Thursday 16 August 2012 -- #236
[We continue with our discussion of the mission statement of Jesus in Luke 4:18, "To set at liberty those who are oppressed."]
Let's examine self-oppression a little more. While training for the ministry years ago, I worked in a large electrical and automobile wholesaler in the city of Perth, Western Australia, owned by Jewish folk. One of my tasks there was to do half the payroll of that organisation. I had two hundred people to look after and I had to work out their salaries. This was in the good old days when we did not have computers and we did everything by hand. The Jewish owners did not supply calculators or adding machines, so I had to add the records up in my head.
We had a grumpy old company secretary who vetted the weekly time cards of the people who had any time off, and he alone made the decision as to whether they were to be paid or not. On the cards I had to write their reason for not being at work. If they had a doctor's certificate, they would be paid, but sometimes they just took a day off. And so often during the summer months, the reason that they couldn't come to work was because they got sunburnt over the weekend. And this man always wrote across the cards "self-inflicted wound, do not pay."
That's a great illustration of self-oppression. There's no sense saying, "I didn't intend to get sunburnt" because you could put on suntan lotion while you enjoyed the warmth. And so often people thought that their troubles were because of the sun, whereas in reality their troubles were because of the way they handled the situation. So in many respects that old man was right. It was a self-inflicted wound. Many of our troubles as Christian believers whom Jesus came to set at liberty are with this self-inflicted oppression. He came to set you at liberty if you are oppressing or depressing yourself in any way.
In the record in the book of Jonah, God said to him, "I want you to go to the city of Nineveh and tell those people that I am going to destroy their city if they don't repent." But Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord to Tarshish, in the opposite direction from Nineveh. That is a formula for self-inflicted problems. If God says to me to go in a certain direction, I know if I'm going in that direction, I will have God's will and blessing on my life. But if God says don't do that, and I go ahead and do it, then I'm going to get some problems whether I like the theology or not, because I'm going against what God has laid down as being the best for my life.
So Jonah paid the fare, went down into the ship and thought "If I take this ship in the opposite direction, then the Lord won't know where I am." Then a great storm came up and the people on board wanted to know who was out of the will of God. Heathen people said, "Somebody here must be out of the will of God because of this storm." And so they cast lots and it says the lot fell upon Jonah. That kind of flattened him because even by having a democratic vote he was found out! I think God rigged the vote. The people said, "Why are you doing this to us? Who are you, where have you come from?" And he said, "Well, God told me to go to Nineveh but I want to go to Tarshish instead." And they said, "How could you do that to us?" And he said, "You've only got one solution, throw me overboard."
They did not want to kill anybody, so they kept trying to sail through this storm, but it got worse and worse and they finally had to say, "Okay, let's throw him overboard. If that will stop the storm, let's do it." So they throw him overboard and he was swallowed up by a great fish. It does not say it was a whale. So Jonah finishes up having to pray with seaweed wrapped around his head in the belly of the fish. Finally when he made his peace with God, the fish vomited him up onto dry land and the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, "Arise, go to Nineveh." What a wonderful illustration of a self-inflicted wound, of self-oppression.
Let's rejoice that we now have the wisdom of the Word of God to look back over dreary days and say, "I know better than that. I don't have to go down that road because Jesus Christ came to set at liberty those who are oppressed." Or as the reference in Isaiah 61 says, Jesus Christ came "to open up the vision of those who are bound." That is part of the gospel, that is part of what Jesus Christ came to do. So you don't need to be oppressed by Satan and you don't need to oppress yourself, because God loves you, God wants nothing but the best for you. Why don't you try God's way and give God the glory for success in your life.
-- Peter Wade [To be continued]