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Thursday, April 16, 2015

N is for Nobody (Person), Nowhere (Place,) and Nothing (Thing)

Negative Words Can Have a Positive Meaning

You may wonder what I mean by that title.  How can negative words have positive meaning?  First, let's define terms.  I am not talking about discouraging speech.  These words are nobody, nowhere, and nothing.  Wait, you say, those words don't have a negative connotation.  They just describe absence.  They do that.  But also they certainly can have a negative connotation at times.  Just listen to this common self-talk:

                                    Why would THAT girl talk to ME?  I am just a nobody with a job that's going nowhere. In short, I'm a real nothing.  

Today, I want to use those words for positive emphasis by looking at the story of Jonah for the Bible.

1. There is NOBODY that God doesn't care for. 

 In the book of Jonah, God sent Jonah to a place called Nineveh to preach repentance.  The Ninevites were not only an enmy of Jonah's people but were thoroughly wicked.  If there was eve ra group of people God couldn't love, the Ninevites would certainly be it. Yet God loved them enough to send a prophet to them to warn them of their need for Him.  God had created them just like he created Jonah, me, and you.  He loved them and wanted them to have a relationship with him just like he loved us.

2. There is NOWHERE on Earth you can hide from God.  

God no only created us.  He created the world and the creaturs of the world.  If God calls you to do something and you go the opposite direction, do you think God won't find you?  That's what Jonah did.  He didn't love the Ninevites like God did and did not want God forgiving them so he split.  Jonah was called to go to one end of the known world.  So, Jonah quickly booked to the opposite end of the known world.  Hiding from God is something that so many of us do, one way or the other.  In the end, God finds us.  That's definitely in the job description of one who came to seek and save the lost.

Because God found Jonah and sicked a storm on him, we may think that God is out to get us.  And, He is.  But not to get us like punishment, but get us like--bring us home!  When the others on the ship heard Jonah's testimony about serving the God who created the universe, and then saw the power God had to bring and calm a storm, many of them found him, and worshiped him for the first time.  So after Jonah was found in the ship, God again "found" him in the fish and brought him back to the purpose he had called him for.

3. There is NOTHING you can do that God can't forgive.  

Jonah goes back to Ninevah and preaches repentance to the people of Ninevah.  The Ninevites, if you remember, were wicked people.  But Jonah chapter 3, says that the Ninevites believed God.  In Jonah chapter 4, Jonah says, "I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love."

I think everybody thinks that they've blown it at some point.  That they've done something so bad that if anyone were to find out, no one would be able to be in the same room with them.  They feel separate, alone, and utterly unforgivable.  Guess what?  They're wrong.  In every instance, God knows exactly what they did, and has already died to forgive their sins.  Our view of justice gets in our way of accepting that. This was true of Jonah, as I said before, he didn't think the Ninevites deserved to be forgiven.  He was right of course.  None of us do.  But God loved us SO much, he chose to forgive us anyway.   As Judd Hirsch famously says to Timothy Hutton in Ordinary People, "You can live with that, can't you?"

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