Sunday, January 29, 2017

TheStoryOfJonah : The Result of a Few Simple Words 3:5-10

Have you ever experienced this? Jonah's few, simple words was the birthing of true repentance in the people of Nineveh. As we reflected on the aspects of repentance in chapter 2, notice that each of these aspects appears in the Ninevites' response.

Pray to God - There certainly was prayer issued. Note that the people of Nineveh together believed in God (vs. 5). Note the decree of the king and nobles - Let everyone call urgently on God (vs. 8). There was an urgent decree for all people to pray and ask the LORD to forgive.

Accept Discipline - The  people of Nineveh certainly knew that they were close to being wiped out. Jonah's words, though simple, were a warning to them. They knew destruction was near if they did not accept the LORD's discipline. Yet, note the contrast in their acceptance. Jonah's discipline was brought on by God - these peoples' discipline was brought on by their their own actions (putting on sackcloth, fasting, etc.) which explains an interesting dynamic in discipline. I remember a story of a little girl, who knew that she had done wrong - and locked herself in her room. When her mother found her, she asked why her daughter was there, only to hear the response from her little girl that she knew she had done wrong and sent herself to her room. The people of Nineveh 'sent themselves to their room' because they knew they had displeased the LORD.

Trust in God - Again, we read the words that the Ninevite's desired to trust in God, but I can't help but wonder if there was much more that Jonah could have said to them, that would have put their hearts at ease. They said, once they had done all that they could to prove they were serious about repenting, Who knows? God may yet relent...I just can't help but see a misunderstanding here about God. God promised that he would overthrow the city in 40 days. Yet the people were given a chance, but it is clear they were not quite sure whether their actions would have been enough to appease an angry God. This is the part that we never really want to talk about, in our relating to God (and a concept that very few discuss in devotionals): Trusting in God is a fearful place to be. When we put our full trust in God, it's accepting the outcome, from the hand of a Holy God. Frankly, we have enough Old Testament knowledge to know that to put our lives in the hands of God is a very fearful and often disturbing thing to do. God is to be feared, no, He is to be greatly feared. And these people knew it. Yet, it gives us a new definition in trust, doesn't it? To trust God with the outcome is truly trusting Him, and placing ourselves at His feet to do His will, not ours. Which leads us to the next aspect.

Yielding to God - The people of Nineveh definitely yielded their lives to God. As already explained, there was an acknowledgement of their sin, and actions, on their part, to communicate that they knew they had been wayward in their actions. They proved through their actions that they believed they needed to be forgiven. Note that the actions done were from the king - he knew his city had fallen far and needed to seek the LORD - an the people of Nineveh yielded (or hoped) in the LORD, being led by his example.

Redemption - When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened (vs. 10). Just as when Jonah was in the whale, crying out to the LORD, the LORD heard his cries. What a beautiful word - relented. defines relent as

1. to soften in feeling, temper, or determination; become more mild, compassionate, or forgiving.

2. to become less severe; slacken i.e. The winds relented.

Just as the winds relent, we see here of a Holy God relenting. He could have easily seen the waywardness of the people of Nineveh and seen how 'prone to wander' they really were and judged them for it. He would have had every right to do so. But He redeemed them instead.

From the outset of this small book, we learn that this story is not about Jonah and repentance (though these definitely are themes that keep creeping up - stay tuned for more), nor is it officially about how God can give second chances, but the point of this whole dialogue (and this book) is that God is God. He is a Holy, Righteous God who is not to be toiled with - yet in our trusting Him, we can find redemption for our souls.

What fire can spread with a small, few words!

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