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Wednesday, March 22, 2023
Spring flowers at Village Farm Market east of Ephrata, PA
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"Concern For The City"
Message summary: Today we urge each reader to take up the burdens of the hurting world, especially the cities, around us and live a life expressing in many ways, including our prayers, that also proclaims, "I am concerned!"
Listen to our message on your audio player.
"Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 'Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me'" (Jonah 1:1,2) “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you” (Jonah 3:1). "And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” (Jonah 4:11).
Yesterday our message considered man's effort to build a great city with a tower reaching heaven (the Tower of Babel). The Lord thwarted their efforts by confusing their language (the origin of the many languages of the human race) and scattering them (the origin of humans now living in practically every inhabitable place on earth).
But all through history and certainly today there is an inclination among many to live in the city surrounded in close proximity to others. (We both prefer living out in the country!)
In recent years cities (at least many here in the US) have seen a sharp increase in violence and lawlessness. Just yesterday I read of a massive brawl at a shopping mall in San Francisco.*¹ It seems you can hardly read the news without seeing something similar.
When I was out in San Francisco last fall there were signs posted everywhere warning against "smash and grab", that is; thieves would smash a car window and grab whatever is inside. I took the photo at the popular Land's End tourist area which has stunning views of the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. It struck me that the lawlessness is so pervasive that the best the city can do is warn you rather than do something about it.
I read a recent story about a CNN reporter doing a story about street crime in San Francisco so they hired a private security detail to watch their cars while at City Hall. Even with that she and her crew were victims of a smash and grab. *²
I read this insightful and prescient quote by Thomas Jefferson, one of our nation's founding fathers. In 1787, the year of the American Constitution, Jefferson wrote to his closest friend, James Madison: “When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as in Europe.” He called them (cities) “pestilential to the morals, the health, and the liberties of man.” I wonder what he would think if he saw the conditions in our cities today! *³
But we are thankful for ministries to the city. Our daily texts remind us that God is concerned for the cities. We consider Jim and Carol Cymbala, who have served the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City since 1971. We rejoice when we listen to the choir sing and consider all the changed lives represented. Thankfully even in the hardest, darkest places God has a people and a witness.
Today let us consider Jonah who was called to a city by God for a very specific mission, "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me" (Jonah 1:2).
The prophet Jonah didn't want to go to Nineveh and set out in the opposite direction but God got his attention in a rather dramatic way through a whale of an experience, his main claim to Biblical fame. After he was spit out three days later God called him a second time, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you” (Jonah 3:1). This time he reluctantly went and his evangelistic endeavor resulted in tremendous receptivity as the city repented. But he wasn't happy about that and chapter 4 finds him stewing in his anger, consumed with his own personal issues, rather than a concern for others. He preferred to see God's judgment on Nineveh!
But the book ends with a probing question revealing the heart of God, "And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
"Who cannot tell their right hand from their left" likely refers to those who, spiritually speaking, cannot tell right from left, right from wrong. The verse shows that God takes pity on the spiritual blindness of the pagan. God’s desire is to extend His salvation to all who repent and turn to Him. (gotquestions.org)
Warren Wiersbe observes:
"Jonah and Nahum are the only books in the Bible that end with questions, and both books have to do with the city of Nineveh. Nahum ends with a question about God’s punishment of Nineveh (Nahum 3:19), while Jonah ends with a question about God’s pity for Nineveh. This is a strange way to end such a dramatic book as the Book of Jonah. In the book God has the first word (Jonah 1:1–2) and God has the last word (Jonah 4:11), and that’s as it should be."
Our third daily text has been called the greatest missions verse in the Bible and it surely reflects the heart of God and is a model for us, "Should I not be concerned about that great city?" The clear answer to this question is surely, "I am concerned!" Jonah and each of us should be as well.
Today we urge each reader to reach out to the broken lives in this sin-filled world, that which is found in the countryside and most visible in the crowded cities. Let us plead for lost souls to be saved in our daily prayers, expressing to our redeeming Savior, "I too am concerned!"
Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)
Stephen and Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, we continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and we pray for the peace of Christ to rain down upon the cities of our nation and world. We pray for servants of the Gospel who are taking the message of salvation to the troubled streets of our cities, for their safety and for receptivity from those looking for answers, the answers that can't be found in our institutions of higher learning or our divided political landscape across America. Many express their rage and anger through lawless acts of vandalism, destruction, incite fear, attack innocent lives, and the calamitous list goes on and on. We pray for our elected leaders to stand for law and order, to be strong and courageous in recapturing civility among the rebellious throngs who resist the established authority. We pray for churches and ministries located in these cities to prayerfully and eagerly present the greatest Authority, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who provides the greatest Manual of all time, the Word of God which gets to the hearts of humankind to seek and to save those who are lost in sin through Christ Jesus our Lord. Our soul's diseases can be healed and the ills of our country repaired when people's hearts are turned toward God. Help us, we earnestly pray, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"Sing a New Song" Click to listen on YouTube The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
"Mennonite youth singing in Union Square NYC Subway Station: June 3, 2022," Click to listen on YouTube Yesterday I shared a devotional based on today's message with a group of employees at a company in rural Lebanon County, PA. I referred to these groups of Mennonites that go into the city with an attempt to witness by singing songs of their faith. A young lady, Brenda, told me she has sung in such an evangelistic group.
"God of This City" Click to listen on YouTube Chris Tomlin
For many years our friend Doris High has posted her photos online. She surely is among the Internet's most prolific photographers. In a recent post she shares close-up photos of bird feathers she took at her feeders. She makes the point, "God was so creative when He designed birds."
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