Read Jonah 3:1-10
There are dreams and there are nightmares. I cannot imagine being thrown over the rail of a ship in the middle of a storm to be swallowed by a giant fish and vomited back up onto enemy territory three days later. This is no dream, it’s a nightmare, and Jonah lived it. This time he obeys God and has to walk 500 miles to Nineveh, the capital city of one of the most violent empires in history – Assyria, and spend three days walking the streets, telling everyone he sees that their homes will be destroyed by God in 40 days. His nightmare didn’t end in a pool of fish vomit. It continued.
The message to the Ninevites is one of repentance, though Jonah never says that. He only tells of a violent end to the city they love and call home. He still doesn’t want to believe God’s grace can extend to them because of the horrific acts they have done in the past. His message is destruction, but God’s message is redemption. The whole city repents and finds hope in the God of Israel. The king gives an order for every person and every animal to fast and pray and to turn from evil towards God. Even the animals. This expression proves just how wicked this city was. This phrase says sin was so rampant it effected everything, down to the smallest creature. That’s the truth about sin – it doesn’t only affect us, it reaches beyond and digs it’s claws into everything around us. We often get confused about repentance. We associate it with the idea of apology, but apology is only the beginning. The Hebrew word we translate into repent is “Teshuvah”. It’s a word that combines two concepts: Nicham – the feeling of regret or sorrow, and Shuv – to return. Nineveh felt remorse and deep regret for wht they had done, but they understood apology wasn’t enough. It was only part of the equation, now they had to return to God. The first time we see the Hebrew word “shuv” in the Bible is in Genesis 2 when God is condemning Adam for his sin. He says Adam will return (shuv) like dust to the ground. He is telling Adam that he has to die. The wages of sin is death – Romans 6:23. It is no coincidence that the same word is used in the story of Jonah. Nineveh had to die. The great city could no longer live the way it was living. God was calling them away from their sin and towards a new life with Him. And they accepted.
Jonah is a story of invitation. God invites Jonah to partner with Him in taking hope and light into one of the darkest corner of the world. Jonah’s defiance led to an invitation for the sailors. They turned to God during a storm. Jonah spends three days prophesying to Nineveh, and God invites the Ninevites into His grace. They accept His invitation and repent. The invitation was always open to Jonah. He is the only Israelite in the whole story, surely God’s grace would cover him right? But he never accepts the invitation. He never repents.
The dispels describe a Jesus who was sent with the same message. The sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes loves His message because He said the grace of God included them. The Pharisees hated his message because He said the grace of God included the sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. Their sense of entitlement actually excluded them.
Nineveh lives in us all. We have dark, violent corners in our hearts. God eagerly waits for us to return to Him, and He wants to wrap us in grace. The message of Jesus calls us to bury our dark and violent corners into the ground, to let them die, so that we can live in the wholeness and truth of Christ. He is inviting us to repent – to engage in a life of pursuing God. How will we respond? Like the sailors and Nineveh or like Jonah? Like the sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes or like the Pharisees?
- Have you been effected by the sin of those around you? How?
- How has your sin effected the people closest to you?
- What are some thoughts and actions you should turn away from?
- What are some thoughts and actions you could replace them with?
Day 6 of 8 from the 2015 Mission Discovery Devotional