Jonah was on a mission. He was warning men and women who were full of violence, greed, and idolatry that God was on the verge of destroying them for their sin. Without any props or promises, amazingly, they believed both Jonah and God. They genuinely repented. Men who were used to wearing fine linen, enjoying fine dining, and strutting status symbols rid themselves of their pride and idolatry. They changed their clothes and put on rags. They fasted in humility. Not only that, but they do it together – rich, poor, high, and low, they all believe God together. But what will their leader do?
The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth,and sat in ashes. 7 And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, 8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
10 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. ~Jonah 3:6-10
The king followed suit. We’re not in Israel anymore, ladies and gentlemen. (Remember when Jesus came preaching repentance?! The leaders of God’s people despised, rejected, mocked, and murdered him!) But Nineveh’s king repented with his people. He came down from his throne. He took off his royal robe. He mourned his sin and he proclaimed a strict fast hoping God would show mercy.
Then, God relented. God forgave.
I wonder what would happen if Jonah came to America today. Would our reaction look more like the High Priest on Good Friday or Nineveh’s king when Jonah came? Would we who are used to wearing fine linen, enjoying fine dining, and strutting status symbols rid ourselves of our pride and idolatry? Would we be able to wash the blood of unborn babies, bisexual brutishness, unbridled gluttony, and big business bureaucracy off of our hands? Would we even try? Or would we mock, maim, and murder the messenger?
Friends, we’ve got a country applauding anyone who lives as an abomination before God. Don’t believe me? Ask Jason Collins how many fans he’s picked up since yesterday. Ask me how many I’ll have after I say this. I’d say it’s high time to break out the burlap, mourn in hopes of mercy, and stop making merry amidst these monstrosities which manage us.
Not sure what to do? Let’s take a few pointers from Nineveh’s king:
1. Come down from your throne. There’s only one person who is king. It’s not you, your stuff, your sexual preference, your pornography, your pride, or your priest. It’s Jesus.
2. Remove your prideful distinctions. When God judges us, no one will be excluded. Take off your purple robe and hang it on the cross. It belongs to Jesus.
3. Figure out how to fast like it’s Good Friday frequently. Forgiveness is free to those who find themselves floored by humility. The sacrifices of God are broken and contrite hearts.
Perhaps God will relent from bringing the judgement we all truly deserve. Pray.