Summary: Revival starts with the church, and then affects the world. The world does not need revival, the church does. The world needs evangelism. Evangelism does not bring revival, but revival always brings evangelism.
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Let’s look now at one of the largest revivals in human history. It’s the story of the spiritual awakening of one of the wickedest cities ever—Nineveh. Because of its wickedness, Nineveh was on God’s radar, big time. Nineveh was a city so wicked it stunk to high heaven. God said of it, “Their wickedness has come up before Me" (Jonah 1:2 NKJV). Or literally, “Their wickedness has reached a high degree” or “the highest pitch.”
Nineveh was legendary for its cruelty.
Graphic accounts of their cruel treatment of captives have been found in Assyrian records. The Ninevites were well-known for their savagery in plundering cities. When the Ninevites conquered a nation, they would torture and murder cold-bloodedly. They were known to burn boys and girls alive and torture adults, tearing the skin from their bodies and leaving them to die in the scorching sun! Rather than hide such depravity, they celebrated and proclaimed it! They even built monuments to their own cruelty! So very wicked and celebrating it too—sounds like the Nazis.
The population of Nineveh was huge at this time historically, around one million—a bit more than San Francisco. Nineveh, the capital of mighty Assyria, was the superpower of her day. It required three days to circle metropolitan Nineveh. And the Ninevites lived large. They enjoyed the best chariots, the finest food, and the most exotic entertainment. It had an extensive business and commercial system like none in the world. In addition, Assyria had ruled the world for 200 years and was the strongest military power. But unbeknownst to them, their days were numbered. It would not be long before Babylon would overtake Nineveh. God was giving Nineveh one last chance. If God could bring a mighty revival in Nineveh, with no better representative than Jonah and no more gospel than what he preached in their streets, He surely can do the same thing for America.
So, God revealed this to the prophet Jonah and told him to go and preach to them. But Jonah basically said, “God, they drink hatred in Nineveh and I won’t go!” Jonah flatly refused, because he knew the nature of God and His willingness to forgive. He felt if he did not go, then God would destroy Nineveh, an avowed enemy of Israel. It would be like God coming to an Israeli today and telling them He was going to judge Iran. That Israeli might be delighted because Iran has vowed to destroy Israel.
So Jonah, an Israeli patriot, refused and went the opposite direction. He boarded a ship going as far as he could from Nineveh, and a mighty storm came. The seasoned sailors, who had seen it all, had never seen a storm like this. They determined Jonah was the cause of the storm. They asked him why he would run from a God this powerful. And Jonah told them to throw him overboard and the storm would stop. They did, and it did. Enter the whale, or great fish, that swallowed Jonah.
Revival in Our Time?
Why did God allow Jonah to be swallowed by the great fish?
Was the Lord getting even with Jonah for running the other way? Absolutely not. God was chastening, or disciplining, Jonah because he was His child. It’s the same reason God chastens us. He only chastens the ones He loves. Hebrews 12:6 says, “The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son" (NIV). Understand this, chastening is not for the purpose of getting even. God got even at the cross, when Jesus died in our place. In Isaiah 53, we read how He was punished for our sin. No, this chastening was because God loved Jonah and Nineveh. Know this: God’s chastening is preparation for a future task.
God’s chastening tells us that He has something more for us to do.
Jonah had big work to do, so there was a big storm, a big fish, and a big spanking! So, if you are in deep waters right now, take it as a sign that God loves you. Because it’s a clear sign that God is not finished with you.
For Jonah, his greatest work was still ahead. Jonah was revived and re-commissioned by God. God sent revival first to Jonah, then to Nineveh. That’s because nothing can happen through you until it happens to you. So, the prodigal prophet is barfed on the shore of Nineveh.
“On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: ‘Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!’ The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they decided to go without food and wear sackcloth to show their sorrow. When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in sackcloth and sat on a heap of ashes. Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city: ‘No one, not even the animals, may eat or drink anything at all. Everyone is required to wear sackcloth and pray earnestly to God. Everyone must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will have pity on us and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.’ When God saw that they had put a stop to their evil ways he had mercy on them and didn't carry out the destruction he had threatened” (NLT).