September 13
‘For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!’ Ezekiel 18:32
Bible reading: Jonah 3 (Go to the Bible passage)
Nineveh was a heathen city in the eyes of the Jews; it was the capital of the mighty Assyrian empire. This powerful empire was a threat to Israel: one hundred years later, the people of Israel would be carried into exile into Assyria.
But Jonah had to go to this mighty enemy to call upon the people to turn to the Lord, the God of Israel. Does this not illustrate clearly the love of God for the nations surrounding Israel? God is the God of the whole world, including the enemies of Israel. ‘Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people?’ God asked Jonah (Jonah 4:11). It is almost as if God justified Himself to Jonah for sparing Nineveh! But there was more to it. This was a tremendous expression of God’s innermost Being: that He did - and does - not want even our enemies to be lost.
Jonah’s words were not exactly inspiring. ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.’ But these words from the sullen prophet were enough to make the entire city regret its sins and repent. Jonah would rather have seen the city destroyed, but God’s love was stronger than Jonah’s resentment. The Ninevites had more faith in God than Jonah. They said, ‘God may yet relent and with compassion turn from His fierce anger so that we will not perish,’ and they acted accordingly.
Jonah did not tell them. Maybe God Himself had taught them that He willingly relents from a judgment He has proclaimed, if only people bow down and admit their disobedience. Let us too bow down, so that the men of Nineveh will not have to condemn us on the great day (Matthew 12:41).
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