In 1983 I took a trip to Turkey sponsored by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, OPIC. It was a government sponsored trip to seek investment opportunities in Turkey. My last night I spent in Izmir having dinner with my interpreter and a business owner interested in doing business in America. They ordered for me and out came this huge Black Sea Bass (whole) sitting upright on a potato concoction. I ate the fish, but that night I got deathly sick, so sick I missed my early morning flight to Istanbul. That fish gave me nightmares for several months, because it meant that I had to rent a car and drive 600 kilometers through at least three military check points, in unfamiliar towns and then into Istanbul late at night trying to find a place to stay. It was an exciting and terrifying experience to say the least. That is why I don’t like eating whole fish to this day. The book of Jonah relates a story that you are all familiar with, of a man who tried to run away from God’s will, and ended up being swallowed by a giant fish. Now if I had problems eating fish after my experience, I can just see Jonah being afraid to get on a ship or even go near the ocean or a lake. Every time he would hear a splash I can just see him running for cover. But when I read what he wrote in chapter 2, I know that isn’t the case. In fact from the Psalm he wrote, I know that every Thanksgiving, Jonah would eat the biggest fish he could get.
Jonah says in his Psalm recorded in chapter 2: “But I with the voice of thanksgiving will I sacrifice to you” This he prayed while still in the fishes belly.
The Hebrew word for Thanksgiving has in view a Choir Singing Tremendous Songs of Praise, accompanied by a huge orchestra. People with SHOUTS of Jubilation!
When Nehemiah dedicated the wall he had all the leaders get on the wall and had a huge assembly of Levites playing instruments and singing praises to God. This is the picture Jonah presented in his prayer while lodged deep in the stinking stomach of a huge fish! Now how was Jonah able to praise God while he was deep in the belly of a stinking fish? Because Jonah had a firsthand lesson in something which many of us are not familiar with.
Would that our Thanksgivings featured such spontaneous expressions of Joy and Rejoicing over what God has done in our lives.
Face it, most of our Thanksgiving meals consist of a few arguments over such and such, a short prayer of blessing, then maybe a forced “What are You Thankful For?’ and then the guys go and watch football or go to a movie or such like that. Even in my family I can’t recall spontaneous shouts of Joy over what God has been doing.
God wanted His people to have festivals and feasts where there was spontaneous rejoicing! One Such Event was the Festival of Booths held once a year in the Fall:
Leviticus 23:39-43 (KJV) Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
Sovereignty vs. Thanksgiving
The story of Jonah is so appropriate at the time of Thanksgiving, because it addresses the conflict that most of us experience at this holiday time. This is the conflict we have between our experiences with the Sovereignty of God and the Joy (or lack of it) we feel in our Soul!
We used to know what the Sovereignty of God is. The Pilgrims who settled in America had a profound sense of the Sovereignty of God…
Because they understood the Sovereignty of God they could rejoice regardless of whether there was rain or drought, death or life. We have lost our concept of what the Sovereignty of God is. Let me share just a bit from AW Pink:
From (AW PINK, SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD)
The sovereignty of God! What do we mean by this expression? We mean the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the Godhood of God. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that God is God. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High, doing according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand or say unto Him, What doest Thou? (Daniel 4:35). To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the possessor of all power in heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purposes, or resist His will (Psalms 115:3). To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is “The Governor among the nations” (Psalms 22:28), setting up kingdoms, over-throwing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleases Him best. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the “Only Potentate, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords” (1Timothy 6:15). Such is the God of the Bible. The sovereignty of the God of Scripture is absolute, irresistible, infinite. When we declare that God is sovereign, we affirm His right to govern the universe, which He has made for His own glory, just as He pleases. We affirm that His right is the right of the Potter over the clay: that He may mould that clay into whatsoever form He chooses, fashioning out of the same lump one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor. We affirm that He is under no rule or law outside His own will and nature, that God is a law unto Himself, and that He is under no obligation to give an account of His matters to any.”
The Exercise of His Supremacy
The sovereignty of God may be defined as the exercise of His supremacy. Being infinitely elevated above the highest creature, He is the Most High, Lord of heaven and earth. Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. None can thwart Him, none can hinder Him. So His own Word expressly declares: “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” ( Isaiah 46:10); “He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand” ( Daniel 4:35).
Divine sovereignty means that God is God in fact, as well as in name, that He is on the Throne of the universe, directing all things, working all things “after the counsel of His own will” (Ephesians 1:11).
We affirm that He is Sovereign in the exercise of His power. His power is exercised as He wills, when He wills, where He wills.
- God is Sovereign in the exercise of His mercy
- God is Sovereign in the exercise of His love
- God is Sovereign in the exercise of His grace.
God’s Throne is Supreme
- To declare that God is frustrated by sin, is to dethrone God.
- To say that God has no control over the evil of this world is to dethrone God
- To say that God has no control over the bad things that happen in our lives is to dethrone God.
Sovereignty speaks of God’s divine control over everything that happens. There is nothing outside the control of his loving hand. Romans 8:28 tells us that all things work together for the good of God’s children and verses 38- 39 implies that there is nothing beyond the control of God’s sovereign hand. God’s sovereignty reminds Christians to fear nothing as God is always in charge, no matter how dreadful the situation.—AMG’s Encyclopedia of Bible Facts
We have lost our sense of God and His Sovereignty in our churches, our preaching, our Thanksgivings!
Man-Centered vs God-Centered
A recent survey found the number one question people would ask God is “Why do you allow suffering?”
Instead of focusing on God and His Sovereign Right to Act as His Nature Dictates, we focus on ourselves and we go “boo-hoo”, why did you do this why did you allow that. We are so man-centered, that every time something doesn’t go our way we shake our fist at God!
When you learn to focus on the Sovereign Will of God, you trust in an all powerful God who works His Glory in whatever happens in your life! You know that nothing is by accident, that He is working all to accomplish what please Him, in accordance with His Word and His Nature!
The whole issue is whether we live lives that are man-centered or God-centered.
- Jonah centered world results in captivity
- Jonah wanted to do what he wanted when he wanted
- He was swallowed by the fish, held captive.
- Jonah centered world results in damnation.
- Jonah experienced Hell.
- The people of Nineveh were doomed.
- Jonah centered world results in anger and hatred.
- Jonah was mad that Nineveh was saved.
- Mad at what God had done.
- Dependent on Circumstances
- God-centered world results in deliverance from the storms of life
- Sailor saved
- Jonah rescued
- God-centered world results in deliverance from the hell of life
- Jonah deleverd from the Hell of the fish.
- God-centered world results in deliverance from sin
- Nineveh repented and was saved
- God-centered world results in Rejoicing and Thanksgiving
- The people of Nineveh rejoiced because God spared them
- Jonah learned to shut up and started eating Big Fish
Why Does a God Centered World result in Repentance, Deliverance, Mercy and Salvation?
- The Sovereignty of God means that God seeks to Deliver Repentant man.
- The Sovereignty of God means that God’s Mercy is for Repentant man
- The Sovereignty of God means Salvation for Repentant man.
We have so much to rejoice in. If you have turned from you sin and embraced Jesus as your Savior, Rejoice, you have been delivered, you are wrapped in the Mercy of God, You are being saved. Rejoice and tell your relatives – make em think you are crazy. Jonah was stinking like a fish when he told the people of God’s coming judgment. Rejoice because God is sovereign. Why don’t you put God on His Throne in Your Life!!! He is on His throne. Whatever you are going through, all you need to do is repent of your sins and rejoice in God’s Mercy. He will do all according to His Will.
You can live this Thanksgiving Man-centered or God centered.
You Can Brood and Burn in Pain!
You can be on your own throne or you can submit to God on His throne. Jonah go upset at God for bringing revival to Nineveh. God asked him: “Do You Do Well to be Angry?”(Jonah 4:4)
That little word angry is “hara” which means to cause fire to burn- pictures a “burning sensation in your throat.” This is a kindling or simmering of anger. When you put your self on the throne you set in motion the kindling of your soul as you react to what God does in your life. Instead of praise and spontaneous rejoicing, your throat is burning, your are mad and resentful because God has not done as YOU wanted.
You can Seek God and BURN BRIGHT with Joy!
You can realize God is Sovereign and is actively governing as He pleases upon His throne. You can repent of your selfishness and sin and seek after Almighty God and His reign over your life.
Then you will know SAMAH!
- SAMAH means to burn bright, to make joyful, merry. This joy comes from within your heart and lights up your eyes! (TWOT)
- SAMAH results in spontaneous emotion and extreme happiness which is expressed in some visible manner.
- When David killed Goliath, the women danced in the streets and shouted with JOY! (! Sam 18:6)
America may no longer be that shining City on the Hill, but God still Reigns. He still seeks men to repent and come to Him. All the financial and political travail that is going on is the Throne of God giving us one last chance to Repent and Honor Him as Sovereign God!
One day He will place His Son on that Shining City on the Hill, Jerusalem. All nations will come to Him there. He will reign.
Do you know King Jesus as your Savior. Is His Father your Sovereign Lord? Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins. He paid the price for your freedom with His precious sinless blood. Will you come to Him? Will you repent of your sins and say “Jesus I need you to be my Savior!” Will you come and make Him your Lord, so that He can shine bright in your life?
God Still Reigns. God is Sovereign.
Will You allow God to be on His throne in your life? Will you jump for joy because of his deliverance, his mercy, his salvation for you?