Summary: Nineveh may have been the largest number of people turning to God for the next 2,700 years. But it left Jonah angry at God.
It was an event described simply as an awesome experience. There were 1.3 million people gathered. The year was 1974 and the place was Seoul, Korea. The gigantic crowd was gathered for what was called Explo ’74.
Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ described what it was like for him to address that crowd. “My heart quickened as I stepped to the microphone. This was the most awesome responsibility and most exciting challenge of my life. I looked out at upon the ocean of people stretching as far as I could see to the left of me, to the right of me and in front of me.”
The message that day was based on Ephesians 2:8-9. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. At the completion of his message he asked all those who wanted to receive Christ or who as a result of the message, had gained assurance of salvation to stand.
He said, “I could hardly believe my eyes as hundreds of thousands of people stood! I wanted to make sure they understood what I had said, so I repeated my invitation again slowly. Still more stood. That night I received a phone call from Dr. Joon Gon Kim to report the activities. The staff determined that 80% stood. Over One million people indicated they received Christ or that, for the first time in their lives, they were assured of their salvation.”
This was determined to be the largest number of indicated decisions for Christ in any one evening. He said, “It was some time before I could respond.”
Bill Bright said, Every time I think about what God did at Explo ’74, I want to sing praises to Him, for truly all of the honor praise glory are due Him alone.”
Now contrast this to Jonah after through his preaching the city of Nineveh turned to God. Nineveh may have been the largest number of people turning to God for the next 2,700 years until what happened at Explo ’74. But Jonah was not singing praises to God. Jonah was greatly displeased. The city of Nineveh turned to God and Jonah was angry at God. Jonah 4:1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.
Jonah preached to Nineveh, his message, "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." The people of Nineveh believed God. It was impressive that so many people stood as a result of the preaching of Explo ’74, but how much more when Jonah went to Nineveh and launched “Explo 700 BC”.
Here is what happened in Nineveh after Jonah preached:
• They called a fast and put on sackcloth
• The king tore his robe and sat in ashes
• There was a proclamation that man or beast could not eat.
• A call for each man to call on God
• A call to each to turn from his wicked way
• They believed God
The estimate is that one-half million turned to God in Nineveh. The result of both Explo ’74 and Jonah preaching are miraculous. Bill Bright was singing praises to God. Jonah was angry at God. He asked God to take his life saying death is better than life for him.
Why was the response like this from Jonah? Was it just the emotional low that comes after preaching to so many people? No. It was because those Assyrian people of Nineveh who turned to God were the archenemy of Jonah and his people. In every city the Assyrians conquered they built a pyramid of human skulls. Nineveh was the capital city for this wicked and cruel people. They were merciless in the barbaric slaughter of Jonah’s people.
The prophet Nahum said on Nineveh, Nahum 3:1, Woe to the city of blood, full of lies,
full of plunder, never without victims! It wasn’t that Jonah would not tell of God to gentiles. When he was running from God he told the sailors on the ship of God. This is why Jonah ran from God in chapter 1. It was his worst nightmare for the Ninevites to turn to God from his preaching.
Have you found yourself, like Jonah, angry at God? Have you ever been displeased by the way things turned out? Have you murmured your displeasure to God? Jonah became bitter at God because of his situation.
Jonah acknowledges that his heart is away from God. Look at what he says in Jonah 4:2 He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.