It’s one of the few things I will fight for. I won’t negotiate, sugar-coat, or water down.
I would stake my entire life – better yet, my soul – on it:
God is always pursuing truth.
Because God is the embodiment of Truth in His being, He also desires truth for us. Truest truth. Realest real.
In fact, I would argue further that we cannot grow in our understanding of God’s love for us, without a continual commitment to what is true – about Him, about our world, and about our hearts, minds, & souls.
If love is the motivation of God’s heart, then Truth is the language in which love is spoken.
Love is the swell of music; Truth is the lyrical refrain.
Truth without love is condemnation. Love without truth is hollow, fickle, and weak.
That is why God asks that we “come and reason together” with Him about everything – “hiccups to hang-ups” - struggles, stumbles, and sins. He wants to love us in the fullness that only the truth brings.
“Surely, you desire truth in the inmost being” Psalm 51:6.
Do you know how much God desires truth in the inmost being?? Enough to slaughter His Son on a cross He never deserved, so that we could draw near by being washed in a blood that makes us white as snow. The cost of this sort of transparency before a holy God was too extravagant for our finite minds to comprehend. Yet, God keeps calling us – at times, compelling us – to lay hold of the truths that will reveal more of who He is.
My favorite example of this process of facing truth within the deepest parts of ourselves, and offering what is true of us to a God who loves us, is in the life of Jonah, because we are so often like him. Not only do we run from having to submit to a God who is shrouded in holy mystery, we also pretend our way back to God before we are willing to face the truth.
You would think after being swallowed by a whale for 3 days, Jonah would have a serious change of heart. But, no. He had a change of actions, and his words sounded as if he had a change of heart, but God knew the truth about Jonah – and He desired that Jonah would know the truth as well.
The way we “reason together” with God reveals whether we are speaking the same language as God. Are we on the side of truth-speak because we know that God loves us and has made way for us? Or, do we approach a God more like the white-washed Pharisees?
“From the belly of the whale, Jonah prayed to the Lord His God…”(Jon. 2:1). Finally, Jonah reached out to the only one who could save him. However, what did Jonah say?
He quoted Scripture. Seriously…He just regurgitated what others had prayed before (mostly David).
Now, don’t get me wrong: I am a HUGE believer in praying the Scriptures. However, Jonah’s prayer – although spiritually accurate – did not come from a contrite heart (as Jonah 4 will reveal). My point is: Jonah was using religion to appease God while also ignoring the truth of his own heart. We can say and do all the right things, and still know nothing of the love of God. We can know what the Bible says, or what our pastor says, but if we do not know our own hearts, we can forfeit truly knowing Him.
But, God was onto Jonah.
God graciously answered Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the great fish. After being spat out of the ocean, Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh. The people of Nineveh, from the greatest to the least, repented of their wicked ways, and the Lord relented of His righteous judgement upon that great city. But, God's work was far from done...
Now that God’s will had been accomplished within Nineveh, it was time for God to deal with Jonah’s heart.
The grace bestowed upon the city infuriates Jonah. Jonah laments the truth of who God is – that He is loving and gracious and kind, wanting none to perish, but all to come. The goal was the same, from the people of Nineveh to his prophet Jonah: come to me so I can show you that I am a merciful God. In the case of the Ninevites, God sent His warning of destruction through the prophet, Jonah. But in regards to the prophet, God wanted Jonah to face the truth within his own heart. For the Ninevites, the issue was ignorance of God. For Jonah, the issue was his own heart's indignation for God’s ways.
Now we see the “truth in the inmost parts” that God desires of us all:
Jonah’s 2nd prayer is very different from the prayer in the belly of the great fish. He’s angry at the God who has shown mercy to a people who Jonah deems unworthy of mercy. This has always been the truth in Jonah’s heart. Yet, Jonah’s heart is still running from God. Jonah refuses to answer God when He asks, “Do you have any right to be angry?”
Thankfully, God is still in the business of pursuing hearts. He does not let Jonah get very far.
Ignoring God's call to pursue truth in his inmost part, a sulking Jonah pitches himself a shelter outside of Nineveh. God provides a leafy shade tree, and Jonah seems to enjoy the relief. Then, God provides a worm to eat the branch, removing the shade it provided to Jonah. Additionally, God causes a scorching wind and heat to bear down upon Jonah.
And why did God do all of this?
Because “Surely God desires truth in the inmost parts”.
God wanted Jonah to come and “reason together” with Him about the plant, the whale, the ship sailing to Tarshish, the great city of Nineveh, but most of all, the unrelenting love of God that would move upon plants, worms, waves of the sea, scorching winds, and great fish in oceans deep – so that the truth of who He is, and who we are, and how He makes a way for us to know this great love, can be heard. God didn’t want regurgitated prayers or religious vows – God is not in the business of “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.” God is in the business of saving souls. And that requires more than religion or good works. It requires both truth and love.
God’s great love, that chooses to even notice a sinner like me, requires that I repeatedly face the truth within my “inmost part”, so that I may grasp my need of who God is. God’s compelling call to face these truths are a part of God loving us fully in truth. It is, after all, how we are to be saved: “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). Blessed are those who see their need of God in all the ways we have need of God so that they may be saved to the uttermost and renewed day-by-day.
I wonder the joy and fulfillment Jonah could have had in the salvation of over 600,000 souls within Nineveh if only he had first “reasoned together” with God about his own heart before he bought the ticket to Tarshish. I wonder what he would have learned about a God who would redeem those who did not deserve to be redeemed – himself included. I wonder if he would have known and experienced more fully a God who could love so deeply and intimately that He would send a prophet to preach repentance to a wicked city and orchestrate the laws of Nature to speak truth to an angry, wayward prophet.
When we “reason together” with God in His language of truth-speaking, our souls are more attuned to the melodies of His love. We fulfill His command to “Love others as I have loved you” (John 13:34) because we have heard the truth of this love and understand the truth of our needy hearts. From this place of understanding, we spread the magnanimous power of the truth of who God is and His great love for us.
I don’t want to run away from so great a love…and neither do you.