When God cries out, he also cries within – Wednesday, 1st week of Lent – Jonah 3:1-10, Luke 11:29-32
Jonah has learned a lesson between chapter 1:1 and 3:1. This time scripture tells us “The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.” The word of the Lord had to come to Jonah a second time because this reluctant prophet was on his ‘on trip’ and not ‘the trip’ to Nineveh, as God desired.
The people of Nineveh were the traditional enemies of the people of Israel. Jonah was sent by God to a hated nation to preach against their “wicked ways.” Jonah knew God all too well. If God cried out against Nineveh’s wickedness, then God was also crying within; hoping their hearts would change. At the heart of God is the desire to save and give life and if Jonah was sent to cry out on God’s behalf it meant only one thing; God desired to save and redeem even this wicked nation.
Chapter one and two tells us of Jonah’s shenanigans. From deliberately taking the wrong boat, heading in the wrong direction, begging to be thrown into the stormy sea; this ‘prophet’ did not want Nineveh to profit from God’s mercy. He would rather die than see them live. Yet Jonah foolishly took on God who had taken on the cudgels for Nineveh. Jonah’s tantrums now set aside; he finds himself swept right up the shores of Nineveh, having spent three days in the belly of a large fish.
Imagine a stinking, smelly Israelite prophet washed up on enemy shores with a five-word message (in Hebrew it is all of five words)” Forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Eight in English). It is difficult to imagine that Jonah preached his short sermon with any conviction, that he put any force into it, that he made eye contact and attempted to persuade the people. Jonah had to go to Nineveh and he had to deliver his little sermon but he certainly did not like it.
Jonah must have expected a battering for what would seem his impudence. Yet the unimaginable happens. From king to cow a fast in proclaimed, sackcloth and ashes cover a “great city” (3:3). More than one hundred and twenty thousand persons lived in Nineveh (4:11). The cry of repentance is heard from the lips of prince and pauper; and Yahweh relented. He did not destroy Nineveh.
“Forty days.” These words hint that God is not determined to destroy the city. If he were so determined, why wait forty days? Why not overthrow the city immediately? Why give these people any warning? Forty days is a grace period, an opportunity to repent, an opportunity for these people to change their behaviour, a chance for them to save themselves.
We have forty-six days this Lent, if you add the Sundays… God desires to save us, not destroy us. Go look for sack cloth and ashes……