The AMI QT Devotionals from August 13-19 are provided by Pastor Barry Kang, who heads Symphony Church in Boston. Barry, a graduate of Stanford University and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Sunny (an amazing worship leader, chef, and math wizard). They are the proud parents of Caleb and Micah.
Devotional Thought for Today
“Do I care about the city?”
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
If we read God’s message to the Jewish exiles in Babylon in Jeremiah 29:1-6 and stopped there, we might think that God was telling Israel to make the most of a bad situation: “You’re going to be here for a while, so make yourself comfortable.” This, in itself, would have been bad news, especially the news that they were going to be in exile for a while. But verse 7 changes everything!
It was one thing to tell the exiles that they were going to be in Babylon longer than they expected or hoped—but now God was telling them to care about Babylon also! This was like telling Jonah to pray and work for the welfare of Ninevah, or telling Palestinians to pray and work for the welfare of Israel, or telling U.C. Berkeley grads to work for and pray for the welfare of Stanford University!
But what if God is asking us to actually care about and for people we don’t want to care about? What if He’s asking us to care for people who we may feel are like our enemies? What if He’s asking us to care for the city in which we live (assuming you live in a city)? I asked “what ifs,” but of course, these aren’t hypothetical questions—because God loves the world and He is asking us to care about the people around us!
Prayer: Father, I want to learn to pray for my city and its welfare. Show me today aspects of Your will for where I live. Teach me to love my neighbors (even the ones I don’t like) as myself and to know that in their welfare, I will also find mine. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Esther 3
Lunch Break Study
Read Jonah 4: But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”5 Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. 6 Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?
Questions to Consider
- Compare Jonah 4:2 with Exodus 34:6-7. What do you think Jonah is accusing God of, and why is Jonah so angry?
- Why do you think God grew a plant to give shade to Jonah?
- What is the lesson that God wants to teach Jonah?
- You may have noticed that Jonah repeats the description that God gives of himself, but omits “but who will by no means clear the guilty….” Jonah is accusing God of being big on grace but soft on justice. Jonah is angry that God has chosen to forgive Nineveh instead of destroying them.
- God grew the plant as a way of giving Jonah something to care for.
- God wants to teach Jonah that everything is worthy of his care and mercy. Jonah was upset when a plant that gave him shade was destroyed, but God wanted him to see how much more precious were the many people of Nineveh.
What is the state of your heart in regards to the city in which you live? What do you love? What do you hate? Are you thinking about your long-term impact? How is God asking you to pray for the city? Please journal your meditations.