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What Jonah had missed

July 1, 2022

Daily Scripture

Exodus 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; Joel 2:13

Exodus 34

6 The LORD passed in front of him and proclaimed:
“The LORD! The LORD!
a God who is compassionate and merciful,
very patient,
full of great loyalty and faithfulness.

Nehemiah 9

17 They refused to obey,
and didn’t remember the wonders that you accomplished in their midst.
They acted arrogantly and decided to return to their slavery in Egypt.
But you are a God ready to forgive, merciful and compassionate,
very patient, and truly faithful.
You didn’t forsake them.

Psalm 86

15 But you, my LORD,
are a God of compassion and mercy;
you are very patient and full of faithful love.

Joel 2

13 Tear your hearts
and not your clothing.
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
very patient, full of faithful love,
and ready to forgive.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

These Scripture verses were central to Israel’s faith in God. Yesterday we saw that, ironically, Jonah knew their language but used it, not to praise God but as the basis for his complaint when God spared Nineveh’s people (in the near term) from the destruction Jonah had threatened. Trust in God’s mercy never denied that persistent wickedness could have bad consequences (e.g. Exodus 34:7). But mercy was God’s defining trait—Isaiah saw judgment as God’s “strange deed” (Isaiah 28:21).

  • The pivotal passage in Exodus 34 came after Moses found Israel dancing around the golden calf idol and, in dismay, smashed the stone tables containing God’s commands. In Exodus 34:1-10, God told Moses (and Israel through him) that their foolish wandering hadn’t irrevocably smashed his covenant with them, that “grace can trump justice.” * What makes it of central importance for your trust in God to always remember that grace can trump justice, even when you’ve erred?
  • Joel 2 showed that “in the ancient world people would tear their clothing to show they were sorry and wanted a change of circumstances….Joel…urges them to make sincere and lasting changes and not simply outward signs.” ** In today’s world, what are some visible signs of sadness or regret you might use to express what tearing their clothing symbolized in Joel’s time? How can you make sure your visible expressions are sincere and lasting, not just for outward show?

Lord Jesus, when I’ve gotten something wrong in my life, lead me to genuine inner sorrow and a desire to change. I thank you that for all of us “grace can trump justice.” Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller is Director of Student Ministries at Resurrection Overland Park. A Kansas native, she has been a professional actress for the past 15 years, and she loves to see the vastness of God’s creation through theatre and the arts. Leah is pursuing an M.Div. from Saint Paul School of Theology. Leah, Brian, and their two children love to play tennis, golf, soccer, and board games.

Greetings from the rezlife middle school mission trip to St Louis. I, along with other staff and rezlife leaders, are helping and learning alongside 7th and 8th graders from our Resurrection youth groups. This week has been full of serving the St Louis downtown area and learning about how we can support, love, and better understand our homeless and underprivileged communities in St Louis, KC, and all over.

I thought it appropriate for this Insight to come from our youth, so I posed today’s GPS question, “In today’s world, what are some visible signs of sadness or regret you might use to express what tearing their clothing symbolized in Joel’s time? How can you make sure your visible expressions are sincere and lasting, not just for outward show?”

Some mentioned how celebrities might post apologies on social media platforms. But they felt this visible expression didn’t always feel sincere or even safe. Audrey (an 8th grader) mentioned that expressing your sadness through an apology in person seems the most powerful and authentic. Others mentioned if it’s a friend that you’ve hurt it’s good to “hug it out” and explain why they were sorry. A few mentioned when they feel shame for hurting someone they tend to isolate or talk it out with a close friend. Still, none related to the old Hebrew tradition of “tearing their clothes” to show repentance. When explained this was met with many shocked faces and “no ways.” Ha! Can you blame them?

I don’t think I’d tear my clothes either, but I might work myself up into a frenzy and want to mend the invisible bonds of trust that I had broken. Would I try to preserve my pride? Would I make an outward show that didn’t reflect my inward change of heart? Repentance to this degree requires some form of outward expression that reveals our hearts are mourning the justice we deserve but rejoicing in the mercy we’ve been given.

When I asked our youth about how we ensure our visible expressions are sincere and lasting, and not just for outward show, they kept coming back to the motives. “If you give them a gift to say you’re sorry, is it for them or to make you look better?” Brielle said. Another student remarked that words are more personal and require admission. And they might also hold us accountable for our hope to change our actions for the future. For our students, it kept coming back to authenticity. Do the words you speak in repentance reflect the actions of compassion you than show others when they ask you for forgiveness? These students said it best: “Giving the same mercy to others that we have been shown from God does seem a little better than tearing up all my clothes in my closet. After all, I need something to wear.”

  • Contributions from the 2022 rezlife middle school mission trip. Please pray for continued mercies and life-changing moments as we prepare to head home Saturday.
© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* John Goldingay, Exodus and Leviticus for Everyone. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010, p. 126.

** J. Andrew Dearman, study note on Joel 2:13 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 1449 OT.