Jonah 2:8 “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”
This verse is underlined in both Japanese and English in my Bible, but I don’t really remember reading it. It is powerful indeed, particularly for anyone in a country like Japan that is littered with idols of all sorts. As the Bible says in many places, God is gracious toward all He has made, but it is up to us to accept that grace or discard it (which is how the Japanese expresses what the NIV gives as “forfeit”). I’m reminded of a news item I read just yesterday of a man in Britain whose hoarder brother died suddenly and he was faced with dealing with a mountain of stuff. His initial impulse was to have it all carted to the dump, but instead he hired a company to come in and sort it all and appraise it, and they discovered it was worth millions of dollars! Exactly how much will be determined after a rather massive auction, but in any case, the man was about to discard it all. Countless people do that with the grace of God, not realizing its incalculable worth. In Japan, India and the like, explicitly religious idols abound, but in every country people put ultimately worthless things in the place of God in their heart. As has been said, we each have a “God-shaped hole” in our heart, and we attempt to fill it with all sorts of junk. Some people put another person there, and that too is idolatry. Our value is not dependent on other people, even a spouse, but rather on God who created us. Actually, the Japanese in this verse for what the NIV renders as “cling to” is “fill their hearts.” I translated the first line of a Japanese song as, “Come, fill your hearts with love, for God Himself is love; His temple are we.” Filling our hearts with anything less than God is indeed discarding the grace that He extends to us so freely. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
I wish I could say I have always properly valued God’s grace toward me, but that would be missing the truth by a wide mark. I have believed in Jesus and known He loved me for as long as I can remember. My parents wrote in a Christmas newsletter when I was five that I had proclaimed my love for Jesus in very strong terms, and I asked to be baptized at age seven. However, I have allowed all sorts of things to take God’s primary position in my heart at various times, and the results have never been good. A particularly insidious one has been the gifts and abilities God has given me. I have failed to recognize that I have earned none of them; they are all grace. Trying to use them without submitting them to God is like using an item of electronics and never recharging it. After a while it becomes useless. I too need to be very careful I don’t fill my heart with anything less than the God who created me.
Father, thank You for this strong, clear reminder. Help me follow through in obedience, and help me communicate this truth with as many people as will receive it. Thank You for making it clear just now that this is what I am to speak on Sunday. I ask You to give me Your organization, Your words, so that it will communicate clearly, penetrating the lies of the enemy and setting people free, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!