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Chinese11/15/2006English
經文:約拿書第一~四章
鑰節:「我豈能不愛惜(尼尼微)呢?」(4:11)
提要

        當上帝要約拿往尼尼微去,他卻轉到反方向的他施(可能即西班牙)。因他刻意不順服上帝的旨意,他的生命開始往「下」降了。首先他「下」到約帕,然後「下」到船的底艙,在那兒他躺了「下」來。再來,他「下」到海底,最後是「下」到大魚的腹中(1:3、15、17)。在那裡,他悔改了,並發誓要順服於上帝(2:7、9)。從此,他「上」到上帝要他去的地方,他的話也應驗了;他的性命,被從坑中救了「上」來(2:6下;參詩16:10)。

        上帝所興起的大風,一定是非比尋常的猛烈,連那些有經驗的水手,都承認這是來自超自然的力量,所以他們各人哀求自己的神(可能他們來自不同的國家)。他們也叫約拿去呼求他的上帝,但沒有用。上帝已聽見他們的哀求,但除非約拿承認自己的罪,並被扔出船外,這個風不會止息下來的。當各種嘗試都失敗了,他們歸結出必有一個人冒犯了某位神,是這場暴風的禍因。終於,在上帝的指示之下,他們製籤,抽出了約拿(參箴16:33),是他從上帝那裡跑掉的,得罪了那造天地洋海的主。這個結果,讓很多異教徒都覺得不可思議,為什麼一個人--特別一個上帝的先知,竟敢不遵從天上之上帝的旨意。

        「如何可平息上帝的怒氣?」為了答覆他們的質問,約拿叫他們把他扔出船外。很多人認為這是約拿悔改的表示,也是一種英雄的行為,因為他不願讓別人為他受苦。但如果我們回顧他開始時那種固執的態度,以及尼尼微人悔改之後他的表現,我們就知道約拿寧可死,也不願去尼尼微外邦人那裡。究竟在那一刻,約拿的真正心境如何雖不可得知,但他卻要等到落在魚腹中時,才算真正向上帝悔改,引用許多詩篇向上帝禱告(2:2~9)。過去曾有很多事實證明幾種不同的海洋生物,可以把人整個吞下去。對上帝而言,只不過直接控制了祂所造之物,去執行祂的命令而已。

        雖然約拿不順服上帝,而在船上,上帝仍使萬事互相效力。所有的水手都在這件事中,看見約拿的上帝是真神,因而大大敬畏祂,並獻祭給祂,還許了願要專一事奉祂(1:14、16)。約拿還是向外邦人作了見證,這些水手很可能把這個故事告訴他們家鄉的人,也影響了別人去事奉上帝。

        約拿宣告了噩耗將臨到這城,上帝的忿怒要降臨。很可能約拿並沒有傳講人要悔改,但尼尼微人仍知道藉著悔改,上帝或許會更改祂的行動(3:9)。尼尼微人很可能從水手那裡聽見了有關的報導,也可能有些人看見魚把約拿吐在岸上,證明是出於上帝的忿怒,也出於上帝的憐憫。若不是這件令人驚奇的神蹟,尼尼微人可能也不會留心約拿的話,更不會尋求上帝的憐憫。很有意思的是,那段時間(主前七百六十三年)發生日蝕,之前又有二次嚴重的瘟疫流行在亞述境內(主前七百五十六年及七百六十九年),這些事在古代都代表神聖審判必定來到,也為人民預備心接受約拿的信息。

        尼尼微是當時世上最大的城市,約拿花了三天的時間走過整個大尼尼微,包括周遭的郊區。令他驚訝不解的是人民真的悔改了,當時是以穿粗麻衣(可能是羊毛製的袍)和撒灰在身上來表達。如此一來,立即性的審判免了,上帝赦免了他們,接受他們的信心,那些悔改的外邦人要列於聖徒之中,有一天他們要審判這個罪惡的世界(參路11:32;林前6:2;太19:28)。

        事後,約拿生氣了,可能是他所宣告的噩耗沒有出現,破壞了他作先知的名聲。但最根本的原因,該是上帝憐憫恩待尼尼微這個以色列的敵人。為此,上帝責備糾正他狹隘的心胸和偏狹的種族主義。然後,上帝藉著一棵樹,在一夜之間長大可為約拿遮蔭,證明祂的主權。這個目的是要讓約拿看到他的罪,自私和自憐是何等的繆誤。上帝造了樹和人,卻只有人不滅的靈魂為上帝所特別關心。約拿學了一個功課:以色列的上帝不只關心以色列人。而當耶穌基督來時,上帝要藉以色列祝福天下萬國(創12:3)。約拿書教導我們上帝照顧外邦人(所有失喪的靈魂),上帝的百姓也應當如此行。

禱告

        主啊!您如何對待尼尼微人,警戒他們悔改,又向他們施展恩典和慈愛,也會照樣待我們,向我們施慈愛。我們願向您悔改,並感謝您的恩典。奉主耶穌基督的名,阿們!

English

Scriptures:Read Jonah 1-4
Key Verse:"... should I not pity Nineveh ... ?"(Jonah 4:11)
Overview

        When the prophet Jonah was told by the Lord to go to Nineveh, he went in the opposite direction instead, toward Tarshish (thought to be Spain). Because of his deliberate disobedience in running from the will of God, his life literally went "down hill". Firstly, he went down to Joppa, then down into the bottom of the ship, where he laid down. He then went down into the sea, and finally down into the belly of the great fish (1:3, 15, 17). While down there he repented, expressed his faith in God, and vowed to submit and be obedient to Him (2:7, 9). Then he came up to the place God wanted him to be, and his words were fulfilled: "you have brought up my life from the pit" (2:6b; cf. Ps. 16:10).

        The storm that the Lord sent upon the sea, must have been very unusually severe, for the experienced sailors immediately recognized it as being of supernatural origin, and so each crewman (likely from many different countries) called out to his respective god. They wanted Jonah to cry out to his God too, but nothing worked. God heard their cries, but until Jonah confessed his sin and was thrown overboard, as God had purposed, the winds would not die down. When all their attempts had failed, they concluded that someone on the ship was responsible for the storm by having offended one of the gods. Under God's direction, the lot they cast fell to Jonah (cf. Prov. 16:33), who then confessed that he served the Creator, the God of heaven (and thus the God of the elements), but was running from Him. Even the heathen could not comprehend how someone, especially a prophet of God, could possibly disobey the will of the God of heaven.

        In response to their question about what should be done to appease his God, Jonah instructed them to throw him overboard. Many understand this as though it indicated repentance and a heroic thing, so that Jonah would not cause others to suffer too. But in light of his initial stubbornness and his attitude after Nineveh repented, it seems likely that Jonah said this because he would rather die than go to the Gentiles in Nineveh. It is hard to tell exactly what Jonah's real intentions were at that point, but it seems that his true repentance did not come until he was in the fish's belly, where he called upon God and quoted many verses from the Psalms (2:2-9). It has been proven that there are several types of sea creatures that are capable of swallowing a man whole. God merely took direct control over one of His creatures and commissioned it to serve His purpose.

        Even though Jonah was on the ship in disobedience to God, the Lord was still able to make something good come out of it. All the sailors clearly saw that Jonah's God was the true God and they feared and worshipped Him by offering sacrifices. They also made vows, which were no doubt vows of commitment to serve Him alone (1:14, 16). Jonah, then, was still a witness for God to Gentiles, even though he had been running in the opposite direction in order to not witness to Gentiles. These sailors, in turn, would have taken this story to their homelands and influenced others to serve God as well.

        Jonah's message to Nineveh was that the city was doomed; God's wrath would come upon them, not His mercy. It is possible that he did not even preach repentance, yet they still knew enough to repent with the hope that God would change His course of action (3:9). No doubt the people of Nineveh had heard the report from the seamen, and it is likely that some saw Jonah being spewed out alive onto the shore, which gave evidence to the wrath of God, but also to His mercy. It is possible that if it had not been for this astonishing miracle, the Ninevites would not have given heed to Jonah nor sought God's mercy. Interestingly, in this same time period there was a solar eclipse (763 B.C.) and two severe plagues in Assyria (756 and 759 B.C.); these were understood by the ancients as evidences of divine judgment and could have served to prepare the hearts of the people for Jonah's message.

        Nineveh was the largest city in the world at that time. It took Jonah three days to walk the extent of greater Nineveh, which included the surrounding suburbs. Much to his surprise and dismay, the people repented, which at that time was expressed by the wearing of ashes and sackcloth (a coarse garment, probably of goats hair). The immediate judgment upon Nineveh was prevented. God forgave them and recognized their faith. Those repentant Gentiles would be among the saints of God who will one day stand to judge the sinful world (cf. Luke 11:32; 1 Cor. 6:2; Matt. 19:28).

        Jonah's anger may have been because his message of doom would not be realized, which could damage his reputation as a prophet. Yet the root cause of his anger was that because of God's mercy upon Nineveh, Israel's enemies would be spared. The Lord had to rebuke and correct Jonah for being narrow-minded and nationalistic. Once again, the Lord proved His authority and sovereignty over nature by causing the plant to miraculously shoot up overnight to provide shade for Jonah. The primary reason for the plant, however, was so God could show Jonah his sin, selfishness, and how wrong it was for him to be full of self-pity. God created both plants and people, but only people, with never-dying souls, are given His special attention. Jonah was to learn that the God of Israel did not only care for Israelites. He chose the Israelites so that through them the whole world might be blessed (Gen. 12:3) with the coming of Jesus Christ. The book of Jonah, then, teaches that God cares for heathens (all lost souls) and so must His people.

Prayer

        Lord, just as You did with the people of Nineveh by warning them and extending Your grace and mercy to them when they repented, so too Your mercy is extended to us. We repent and thank You for Your grace.


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