I recently wrote about why Obadiah is the least popular book of the Bible, but you guys deserve more than that. You’ve seen the 10 most popular books of the Bible, now let’s look at the 10 least popular books of the Bible.
(For the purposes of this post, “least popular” = “least-read book of the Bible on BibleGateway.com”.)
Before I get into that, I think BibleGateway.com deserves a huge shoutout. Jonathan and the BibleGateway.com team have been super helpful to me. Without their data on popular books and verses, I wouldn’t have these kinds of posts.
But y’all, each has it’s story and was placed there for a reason. We call it and know it to be The Word of God, not Man!
That should get your hackles risen. In each of these books is a HUGE lesson!
Where to start?
Top of the list:
A song we may have heard before! “God sent Jonah to Nineveh! But Jonah disobeyed The LORD’s command…”
IF he had done as The LORD commanded (I should say ‘led’) would he have been half digested by a whale?
He ended up right where he refused to go! An easier way? Doing as you are led.
Yes, people might say “Did he hear a voice?” Hard to say! But we are led to do things…send in an application, make a call, share something…the list is endless…
The arguments begin!
1. How did he know it was what he was supposed to do?
Ever had a dream? Has it been recurrent? Do you pay attention to it?
It is not outlined, but something moved him to travel to Nineveh.
Oh no! “They are a bad people, they deserve whatever they get! Let me go the other way…”
Then a storm, Jonah was asleep! Asleep? Yup!
Realizing why, “Throw me into the sea!” He said! Once again “I tried to ‘run’ from this continues, incessant dream…possible had one while I was below deck.” If I remember right “If thrown in (my punishment) ALL will be right.”
Aha! You say “That is why he was sleeping!”
Kinda like when Peter was in a trance and saw the blanket being lowered with all ‘unclean’ meats…”rise up and eat” and he didn’t…beliefs are a hard thing to shake.
Jonah slept and knew when he was awoken that they throw him into the sea.
They did after refusing! ALL was calm, they believed in God.
Just as when Paul and Silas were whipped and thrown in Jail in the bowels of the prison. They gave thanks? Huh?
The Word does say “Give thanks in everything!”
Perhaps there was just one inmate that needed to hear The Word!
Arguments unfold…”Did they have to be beaten?” Remember, ALL things work together for the good of those who Love God and are called according to His purpose!
The jailer after they shared with his family and gave a KEY message “IF you believe, you AND your household will be saved.”
Huh! Remember that? Did they need to be beaten, thrown in prison? ALL things work together for the good…!
So, back to Jonah…so many lessons. Whale came and swallowed him! No oxygen! Digestive juices! No space!
“Serves him right!” You may think.
Have you ALWAYS done as you were led? Did a whale come and swallow you up?
Anyway, back to the story. He was regurgitated: half digested! On the shores of Nineveh! Was that not the place he ran from?
ALL things have a way of “adding up”! Law of arithmetic: 2+2=4.
Right where he ran from….half digested nonetheless!
Should he run again?
Uhh! This time he did exactly as God planned it! Was there an individual on that ship in the storm from which he was cast off that needed a message?
Did God not know Jonah would run?
The Creator knows us FULLY! Before a Word is at the lips it is known! Your thoughts are known!
Psalm 139 says:
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
So, God His Maker knew exactly what Jonah would do. There is a time for EVERYTHING!
Ecclesiastes 3 (read and digest.)
So, have digested skin and clothing all torn up – Jonah goes where he was sent. Guess what? Because of his look, message, story…they believed! ALL things occur for a reason.
Some say no, others yes, and a good many folks scratch their heads and answer: “I don’t know but I’d like to know.” A diligent Bible study group that has been meeting for 40 years early on Friday mornings asked me to come and address this question, one which has tickled their little gray cells and enlivened their conversation.
Let’s begin with those who say “no.” Nicholas Clairmont entitled his post: “No, Everything Does Not Happen for a Reason. Thank God for that.” He wrote: “‘Everything happens for a reason’ is my very least favorite thing for someone to say. It is bad philosophy, bad theology, bad thinking, and bad advice. It manages to combine the maximum of ignorance with the maximum of arrogance.” Veronica Neffinger, writing from a Christian perspective, quotes John Pavlovitz, who “explains that while God certainly gives our lives meaning, the idea that everything we suffer, all the horrible experiences we’ve ever endured, have a purpose and meaning is actually harmful to our Christian walk.”
Chances are we have all heard the “yes” people who express the opinion that everything does happen for a reason, often hoping what they say will comfort and console those going through seemingly senseless suffering. The “got questions” blog asks: “Is it true that everything happens for a reason?” The answer: “There are several known factors that help us to answer this question: the law of cause and effect, the law of grace, and the doctrine of providence of God. These factors demonstrate that everything does happen for a reason, not just by happenstance or by random chance.”
How do we answer this question? First, from a literal standpoint, everything does happen for a reason. There is a cause and effect, clearly seen in natural law. The “reason” for happenings may be natural, willful, medical, accidental, or providential, though we must not jump to the conclusion that everything that happens has a providential reason orchestrated or micro-managed by God!
Sometimes it is pure chance, like when a person falls off a roof (accidental) or someone contracts an infectious disease (medical). While Islamic terrorists may claim beheading Christians is “willed by Allah,” we Christians do not believe God wills such atrocities. They arise out of evil impulses fed by such sins as out-of-control anger, arrogance, passion, pride, and prejudice.
To say “everything happens for a reason” is not Scriptural. It is not a quotation from the Bible, although some people think it is. Perhaps the closest text is Romans 8:28, where the Apostle Paul writes: “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” This does not say or mean everything that happens to everyone has a reason planned or controlled by God. God works within His people and their circumstances to bring good out of even evil.
John Murray writes: “Many of the things comprised are evil in themselves and it is the marvel of God’s wisdom and grace that they, when taken in concert with the whole, are made [by God] to work for the whole.”
John MacArthur explains: “It is God’s providential power and will, not a natural synergism of circumstances and events in our lives, that causes them to work together for good.”
There are many things that do happen by random chance, real unforeseen, and unplanned accidents or incidents! Although there may have been no purpose behind what happened, no theological reason for what happened, God works within those often “unreasoned” tragic events or illnesses to bring His people through them.
As I’ve said before when tackling tough questions and concerns we must be ever so careful not to tread where angels fear to tread, not to let our own pride lead us into the missteps of Job and his friends! Job felt he had a right to know the “reason” for his overwhelming pain and suffering while his friends seemed utterly sure of the “reason” he was suffering. Both attitudes were prideful rather than faithful pursuits! We will discuss this point a little more in a follow-up article.
I have come to believe that humility is the doorway to God, while arrogance or excessive pride is a trap door through which we fall away from God! As is often visualized, Satan fell from Heaven to Hell because of his innate pride.
When Jonas spoke they listened! If he had been well dressed and spoken against the people, we might read he would have been sentenced to death!
We would have cried “What an unjust God!”
Hold up! The disciples of Jesus were all killed except John for awesome reason, not that attempts were not made. Many explanations exist. He took care of The Mother of Jesus, he wrote Revelations…
But let us take a look at the rest:
Reports and legends abound and they are not always reliable, but it is safe to say that the apostles went far and wide as heralds of the message of the risen Christ. An early legend says they cast lots and divided up the world to determine who would go where, so all could hear about Jesus. They suffered greatly for their faith and in most cases met violent deaths on account of their bold witness.
Peter and Paul
Both martyred in Rome about 66 AD, during the persecution under Emperor Nero. Paul was beheaded. Peter was crucified, upside down at his request, since he did not feel he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
went to the “land of the man-eaters,” in what is now the Soviet Union. Christians there claim him as the first to bring the gospel to their land. He also preached in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, and in Greece, where he is said to have been crucified.
was probably most active in the area east of Syria. Tradition has him preaching as far east as India, where the ancient Marthoma Christians revere him as their founder. They claim that he died there when pierced through with the spears of four soldiers.
possibly had a powerful ministry in Carthage in North Africa and then in Asia Minor, where he converted the wife of a Roman proconsul. In retaliation the proconsul had Philip arrested and cruelly put to death.
the tax collector and writer of a Gospel, ministered in Persia and Ethiopia. Some of the oldest reports say he was not martyred, while others say he was stabbed to death in Ethiopia.
had widespread missionary travels attributed to him by tradition: to India with Thomas, back to Armenia, and also to Ethiopia and Southern Arabia. There are various accounts of how he met his death as a martyr for the gospel.
the son of Alpheus, is one of at least three James referred to in the New Testament. There is some confusion as to which is which, but this James is reckoned to have ministered in Syria. The Jewish historian Josephus reported that he was stoned and then clubbed to death.
Simon the Zealot
so the story goes, ministered in Persia and was killed after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god.
was the apostle chosen to replace Judas. Tradition sends him to Syria with Andrew and to death by burning.
is the only one of the company generally thought to have died a natural death from old age. He was the leader of the church in the Ephesus area and is said to have taken care of Mary the mother of Jesus in his home. During Domitian’s persecution in the middle 90’s, he was exiled to the island of Patmos. There he is credited with writing the last book of the New Testament–the Revelation. An early Latin tradition has him escaping unhurt after being cast into boiling oil at Rome.
For Pete’s sake
The names of Jesus’ apostles have become the most common names for males in the Western world. How many do you know named John, Pete, Tom, Andy, Jim, Bart, or Phil?
At least four of the apostles were fishermen. Can this be part of the reason that one of the earliest and most prominent Christian symbols was the fish? The Greek word for fish, ichthus, formed an acrostic: Iesous Christos Theou Uios Soter, which means “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.”
After the death of the apostles, we do not find great missionary figures of the stature of Paul. Yet the faith continued to spread like wildfire — even though Christianity was declared an illegal religion.
Back to Jonah, everything happened as it was supposed to!
God again commands Jonah to travel to Nineveh and prophesy to its inhabitants. This time he goes and enters the city, crying, “In forty days Nineveh shall be overthrown.” After Jonah has walked across Nineveh, the people of Nineveh begin to believe his word and proclaim a fast.
The king of Nineveh puts on sackcloth and sits in ashes, making a proclamation which decrees fasting, the wearing of sackcloth, prayer, and repentance. God sees their repentant hearts and spares the city at that time. The entire city is humbled and broken with the people (and even the animals) in sackcloth and ashes.
Displeased by this, Jonah refers to his earlier flight to Tarshish while asserting that, since God is merciful, it was inevitable that God would turn from the threatened calamities. He then leaves the city and makes himself a shelter, waiting to see whether or not the city will be destroyed. God causes a plant (in Hebrew a kikayon) to grow over Jonah’s shelter to give him some shade from the sun. Later, God causes a worm to bite the plant’s root and it withers. Jonah, now being exposed to the full force of the sun, becomes faint and pleads for God to kill him.
And God said to Jonah: “Art thou greatly angry for the Kikayon?” And he said: “I am greatly angry, even unto death.”
And the LORD said: “Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow, which came up in a night, and perished in a night;
and should not I have pity on Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand, and also much cattle?”
—Book of Jonah, chapter 4, verses 9-11
So in summary, a story we tend to overlook full of messages!