When the Worst Teach the Best
This summer at Camp Barnabas was chock-full of GodStuff, but none more pronounced than what God taught me through our daily devotionals. Camp did 4 days of devos over Jonah– one day for each chapter. Multiply that times 9 weeks of terms and I got a whole ‘lotta Jonah. You’d think for such a short book that I would have run out of material, but God had other plans. Click here to read the first, second, and third posts in the #JonahSeries?
It is no wonder that Jonah ran away from going to Niveveh. These fierce-some people were no strangers to violence- especially against Jews. Without belaboring the point, let’s just say they HATED each other- and killed each other as often as possible. God telling Jonah to go evangelize them, saying that his God- Yahweh God- was going to smite them in a few days time, was nothing if not a suicide mission. I liken it to God telling one of us to go deep into the heart of ISIS and letting them know that God (the Hebrew God) is going to wipe them away.
Ummmm… no. We’d be lucky to get past the border without being slaughtered.
And yet, in the third chapter of Jonah, after his ‘come-to-Jesus’ time in the whale, we see him doing just that. Walking steadfastly into enemy territory- to a people who hate his people, a culture who know nothing of his God, a nation of violent warriors… the worst of the worst. But Jonah proceeds. (You gotta give it to him in the courage department.) The whale spits him out on dry ground and he steps obediently across the border to enemy territory.
Can you feel your pulse quickening? Mine sure does thinking about it.
From chapter 3 verse 3-
So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
Wait… what? Back up… Just like that? The entire city believed God?
I’m confused. Anyone else?
Let’s go back to ISIS- you go in, walking at least a days journey (and I’m sure looking over your shoulder with every step- just waiting for the bullet in your back… or worse), you’re still alive and in one piece, you give the message (still alive…), these enemies of God actually listen (still alive)…. and the entire population believes you (aaaand, you’re still alive!) People this is an astounding story! Think about what it’s actually saying. A violent and depraved culture, who is ‘bad enough’ that God Himself actually takes a personal and active interest in (meditate on that for a second..), hears one man tell them one thing and they believe. They mourn, They repent. They change.
Wow. Just WOW.
How often do we children of God resist the tiny things He’s trying to correct in us. Though sin is sin is sin in His eyes, very often we’re not exactly dealing with murderers here. Our sin stands the same against the Nivevites- though I imagine ours rank a bit more bland in the sin department. And yet we push against His gentle correction. We tug at the boundaries of what is acceptable. We resist His guidance.
These Nivevites with their violence, hatred, idolatry… you name it… put us to shame too often in the obedience department. I think their utter dropping and repenting of their sins is a huge example to us- not only in their wholeheartedness but in their immediacy. They heard the word and they immediately repented- not the next day, or next week, or ‘sometime soon’- they dropped everything and repented, begging God for mercy.
They heard the word and changed.
The worst of the worst is one of the best Biblical examples I can think of to teach the ‘best’ of us. Surely if the Ninevites can surrender it all to God- in spite of their wickedness- then we as actual children of God can do the same.
If there is something God is trying to correct in you, if there is sin that needs repented of, if there is a word you’ve been given by God… hear the message and change!