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Issue No. 13 29 March - 3 April 2011

Why did Jonah write a book? (Jonah 1)

by Mickey Chiang

When we call someone in a group a “Jonah”, we mean that he or she brings misfortune to the group. Hardly anyone wants to be labelled a Jonah and be shunned by others.

The label originated from the prophet Jonah, a character found in the Bible. Jonah refused to obey God’s instruction: “Go to the great city Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2). This is the Jonah who “ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish” (Jonah 1:3), a city which was roughly in the opposite direction from where Nineveh was. Oooh, Jonah was rebellious. And wasn’t Jonah ignorant about the LORD and His mighty power and control over everything, not just in Israel, but also throughout the world, and the Universe?

The ship Jonah was on met a great storm and threatened to break up. Fearing for their lives, the sailors threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship so that it would not sink. They each prayed to their respective gods. And what did Jonah do? He went below deck and fell into a deep sleep. He did not care at all that the sailors and passengers might soon die in the raging sea. What an uncaring fellow Jonah was.

We can go through the whole book of Jonah in this fashion, with our eyes focussed on Jonah, as we have been doing in the paragraphs above, and the picture we get of Jonah only gets worse.

As an author of over ten books and thousands of published articles, I have to ask from a professional point of view: Why would anyone go to great expense and effort to write a book that paints himself in such a poor light from start to finish? Would you?

But what if we were focussing on the wrong person? What if Jonah meant for us to keep our eyes and minds focussed on his almighty God instead? What happens when we see God through Jonah’s eyes?

We see in the first verse, Jonah 1:1, that “The word of the LORD came to Jonah”. God had selected Jonah for a task and He knew where to find him. But didn’t God, who knows everything, know that Jonah was going to disobey him and run away? Couldn’t God have chosen a prophet who would not disobey Him? Surely God could have done so. Or was God concerned not only with sending a prophet to the sinful people of Nineveh but also with teaching and moulding Jonah at the same time? You decide.

When Jonah fled by ship towards Tarshish, God knew exactly where he was and sent a great storm to hit the ship Jonah was on. As Jonah found out, God knows where we are at any time. There is no place that we can go to hide from God.

God’s sending of a great wind tells us that God has control over the wind. He can send it wherever He wants, to blow as strongly or as gently as He wants. It will serve us well to remember this fact about the power of God.

In Jonah 1:5, we see how the frightened sailors each prayed to his own god to no avail. Their so-called gods were powerless to stop the storm that the true and living God sent. After their prayers failed, the sailors cast lots to see who on board the ship was responsible for the storm, for the wrath of God. The lot fell on Jonah. Was it by chance? No, what seems to be “chance” was actually under the control of God.

By now all the sailors knew that Jonah was the one who had brought the storm on them all. At Jonah’s insistence, they finally threw him overboard. Jonah would rather die than obey God. Did Jonah have his way?

Well, “The LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and he was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17). Our God is so great that He is able to command creatures to do His will. God kept Jonah alive inside the fish. He did not die from lack of air, nor was he digested by the digestive juices of the fish.

You may want to re-read the rest of the book that Jonah wrote about God, and see how much more you can learn about God. It is a book of theology expressed through interesting narrative.

Chapel Summary

One of BGST’s Grad Dip CS student, Angelo Tirhas, shared with us from Luke 23:33-42, a passage that gives the account of the two criminals who were crucified beside Jesus. His reflection of the passage centered on the contrasting attitudes of the two criminals. According to Angelo, these attitudes revolve around the issue of the fear of God. The first criminal stood on the side of the crowds who mocked Jesus, while the second stood on the side of those who know what it means to fear God. In the words of the second criminal to the first: “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?” (v40).

Reflecting on the significance of the Biblical theme of the fear of God, Angelo observed that this theme is frequently coupled with wisdom and knowledge in the Bible. However, in the present climate where the voice of militant atheists can be heard and is often received positively, the very opposite seems to be conveyed: “The fear of God is the beginning of all foolishness!” He issued a timely reminder that death is the equalizer of all men and confessed that he would be severely fearful at death if God did not exists.

Personalizing the words of the criminal, Angelo concluded his reflection by applying the theme of the fear of God to Christians: “Do I not fear God, since I should be under the same sentence?” This is a relevant and significant question for Christians. It needs to be taken seriously precisely because of the great love that has already been shown to us in the substitutionary death of Christ on our behalf.

Please note that there will be no chapel on 30th March 2011.

Rev Yap Wai Keong, Senior Pastor of Glory Presbyterian Church, will be our chapel speaker on 6 April and he will be speaking on the "Tripartite Relationship in Ministry" from Phil 2:25-30.

Installation of New Principal: An Invitation

The Council and Faculty of the Biblical Graduate School of Theology have pleasure in inviting all supporters and friends to the installation of Dr Philip Satterthwaite as Principal on 30th March 2011, 8.00 p.m. at Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church, 77 Prinsep Street. The exhortation will be delivered by Rev. Dr Ridge Orr, Moderator of Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church.

The invitation can be found online: http://bgst.edu.sg/media/files/invitation/installation-service.pdf.

Faculty News
On Tuesday 29th March (8.00 - 10.00 p.m.) Dr Satterthwaite continues his series on the Book of Isaiah at Barker Road Methodist Church with a session on Isaiah 40-55.
Library and Book Shop Assistant

We have immediate opening for the post of Library and Bookshop Assistant (part-time).
He / She should :

  • be able to work some evenings and Saturdays;
  • have good computer / IT skills;
  • be able to work independently and with others;
  • have"A' level or above qualification.

Interested applicants may send their resume to lib@bgst.edu.sg.

Course Commencing

THEOLOGICAL STUDIES
The Christian Spirit
(TS251, 3cr); (Group Tutorial) by Prof James Houston /
Tutor: Mr John Chong Ser Choon;
Apr 5, 12, 19, May 3, 10, 24, 31, June 7; (Tue 7.30-9.30pm)
Venue: Telok Ayer CMC, 235 Telok Ayer Street

COUNSELLING & APPLIED THEOLOGY
Contemporary Issues Facing Counsellors Today
(CO241, 1.5cr);
Mar 28, Apr 4, 11, 18, 25; (Mon 7.15-9.45pm)
Venue: Zion Bishan BP Church, 4 Bishan Street 13
Lecturer: Dr Danny Goh

The course schedule for Semester I, year 2011-2012 is now available.
For more information, please visit our website: http://bgst.edu.sg/courses-and-events
TENT
TENT
Tentmakers Equipping 'N' Training

Biblical Basis for Tentmaking Mission
Tues. May 24 & 31; 2011 (7.20-10.00pm)
Facilitator: Mrs Leong King Teng

Theology of Work
Tues. Jun 7, 14 & 21; 2011 (7.20-10.00pm)
Facilitator: Dr Toh See Kiat

Understanding Culture & Country Profile Studies
Tues. Jul 5, 12, 19 & 26; 2011 (7.20-10.00pm)
Facilitators: Dr Ng Peh Cheng & Miss Valerie Lim

Religions of Asia
Tues. Aug 2, 16 & 23; 2011 (7.20-10.00pm)
Facilitator: Dr Jeanette Hui

Personal Ministry Skills: Practical Considerations for a Tentmaker's Ministry
Tues. Sept 6, 13 & 20; 2011 (7.20-10.00pm)
Facilitator: Mr Toh Kai Hua

Tentmakers & Ethical Issues
Sat. Oct 8 & 15; 2011 (9.30-11.30am; 12.00-2.00pm)
Facilitator: A Former Singaporean Tentmaker

Coping with Stress
Tues. Oct 11, 18 & 25; 2011 (7.20-10.00pm)
Facilitator: Mr Yam Keng Mun

All TENT courses will be held at 37 Jalan Pemimpin, #06-05 Blk B Clarus Centre (former Union Industrial Building)

For more information on TENT courses, please visit our website: http://www.bgst.edu.sg/courses-and-events/tent

Church-Based Lay Training Modules
2011 Modules offered at
Yishun Christian Church (Anglican)

What Do We Do With Four Gospels?
Wed. April 27, May 4, 11, 18 (7.30-9.30pm)
Lecturer: Mr Quek Tze-Ming

Reformation Theology: Its Significance & Relevance for Christians Today
Wed. Jul 6, 13, 20, 27 (7.30-9.30pm)
Lecturer: Dr Edwin Tay

The Message of the Song of Songs
Wed. Sep 7, 14, 21, 28 (7.30-9.30pm)
Lecturer: Dr Philip Satterthwaite

2011 Modules offered at
Mt Carmel Bible-Presbyterian Church

Dynamics Of Counselling: People Skills To Connect And Support
Thu. April 28, May 5, 12, 19 (7.30-9.30pm)
Lecturer: Mr Yam Keng Mun

The Message of the Song of Songs
Thu. Jul 7, 14, 21, 28 (7.30-9.30pm)
Lecturer: Dr Philip Satterthwaite

Beginnings: Opening the Gospels
Thu. Sep 1, 8, 15, 22 (7.30-9.30pm)
Lecturer: Mr Quek Tze-Ming

For details about the modules & registrations, please visit:
http://www.bgst.edu.sg/courses-and-events/church-based-lay-training

or contact
 Biblical Graduate School of Theology
Tel: 6227 6815 Fax: 6227 6816

Email: cblt-ycca@bgst.edu.sg (Yishun Christian Church)
cblt-mcbpc@bgst.edu.sg (Mt Carmel BP Church)

37 Jalan Pemimpin, #06-05 Block B, Union Industrial Building S(577177).
Tel: 6227-6815 Fax: 6255-3686 Email: bgst@pacific.net.sg
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