Some people may wonder and ask, “Is God judging our nation? Is it possible that could happen, or is it happening?” If indeed God is judging our nation, I would like to illustrate an important lesson from an Old Testament prophet named Jonah.
Jonah was God’s man for the hour, a voice to the people of a kingdom who had reached the point of divine retribution. God sent Jonah to Nineveh, a city so large it took three days to walk through it. That’s a lot of real estate to cover. God gave Jonah the message that the city would be destroyed in forty days. That’s all Jonah told them. He didn’t invite them to repent, he just told them what God was about to do for their sins. Then they did something Jonah was afraid they’d do (4:1-2), they actually listened to his message and took it to heart. They believed God was speaking through him, and declared a fast. The king of Nineveh then issued this decree to the citizens:
“Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
When 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 (through the prophet’s words).
We as disciples must understand that God’s eternal purposes are always in motion as his kingdom advances through and within all the kingdoms of men. In the book of Jonah, we do not see an Old Testament, merciless God saying, “Okay, that’s enough, I’m going to wipe you people out.” No, he compassionately gave Nineveh a window to repent by sending Jonah. Jonah initially ran from this assignment because his perspective of the Ninevites had been limited to his own prejudice (1:1-2, 4:1-2). He didn’t want to go there so he fled in the opposite direction and wound up in the belly of a great fish. Can you blame Jonah for not wanting to be there when God judged Nineveh? Why should he care? They weren’t the chosen ones, they were Gentiles. “Let them perish,” was his mindset. He just wanted to go somewhere where God’s judgment couldn’t touch him. Let the Ninevites reap what they had sown. After all, their problem wasn’t his problem, they deserved what was coming to them−not him.
This cannot become the mindset of a disciple. A disciple understands and knows that we are left in this world to expose its darkness by contrast of the light of the world in us, the kingdom of heaven that resides in us, living within and among the kingdoms of men. We weren’t taken out of the world, but left in the world for a purpose. To think that we’re exempt from experiencing God’s judgment upon a nation is not only an illusion, but self-centered. Read the story of Jonah and that’s exactly how he acted. Self-centered. He thought his assignment was only to proclaim God’s judgment and then go sit far enough away, east of the city, to watch it be deluged by fire. He did not want the Ninevites to actually pay attention to his warning, so he was angry at God for responding to their repentance and thus turned from destroying them.
Jonah’s attitude was unacceptable so God sent him an object lesson through providing a vine for shade, and then sending a worm to destroy it. God exposed Jonah’s callousness that he was more concerned about a dying vine that provided him shade, than the 120,000 lost souls of Nineveh who could not tell their right hand from their left.
As disciples of Jesus, we are responsible to remain ambassadors of Christ in the world and to the world. True disciples will be more interested in the lives of the lost than their own. We will not run and hide in the mountains, or head in the opposite direction like Jonah did. Instead, we will remain where God put us to be lights in the darkness, not hiding our light under a bushel, but brightly shining as compassionate instruments of God’s mercy.