Devotional 188: So the People of Nineveh Believed G-d.

Jonah 3:1-10

Jonah Preaches at Nineveh

3 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, [a]a three-day journey in extent. And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

The People of Nineveh Believe

So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying,

Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?

10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

As believers we must not mistake mercy for permission. The reluctant, rebellious prophet who went in the opposite of G-d’s direction, even in his disobedience, was made to point people to the Father.

The mariners, to their credit, did not immediately wish to throw Jonah overboard. Surely in such seas, as far as they knew, Jonah was going to drown.

Still, Jonah’s rebellion was so strong that it forced them to find out through pagan means why their voyage was placed in holy peril. Fortunately, G-d was merciful to them in their innocence of Jonah’s crime.

When they did as Jonah requested, and the sea began to calm down, the power of G-d was seen in the natural to the point where the sailors took oaths and made a sacrifice; whether they maintained those oaths is not known, but in the moment, they knew who the true ruler of the seas was, despite whatever other gods they sought in their native prayers. The power of the G-d was revealed to them in the natural world.

In Nineveh, which deal violently with the prophets of its day, Jonah’s prophecy was short, but it says that he cried out. There was no meeting or gathering for him to preach to an assembly as such.

He cried out, and the important distinction here is that they did not spurn Jonah, but they believed G-d. How did a land so sinful come so quickly to a collective mode of repentance, from the greatest to the least, and even among the animals?

G-d imbued the words with the power of His Spirit, so that it penetrated every heart. Given the short time the Ninevites had, there was no time for a process, or for anyone to think about whether or not they wanted to repent; the power of G-d’s Word proclaimed by Jonah was such that none could refute it. The power of the Spirit-filled word had to pierce hearts and unstop ears that before had been resistant to the Father’s mercy. A disobedient rebel was used to convert the hearts and minds of disobedient rebels, and put a right spirit within them.

Jesus told His disciples such: (Luke 12:11)

11 “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. 12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

And although Nineveh eventually fell because they failed to pass along the values of faith, repentance, and obedience, we have an example of the Father withholding his punishment for those who willing to do His will and live under His covenant of grace, including Jonah, who was actually angry that G-d followed His word and did not destroy the land.

Let’s note then, that although the prophet still desired in his heart to see the city destroyed despite his prophecy, the Lord provided for him until he could see mercy manifested on people he believed the worst of sinners.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

As You have revealed Yourself to us by the power of the blood of Your Son, and called us to also minister to a faithless, mocking, wicked, and adulterous generation while dealing with our own doubt, reluctance, and rebellion, we ask that You also imbue our words and deeds with the power of the Spirit, so that You are revealed to those we tell about you.

May it be so in the natural, as it was with the pagan mariners, and in the spiritual, as it was with the Ninevites.

We ask also for the Spirit’s discernment, that we not cover Your truth in the veil of our politics and self-righteousness, for all fall short of Your glory, and none are blameless before the throne save through the power of Calvary’s atoning work. Forgive us if we have done so, and bring it to mind if we backslide the next time we speak of the goodness of Your Name among those we have been called to prophesy and evangelize.

We thank You also, Father, for protecting and providing for us, that we may see Your mercy manifested among the worst of sinners so that they glorify You and bear more of salvation’s fruit in Jesus’ name.

May Your words be sealed to my spirit, now and forever.

Amen.

Devotional 99: When the Lord Relents

Jonah 1:10-16

Jonah Thrown into the Sea

10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. 11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”—for the sea was growing more tempestuous.

12 And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.”

13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they cried out to the Lord and said, “We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows.

Whenever the story of Jonah is preached, we focus on Jonah’s disobedience from the command of the Lord, for he was one of the Chosen, called and sent by G-d to preach to the most murderous, heathen nation in the known world.

Jonah did not want them to hear the Word of the Lord, because G-d had called them to repentance and he didn’t want them forgiven, so he ran.

G-d could have sent someone else and cut Jonah from the fold, but He didn’t. As Jonah thought he could hide and take a ship to go the opposite direction, G-d stirred up the sea, and Jonah confessed, but look at what happened:  Jonah told them how to calm the storm, but they too, relied on their earthly knowledge and tried to row to land anyway.

Through his disobedience, Jonah recognized that innocent people, sailors who had no knowledge of G-d, were going to die, but when he told them how to remedy their situation and get out of danger, they disobeyed Jonah until they realized this was not a race they were going to win.

Our flesh and spirit war the same within us; the flesh rages to fulfill itself, and the commands of the Lord are dropped into the midst of it, quietly: a verse, an admonition, a ‘chance’ encounter, all signs that we can read and know. It is a goad against that which will cause us to sin, but we press on toward gratification of our own desires, hurting our souls and grieving the Spirit in the process.

And Satan smiles…

It is when we come back emptied of our pride, and convicted of our wrong, that we go up to our mountains, into our prayer closets, open our Bibles, return to church, and confess ourselves to other believers, or just to Jesus, and cry out that the Lord not hold our rebellion against us.

And in His mercy,  by His grace, and through His Son’s atoning work on Calvary, we are given another chance to get it right, and we go back to doing that which we were called.

As the Lord admonished his reluctant Apostle, (Acts 9:5)

 “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Iis hard for you to kick against the goads.”

All the resistance, the arresting of believers, the self-righteousness of an overachieving Pharisee who’s reputation struck fear in the hearts of Christians, was only preparation for the most widespread messages of deliverance outside of Christ Himself in the known world of the day, and down through the ages.

We use the phrases ”In G-d’s time, ” and “In His own way,” but there are times we don’t like either, and we rush forward too far, or delay too long. It is then the seas rise up, and we feel the goads prodding us back into the fold. But we only hurt ourselves, and sometimes those around us, when we do this.

Let us be reminded that G-d is sovereign: it is His plan, in His time, the silver and gold is His, and also what it says in Psalm 24:1

The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.

There is no hiding place, so let’s set aside the needless burden and stop delaying to repent, or indeed, as Christ said, ‘Sin no more,’  and get on with the Lord’s work. We will not be rewarded for sin; G-d isn’t winking at it, nor is He ‘letting it slide’ because it’s popular and legal in the eyes of a weak, confused, hard-hearted, broken, prideful, rebellious humanity that says nothing is wrong with anyone, and nothing needs to be repented for, and hell, and even G-d, do not exist.

For those who loosely subscribe, the G-d of love they want to embrace to excuse their sin is also a G-d of judgment who will not, but they ignore the day of the Lord’s vengeance to their peril. As believers we are to scatter our seeds, and let our peace settle or return to us by the will and power of our Heavenly Father, until He tells us we’re finished, and calls us home.

Therefore I pray:

I confess that I have delayed my calling, carried my burdens too long, because they allowed me to lick the wounds of my anger and point at those who wronged me, that I might not forgive them and do good to them, be kind to them, love them, and tell them about You lest they turn to You and be forgiven also.

I fooled myself into thinking I alone was worthy of favor, love, and mercy, and that only those who’ve already gone through their own fires of faith are also worthy of the kingdom.

The mocking, leering, abusive, blaspheming, faithless unbelievers we would just as soon leave to the storms and the outer darkness make us afraid and have no part with us. 

Father, I thank you that our prideful, self-righteous hearts don’t make the final call; we would foolishly pluck the wheat up with the tares, and burn it all in the fire in our uncertainty, then realize we’re going to starve to death.

Forgive me for the times my stumbling rebellion put others at risk because I ignored the Spirit’s voice, and caused them to not do what was right.

In the end, Jonah brought these men to You also when they saw You calm the sea after they were obedient, and then he went on to do the work You called him to in Nineveh, among a heathen people that loved all things worldly, and loved You not at all.

Let my work also bear double fruit, as a matter of letting unbelievers see Your works, even through my moments of repentance from having my own way, coming to recognize that there is no ‘my’ way. 

Let me continue to honor You in the work You’ve called me to do, without burden, without question, and without delay.

May it be done to me as You have said.

Amen