Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. 4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. . . . 10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.
Every Sunday School student knows the story of Jonah. God commanded Jonah to go the heathen city of Nineveh to preach repentance. But instead, he tried to escape from the Lord by hopping on “a ship going to Tarshish.” (see chapter 1 and 2). Nineveh was the capital of the violent Empire of the Assyrians. They conquered other nations by slaughtering many of the people and enslaving anyone left alive.
Nineveh was huge, a “three days’ journey in breadth” (3). Scripture tells us he went a day’s journey into the city and began to call out, “Yet, forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (4). History teaches us, anyone preaching against the powers that be is mercilessly silenced. Yet, when Jonah preached God’s message, and not his own, it was enough to bring the Ninevites to repentance. God’s Word succeeded “in the thing for which [He] sent it” (cf. Isaiah 55:10-11). Through the work of the Holy Spirit the people of Nineveh “believed God” and “called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least” (5). “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that He had said He would do to them, and He did not do it” (10).
Though Jonah was God’s prophet, His messenger, he was a flawed and broken human being. Like Jonah, we can easily write off the people who we think are just plain evil, believing there can be or should be no salvation for such people. In our self-righteousness, we turn our backs on those we consider to be unredeemable. Like this prophet, we do not even want them to repent from their sin and be saved. But God does! That is the miracle of divine grace. It is more powerful than the most shameful and despicable human sin. Whenever and wherever human sin is greatest, God’s grace is stronger. The world we live in is filled with modern day Ninevehs. Since the day Cain murdered his brother Abel, that same evil of hate and violence has brought a divine sentence of wrath and condemnation upon all. We must never forget; God the Father Almighty created the earth, and He is also the Judge.
Not only is God’s judgment pure and perfect justice, but it is also merciful. What changed eternity for Assyria, for Jonah, for Israel, for you and me—did not come through destruction, instead it came through the Lord’s punishment for all sin. God did not inflict judgment on the sinner, but on the sinless Sacrificial Lamb, once for all. God’s wrath for sin was not directed upon this broken human race but upon the Christ whose body was broken for us. His innocent blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sin. Jesus Christ is the Redemption of every empire, every race, and every language of this created world. The center of all history is found on the hill called Calvary and the glorious message that came from the empty tomb, “Christ is risen!”
For you and me, there are times and places we would rather not go and speak the Gospel. Yet, no matter what, the Lord Himself will lead you through places in the world that are as broken and rebellious as ancient Nineveh. But we have Christ’s promise that nothing can snatch us from His hand (cf. John 10:28-29). God who created you and redeemed you in Christ Jesus, has also claimed you for His own with His Word and the water of your Baptism. He continues to nourish you with His blessed Supper. Jesus is the Savior for all people of every time and nation. He is yours, and your life is found in His resurrection. Even the worst Nineveh, which is death, cannot hold you on the day of resurrection of all flesh. As Jesus lives, you too shall live! In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Grace Lutheran Church LCMS
825 North 1st West
Cheyenne Wells, CO, 80810-0728
Sunday Service begins at 9:00AM
Reverend Steve Zandstra