Jonah chapter 3 is a remarkable revival story. Jonah judges this god forsaken city only to find that God isn't going to forsake them after all. Their heart change is so strong & rapid, their revelation of the compassionate heart of God so discerning for a pagan people. The King himself declares, 'Who knows, God may yet relent with compassion?'
Even in their brokenness they had some hope. Jonah must have told them the story of his own disobedience & God’s second chance. We're reading between the lines here, but he surely let them in on the heart of the God who refused to write Jonah off for turning away, but instead humbled him & then invited him a second time to follow. Jesus later tells us that Jonah was a sign to them after all of how God deals with people.
So in their brokenness, they hold to some glimmer of hope & confidence in God.
What a bright light of His mercy into their heavy hearts. Like all the revival stories, how they must have hardly dared hope that sinful hearts like theirs could ever come out from under His anger & into the warmth of His smile & favour, yet this is how God works.
People say God can't work this way today, we're still trying to put Him in a box. They still say that modern, unchurched cities would never be broken open like this. We showed this clip on Sunday from 3 Days of National Prayer & Fasting which were called recently in Haiti. This small island nation, broken by the devastating earthquake is humbling itself. This is a modern Ninevah story in the making. An unbelieving President who is beginning to act like the King of Ninevah. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30rWm84z-zg
Can you imagine the kind of favour that is opened up over a city which approaches our compassionate God in such humility? We don't have to imagine it, we only need to return to the Ninevah story. It's called revival - 120,000 saved in Ninevah in a short space of time. Brian Edwards in his excellent book,'Revival' defines this phenomena as ‘a community saturated with God’. Nothing sums up what is going on in Ninevah better than this.
Some say it can’t have been genuine as Ninevah was destroyed within 100 years. Maybe it was only skin deep, superficial, more of an outward moral clean up than an internal heart change. Is God moved to act through our displays of outward works? Is He impressed be our religion? I don't think so!
Was the revival in Jerusalem in Acts 2 genuine, even though within 35 years Jerusalem was wiped out? Was Asuza Street genuine in 1903 even though LA is a secular city today? Was the East Anglian revival in 1921 genuine even though a modern visitor to Ipswich wouldn’t see a trace of it?
The truth is, God wants to save our generation. He wants the lost of this community, He wants to teach us to pray, to proclaim & to seek His favour. We may not know what legacy we are leaving, but we do know that this response from one man’s angry preaching in a pagan city is a huge encouragement to those us who proclaim the gospel with our lives today.