Monday, June 23, 2008

Jonah and Reaching Today's Ninevites

We all know about the fish that ate Jonah.

But there is much more to this fish story. Its a story that has a lot of modern-day application to the public square.

At the heart of the legendary Old Testament story is the ministry of Jonah. Other OT passages refer to Jonah as a prophet who lived around 750 B.C. The Jewish nation was divided between the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The ruling Israelite king was likely Jereboam II and it was time of prosperity and international influence. Yet, storm clouds were on the horizon. The rising power was the Assyrian Empire, home-based in Ninevah in modern day northern Iraq.

Throughout the entire saga of Jonah catching a ship for the far-side of world and being thrown overboard and swallowed by a fish, a couple of salient facts emerge which are relevant for us today in the public square. The story may be from antiquity but these principles are timeless.

First, God is creator of all. He has made the rightous and the unrightous. He brings rain and sun on them equally.

Second, as creator, He alone will determine each human's fate. To assume that God wants to eliminate someone for their political or social beliefs is presumptive.

Third, as creator, God has allowed human wickedness for centuries. While the issues are different, today's immoral and unrightous humans are no different than the Ninevites of Jonah's time.

Fourth, like Jonah, we need to be reminded that God's priority is not politics. God did not call Jonah to be a spectator at the destruction of Ninevah. Instead he called him to instigate a revival. God is not that concerned about one's political equation. He is more interested in one's spiritual condition.

Jonah's problem was inside of him. Like many Jews of the time, he believed that Yahweh God was Israel's alone, relegating wicked people like the Ninevites to destruction. God wanted to dismiss that prejudicial view.

There is an election in 4 months or so. Americans will line up on the right, left or in the middle. It is tempting to go down the path of wishing ill for our political opponents.

But would that be what God would want? In light of Jonah, the answer would be no.

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