Chronicles of the City
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Sunday, February 14, 2010
These past few weeks I have shared various stories about whales. There was the story about Orca, the killer whale, that decided to take a break from the performance at San Diego's Sea World to eat a pelican that dropped onto the water while the spectators looked on. I also shared the heartwarming tale of the penguin who did all he could to dodge the clutches of a killer whale until he decided to put his trust in mankind by jumping into a rubber raft of spectators for safety. Then just this past week I shared with everyone my opinion of the tactics used by the terrorist organization Sea Shepherds to save the whales from being hunted by Japanese whalers in the Antarctic. All this made me think about an incident that took place a few thousand years ago in Israel about 780 BC with a prophet named Jonah.
Jonah lived about 170 years after the division of Israel into two kingdoms, when Nineveh was coming to the end of its reign as the leading power in the region. Nineveh had spread so much fear among its enemies that most Israelites prayed for a judgment upon it the likes of which happened to Sodom and Gomorrah. So when God called upon Jonah to go and preach to the people of Nineveh, he had different plans. Jonah 1:1-3 Now one needs to understand that it is a great honor to be chosen a leader, or in Jonah's case a prophet, of God. However, with positions of authority comes the responsibility of carrying out tasks that we may not like. Jonah was confronted with such a dilemma.
Jonah was well aware that the people of Nineveh (the Assyrians) were prideful sinners who had wreaked havoc upon both Israel and Judah over the years. Therefore, when God called him to go and warn them of God’s impending wrath, he was very reluctant. In fact his desire was to see that city destroyed and the empire of Assyria completely lose its power. So instead of going to Nineveh Jonah headed into the opposite direction. He wanted to avoid carrying out that task, because he feared God would show them mercy, and the heathens would be free to plunder and pillage Israel again.
In Jonah's journey to flee from the task God had given him Jonah ended up on a boat that was caught in a storm. This storm was so bad that it threatened the very lives of all on board. Jonah 1:1-5 Eventually Jonah confessed to the sailors that he was fleeing God and that they would only live if they threw him overboard. Jonah 1:12 At first they refused and attempted to row their way through the storm, but the storm just got worse. Jonah 1:13 Eventually they reluctantly threw Jonah overboard into the raging sea while asking God to forgive them for doing so. The storm let up, the sea became calm and almost immediately Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Jonah 1:14-16 He would spend the next three day in that whales belly. Jonah 1:17
Eventually Jonah repented and God had the whale regurgitate him up onto the shore. Jonah 2:1-10 The prophet headed to Nineveh and preached the message as God had instructed. What happened next was that the whole city repented and Nineveh experienced a spiritual revival. Jonah 3:1-10 Now, there are many lessons from this story that can be given, and probably the biggest is the lesson that Christ taught about His death and resurrection. Matthew 12:39-41 However, I want to look at the way God sent Jonah to preach to a people that he detested, a people who had spent the last hundred years trying to annihilate the kingdoms of Judah and Israel.
God often calls us to do things we feel we are not ready or even willing to do but we must trust Him who knows us better then we know ourselves. When we trust Him we will eventually see that He is right, and if that means we are called to go to San Francisco and preach to the militant homosexual community, then so be it. The question for many Christians is, would you go to San Francisco if called to? What would you do if called to go to the Middle East to preach to the Muslims? How about the mountains of Afghanistan to share the gospel with the Taliban? In essence this is what God called Jonah to do. To preach to a people bent on the destruction of his country and the end of his world as he knew it.
This past week I have been involved in a debate over the legality of the actions by the Sea Shepherd animal rights group. I come from the angle that they are a dangerous terrorist organization whose members belong in prison, and so I must admit that my feelings for them are probably close to what Jonah thought about the Assyrians at Nineveh. Somewhere along the line the Lord convicted me and I was struck by the thought, “What if God wanted me to go to them and preach the gospel?” Maybe I would think there is no way they would repent and change their ways, so why would I go? Now I am not talking about changing their attitude towards hunting whales. I am speaking of them giving up their weapons of war, and taking up the Bible. And instead of being angry with the Japanese whalers, sharing the gospel of Christ with them instead!
This is not to say I will stop my campaign of exposing them and their terrorists acts of violence, but it did make me stop and realize that God loves everyone, and he does not wish for even one soul to perish. I am called to forgive those who transgress against me, and pray that those I transgress against will do the same. Matthew 6:9-13
We are coming into an election year. A lot of debates will take place all over American in town halls, town squares, and even on television as politicians vie for seats on city councils, governorships, and even federal offices. Let us, as Christians, remember to step back every now and then to remember what it is God calls us to do. We are called to share good news, not just with those we like, but even with those we are sure would rather see us dead. After all, one of the lessons of Jonah is helping those who are lost to be found, those who are blind to see, and those who are deaf to hear. Maybe along the way we will be used by God to begin a revival the likes of which have not been seen since the day a reluctant prophet was regurgitated from the belly of a whale.
I pray that those who have ears to hear will hear His voice and call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Posted by Chuck at 6:30 AM