Three Days in a Whale and a Tomb, and Nine Months in a Womb
29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
– Luke 11:29–32 ESV
Many people believe that God should give them a sign or a miracle before they will believe in Him. They claim to be the supporters of science: advocates of the principle that if something can’t be detected by the senses it must not exist. But, as a pastor, I find this attitude is often a cover — the “scientific person” has a bigger problem — he has a sin that he doesn’t want to give up!
This attitude was prevalent in Jesus’ day too, but our Lord told those first-century doubters that they would be given only one sign — the sign of Jonah. But what did He mean by that? Well, if you remember the story, Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days, just as Jesus was in the tomb for three days. So, through the story of Jonah, Jesus revealed that they would only receive one more sign: the passion, death and, after three days, the resurrection of God’s son.
This sign demands a response. Like the Ninevites, we are also being called to repent, to give up the sins we tenaciously hang on to, and to follow one much greater than Jonah, the Risen One, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
If you think about it, the whale protected Jonah from drowning, and the tomb protected Jesus’ body from harm. A mother’s womb does the same thing, it protects a child from danger as it grows to full term. But sadly, today the womb is one of the most dangerous places a person can be. According to Planned Parenthood’s research arm, about 18% of all children in the womb are aborted. So instead of being a place of life and refuge, the womb is, in many instances, a place of violence and death.
So, what’s the answer? Well, it’s repentance. When the whale spat Noah onto the shore, he returned to Ninevah and preached repentance to the people as God had commanded. The Ninevites then confessed their sins, putting on sackcloth and ashes. They turned from their evil ways and their violence, and called upon the Lord.
As a nation, we also need to confess our sin — the sin of violence that is abortion. This confession needs to address the root of this violence, which is our own selfishness. We need to repent of our self-centeredness that says “I’m not ready to be a parent,” or “I didn’t plan for this” and instead say, “I am sorry for always thinking about myself, Lord,” and then create an attitude of “Thy will be done.”
Prayer: Lord, we know that you love every human being from conception to the end of life. Help us to see through your eyes, loving everyone and protecting them as you were protected in the tomb. May we always cherish your creation of human life and persistently work to protect it. Amen.
Pro-Life Action: Your local pregnancy center may need an ultrasound to show young mothers that they actually have a child living within them. Over 90% of women who see their child on an ultrasound do not abort. Contact your local center to see if you can start a fundraising campaign. You can find your local center by calling the Option Line at 1-800-712-4357.
Today’s devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Dennis R. Di Mauro, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Warrenton, VA and professor at St. Paul Lutheran Seminary.
This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.
As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.
Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.
Joshua 19:1–31 (ESV)
The Inheritance for Simeon
19 The second lot came out for Simeon, for the tribe of the people of Simeon, according to their clans, and their inheritance was in the midst of the inheritance of the people of Judah. 2 And they had for their inheritance Beersheba, Sheba, Moladah, 3 Hazar-shual, Balah, Ezem, 4 Eltolad, Bethul, Hormah, 5 Ziklag, Beth-marcaboth, Hazar-susah, 6 Beth-lebaoth, and Sharuhen—thirteen cities with their villages; 7 Ain, Rimmon, Ether, and Ashan—four cities with their villages, 8 together with all the villages around these cities as far as Baalath-beer, Ramah of the Negeb. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Simeon according to their clans. 9 The inheritance of the people of Simeon formed part of the territory of the people of Judah. Because the portion of the people of Judah was too large for them, the people of Simeon obtained an inheritance in the midst of their inheritance.
The Inheritance for Zebulun
10 The third lot came up for the people of Zebulun, according to their clans. And the territory of their inheritance reached as far as Sarid. 11 Then their boundary goes up westward and on to Mareal and touches Dabbesheth, then the brook that is east of Jokneam. 12 From Sarid it goes in the other direction eastward toward the sunrise to the boundary of Chisloth-tabor. From there it goes to Daberath, then up to Japhia. 13 From there it passes along on the east toward the sunrise to Gath-hepher, to Eth-kazin, and going on to Rimmon it bends toward Neah, 14 then on the north the boundary turns about to Hannathon, and it ends at the Valley of Iphtahel; 15 and Kattath, Nahalal, Shimron, Idalah, and Bethlehem—twelve cities with their villages. 16 This is the inheritance of the people of Zebulun, according to their clans—these cities with their villages.
The Inheritance for Issachar
17 The fourth lot came out for Issachar, for the people of Issachar, according to their clans. 18 Their territory included Jezreel, Chesulloth, Shunem, 19 Hapharaim, Shion, Anaharath, 20 Rabbith, Kishion, Ebez, 21 Remeth, En-gannim, En-haddah, Beth-pazzez. 22 The boundary also touches Tabor, Shahazumah, and Beth-shemesh, and its boundary ends at the Jordan—sixteen cities with their villages. 23 This is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Issachar, according to their clans—the cities with their villages.
The Inheritance for Asher
24 The fifth lot came out for the tribe of the people of Asher according to their clans. 25 Their territory included Helkath, Hali, Beten, Achshaph, 26 Allammelech, Amad, and Mishal. On the west it touches Carmel and Shihor-libnath, 27 then it turns eastward, it goes to Beth-dagon, and touches Zebulun and the Valley of Iphtahel northward to Beth-emek and Neiel. Then it continues in the north to Cabul, 28 Ebron, Rehob, Hammon, Kanah, as far as Sidon the Great. 29 Then the boundary turns to Ramah, reaching to the fortified city of Tyre. Then the boundary turns to Hosah, and it ends at the sea; Mahalab, Achzib, 30 Ummah, Aphek and Rehob—twenty-two cities with their villages. 31 This is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Asher according to their clans—these cities with their villages.
Psalm 127 (ESV)
Unless the Lord Builds the House
127 A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.
1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Acts 5:17–42 (ESV)
The Apostles Arrested and Freed
17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, 23 “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25 And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
[Luther writes]: “It is a notorious error to believe that by a statement such as this, ‘It is not permitted to explain Scripture by one’s own spirit’ (proprio spiritu) we are called upon to put the holy Scripture aside and to direct our attention to the commentaries of men and believe them. is explanation, I maintain, is doubtlessly invented by Satan himself that by that means he might lead us far away from Scripture and into a desperate understanding of Scripture. On the contrary, this statement wants to say that Scripture is to be understood alone through that spirit by whom it is written, which spirit you can nd more present and alive nowhere than in this holy Scripture written by him. Therefore, our endeavor must be not to put aside Scripture and to direct our attention to the human writings of the Fathers, but to spend all the more and all the more persistent labor alone on the holy Scripture, all the more since there is great danger that one might understand it with his own spirit, in order that the employment of such persistent labor might overcome that danger and finally assure us of the spirit of the Scripture which can be found nowhere else but in Scripture, for ‘here he did put up his tabernacle and in the heavens (that is, the apostles), his dwelling place.’ … Or tell me if you can, who is the judge who finally decides when two statements of the Fathers contradict themselves? Here the judgment of the Scripture decides, and this cannot be done if we do not give Scripture the first place so that Scripture itself is the most certain, the most accessible, the most readily understood which interprets itself and approves, judges, and illumines all (words) of all … as Psalm 118 (119:130) says.” (76–77)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.