why’d you kill the plant?!”

Then, God pulls the twist on him.  He says [my translation], “You’re sad and angry that the tree died, but the tree means nothing to you.  It’s just a tree.  If you, then, feel pity for a dying tree that you didn’t even plant or take care of, how much more then should I have pity on people?  People that I created and love?  That’s why I had mercy on the Ninevites.”

(Matt Walsh is using the same technique here.)

God adds that the Ninevites “do not know their right hand from their left.”  They don’t know.  They don’t get it.  So when God – through Jonah – tells them they’re in the wrong and they immediately repent, shouldn’t He have mercy on them?

Let this be a reminder to those of us who follow the Lord to share His compassion on those who are far from Him.

And then, verse 11.  The strangest end to a Biblical book: ” and also much cattle.”  Here’s God’s sarcasm for Jonah.  God says, “Well, even if the fact that there are 120,000 people in Ninevah who didn’t know they were doing wrong doesn’t make you happy with my mercy, you obviously care for other living things, like that plant.  So, there’s a whole bunch of cows in Ninevah.  Now can I have mercy on the city, for the cows’ sake?”

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Memories: Junior Year

I hoped to post pictures of the sticky notes here, since colors jog my memory much more profoundly than words do, but I am encountering technical difficulties. Maybe later.

A late-night conversation with Greg recalled a verse about silver to my mind, but I couldn’t find it. It was no longer in the recesses of my mind. While he waited patiently on Skype, I dug through my things and found a stack of sticky notes from junior year. And now I’m immersed in memories of how God shaped me that year. (Not in any order, logical or otherwise.)

In September, faced with a decision about leading a small group and wondering why I was at Baylor in the first place, I sat on a swing and cried to God. He simply told me, in a voice I could nearly hear, “I brought you here for a reason.” I decided to lead the small group and to wait and see what His purpose was for me at Baylor.

I do my hair in front of a $5 mirror in my dorm room. The mirror is surrounded with brightly-colored sticky notes and various printouts. Seeing His words every day on those sticky notes grew me in more ways than I remembered.

A friend tells me that someone I thought was genuinely interested in being a friend wants nothing more than a physical relationship. I fear going to Matrix Theory.

I learned that I am so weak and broken and prone to failure. God taught me that the only way to survive any of this was to rely on him. He was my strength and I trusted His guidance, though I had no idea where He was leading me.

For God alone,
O my soul,
wait in silence.
Psalm 62:5

It goes on a green sticky note.

Rachel comes over to sit in the papasan as one or the other of us cries.
We yodel on the way to ODE.

I fear so many things, so many people.
I take refuge in the song we sing at Highland that morning:

“‘Cause when we see you,
We find strength to face the day
And in your presence,
All our fears are washed away”

It also goes on a green sticky note.

I learn about God’s discipline. He truly disciplines us for our good. I devour the book of Lamentations.

And it is good for the young to submit to the yoke of his discipline.
– Lamentations 3:27

Pink sticky note.

God begins to kill sinful desires in me.

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry. – Colossians 3:5

It goes on an orange sticky note.

I watch one He loves blossom and find joy in life again.
I watch another He loves battle so many demons.

Every day we brush past objects of incalculable worth to God: people!

Pink sticky note. Minus the sticky bit.

I try to encourage a friend in too many late night talks in the HRC.
I collapse before my church leadership in fear of this friendship.

I try to convince people I’m not interested. Nunneries start to look appealing…

In repentance and rest is
your salvation,
In quietness and trust is
your strength,
but you would have none of it.
– Isaiah 30:15

Pink sticky note.

I discover life in my CG. I wonder at God’s ability to do anything worthwhile through me. I trust and love them.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and power to do what pleases Him.
– Philippians 2:13

Blue sticky note.

I face tough questions and powerful images in colloquium. God uses Ordinary Men to ask me what I would do, and How (Not) to Speak of God to show me how incredibly powerful His call is. I love Him so much.

After fall retreat, I write,

Are your
in order?

on an orange sticky.

God uses an incredibly slow-healing wound to teach me that I cannot get out of my own messes on my own.

The Lord disciplines those he loves.
So take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet.
– Hebrews 12:12

Pink sticky note.

This is the first April since I caught West Nile that I’ve made it through without illness.

I encounter Ezekiel and Covenant language. The words about a new heart and a new spirit ignite my soul.

I learned again to follow and trust God completely blind. I see now, as I write this, that these were only the first steps: He turned out the lights when I could follow Him on just a gravel road, barely enough to trip me. With this training, I will now be able to follow Him blindly wherever He leads. I feel like this is preparation for much more treacherous roads.
Oh, Lewis says it much better, in Screwtape Letters. He talks about how when we first begin to follow Christ, He gives us just a taste of His radiance and assurance, and it nearly overpowers our frail hearts. As we mature, we learn to follow Him without these feelings and without seeing the way, all “for the sake of the call.”

And the verse about silver?

Our lives are in his hands, and he keeps our feet from stumbling.
You have tested us, O God;
you have purified us like silver melted in a crucible…
We went through fire and flood,
But you brought us to a place of great abundance.
– Psalm 66: 8-12

(On a pink sticky note)

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Sweetly Broken

Wednesday was not my day.

It started when I left the library at 12:30am, stumped by how to parametrize a sphere cut by a cylinder.
After class, the sphere stumped me again, this time in the form of two concentric conducting spheres. Frustrated at myself not being able to finish, I called Greg for dinner and church. I explained my spherical difficulties, and he responded with Chesterton, saying that leaving the spheres behind for praise and communion was putting the Cross above the Ball. I laughed.

And then I backed into concrete rebar. In my newly fixed car.
And then I was too flustered to watch Greg as he gave me directions on how to get out.

We eventually made it to church, and I organized my team.
I’ve been looking forward to Praise and Communion: a place of quietness, peace, Love, worship, and communion with friends and Saints.

Once my team had, with some success, distributed communion to the congregation, I climbed the dark stairs to the sound and light guys. And the door banged really loudly behind me. And then on the way down I tripped on the stairs and spilled the communion plate.

I finally slipped back in to the service: tired, shaky, empty, embarrassed that I hadn’t orchestrated communion serving quite smoothly, and ashamed of spilling communion.
I sat there with my mind unable to hold together a worded prayer as the rest of the congregation sang around me.

The strong voices of Greg on my left and Kyle on my right rang out, “I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered.”

If I weren’t so tired I might have laughed. “Sweetly broken.” That’s me. Broken because I am an imperfect vessel, willfully disobedient, easily stressed. I can neither solve spheres nor drive a car nor follow guidance nor navigate stairs.

How sweet it is to see my brokenness and realize that there, in my hands, I held the symbols of my salvation. The body of my soul’s Love was broken and His blood flowed to mend my brokenness. He knew that I would come to Him broken and sinful–not a perfect friend, girlfriend, mathematician, or servant. The whole point of communion is that I cannot come to Him with everything together!

Then we began to sing.

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

I didn’t leave Praise and Communion with a feeling of elation or that all was right with the world. I still didn’t have the energy for the four more hours of homework, and I still know that I am broken and I will fail again. I left simply with the reminder that He is God, the God who came down because I was broken.

Wednesday was not my day. It was His.

This is the day that the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

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Beautiful Irony

This afternoon my co-leader and I met to prepare tomorrow’s lesson. With three textbooks already weighing on my back, I had decided to leave my Bible at home, so I whipped out my fancy phone to look up the passage.

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
-Acts 20:24

I had to stop and laugh. Luke wrote down Paul’s words when the years were two digits on papyrus or animal skins likely by the light of the sun or an oil lamp. Ian and I were reading them in an air-conditioned coffee shop in two thousand ten on a palm-sized device with access to the world wide web. Whoa! Luke had no idea that his words would go to this crazy sci-fi future, but God has known the path of His scripture since before He made the world. And the Scripture is still sharp enough to cut to the heart. How cool!

Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.
-Psalm 119:89

The Word is Alive by Casting Crowns

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God, I’m tired. Just plain tuckered out. My schedule is run, run, write, do this, A Cal, maybe sleep, run some more. I just want a pause button on life so I can stop, rest, sort out my muddled brain, and catch up on some much needed time just sitting at Your feet.

You call, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Your burden is light, yet I don’t know how to get to You. My mind is cluttered and my hands are busy fulfilling the commitments I’ve already made, though yes, I worry about the future, which is in your hands. You know and you hold in your hands my fellowship application, my graduate school application, and my future love. I don’t know how to be a good steward of these talents you’ve given me and to honor You by resting at Your feet. Show me.

The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.
– Isaiah 50:4

You are the Word, the λογος, that sustains the weary. I do not live on bread or sleep or school or discussion or CG alone, but on every Word that comes out of Your mouth.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
– Psalms 23

Lord, Father, restore my soul.

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For the Glory of God

I’ve been doing a lot of proofs this week. A whole lot. For all times greater than zero, there exists a proof on Meaghan’s whiteboard.

This morning at about 1 a.m. I realized that proofs, even of advanced calculus, are theological. The infinite union of open sets is open because somehow that glorifies God. If E is connected, there is a finite open cover of E because it glorifies God to be that way.
I mean, really, everything that exists gives glory to God. That’s why it exists.

Perhaps if our mathematics group were to write a psalm tonight we would say,

The mathematical truths declare the glory of God,
and their proofs proclaim his handiwork.
Day to day pours out our homework,
and night to night reveals God’s knowledge.

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Look to the Skies

I just read Isaac Asimov’s Nightfall in which a planet with six suns experiences a terrifying and maddening night of Darkness once every two thousand years.
Asimov wrote the short story (that inspired the novel) is response to Emerson’s quote:

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God!

David writes,

Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

How strange it is in our modern world that we can avoid the sky. Sure, it’s obvious the sky is around when the clouds pour down rain or a particularly brilliant sunset paints the sky, but in my normal go-to-school-do-homework-get-some-sleep life I don’t stop to look up.

On camping trips I love to look at the night sky, especially when you’re far enough away from the city lights to see the Milky Way in all her glistening glory. Once we didn’t start cooking dinner until nearly 10:30 because our whole group was entranced by the stars, looking for shooting stars, contemplating the theology of extraterrestrial life, musing on notions of gravity and space.
The ancients understood the majesty of the sky, believing the gods lived in and moved across it in great chariots and that the heroes looked down from among the stars. The medievals ascribed attributes to each of the wandering planets and believed God was the great Prime Mover beyond the Fixed Stars.
What glory, what majesty, what immensity lies above.

Isaiah says,

Who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.

And yet God replies,

I love you more than the sun
and the stars
that I taught how to shine
you are mine and you shine for me too
-Matthew West

He loves us more.

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