Here's a little taster from Jonah for this coming Sunday. The words 'taster' & 'vomit' should never go together in the same sentance of course, but they do here & they are as hard to swallow as you can imagine!
We're in Jonah 3. This disobedient Prophet has woken up on a beach, covered in whale bile & he's had a change of heart. A change of heart which leads to a change of direction. The sat-nav has been stuck on 'turn around as soon as it's safe to do so' for as long as he can remember, but now he does make a u-turn. This is what the theologians call repentance.
He does as He's told, travelling to pagan Ninevah to deliver the message of destruction from God. Only, they're not destroyed. They're broken, they're humbled, from the King down to the cattle, but they're not burned with fire or bolts from the heavens. They may not have understood the full gospel 800 years BC but they showed a heart change which was genuine – this is evidenced by their profound change of behaviour.
No one eats, they are reduced to wearing sackcloth, everyone of them. It's an outward sign of grief & conviction which signifies an inner heart change in response to Jonah’s preaching. It’s widespread across the city, this is conviction of sin on a huge scale.
Something remarkable is happening. A city which deserved to be crushed is beginning to wake up to the presence of the God whom they didn't even know existed. They'd lived without any reference to Him, yet now they are humbled, hoping that He may forgive them. What conviction, what repentance, what urgency, what unprecidented revival!
I've been reading similar stories again this week from the Revival on the Isle of Lewis. Preacher Duncan Campbell records 'Men have been found walking the roads at night in distress of soul; others have been found during the day praying among the rocks. As the Spirit of God sweeps through the meetings, the cry of the unsaved could be heard as strong men wept their way to the Saviour.'
Jonah of course is angry. He just knew God was going to go all compassionate on them, thats why he had never wanted to go there in the first place. What's the point of being a Prophet & predicting chaos & judgement if God decides to give up smiting & start loving instead. What kind of unjust God is this!
Oh Jonah, have you forgotten that you too were a child of disobedience not so long ago? Don't you recall that you too were given a second chance? Doesn't the faint whiff of whale vomit about your person bring you to your senses? Shouldn't we be rather careful not to judge those around us whose lives don't seem to match up to heaven's standards? Wouldn't we be better living with a smile, knowing that we're under favour that we don't really deserve?
We don't stink of old fish guts anymore, we've been magnificently cleaned up, made brand new since our days of rebellion - but it doesn't do us any harm to remember the smell. The world around us doesn't need judgemental christians telling them how far they've fallen short, they probably already feel guily enough. But your neighbours & mine would change with the urgency of the Ninevites if we could show them the way to the God they didn't know existed & into the favour they didn't think they could find.