Last week, in Sunday School, we talked about the final verses of Jonah. My friend’s husband (Hi Sonya!) who happens to be in a profession where talking well is the norm, is teaching us. I say this because he has asked me to join in teaching 1 Peter, in a couple of weeks.
He, the professional talker, is very good at what he does. He uses words so well, that he could stop talking about the bible, start talking about bicycles, and I might not get the transition until minutes after. I am not built like that. Words are the steps that I stumble down.
I start talking and there comes the first step, looming...
Have we seen snow lately?
Exactly how slippery will that step be?
Or, will it be like the steps last night with the high school girls? Will I just start hopping right down, unknowingly, only to turn around and say, “Why, I didn’t travel those steps at all, it must have been the Spirit”?
And, so we will begin, I will think about the top step of 1 Peter, and he will be at the bottom of the staircase, gazing logically at all the steps. Either way, I think that it will be a fun experience together.
He made a great point, last week, about Jonah 4:10, 11, NRSV,
10 Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”
These are the final words of Jonah; this is it. We are left with a question.
My future co-teacher suggested that the question of Jonah really becomes, what kind of God are you going to serve? This is an invitation to participate with this God. He is outlining who He is, and where His concerns lie. In application, this is our choice.
I have pondered this little ditty during my MOST (moments of studying theology. I am still trying to find a substitution for “quiet time”). This scripture from Leviticus fits into the puzzle for me,
But I have said to you: You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am the Lord your God; I have separated you from the peoples. 25 You shall therefore make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; you shall not bring abomination on yourselves by animal or by bird or by anything with which the ground teems, which I have set apart for you to hold unclean. 26 You shall be holy to me; for I the Lord am holy, and I have separated you from the other peoples to be mine. - Leviticus 20:22-26, NRSV
God tells us who He is. He tells us what He has done. He has made the choice to separate the Israelites. They belong to the Lord, and their job is to make distinctions.
In Jonah the distinction that the Ninevites could not make was between their left and right hand. They could not distinguish between elemental concepts, between the events of the day. The sacred and profane were beyond their conception. Jonah was presented with the burden of pointing the people of Nineveh to repentance, requiring acknowledgment of the sacred.
The Israelites were trusted with the same mission. God had separated them, and they were given the task of making distinctions between the sacred and the profane.
I walk away with this...when this is the focal point, God is everywhere.
God shows the sacred in our lives when we slow down to make distinctions. We see that we are holy to Him, and that He is holy. We see that we have been separated and that we belong to Him.
My days draw me away from this knowledge. When distractions are introduced, I lose the sacred, the holy. They get lost in the mix. My left and my right hand become interchangeable.
I am His, and to keep this in the forefront of my mind, I need to make distinctions between God and everything else, what matters and everything else, what is holy and everything else, what is really my job and everything else.
My job is to sort out these distinctions so that I can see God everywhere. My job is to work out my salvation, and help others interpret the elemental.
It is simply knowing your right hand from your left.