Nineveh was a great city situated on the outskirts of what is now Mosul, Iraq … prosperous, arrogant, mighty, victorious, cruel, evil, beautiful, wicked, idolatrous, flourishing capital of the Assyrian empire.
America is still a great nation. Prosperous, arrogant, mighty and has been victorious over evil.
The Bible depicts Nineveh as a wicked city that is worthy of destruction. America has left her christian roots and has become a nation that many say is worthy of destruction. Is it?
God wanted to show mercy on Nineveh not because He overlooked their sin, arrogance, pride, cruelty … but because He is a merciful compassionate God and desired to give them an opportunity to repent.
Who is God sending to America today? You? Me?
The tears came unbidden and totally unexpected. We were there for an evening of relaxation with friends and to view the Sight & Sound production of “Jonah”. Awesome staging, beautiful costumes, incredible voices, fabulous depiction of Jonah’s call and Nineveh’s repentance. The second half brought a whammy to me … Nineveh could be America! The parallels were startling and not lost on me but who could be/would be Jonah? And would America repent? She has certainly had opportunity!
As we left the auditorium I could not talk because my tears were so heavy.
God speaks to Jonah and Jonah rebels! God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and cry against the city “for their evil has come up before Me” but Jonah does not want to obey God. He wants to see Nineveh destroyed! Has God spoken to me, to you regarding the evil of America? Do we want to see the wicked destroyed?
So Jonah runs away except you can’t run away from God! Two times we read that Jonah ran from the presence of God.
God doesn’t let us get away from His calling on our life and God is going to get Jonah’s attention! Jonah runs in the opposite direction, ends up on a boat, he goes to sleep and a storm comes up. The sailors are throwing their cargo overboard trying to lighten the load and when that doesn’t help they begin crying out to their gods for help. No help comes. Then they find Jonah, shake him awake and ask him to pray to his God … “that we may not perish” (1:6). As the church of God, are we asleep on the job? Are we running away from His calling? Are we concerned about those that are perishing without God?
The sailors begin to question him, “Who are you? What is your occupation? Where are you from?” Jonah admits who he is and that he is a believer in the God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land. Now the sailors are afraid and question him, “What have you done?”. They knew he was running from the presence of God. The world is questioning us … “who are you?” Is the world seeing the compassion and mercy of God that we proclaim? Are they seeing that we believe in the very Presence of God?
Jonah claims to fear the Lord but his actions belie the fact! Jonah takes the blame for the storm (Is America in the shape it is because the church has not been faithful to her calling?) because he knows he is guilty of running from God’s call. “If My people who are called by My name …”
The pagan sailors call out to God, throw Jonah overboard (judgment in the house of God), the storm stills and they turn to God but Jonah sinks into the sea where God prepared a great fish to swallow him!
It has always amazed me that it took THREE days for Jonah to repent! Three days wrapped in slimy seaweed, wallowing in sea water and who knows what else! Stinky. Smelly.
Finally 2:1 Jonah prays and the fish got a belly ache … no wonder the fish finally vomited Jonah onto dry land! Oh the mercy of God! How long will it take for us as God’s people to repent?
Interesting fact however … he thanked God for his deliverance but still didn’t tell God he would go to Nineveh! Still didn’t pray for the unbelievers! Just a little bit selfish there I think! Jonah had not done ANYTHING to deserve God’s mercy or his rescue … it was by God’s grace and mercy alone!
Chapter three starts out with God’s voice once again coming to Jonah “a second time”. God was determined that Jonah obey and that Nineveh get the message of coming destruction despite Jonah’s reluctance to do so. Is God wanting to use me, to use you, to get His Word to the people in America that destruction is coming unless America repents?
Jonah finally set out for Nineveh but his message was not one of grace or mercy … it was a message of judgment … in 40 days Nineveh would be destroyed!
Nineveh (America) as wicked as it was/is is important to God. He wanted to show compassion and mercy. God was giving them 40 days to repent (although the threat sounds unconditional a condition is implied. In Jeremiah 18:7,8, the Lord says, “If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.”)
God will relent IF His people humble themselves and pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways THEN He will hear from heaven, will forgive their sins and restore their land. THIS IS GOD’S PROMISE!! II Chronicles 7:14.
Jonah knew God’s heart was for mercy but he did not want Nineveh to experience it. Jonah has not expressed any concern that people would perish … but the heathen expressed concern! (1:6, 14 and 3:9)
Despite Jonah’s reluctance he obeyed God, went to Nineveh and cried out about the coming judgment. Unlikely as it seems, the people believed him and repented in sackcloth and ashes! When God saw their repentance and how they turned from their evil ways, God relented of the disaster and did bring about their destruction. Are we obeying God out of our love for Him and to see people saved or are we reluctantly obeying because that is what we are supposed to do? Are we wanting to see disaster on those that are against God or are we praying and telling them about God’s compassionate love?
I will admit to praying for judgment on some of the ungodly! And there are times in scripture that we are admonished to do so. But this story gives us a true glimpse of God’s compassionate mercy. Jonah WANTED them to be destroyed … God WANTED them to repent. Jonah didn’t want them to experience God even though he knew God was gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and would relent from sending disaster IF they would repent of their evil ways and turn to Him.
Are our preachers and pastors (and ALL of us) speaking out about the wickedness in our land or are we just preaching/talking platitudes, good vibes, good intentions, prosperity, God loves us all no matter what? Or are we telling the truth that God HATES evil and LOVES righteousness?
So now as we close this story … Jonah is mad at God and just wants to die! It’s hot and Jonah is miserable. He goes out and sits sulking outside the city and makes a little shady shelter for himself while he waits to see if maybe God will destroy the city (as he is hoping!). But his shelter withers in the heat and the Lord miraculously arranged for a vine to grow up quickly for shade. Jonah is grateful for God’s goodness to him. BUT God also prepared a worm that came in the night and caused the vine to wither and die. Now the sun and a strong east hot wind came along, Jonah grows faint and again wishes to die. Have you ever been in this state? “God I’m mad because I wanted to see the wicked punished! I wanted it done my way! I’m embarrassed now because I said it would happen and it didn’t, now I look like a fool, please just let me die!”
Jonah was still angry at God. Angry that He showed mercy to the Ninevites and now angry that his shade disappeared!
Look how the story ends by reading out of the Living Bible, 4:10-11, “Then the Lord said, ‘You feel sorry for yourself when your shelter is destroyed, though you did no work to put it there, and it is, at best, short-lived. And why shouldn’t I feel sorry for a great city like Nineveh with its 120,000 people in utter spiritual darkness, and all its cattle?’”
How are we reacting to what is happening in America today? Yes, we don’t like to see our cities, our constitution, our way of life being destroyed … but are we more concerned about that or are we concerned about those that are in utter spiritual darkness … those that God loves and wants to see them repent and receive His forgiveness and salvation?
How many days do we have left? 40? 39? 27? 10? 5? 1?
The question stands … Can America be the next Nineveh?