Imagine you are able to go back in time to Bethlehem and have the privilege of approaching the stable to kneel at the manger. Can you picture it? Can you see yourself? What are you wearing? Are your clothes spotless? Is your body clean? Do you smell good? At Advent, this is something we do: in our hearts, we approach the manger, to worship the King. And, this is good and right.
Many times, though, as we come to worship, we have manure on our shoes, and our pits stink. There are food droppings on our chest from where we've been careless in our eating. Our hair is tangled or our beards are nasty. There is crud under our nails.
The latter is a picture of our sin, our personal running from God. It dirties us up so that, when we approach His presence, we are soiled, stained, ruined, in need of salvation, in desperate need of grace.
Ann Voskamp points out that repentance "is the only way to be ushered into grace."
Repentance means literally "to turn around and go in the opposite direction". In the case of the Old Testament prophet, Jonah, it meant to cease from running from God, then turning around and going toward the pagan city of Nineveh. In our situations, it means to come to a full stop, turn around and move toward the God who chases, seeking His will in our lives.
When we move toward Him, our hands cannot bring our beloved sins with us.
No, in our turning, we must lay them down and leave them behind. Only cleansed, covered by His grace can we truly bow at His feet in worship.
Jonah not only represents us. He also pre-figures, foreshadows Christ. We read Jesus' own words in Matthew 12:40 - -
"For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish (Greek: κήτους ) three days and three nights,
so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights."
It is because of these words of the Lord that many Bible scholars believe that Jonah drowned before being swallowed up by the great fish, and that after being dead for 3 days, God resurrected him. I will not debate this point; I merely offer it for your consideration.
Whether at Advent or not, we often find ourselves drowning in life's stormy waters. We cry out, "I can't handle this!" So true. We can't. But God can. No storm of life can submerge me beyond where His goodness, mercy and grace can resurrect me!
I am so glad that God chased after Jonah. I am so glad He passionately chases after you and me. He does so ... not only that we may carry out His perfect plans, but to rescue us, to wash and restore us, to resurrect and bring us out onto dry land.
It's right there in Psalm 23:6 (The Message) - -
Your beauty and love chase after me, every day of my life.
False gods expect us to perform, to measure up. Our God comes down to us, in the form of a Baby, and He chases and chases and chases us. The Hebrew word for "chase" in verse 6 is "radaph", which means "to pursue", "to hunt down". My God, the Lover of My Soul, never gives up on me. He chases me to repentance, pursues me with His love and grace.
Stop pursuing your image of "a better life". Recognize that the Author of Abundant Life is pursuing you. Stop running. Allow yourself to be caught today.
Voskamp, Ann. The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas.