Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Something About Jonah, Part 3

Read part 1 here, part 2 here

Jonah Chapter 3; Jonah Goes to Nineveh Scripture in red, my commentary in blue.
1Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

3Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city—a visit required three days. 4On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”

Preaching a message of doom. Wow. Is that an easy assignment for any of us? Would we want to go out into our neighborhood with a bullhorn, preaching repentance? What are some of the consequences, potentially? 
We would be ridiculed. Our house would be toilet-papered, rocks thrown in our windows, or worse. No one would speak to us, henceforth, but they would watch us closely, looking for any reason to call us hypocrites. Our children would be ostracized.
We are called to share our faith, to make disciples of all nations...or neighborhoods. This isn't an assignment we can ignore, any more than Jonah could ignore the command to preach repentance to an evil nation. 
Just last week I felt an incredible pull to go down the street and give a dinner invitation to a neighbor and her seven-year-old grandson (the one who lost his mother as a one-year-old baby. This grandma has custody of him). Previously I had gone down to properly introduce myself and let her know we were here, should she ever need anything. She was appreciative and friendly and not in a hurry for me to leave, and asked about the church that meets in the elementary school down the street, which we've attended about a year.
Then after receiving my dinner invitation, she never responded at all, even to say she wasn't interested. I put two potential Sunday evenings on the invitation, asking what would work for her. The first Sunday has already passed and we've heard nothing. She is two houses down and was out talking to her neighbor on Sunday, and though we were out as well, she didn't come down or wave, though Landon, the seven-year-old, did wave.
I thought she was a Christian because she sends her grandchildren to VBS and AWANA every year. The invitation explained that we wanted to be the Body of Christ to her and fellowship with her and be here for her, should the need ever arise. Inviting her didn't feel risky; I thought she was a Christian. Maybe she is, but from our last conversation I surmised she doesn't currently go to church, nor did she ever attend the church she sends her grandchildren to for programs. Her sister is the connection to that church. I didn't invite her to church, but I did gave the start times after she inquired. I wanted to concentrate on making a real connection and I felt a casual summer dinner would be the best way. 
Remember that I'm shy. All this started after my study of the Body of Christ. I felt a pull, not from within, to go down the street and see this woman. It was God, for sure, which makes me all the more confused.
I wouldn't have taken these steps had I not thought she was a Christian...and that bothers me. I don't share the gospel except with young children (like ten-year-old Lexi, our neighborhood friend), and on the Internet through my writing...because it's safe that way. 
How many of us want to feel safe, more than we want to work for God? I have to admit my neighbor's lack of response makes me feel stupid--as though I'm not even worth a walk over to say she's too busy. Unbelievers can do that to us...make us feel less than. We mustn't let it stop us though, for who defines us? Who gives us our worth? The world, or our loving Heavenly Father? 
5The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

6When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

10When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

Wow! Can you imagine a more miraculous response? How blessed we are that the Lord desires to correct us in love, not take revenge. 

Judah and Israel had been dealt with by prophets before, but they never repented; their hearts remained hard. Jesus said in Matthew 12:39-41 that at the time of judgement, the Ninevites would stand and condemn Israel for not repenting.

Matthew 12:39-41 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41The 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 onee greater than Jonah is here.

I have to admit to a lack of mercy in my own heart. When I saw my neighbor out the other day, talking with another neighbor, my heart grew hard. I didn't want to look at her. I felt humiliated at her lack of response and I didn't feel she deserved any kindnesses. My own perspective, my own feelings, prevailed, just as we'll see happened to Jonah in chapter 4. Peter, my son, had more heart than I did. He waved at Landon and tried to wave at the grandmother as well (she was preoccupied with her conversation). Peter, too, feels bad about her lack of response. He's shy as well, but more social than me; he looked forward to having dinner with a neighbor, but his disappointment didn't stop him from extending kind gestures.

Trust me, you'll be disgusted at Jonah's response in Chapter 4. It'll leave you shaking your head. But don't shake it too much. If you look deep enough, you may find similar hardness in your own heart. 

The Book of Jonah has so much to teach us! One of the most important lessons is humility before God--having an awe at His divine mercy toward all people, no matter their sins. No sin is too great for his mercy, if we will only humble ourselves and repent. We must be mindful of our lowly position before God. We are worthy now, as a redeemed people, thanks to His mercy and grace...but exalting ourselves above others in our own minds? Always a grievous sin!

I never meant for this to get so long.  I fully intended on getting to Chapter 4 today, the conclusion of the Book of Jonah. Maybe tomorrow? My husband is having hernia surgery at 11:00 am this morning (Wednesday). If he doesn't need me much in the coming days, I'll get to Jonah 4 hopefully on Thursday or Friday. Please pray for a perfect surgical outcome? Thank you!

1 comment:

Alicia said...

How many of us want to be safe rather than work for God? UGGH.. the question makes me face my own cowardice. Thanks for the convicting words.