If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Chronicles 17, James 4, Jonah 1, Luke 6. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Jonah 1.
Some of the Lord’s prophets drew difficult assignments. One of them, Hosea, was told to marry a woman who would be unfaithful to him. Another, Jeremiah did time in prison and in a pit for his prophecies. Ezekiel lost his wife in death so that the Lord could prove a point. Elijah was targeted for death by Jezebel, a stone-cold killer. But none of them ran away from the Lord’s will like Jonah did. Why? Was he rebellious or weaker spiritually than these other men or is there more going on?
The answer lies in the second verse of our passage: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it” but it takes some historical knowledge to understand the significance of the Lord’s command here. Ninevah was the capital city of Assyria, the nation that would conquer the Northern Kingdom of Israel and cause a lot of problems for Judah as well. The Assyrians were known for their extreme cruelty to their enemies. They didn’t just conquer a kingdom, killing that kingdom’s soldiers as part of the battle; they tortured some of the people that they captured with cold-hearted brutality.
Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh because he hated the Assyrians. There was almost certainly an element of fear in his heart toward them as well but, as we’ll see in the chapters ahead, it was hatred primarily that motivated Jonah to run away from God’s will. Jonah’s story calls us to reflect on our own attitudes toward others. Do we hate atheists? Liberals? Muslims? Immigrants? Green Bay Packer fans? Are some of our political positions motivated by a desire to punish people we perceive as enemies or exclude them from any blessings at all? If you love the Lord, you know that love exists in you only by his grace. It was not your wisdom, your morality, or your innate spirituality that brought you to Christ; it was his love, his grace and mercy that changed your cold heart (and mine) to embrace his lordship and receive his salvation.
Do you love the Lord enough to pray and seek for others–even your enemies–to find that love and mercy too?
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.