Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - Est 9:10
And so, when the day came, the Jews rose up against their
enemies, and slaughtered them before they had a chance to kill the
"...But they did not lay their hands on the plunder" (Est
9:10; cp vv 15,16).
...Even though they had been given permission to do so (Est
8:11). This refraining from the spoils would illustrate that their interest was
not in material gain (as was Haman's: Est 3:9,11,13 -- and Saul's: 1Sa
15:3,19!), but merely in preserving their lives and showing forth the glory of
the God of Israel.
The deliberate decision not to enrich themselves at the
expense of their enemies would not go unnoticed in a culture where victors were
expected to take the spoil. The very novelty of such self-denial would be
remarked upon and remembered, and taken as proof of the upright motives of the
Compare the example of Abraham, who after winning a battle and
being offered spoils by the king of Sodom, protested: "I will accept nothing
belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will
never be able to say, 'I made Abram rich' " (Gen 14:23).
Reading 2 - Jonah
Why Jonah?: Of what significance was Jonah? Why would Jesus
choose this rather obscure prophet as the only sign that he was Messiah? He
tells them (and us): "As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a
huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of
the earth" (Mat 12:40).
Jonah was God's sign to the Ninevites of Assyria, a people who
weren't serving Him. If Jonah had not gone to Nineveh, how would its citizens
have heard God's message? By the LORD's insistence, it was clear that this task
belonged only to Jonah.
We must assume that God had a special purpose in ordering the
evangelizing of one of Israel's enemies. If Nineveh, hearing the word of God,
repented through fear of the judgment of heaven, then perhaps wayward Israel
would be persuaded to take notice and follow their example, thus saving itself
also from the wrath of God.
But Jonah tried to get out of his divinely-appointed task. He
recognized that the growing might of Assyria was a threat to be feared. How long
would it be before that rising tide of Assyrian expansion swept south to engulf
his own land? Then why should he lift a finger or raise a voice to fend off the
violent judgment of God upon such a nation?
So, rebellious, and with a certain feeling of
self-righteousness and nationalistic pride, Jonah determined to have no part in
preaching to Nineveh. In trying to evade his commission, Jonah took a ship and
tried to flee from the presence of God (Jon 1:3). "Then the LORD sent a great
wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to
break up" (v. 4). The sailors tried in vain to save the ship. Jonah was rousted
from his sleep in the hold, and implored to explain the circumstances.
All were afraid when Jonah told them he was fleeing from his
God, but there was nothing they could do -- the ship was sinking. So after
beseeching God to forgive them, "they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and
the raging sea grew calm" (v. 15).
Jonah disappeared under the waves, went down to the bottom,
and drowned (Jon 2:5-7). "But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah,
and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights" (Jon 1:17).
No one ever expected to see him again. But "the LORD commanded
the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land" (2:10). Truly an amazing sign! But
Why Was Jonah Saved?: Jonah was not delivered from this three
days "grave" just to sit back peacefully and contemplate what had happened to
him. He was delivered from death so that he could preach to the Ninevites. And
finally (after a more circuitous and eventful journey than any other missionary
ever took!), he reached his destination and went to work.
So, simply put, the worth of Jonah as a "sign" to an
unbelieving generation was this: A man who had died was now alive! And empowered
by God to preach to the Gentiles! What a sign for Israel, the would-be "people
of God". Jesus, the man like Jonah, would be killed by them; but God would raise
him from the dead (Acts 2:22-24) -- and the gospel which he preached to them,
and which they refused, would be preached to the Gentiles (Act 2:39) -- who
would accept and repent!
That this was the intent of Jesus when citing the "sign" of
Jonah is evident in his next words -- as recorded by Matthew: Mat 12:41. And
then, as if his lesson needed reinforcing, he referred also to another notable
Gentile "conversion": Mat 12:42. Nineveh repented; Jerusalem did not. The queen
of Sheba sought wisdom; Jerusalem turned its back on the man who was the wisdom
of God personified. Truly, one greater than Jonah, and greater than Solomon, was
in their midst; and they were preparing to reject him! The sign of the prophet
Jonah was more than a man dead and buried for three days, then resurrected. It
was a contrast between the wise and the unwise, the repentant and the
unrepentant -- with warnings of destruction for those who refused to recognize
the greatest prophet of God, Jesus Christ.
Paul's Commentary: Paul deals with this same theme: the
repentance of the Gentiles as an object lesson, and as a means of provoking
Israel likewise to repent: Rom 11:13-15,24,30,31).
A Last Days Repentance: Scripture indicates that there will be
a wholesale repentance of Israel in the Last Days (Lev 26:40-42; Deu 4:30;
30:1-7; Joel 2:12-20; Jer 31:17-20; 50:4,5; Mat 23:39; Act 3:19,20; Mat 6:10;
Rev 22:17; Mat 24:22). This Last Days repentance will bring back their Messiah
to save them from the latter-day "Assyrian". The lesson from the prophet Jonah
will finally have been learned!
Reading 3 - Heb 7:26
"Such a high priest meets our need-- one who is holy,
blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens" (Heb
We are forgiven and shall be saved for Christ' sake, but HE
required no forgiveness... Christ was undefiled in mind, absolutely pure, and
therefore he required no cleansing as pertaining to the conscience at baptism,
for there never was a moment in his life when God was displeased with him; he
always did and said what pleased the Father. He only required cleansing in
nature -- which was done after resurrection.
We must be careful that the means by which all believers are
commanded to remember the Lord's death until He returns, does not become instead
a ritual, with efficacy in the object itself, by which we establish our "purity"
in a negative sense. "Negative holiness" can save no man. Neither can the
proximity of one whom we consider a "sinner", even one so close as to partake of
the same cup, endanger our "fellowship" with that one who was ever and always
the friend of "sinners", who touched lepers and lunatics, harlots and dead
bodies -- yet in the best sense was still "holy, harmless, and undefiled" (Heb