Summary: We know what happened after Jonah preached in Nineveh but what happened to Nineveh after that?
He arrived looking like a character out of a Wes Craven movie. He definitely wasn’t dressed for success and pretty wasn’t a word that would be used in describing him. His skin was bleached a pasty white, his hair was matted and there was a slightly fishy smell about him. If you were to describe the man most likely able to reach a city for God he wouldn’t look anything like this guy looked. And surly, tell you what, this guy arrived with a chip on his shoulder the size of a large pizza. All he wanted to do was to leave as fast as he had arrived.
It was incredible, he arrived in a strange city and started preaching on street corners, his message was simple; it was “Turn or Burn.” Well maybe not in those exact words. What he actually said was “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” Not a very seeker sensitive message, you’d think that perhaps he could have worked a little more on his content, perhaps used less threatening words, words that would connect with his audience in maybe a more positive light. Maybe he should have emphasized their good points and the love of God. But he wasn’t and he didn’t. Maybe it was just because he was cranky, and he had a lot to be cranky about. His name was Jonah and we’ve talked about him before, he was a prophet from Israel and one day God tapped him on the shoulder and told him to go to the great city of Nineveh and preach repentance.
Well you know the story, not only did he refuse to go but he turned and ran in the opposite direction. And you can’t really blame him. Let’s pull up a map here and take a look at what God was asking him to do. Here is a modern political map of the Middle East, here is Israel and over here is Nineveh, in what is now called Iraq but in Jonah’s day it was called Assyria. And there was as much bad blood between Assyria and Israel back there as there is between Iraq and Israel today. The city was known as a place of wickedness and immorality and for whatever reason God decided that he should at least warn them of his impending wrath. And so he sent Jonah, and Jonah didn’t go at least he didn’t go at first.
Instead he ran in exactly the opposite direction, he ran to Joppa where he caught a ship sailing for Tarshish, which we know today as Spain, and it was in the opposite direction of Nineveh and it was considered to be as far as you could go by the people of Jonah’s day. Beyond Tarshish there was the Atlantic ocean and beyond that there was nothing, at least that was the popular world view of the time. God however wasn’t content to allow his servant to escape that easy, so he caused a storm to almost destroy the ship Jonah was sailing on. As the storm grew worse Jonah advised the crew they needed to throw him overboard, which they reluctantly did and the storm stopped.
If you remember your Sunday School and Bible story books then you know all this, and you know how Jonah was swallowed by a giant fish or whale, it was kind of hard to tell it happened so fast. He spent three days in the beast’s belly and after praying to God and saying he was sorry he was spit out on a beach and God spoke to Jonah again and said Jonah 3:2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message of judgment I have given you.”
Jonah would have said that his Mother didn’t raise no fools, so he went to Nineveh and preached, not willingly, not with much enthusiasm but at least he went.
And a strange thing happened, as he preached people listened, everybody listened. The bible says that The people of Nineveh believed God’s message and from the greatest to the least they repented. The King himself said Jonah 3:8-9 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.”
And it worked, the very next verse said Jonah 3:10 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. You gotta love a happy ending. But that was then and this is now. The scripture that Heather read this morning was from the book of Nahum which is the 34th book of the bible. The author of the book is Nahum of course, he is an otherwise unknown prophet whose name means “Comfort.” The book was written about 100 years after Jonah had visited the city of Nineveh and lead it’s people into repentance. So somewhere between 663 and 609 BC when Assyria was defeated by Babylon. Why was it written? Interesting although the letter is addressed to the city of Nineveh it is intended for the people of Judah and it was written to assure them that evil does not endure forever.