Friday, March 21, 2008

Love the Ninevites, Hate the Nincompoops?

“The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.” Matthew 12:41.

When Jonah finally reached the Assyrian capital of Nineveh (near present-day Mosul, Iraq) to preach “Repent or die,” he hoped his mission would fail. Trouble was, after all his own sneaking around, he had a sneaking suspicion it wouldn’t. He could tell God really wanted him to deliver that message, and that must mean that it just might work.

Soon even Nineveh’s king had swapped his royal robes for sackcloth and ashes, commanding commoner and cattle alike to do the same. “Let everyone call urgently on God,” he said. “Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

When Jonah saw them tearing their robes in repentance, he just about tore his hair out. He sat outside the city to watch the fireworks and brimstone, but . . . nothing.

“I knew it,” Jonah wailed. “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”

Jonah resented the idea that God could cherish people who barely even knew His teachings. Yet God meets people where they are, which is why many people who've never heard of Jesus will find themselves in heaven too.

God accepted the Ninevites’ repentance and relationship with Him as genuine, even though they never became Seventh-day Assyrians. God had knocked on the door of their hearts, and they had answered. And thanks to Jonah, God’s promise to Abraham was partly fulfilled: “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed” (Genesis 22:18).

The Holy Spirit speaks to each and every one of us, and the fruits we bear show whether or not we’d be happy in heaven. For "If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him." (1 John 2:29)

The last thing Jonah wanted to do was help save his enemy the Assyrians. Going to Nineveh, he discovered that sometimes, the soul you save may be your own.


Post a Comment