“This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, His one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” (John 3:16, Message)
Yesterday, I watched a Smithsonian Channel television show about how Isis terrorists’ destruction of ancient religious sites in Iraq had uncovered underground caverns which contained artifacts with carvings referencing the story of Jonah, including his ministry to the city of Nineveh.
As the Bible story goes, GOD’s commanded the Prophet Jonah to enter the city of Nineveh to proclaim coming judgment on the city because of its long history of rampant wickedness and brutality…unless the people repented. It was interesting to hear the comments of the various archeologists and theologians as they tried to harmonize the archeological record with the biblical story. I won’t replay the story here; the entirety is found in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).
I do, however, want to make this one point: Jonah really didn’t want to do what GOD asked. He went to extraordinary lengths to avoid obedience, up to and including putting the lives of others at risk. GOD’s nature of love nature sought mercy for Nineveh; Jonah, GOD’s appointed preacher, preferred judgment for Nineveh. Ultimately, he did do what he was told to do, and guess what? The Ninevites listened and took Jonah’s message to heart. The city experienced the conviction of GOD’s word and repented, avoiding wrath and destruction. Mercy won out.
Jonah’s name means “dove,” a biblical symbol for GOD’s Holy Spirit and His favor. Jonah’s divinely given role was to be GOD’s vessel, inducing conviction within the Ninevites and offering favor as a response to their repentance. How true is it that still today so many live at odds with the favor-bestowing divine image within them, sometimes even after having been gifted with GOD’s salvation, entering into relationship with Him and being blessed with His favor?
The second line of the chorus to Chicago’s 1970 song, “Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?* is “Does anyone really care?” Do we in the church really care that spiritual lostness is a damnable condition in the people we know and in the people we don’t know? Do we really care if they perish? GOD cared enough to act. One aspect of the renewal of our own minds to which Paul calls us to (Romans 12:1-2) is that we care, as well…enough to act.
If we consider Nineveh symbolic of the entire world, then many, many people in it are in deep need of repentance and GOD’s forgiveness. Without it, like the Ninevites before Jonah’s message, they are lost. Jesus came to seek and save the lost and He left us with a mandate to do the same (Matthew 28:16-20). We are called to be like Jesus who cares deeply, not like Jonah who served GOD out of compulsion.
We’re in a time like no other in recent history. Uncertainty always raises questions and many who are otherwise complacent about spiritual things often become seekers. If we really believe we have good news, let’s be ready to share it like Jesus and not prefer to hide it like Jonah.
* “Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is,” recorded by Chicago on Columbia Records, January 1969. Lyrics by Robert Lamm.
© Byron L. Hannon, 2020. All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted
For some thought-provoking insights, take a look at my “Thoughts from Others” page.