Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jonah: Changing God's Mind

Jonah: Changing God’s Mind


Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.” – Jonah 3:10

He was in the belly of the great fish three days and three nights.  During that time there would have been no eating, no drinking, no sunlight, and no voices other than God’s.  Then God spoke to the fish, and it coughed him out on dry land.   Jonah, fresh out of the belly of the great fish, must have been quite a sight and a smell!  And this time, he had no problem following God’s command.  God told him again to go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” Jonah started the journey for the city.
Nineveh was a great city indeed.  It was home to 120,000 people and their livestock.  Jonah 3:3 says that it would take three days to walk across the city, which indicates it would have been 60 miles wide, but geographers think it was smaller in size.  Regardless, archeology shows that it was indeed a large, well developed city with canals that brought water through it, and great carved buildings.  It was located in Iraq, in a province still called Ninevah (Arabic), or Ninawa (Kurdish), on the bank of the Tigris River. The city of Mosul is the largest city in the province today.

The name Nineveh has two possible origins. The ideogram for Nineveh, which is a graphic of an idea or word, means “house or place of fish”, which could be because of its location on the bank of the Tigris river.  The second origin is believed to have been derived from ‘Nina’, the name of the Assyrian and Babylonian god of fertility, war, love and sex.  One of the practices associated with worship of this god was prostitution. This shows the depth of their sin, in that they had made this a form of worship. 
Perhaps this level of depravity and sin was why the Prophet Jonah didn’t want to go there.  Just maybe it was his pride that caused him not to want to be a part of their repentance.  Being deeply involved in sin and idolatry, he probably didn’t have a lot of confidence that Nineveh would be willing to repent. But God didn’t ask him to have confidence that they would hear him – just to deliver the message.  After one day of walking, Jonah stopped and be began to preach the message God gave him.    

It was probably a great surprise to Jonah that they repented.  Jonah 3:5 says that “they believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.”  The king himself wrote into law that no man, herd, beast, or flock would eat or drink water, and all would be covered in sackcloth (a cloth for mourning), and that they would all cry out in repentance to God, and turn away from evil and violence. 
The repentance of Nineveh is proof that we can change the plans of God.  We can change God’s mind. Verse 10 says God saw their repentance and how they turned from their evil, and “God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.  Prayer and fasting and a repentant heart works miracles. 

In 2 Chronicles 7:14 God says to Solomon “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land”. God proved this verse to be true in the city of Nineveh.  Yet today, we live with poverty, sickness, sin, violence, and in much worse conditions that Nineveh, and we do not stop to pray about it, to seek Him, to turn from our wickedness, and seek His forgiveness.  Are not Hollywood, Las Vegas, and San Francisco not known for their sins?  The anthem of Las Vegas is now “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, as a means to cover up the sin that happens there, where prostitution is actually legal.  San Francisco has become a haven to gay and lesbian sin.  Hollywood acts as a factory producing evil in the minds of all who watch its TV shows and movies. 
But we are unlike Nineveh in one way.  We don’t believe God’s wrath is real.  If we did, we would be seeking to change His mind just as they did.  We’ve forgotten His mighty hand upon New York on 9/11.  We’ve forgotten His wrath poured out on New Orleans during Katrina.  We’ve forgotten the tornados, the hurricanes, the earthquakes, and attributed them to global warming instead of recognizing God’s power over His creation.  We turn our backs as we see our violent and evil cause school shootings, abortion, children murdering their parents, and our past president having an illicit affair in the office we gave him.  Yet, we don’t fast, we don’t cover ourselves in clothes of mourning, we don’t turn from our evil ways, we won’t even turn the channels on our TV’s when corrupt shows come on! 

How much longer will God’s patience and mercy last?  Will we be the next Nineveh, or the next Sodom and Gomorrah?  When will we, as individuals and a nation, own our sins and repent?

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