Jan 25, 2021
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Thanks for joining me today for “A Little Walk with God.” I’m your host Richard Agee.
Last week many of us watched as the United States turned over its seat of power to a new man. President Joe Biden is now my president, and I will pray for him and my country’s leaders every day as I have for the last many years. It’s essential that, as Christians, we pray for our elected officials. He took the reins of a broken country, and I am sure he will do what he thinks is best to pull us together.
We have a new president. We have sixty-six new congressmen and women. My fear is we will have the same politics, the same division, the same racism, the same hatred, the same evil. Why do I think we will have the same as we had before? Because we have the same individuals living in the country and the government can’t change people’s hearts, only God can. But God uses people to do that.
Take, for instance, the story of Jonah. It’s an excellent message for the church today if we listen carefully to what it tells us.
We know Jonah’s story well. God gave Jonah a mission. He told Jonah, his prophet, to go to Nineveh, one of the time’s most wicked cities, and tell them God would destroy them in forty days. Jonah fled to Tarshish, the farthest town from Nineveh in the known world. But God had other plans. He manufactured a storm that threatened to destroy the boat on which Jonah found passage until Jonah finally asked the crew to throw him overboard, and the sea calmed.
Jonah found himself in the belly of a great fish for three days contemplating his disobedience, finally asking for forgiveness. The fish vomited the prophet onto the shore a day’s walk from Nineveh, and Jonah started on his journey to the city. We pick up the story in chapter three.
Once again the Lord spoke to Jonah. 2 He said, “Go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to the people the message I have given you.” 3 So Jonah obeyed the Lord and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to walk through it. 4 Jonah started through the city, and after walking a whole day, he proclaimed, “In forty days Nineveh will be destroyed!”
5 The people of Nineveh believed God’s message. So they decided that everyone should fast, and all the people, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth to show that they had repented.
6 When the king of Nineveh heard about it, he got up from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth, and sat down in ashes. 7 He sent out a proclamation to the people of Nineveh: “This is an order from the king and his officials: No one is to eat anything; all persons, cattle, and sheep are forbidden to eat or drink. 8 All persons and animals must wear sackcloth. Everyone must pray earnestly to God and must give up their wicked behavior and their evil actions. 9 Perhaps God will change his mind; perhaps he will stop being angry, and we will not die!”
10 God saw what they did; he saw that they had given up their wicked behavior. So he changed his mind and did not punish them as he had said he would. (Jonah 3:1-10 GNT)
Jonah’s message and his response resemble the church far too much. I think it’s why these verses impressed me so much this week. At first, Jonah didn’t want to make any kind of announcement to the people of Nineveh. Let them do what they want. It doesn’t affect me in Israel. They live too far away for me to concern myself with them or what happens to them. They are just Ninevites, after all.
It sounds like too many Christians, doesn’t it? Why should I worry about those people? What do they have to do with me? They live and operate in a separate world, they don’t affect me, and I don’t affect them, so why should I care about them? God leave me alone and let someone close to them worry about them.
Jonah finally got the message that everyone belongs to God, and he desires that all should come to him in repentance and become part of his family. He knows all will not, but his desire is they would. But as Paul says in Romans 10:14, “But how can they call to him for help if they have not believed? And how can they believe if they have not heard the message? And how can they hear if the message is not proclaimed?” (GNT) Someone must share the message with them.
Jonah shared the message God gave him. “In forty days, Nineveh will be destroyed!” That doesn’t sound much like a salvation message, but Jonah walked a day’s journey into the heart of the city and began his proclamation from God. Jonah liked his message. The wicked city was about to disappear from the face of the earth like Sodom and Gomorrah. God would carry out his justice against these people who cared so little about his laws and righteousness. The chosen people would find retribution for the evils executed by this capital city that ruled the world against its distant subjects. Once Jonah started preaching God’s message for Nineveh’s destruction, I can see a bit of a smile creeping across his face.
Some may have thought him mad, but enough believed him that they tore their robes, put on sackcloth as a sign of mourning and repentance, threw ashes over themselves, and cried out to God for forgiveness. Word of Jonah’s message made its way to the king, and even he repented. He proclaimed the entire city, some sixty miles across, that everyone would wear sackcloth, fast, and change their behavior, in other words, repent. Repentance is not just saying we are sorry. It is changing our behavior, turning 180 degrees from the direction we face and turn toward God.
Look around and what do you see in our country? The seat of power doesn’t seem to do much for the distant citizens anymore. To whatever party you belong, you probably have significant problems with the opposite party. Of course, the problem is we don’t know what our party does or stands for because we listen to the media’s interpretation on everything instead of digging into the truth for ourselves.
All parties are equally corrupt. All parties work for their gain. Both Houses of Congress contain members who become multi-millionaires after a couple of terms at salaries of less than $200,000 a year. All parties bash the others to avoid anyone lifting the tent flaps to see what hides in their own dark spaces. And we allow it with our poor showing at voting booths. Think about it: only 67 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the November general election. In the average local elections, some state turnouts record as low as 28 percent of their voters hitting the polls. As the supposed model for democracy, we place in the bottom ten even with our highest voter turnout since 1900. So, we let the corruption continue by our apathy and inaction. We have our Nineveh, and if you visit, you will see a few Jonah’s on street corners proclaiming its destruction soon.
God saw Nineveh’s repentance, and he changed his mind. He didn’t destroy the city. Jonah got angry. He wanted vengeance. He wanted justice. He declared God’s message of destruction for the wicked, and God didn’t follow through. How dare he make such a fool of Jonah? That’s how the church acts sometimes. Why doesn’t God just destroy the wicked? Why doesn’t he just send lightning bolts or fire and brimstone down and show these guys what righteous justice is all about? Why doesn’t God take over and get rid of evil, so we Christians can live a more comfortable life? We seem to be a bit angry with God and the world far too often.
But Jesus said we should imitate him. He brought peace, love, freedom. He acted as a kingdom builder, getting as many as possible into God’s family – rich, poor, the right or wrong side of town, Jew or Gentile, prostitutes, thieves, murderers, tax collectors. Jesus didn’t care what you had done or who you were. He saw what you could be, not what you were. He saw the image of God in everyone and pulled it out of you. He came to seek and save the lost children of God.
Then Jesus gave the same mission to the church, those of us who wear his name. He told us to be peacemakers, kingdom builders, lovers of God, and others. But we have a pretty tumultuous history of power mongers, anger, violence, hatred, and war in his name. Some think that applies to the Crusades, and it does. But what are we doing today but the same when it comes to healing the nation and the world? As I read the comments on social media from those who say they are followers of Jesus, I often read hatred, anger, and a call for God to destroy instead of heal.
We run from the mission of reconciliation with our brothers. We want justice, not mercy. We want heaven to come quickly, so all those evil folks around us will just disappear, instead of working to help them understand the consequences of their actions and love them into God’s great family. We forget that someone shared the message of God’s love with us, or we would be one of those evil folks about whom we talk. Or maybe, if we’re talking about those evil folks, instead of working hard to love them into the kingdom, we just might be one of them.
Let’s take up God’s message for the church before it’s too late and grow his family with love. God wants more than ever for men and women to come to him and know his love in a corrupt and broken world. On which side will you stand? Jonah’s in anger, or Nineveh’s in repentance?
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible-based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn’t, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.
Scriptures marked GNT are taken from the Good News Translation®: Scriptures are taken from the Good News Translation® (Today’s English Version, Second Edition) Copyright © 1992 American Bible Society. All rights reserved.