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James 1:19 begins, “This you know, my beloved brethren.” In other words, the law of first fruits was well known to his readers and needed no further explanation.
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.
Why did James counsel the twelve dispersed tribes to be slow to anger? I believe the answer is found in the book of Jonah.
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 escape judgment. So he took a ship going 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 one of the first truly successful prophets 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, because he knew they would soon come to conquer Israel and deport them to other lands. Jonah 4:2 says,
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.
4 And the Lord said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”
The answer is obvious, but remained unanswered until God posed the question again in verse 9. Then Jonah responded angrily, “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 of Jonah is a biblical 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 the beast system—Fish City. In this way, Jonah represented the house of Israel and foretold the time of Israel’s dispersion among the nations. The resurrection of the lost tribes of Israel is something that Paul foresaw as well. In Romans 11:15 he referred to this event as “life from the dead.” In verse 26 he says, “all Israel will be saved.”
This is a reference to the revealing of true Israel to the world on the third day—that is, the third millennium in which we now live. If we must date this from Christ’s death, rather than from His birth, then the third millennium will begin in 2033.
Jonah was a type of Christ in both His first and second coming. By this view, Jonah was Christ, and Nineveh was the earth, where Jesus was buried and from which He rose again. When Jonah received his first calling (1:2) to preach to Nineveh, he ended up in the belly of the whale and was later vomited out. This prophesied of Christ’s death and resurrection.
When Jonah was called the second time (3:1), he preached the Word boldly, and Nineveh turned to God. So also, the second coming of Christ is not designed to destroy the world, represented by Nineveh, but to preach repentance and see success.
On still another level, we know that 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? Jonah’s patriotism got him into trouble, because he put the interests of Israel above the interests of God. He did not want the whale of Assyria to “swallow up” the house of Israel. Hosea 8:8, 9 says,
8 Israel is swallowed up; they are now among the nations like a vessel in which no one delights. 9 For they have gone up to Assyria….
In effect, Jonah tried to protect Israel from divine judgment. He became angry with God when he understood that God had spared Nineveh in order to bring judgment upon his nation.
So likewise the Church, carrying the sign of the fish, finds it difficult to accept divine judgment upon itself. As with Israel of old, most of the people do not comprehend the mind of God, nor do they believe they are doing anything wrong.
In the Bible, God takes credit for naming the stars and constellations. Psalm 147:4 says,
4 He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.
Genesis 1:14 says, “let them be for signs and for seasons,” and Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God.” The Gospel of the Stars was the original Bible given to mankind, as Moses said in Deut. 4:19. He told Israel not to worship the stars of heaven, “those which the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.” The injunction was against the misuse of the stars, not the message that they originally conveyed.
God had given all nations the truth written in the heavens, so they are, as Paul said, “without excuse.” The stars prophesied of the birth of Christ to a virgin (Virgo), foretold His death on the cross (Crux) as the Passover Lamb (Aries, the Ram).
The names of the stars prophesied of Christ’s dual nature as the Son of God and Son of Man (Centaurus), the crown that was his (Corona), and His fight with the serpent (Serpens) which appears to assault His heel. He is pictured as Orion, the coming Prince, in whose constellation is a bright star named Rigel, “the foot of him that crushes.”
We see pictured His victory (Hydra), the cup of wrath poured out (Crater), and even the birds of prey sent to devour in Revelation 19:17, 18. Pegasus pictures His second coming on the White Horse (Rev. 19:11); Aquarius prophesies the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into the mouth of the fish (Pisces).
Finally, Andromeda pictures the captive woman, the Bride of Christ, in danger of being swallowed up by Cetus, the sea monster, which is a prophetic picture of Nineveh. Christ (Perseus) comes to save her and release her as Cassiopeia, the enthroned Bride. The coming one (Bootes) is finally pictured in strength and majesty as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Leo).
God also placed two fish in the heavens called Pisces. They were bound together by a band. Zechariah 11:7 pictures the two fish as “sticks” held together by “bands.” They are Israel and Judah, whose two sticks were eventually to be reunited under one Head, Jesus Christ (Ez. 37:19).
The two fish, Israel and Judah, were bound together as brethren and yet had been separated into two nations. One fish faced North, symbolically looking to heaven, while the other swam horizontally to represent their location and ministry on the earth.
The distinction between the Church and the overcomers is pictured in the two sheepfolds, commonly known as the Big and Little Dipper (Ursa Major and Ursa Minor).
In a New Testament sense, the fish also represent the Church and the overcomers. As I explained in my book, Who is a Jew? the Church is Judah, because they consist of those who believe that Jesus Christ came to die on the cross and be raised from the dead. This was the mission of Christ in His first appearance when He was born from the tribe of Judah to be its King.
The other fish, who looks heavenward, depicts the overcomers who have faith in Christ’s second work as Joseph-Israel. This is the work of Sonship, for Gen. 49:22 says, “Joseph is a fruitful bough.” The Hebrew word for “bough” is ben, that is, “a son.” Joseph received the birthright when Reuben was disqualified (1 Chron. 5:1, 2), even though Reuben’s name means “Behold, a son.”
He comes the second time to bring about the manifestation of the sons of God (Rom. 8:19), an event which all creation awaits. It is as if the whole city of Nineveh was awaiting the manifestation of Jonah in His resurrected state. To accomplish this, God has been training believers to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), so that they do not become angry with God when they learn of the divine plan for Nineveh and the world.
Love never fails.