Day 23

Nineveh

from the Lent 2016 reading plan


Jonah 3:1-10, Joel 2:13, Nahum 3:1-7, Jeremiah 18:7-10

This is part of a 7-day series on Jonah in the Lent 2016 reading plan. 

I didn’t grow up reading fantasy books. I loved biographies the most—biographies about presidents and athletes and pirates. I read some fiction too. But never any fantasy books.

One reason I couldn’t get into fantasy books was how unbelievable they seemed. Wizards and dragons and magic and goblins and elves? It just wasn’t believable to my mind.

But then I got a little older (okay, a lot older) and read The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and The Harry Potter books. And I loved them! I still read these books all the time, along with my biographies.

Why? What changed?

What drew me in was how relatable the characters were— how they reacted and how they spoke. I was able to enter into these worlds of magic because the characters in them seemed real to me.

In the Jonah story, some nearly unbelievable stuff happens. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived with this story so long that I can buy into the part about the big fish and how Jonah lived inside of it for three days. It’s pretty fantastical, I admit. But I believe it. What is hard for me to get my head around in the Jonah story is the repentance of Nineveh in chapter 3. That is really unbelievable.

Everyone repents, all the way up to the King himself. And all Jonah did was preach to them about the coming destruction of Nineveh. They fasted and put on sackcloth and ashes, even before the King told them to. Jonah preached, and the text says, “they believed God.” They believed God that they were being “evil” and needed to turn to Him. We know Jonah didn’t expect this to happen. They weren’t even part of God’s covenant people. But they took God at His word.

It still shocks me to read about it because I think I would have been far more like the Pharisees than the Ninevites.

Jesus said to the Pharisees, “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 something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:41).

You see, the Pharisees (and most of Israel for that matter) refused to hear the preaching of Jesus, the Son of God. They thought they had no need to repent when hearing His message. The people of Nineveh were a wicked people through and through, outsiders to the covenant. But when they heard Jonah’s sermon, they repented. You don’t even catch a hint of them waffling on it.

Maybe the people of Nineveh knew Jonah was right before he even spoke a word. Maybe as soon as they heard they were evil and needed to repent, they saw it as a plain truth because things were so bad—because they were so bad.

And maybe that belief is the key. Actually, we know it is. To repent, you have to believe God when He says you have a serious problem— a problem so serious that it deserves death. You have to believe, like Nineveh, that you deserve to die. You have to believe you need a rescue.

Thank God we have Christ, Who was given to rescue us from our sins.

May God give us the humility of the men of Nineveh to believe not only in our need to repent, but also in the mercy and grace of the One who forgives.

Written by Matthew B. Redmond 

Post Comments (14)

14 thoughts on "Nineveh"

  1. Isaac Jones says:

    Man has to choose to accept Christ. God does not kidnap people, He gives them a responsibility themselves to repent. God enables them to do this, and He listen to those who call on His name name, but people have a responsibility of choice.

  2. Isaac Jones says:

    God chooses what He will do based on His character, not our logic. In my logic, if God says he will bless a city or destroy a city, I would expect Him to know how that city would respond and therefore do whatever He said He would do regardless of the actions of man. However God says that He will say to one city “I will bless you”, and another “you will be destroyed” and their response to Gods word may change what He does! God is a being with personhood. He chooses what He will do and often He allows our choices to influence Him.

  3. Isaac Jones says:

    I will choose the Lord. I will seek repentance. I will tend my heart in Spirit and truth before the Lord.

  4. Isaac Jones says:

    Man has the responsibility to make a choice between repentance and obedience or evil. Man has been given the authority to choose by God who is sovereign over all.

  5. Isaac Jones says:

    Heavenly Father,
    Please give me a heart of repentance and humility. Lead me in loving the unlovable. Remind me your statutes and keep them on my heart. Gide me to truth and justice and mercy. Forgive me when I fail. You hold peace and mercy and justice in your hand, and you know my thoughts day in and day out. Fill me with your Spirit and may I produce fruits in keeping with the Spirit; amen.

  6. Brian Becker says:

    That it is Good News – but to those who will receive it.

  7. Brian Becker says:

    That he is compassionate, yet serious about our sin. He knows what that sin will do to our lives and makes no apology for his attitude towards it – just as I would make no apology for screaming out that an on-coming car was headed straight for my child who had wandered into the street.

  8. Brian Becker says:

    That humility always wins. Those that live with humility experience the favor of God, while those who choose arrogance and pride remove themselves from God’s protection.

  9. Brian Becker says:

    I’m reminded of Psalm 51. Create in me a clean heart oh God, and renew a right spirit within me…. May I stay humble and repentant and aware of my need for repentance.

  10. Patrick Shen says:

    God has wrath. Violation of his law incurs a reaction of punishment. He is just, he has to respond to sin in a action that balances the scales.

  11. Patrick Shen says:

    Man is wicked in its flesh. But we have a choice. We have the option to run towards God. If we look towards our hearts, we know what true rebellion looks like.

  12. Patrick Shen says:

    I want to always be seeking Gods heart and humbly examining all aspects under the illumination of Gods candle.

  13. Patrick Shen says:

    Jesus is the balancing of the scale. The Gracious act of sacrifice for me. Does this draw me to confession and repentance? Does it draw me into places of thankfulness, humbleness and joy? I hope so.

  14. Patrick Shen says:

    Why do I run from you Lord? And yet you relentlessly pursue me. You know my heart and yet you are faithful to speak to my faults and call me to repentance. You could leave me to my own devices and destructions. And yet you come as gentle as the rain, and bring new life to my dry heart.

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