“The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, ‘Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.’ So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.“ (Jonah 3:1-5)
The story of Jonah is a story told in several chapters. Chapter one is where Jonah refuses to preach to the city of Nineveh, and how convinces him to. The second part of the story, where we are now, is how Jonah successfully saved the city of Nineveh from destruction. The last part of the story was how Jonah felt about this success.
Yesterday we considered the question of how someone can preach and save a population. But unlike present day ministers and evangelists, Jonah had the advantage of being able to give the people of Nineveh a prediction the believed. Jonah said they had forty days before it was destroyed, and the people all they way to the king believed and made repentance to God.
“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.” (Jonah 3:10)
So unfortunately beloved reader, the story of Jonah does not have an insistent edge that we can use. If someone were to proclaim the end of all things in forty days, they would be laughed at, ridiculed and not believed. But it occurs to me, as I think further on this, perhaps the open-ended life we have can be a point for needed salvation.
I think we can all agree that for the most part the current generations who are of a sufficient age can look back and say that life in the past was easier, or at least not as filled with stress and disaster. Or that the future looks bleaker now than it did a good many years ago. I do not mean to argue this point and be dogmatic about it. My point is that we need a great deal of help in these present times. Would it not be easier to journey through this life with the support of the Divine?
And who knows what calamity we might be helped through? The people of Nineveh were looking at the end of their existence in just forty days. But because of the sincerity of their faith this judgment was lifted. But more importantly, they now had a relationship – a relationship characterized by love and care – with a God powerful enough to end their existence but compassionate enough to hold back the Divine hand.
Perhaps our message and sermon (for those who are called to deliver messages and sermons) can be that we do not know when our end may come, but do we want to wait to find out? Is it not better to ensure our future and make a present easier by entering into, or re-committing to a relationship with God?
May you, beloved reader, chose to be in relationship with God, not waiting until your end is imminent. Selah!