Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Story of Jonah: Receiving Grace and Mercy

My two-week summer break back home in Pennsylvania has been going quite well. I've filled most of my time with just relaxing around the house with my family or being alone; Just me and my laptop, buried away in our living room with the door shut trying to learn choreography from videos for this upcoming season with Ballet Magnificat.

This past weekend my housemate from Jackson, Mississippi, Maggie was passing through Lancaster from visiting extended family in New York. We decided to meet up and together with Maggie's parents and brother we went to see the production called 'Jonah' being presented at Sight and Sound Theater. It was such a phenomenal show! And such a fun day!

First, we had dinner at the Park City Diner in Lancaster.    Image Source

Me with Maggie

I ordered this beautiful crispy chicken salad. Talk about presentation!

Mini Van Selfie on the way to Sight and Sound

Sight and Sound Theater   Image Source

Maggie, her brother, and I posing with some merch.

If you are in either the Lancaster, PA or the Branson, MO area I highly recommend you catch this show at your local Sight and Sound Theater when it tours near you! I know that people from all over the country and the world come to Lancaster to see the productions put on by Sight and Sound Theater. I'd seen a show by them before many years ago, 'Noah' I believe it was, and though it was a memorable experience I did not have very high expectations for seeing 'Jonah' this time around, but boy! I enjoyed 'Jonah' SO much more than I ever thought I would! Take a look at the preview below!

Perhaps the reason I was able to better enjoy the biblical presentation put on by Sight and Sound Theater this time around is because I am in a different and better place with God in terms of my faith and our relationship than I was previously. God spoke to me so clearly through the musical presentation of 'Jonah'. I almost wished I would have taken my journal so I could write everything down that he was speaking into my heart. I love that the awesome character of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ was so clearly displayed in the show, not to mention the character of the man of Jonah, who I found to be so relatable. Everyone needs to go read the book of Jonah right now! It's only 4 short chapters. You can do it! And then when you are done, read below the 4 reasons why I think Jonah is so relatable.

Four Reasons Why Jonah Is So Relatable to Me:

#1  Jonah runs away. At the daunting direction of the Lord calling Jonah to do something he didn't want to do (delivering a message to the Ninevites), Jonah ran the other direction in fear and disobedience. The fact that I can relate to Jonah about running away from God's direction sure does make me feel better, but it doesn't make it right. We have the advantage of learning from Jonah's account as we see the repercussions that occur due to his selfish decision to run. I love this quote from Sight and Sound's 'Jonah'

"Whenever you run from something, you run to something else, and that is usually worse..."

I love that though Jonah fled in disobedience, God still made a way to glorify Himself in the situation by the sailors having witnessed His power and might and coming to faith in Him! God doesn't waste anything, even when we make mistakes, and that brings me encouragement.

#2  Jonah fights with God about the 'unjust' outcome of Him sparing the Ninevites. Everyone knows about how Jonah gets swallowed by a whale. (That was a spectacular scene at the Sight and Sound show!) God spares Jonah and after three days and three nights, God has the whale spit Jonah out. When God called Jonah a second time to deliver the message of destruction to Ninevites, this time Jonah obeyed. Unexpectedly, the message Jonah delivered to the Ninevites brought them to a place of humility, fasting, prayer, and repentance in hopes that God would then relent and spare them, which He in turn did. Another surprise at the beginning of chapter 4 is when we find that the mercy God had on the Ninevites provokes Jonah to anger (he didn't like the Ninevites)! Mercy and grace are hard things to grasp for us humans, especially with our culture, but they are such beautiful things. 
In the Bible study book that I am going through with the ladies from my church called "Seeking Him" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, it explains:

Sometimes the mercy and grace that we so desire and need for ourselves is the same mercy and grace that like Jonah, is so hard for us in our flesh to give to others. This is the second way to which I can relate with Jonah. I love these song lyrics found in a song called "Be My Escape"  by the Christian music band 'Reliant K' that say, "The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair" (for Jesus!). God has been SO gracious to us, his rebellious creation. I can only pray that through him I might be able to extend the same grace and mercy to others. 

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." 
Matthew 19:26
(out of context, but the truth still remains.)

#3  Jonah focused his attention, cares, and concerns on trivial matters. I loved reading about the part in chapter 4 when Jonah gets all worked up and disheartened (and quite dramatically!) over the plant God gave to him for shade, and then took away. I hate when my plants die. I take care of them and love them as if they were my own children, but in all reality, they have no importance in life compared to other things. 😂 I can relate to Jonah with how it is so easy to let something small distract us from what we should really be concerning ourselves with; God's plan and not our own. 

#4  Jonah's motives. The production I saw of 'Jonah' that Sight and Sound Theater presented this past weekend developed ideas of why Jonah may have fled in fear and disobedience, more than the Bible presents us with! While some could consider this heretical, I don't believe that it would be entirely wrong for us to speculate on what Jonah's motivations were. After all he is human just like you and me, and we almost always have motivations for our actions and for the choices we make, whether it be a past hurt or bitter root, protecting one's reputation, or maybe feeling oppressed with condemnation. It's interesting to think about.

I am so thankful to have this God of Jonah as my God too! I am thankful for the Word of God as well as all the examples of the people God chooses to include in it that have gone before and have made mistakes for us to learn from. Nobody was perfect then, and nobody is perfect now. The Bible says in Romans 3 that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," BUT it also says "all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." If you would like to learn more about redemption, what it is, and/or about Christ's beautiful act of redemption on the cross, click HERE!  And let us repent to our wonderful merciful Savior when we find ourselves "missing the mark".

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