Summary: Sometimes change from the the most unexpected places.
A Surprising Turn Around
Donovan W. Myers
Rosemount Missionary Church
Desperate situations sometimes require desperate solutions. This is part of the reason Jesus congratulated the man in the story he told of the unjust steward - who on recognizing that his master was coming to audit him, forgave the debts of some of his major clients, without the knowledge of his master. This was done so as to make friends; so that when he was fired he would still have the support of those to whom he had shown kindness. At times like these, it is either all or none at all. No half hearted effort will do.
You sometimes get a picture of this picture when you watch those daring rescues on television. Situations where those attempting the rescue endanger their own lives because of the desperate circumstances of the victims.
For the past two weeks we have been contemplating the story of Jonah. In the first week we made an attempt to understand Jonah’s disobedience in running away from his responsibility to warn the city of Nineveh of the impending danger. He was self-righteous, indifferent and opted for the convenient way. Last week, we focused on God’s response to Jonah. He responded with judgement and salvation. God’s compassion always shines through despite our obstinacy. God always initiates reconciliation, listens to prayer and delivers from destruction.
Today, Jonah’s nightmare turns into reality. What a response! This wicked city of Nineveh heeds the warning and turns around. A simple message - “in forty days Nineveh will be destroyed”; a simple messenger - bedraggled by the journey and his ordeal; yet great faith - what a turn around! They recognized their plight, they had no hope outside of the help of the one true God of heaven; and so they gave total acceptance of Jonah’s message. Their change was radical. They surrendered fully. This speaks to the nature of the surrender that God expects on our part. It must be sincere, radical and total. What are our responsibilities in turning away from sin?
Firstly, there is a CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY. All of the community of Nineveh were involved in the act of repentance. From the greatest to the least, both man and beast, everyone and everything. There is a sense in which we must together take responsibility for our sins as a society. This is so since we participate in sinful activities and systems both by our activity and our inactivity; by our wilful involvement and by our silence; both in personal sins and in structural evil. There is no hiding the fact that we do not have the moral purity to absolve ourselves from the evils of our land since we benefit from it or say nothing against it.
Let us be warned that the effects of sin on a nation does not only affect some it erodes and eats away at the very fabric of the society. One has just to look at the consequences of the sin of Achan on the Israelites in the Old Testament. No one was spared destruction, even the beasts. Romans 8:20-21 tells us “...for the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
Our responsibility, then, is to recognize our interdependence, being our brothers’ keeper - and to call each other to repentance. To share one another’s burdens and to enter into partnership in prayer with each other.
Secondly, there is a LEADERSHIP RESPONSIBILITY. Those to whom have been entrusted the responsibility to lead, must now guide those for whom they have responsibility - into the paths of righteousness. The king, the husband, the father, the head of the household. For the awesome task of leadership is not the licence to aggrandize or fatten oneself using the power that is at your disposal; rather it is the privilege to lead those in your care to do what is right. It is not about tyrannical control; rather it is about loving compassion.
Remember what Jesus says in Luke 12:48 “... the one who does not know and does things deserving of punishment, will be beaten with few blows. (But) From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
The leaders of the city of Nineveh led their constituents into repentance and sumission to God. That smart and responsible action saved a whole country.
Thirdly, in matter of surrender to God, there is a DEMONSTRABLE RESPONSIBILITY. The people were led into fasting and wearing sackcloth and ashes. Not only did they mean to change in their hearts, but they imbibed those actions which demonstrated their penitence and submission.