“Should I Not Care About These Too?”

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

11But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11, New International Version)

Love this! For the past couple of weeks, the Lord has had me fascinated with the Book of Jonah—a brief but powerfully dramatic four chapter book written by the prophet Jonah, nestled between two other Old Testament prophets, Obadiah and Micah. I’ve read, reread and pink highlighted various verses within the four chapters, brimming with greater excitement and understanding of our Lord’s compassion at each new reading. Certainly, most if not everyone even if they are not a Believer is familiar with what seems the central part of the story and that is Jonah being swallowed by a great fish and living in the fish’s belly for three days. Many children’s books and other published works have captured this aspect of this prophet’s seeming misfortune to spend three days (but survive) in the fish’s stinky belly. But I have learned even more and am in love with what the Lord has revealed to me and what is likely clear to you if you’ve read the four chapters.

To recap, Jonah was a prophet whom God called to preach in the ancient, historical Assyrian city of Nineveh located in Upper Mesopotamia and is today known as part of the outskirts of Mosul, Iraq. In that time of 612 BC, those in Nineveh worshiped many gods and goddesses, primarily the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar , who promised love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, combat, and political power, to those who called upon her. The Lord seeing all of the debauchery, idolatry and sin taking place, said to Jonah in 1:2, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”  The people’s sin was creating a great stench before a Holy God.

Hearing the Lord’s word instructed to him, Jonah instead ran away from the LORD and headed for the far away city of Tarshish—literally to get as far away from Nineveh as possible. Who doesn’t cringe in having to give a word at times to people who are walking in sheer disobedience? How would Jonah be received in delivering this word? How are you received when delivering a hard word to someone who is rebellious? I know in times that I’ve lovingly but boldly delivered a ‘hard word’ to someone, it has been sometimes well-received with contriteness and humility by that person, and other times it has been brushed off and rejected like shewing away a pestering fly.

Jonah_Away_from_Nineveh

Eventually we know in reading the chapters that in the process of Jonah fleeing the Lord’s instructions, he boards a ship in Joppa to sail to Tarshish. The Lord sends a great and terrible storm upon the seas in which the shipmen throw Jonah overboard (with Jonah’s permission) because they knew he was running from God and the storm came upon them because of his disobedience. The sea immediately calmed once Jonah was thrown overboard and then being scooped up by the fish. Three days later, Jonah is spit up by the great fish onto dry land and he delivers the Lord’s warning to the people of Nineveh he was to render three days ago (Chapter 3). Jonah says to them in chapter 3:4, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”

Verse 5 reads that “The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least put on sackcloth.” In response to their immediate repentance, verse 10 reads that “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.”

Wait a minute. Weren’t they about to be destroyed by God for idol worship, all out wickedness and every kind of evil living possible? Nineveh was also Israel’s enemy. By Chapter 4:1-2, Jonah is feeling some kind of way about God’s compassionate response toward a wayward people and he tells God exactly how he is feeling.

1But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2He prayed  to the LORD, “O, LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” In verse 4, the LORD replies, “Have you any right to be angry?”

I LOVE THIS! I imagine this scenario similar to a co-worker who has been goofing off, messing up and you can’t WAIT for them to GET IT from the boss, possibly even be fired. Or imagine you have a sibling who keeps being disobedient and you can’t WAIT for mom, dad, grandma or auntie to yank them up! And yet, with a warning, the co-worker straightens up and no punishment is brought upon them. The sibling apologizes for their behavior and no punishment comes to them, no grounding, or phone or television privileges taken away. You might be fuming as Jonah was recognizing that you’ve been living right, these people haven’t and God seems to let them off easy. This is the real reason why Jonah tried to avoid delivering God’s instruction because He knew of God’s great compassion.

I am in love with the Lord’s response to Jonah in Chapter 4:11, which speaks to how much the LORD loves us, strives with us, extends deep longsuffering (patience) with us, not desiring that any should perish: “But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

god-s-love-never-changes

I believe the God of Jonah’s time and our same God of today looks at us with that same compassionate heart. God even gave Jonah another chance to come out of HIS DISOBEDIENCE for him to deliver His instructions to the people of Nineveh! Amazing!

Today, God continues to send His People to warn and instruct those walking in spiritual blindness on paths of destruction; walking in ways they think good but are not. In His great, unfathomable compassion, God sends us to pray for, warn, instruct, intercede for others in hopes they will turn to the light of Christ Jesus and be loosed from the grips of darkness.

Yes, God’s wrath will come upon those He is no longer striving with because they are unrepentant and have chosen their own paths of destruction, not desiring truth (If you read Nahum, the Lord’s anger rises again toward Nineveh promising destruction because of their partaking in wickedness). God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy (Romans 9:15), which in His infinite wisdom and purposes will be a mystery to us. For those He is still reaching out to who will listen—who are blind not knowing their right from their left but hear and believe His Voice and immediately feel contrite and repent of their ways—He is compassionate.

This says so much about our God and how He has held back what could deservedly be His full wrath upon us many, many times ago. He has lived through generations upon generations of mankind’s disobedience, with more than 7 billion personalities today who may or may not choose His ways. More than 7 billion personalities who require daily patience. Could you or I extend such mercy and compassion to two or three people repeatedly, let alone more than 7 billion?

loveofgod

If the 120,000 people who God had His eye and heart set on in Nineveh were so precious to Him, I know then, so are we. In sharing the Gospel, may we extend a God-like compassion and warning toward those walking in blind disobedience so they may turn away from impending destruction. May we have a heart for the harvest.

-Nicole

Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

Advertisements

The Hardest Words of God to Read

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

The hardest words of God to read. Some people think the hardest word or words to hear from God are “no,” “wait,” “be still” or “forgive.”

While those may be tough words to hear at the time, these words struck me with great soberness:

24- Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25-They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26- Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27- In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 28- Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.  (Romans 1:24-28 NIV)

“God gave them over.”

One scripture commentary reads that God is “leaving them to the pollution of their nature; by withdrawing his providential restraints from them, and by giving them up to judicial hardness: through the lusts of their own hearts.”

Another commentary in that same text reads: “As they deserted God, God in turn deserted them.”

“God gave them over.” No divine intervention. Divine abandonment.

Man grieved

 

I had to let these words set in for a moment. I felt grief, sorrow. Still do. It’s perhaps the grief felt by our Heavenly Father when His children choose paths that will lead to their self-destruction, ignoring His repeated warnings and attempts to protect them against such decisions. Far worse, they were presented God’s truth and exchanged it for lies.

God is so loving, merciful and extends His grace toward us, over and over, and over, and over again. As humans we’re less forgiving toward people’s repeated rebellion.

For God, Who is so loving toward us, when He gives you over to your fleshly desires and says, “If this is what you want, here it is,” who else but God could bring you back from the brink of such destruction??

Heavy. I have to leave it here. I’m not deceived in thinking that everyone will forgo their fleshly desires to pursue Christ. But if there’s an opportunity for someone to receive life, I lift this prayer in earnestness:

Heavenly Father, Thank you for your amazing love, long-suffering , grace and tender mercies extended toward us. While those of us who are secured and sealed in Christ’s righteousness and therefore face no condemnation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) as we strive to be transformed each day into Christ’s likeness, we ask your continued patience as we plant seeds and show Christ’s love among those who are choosing destructive paths. We pray for one more time, that their hearts might be prepared for true repentance to seek Your Son Jesus. We pray that sin’s grip will be broken in their lives and they will be made whole. We pray they choose abundant and eternal life instead of eternal, spiritual death. Where they’ve made You absent, we pray they make You present and tell others of your wondrous love. Thank you, Lord. Amen. 

-Nicole

To learn more about what is accelerating our nation’s decay, please read “Consequentialism in Romans,” written by our dear brother in Christ, Charles Holmes, of Christian think tank, FreedomSquared.org. Powerful piece.

Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.