Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Whale belly time outs.

This week's Bible Lesson is a reminder to choose to turn away from wickedness in any form. The Golden Text by Hosea was addressing the nation, a direct plea to turn away from the Baal worship around them. Baal worship encouraged immorality, idol worship of golden calves, and child sacrifice. An important message to those people but just as demanding today. Look at the current most popular movies and tv shows. Many of them encourage and endorse immorality. Look at the magazines at the check out counter. They want you to worship your body in both the men's and women's issues. Others focus on the pursuit of wealth - the golden calf. And all the distractions of technology would seem to try to separate us from our children, to sacrificed family life to 'screens'.

Look through the Lesson this week and notice all the references to pure and purity. It shows up right in the Responsive Reading. God is promising to 'purely purge away thy dross'. I went right to my hymnal and looked up hymn 123. I will keep it open and study verse 3.  "When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply; the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine." The dictionary defines dross as impurity, worthless, commonplace, or trivial matter, a waste product. Time wasters.

I wonder what Jonah was doing before that call came? Who was he? The Bible doesn't say but we can surmise that he had money and leisure time. When God gives him a mission, a job opportunity, he must have had the time and freedom to leave town. He leaves town all right, but he books passage on a ship going in the opposite direction. He turns down the assignment, and runs away. He must have been sitting around, not doing much, because God's first word is 'arise'. So off he goes to find quick passage and he is immediately able to pay the fare. He sounds like a first class passenger as he goes down to his cabin and goes to sleep.

Have you ever come up against something you don't want to face? Have you ever been tempted to 'jump into bed and cover up your head', taking refuge in oblivion? He must have fallen deeply asleep as the sailors have to rouse him despite the raging storm. This was no ordinary storm, these experienced sailors were frightened by the intensity of it. They felt it was not natural but God-driven. And it was threatening to break up the ship. They had tried everything they could, even throwing their cargo over board. And they were praying, each to his god. They come to the conclusion that it must be aimed at someone on board and they draw lots. Jonah's name was chosen and he freely admits that he had run away from God. They try to solve it themselves, is there a way they can punish him that will appease God and calm the sea. Jonah knows that won't work and he instructs them to throw him overboard, he is willing to take the blame. Over he goes and the storm ceases. They sail on, as Jonah has disappeared.

Out in the midst of that raging storm, far from land or any help, God had already provided safety. Jonah is swallowed up by a whale. Jonah will be there three days and three nights. I will study what happens next tomorrow. For today I want to be grateful that even when we have tried to run away from God, like Jonah, we will learn that God is everywhere, always present, always ready to save us from ourselves. There might be a lesson to be learned, but that can happen in a protected environment.

This is part of the purification process. The burning off of the dross. We are not harmed by this activity, only what is impure will disappear. What is uncovered is the purity that was always there, the lovely pure reflection of good. Jonah was not a bad man. When we resist the lessons we need to progress we are not bad, only acting badly. Our Parent will stand by to catch us if we stumble or fall or head in the wrong direction. Sometimes we need a 'whale belly' time out.

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