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Be slow to anger--like God

Mar 01, 2012

When Jesus was raised from the dead to fulfill the wave-sheaf offering, He became the first fruits of the overcomers. That is, He was the guarantee that because He was raised from the dead, so also would the overcomers be raised in the first resurrection.

One might say then that when the overcomers are raised, they become the first fruits of the Church that is raised later at the general resurrection. This second resurrection is the one Jesus mentioned in John 5:28-29, which is the resurrection that includes both unrighteous and righteous people--in other words, "all who are in the graves." (compare with Rev. 20:12.)

The Church, then, is like a first fruits of the rest of creation, as James 1:18 tells us. In each case, the first fruits are the precursor to the larger group and sanctify the greater harvest that is next in line to be gathered to God.

Each harvest, of course, is treated differently, as nature itself teaches us. Barley is winnowed; wheat is threshed, and the grapes are trodden under foot. So the overcomers are winnowed by the wind or Spirit of God, blowing the chaff away. The Church, or wheat company, is threshed, as Jesus describes in Luke 12:47-49, a process Paul says is being "saved yet so as through fire" (1 Cor. 3:15). The grapes (unbelievers) must be trodden under foot in order for all things to be put under His feet (1 Cor. 15:25-27).

Yet each method produces the desired fruit, whereby God receives bread and wine for His great Communion Table when all things are reconciled to Himself.

James 1:18 records no details about the first fruits, because he expects his readers to be familiar already with the law of first fruits. Verse 19 begins, "This you know, my beloved brethren." Then James continues with a new line of thought,

(19) ... But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; (20) for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

I recall the early days of my training in the wilderness (1982) when I became angry with God for mistreating me (so I believed). He told me to look up James 1:19, and when I did, He said, "You have asked a great deal of me." I realized then that I had brought these troubles upon myself by asking Him to bring me into the calling that He had for me. At the time, I did not know that God would train people first, or that the training would involve hardship and frustration. I learned then that the greater the calling, the greater the training.

Two years later, in 1984, a man gave me a word from the Lord, saying that I had been called to "a ministry of reconciliation." This was contrasted with others whose calling was one of judgment--that is, emphasizing the judgments of God upon sinners, the Church, or the nations. My calling was to look beyond judgment to see its purpose, which was to correct and restore men and nations to God.

But what was James' perspective? Why did he write these words to the twelve tribes who were dispersed abroad?

The tribes of Israel had been dispersed by the Assyrians (745-721 B.C.). Their capital city was Nineveh. Prior to their captivity, God had raised up a prophet named Jonah to preach the Word to Nineveh. Jonah apparently knew that the Assyrians would be God's agent of judgment upon Israel, and so as a good patriot, he did not want them to repent and turn to God. So he took a ship that went in the opposite direction to escape the calling of God.

God, however, called a big fish to bring him back to shore. Then Jonah received the second call to preach to Nineveh (Jonah 3:1-3). This time he obeyed, and he became the first truly successful prophet in history. The whole city of Nineveh, from the king to the very beasts of the field, put on sackcloth, and "they turned from their wicked way" (3:10).

Nineveh was spared the judgment of God, and this made Jonah angry.

(2) And he prayed to the Lord and said, "Please, Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity."

Jonah was angry because he disagreed with the extent of the love of God. Yes, prophets are people, too. (I have been trying for many years to write a book by that title.)

(4) And the Lord said, "Do you have good reason to be angry?"

The answer is obvious, but it is never answered directly. In fact, when God posed the question again in verse 9, he responded, "I have good reason to be angry, even to death." God's only response was expressed in the final verse:

(11) "And should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?"

The right hand speaks of mercy; the left hand speaks of judgment. The Assyrians did not really know the difference, for they lacked the divine perspective. Ironically, Jonah was no different, for he lacked the compassion and love that God had for non-Israelites. Jonah was concerned only with loving his own nation. He did not have a global perspective. This book is a commentary on the extent of the love of God and its outworking in the Restoration of All Things.

Nineveh speaks on two levels. First, as the "City of Fish" (nun is the Hebrew word for fish), they worshiped the fish god. The Wikipedia says,

The origin of the name Nineveh is obscure. Possibly it meant originally the seat of Ishtar, since Nina was one of the Babylonian names of that goddess. The ideogram means "house or place of fish," and was perhaps due to popular etymology (comp. Aramaic "nuna," denoting "fish").

Jonah was swallowed up by the great fish, prophesying the fact that Israel would soon be swallowed up by Fish City. Likewise, as a type of Christ, Jonah was to be swallowed up in his first calling to foreshadow the death and resurrection of Christ in His first coming. Jonah's second calling, however, was to preach the Word and cause Nineveh to turn to God. So also, the second coming of Christ is not designed to destroy the world, but to preach repentance and see success.

On the second level, the Church is also the City of Fish, for the sign of the fish was applied to the Church from the earliest days of the Church. In this regard, Jonah is not only a type of Christ, but also a type of the overcomer company, which is swallowed up by the Church. When they emerge as in resurrection, the overcomers are called to preach the Word to the Church, because they cannot comprehend the difference between their left and right hand (judgment and mercy).

The Church needs to understand the love and compassion of God, not merely for the other nations, but also for "God's enemies." God intends to save them, not destroy them. He intends to destroy His enemies by turning them into friends.

The question is this: Does this make us angry? Do we have a right to be angry at the love of God? I myself became angry in 1982 as He trained me for the ministry of Restoration. I did not understand that my name (Jones) was a form of Jonas, or Jonah, and that God was preparing me for the same type of calling that Jonah had. The only real difference is that I live in the time of the second work of Christ. So I expect to succeed. And I have been trained from the beginning not to be angry when the love of God succeeds.

Love never fails.


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Dr. Stephen Jones


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