A couple of months ago, I read an article about a diver getting swallowed by a whale off the coast of South Africa. Rainer Schimpf, was off the coast of Port Elizabeth Harbor with his team, when the strangest thing happened. He felt pressure on his hip, and everything went dark. He knew immediately – he was in the mouth of a whale. Thankfully – the whale released him, and he lived to tell the story. One of the headlines called him “A modern-day Jonah” – which is appropriate for this week’s reading. Although the whale get’s a lot of attention in this story as we recall it – I was drawn to see God’s heart for the people of Nineveh – a city that had lost it’s way.
s – “ Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil[a] has come up before me.” Jonah 1:1-2
11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” Jonah 4:11
o – The Lord calls Jonah to go to Nineveh to help them turn away from their wickedness and guess what Jonah does? Turn the other way. He runs in fact. The Lord sends a violent storm and then a great fish to urge him to listen. Eventually by chapter 3 – Jonah listens and goes to Nineveh. He declares the word of the Lord – and the Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.” (3:5). The King goes on to instruct everyone to urgently call on God and give up their evil ways. And how does God respond? 3:10 – “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” Instead of rejoicing for this city – Jonah becomes bitter and resentful. At the conclusion of this book – God is rebuking Jonah – and reminding him of his concern for the confused people of Nineveh.
a – Although generations of wickedness have come and gone, I see and feel the wickedness around me in my generation – a people confused. I relate to Nineveh. I relate to Jonah. I see the wickedness, but I am silenced. In this, I am turning my back. I see in this story – the holiness of God and also His great compassion. Am I a person marked with the Compassion of God? Do I care that people are lost and confused around me? Am I stepping into obedience when He calls me? Or am I running the other way thru my apathy, distractions, or love for comfort.
p – Oh Lord have mercy on me, a sinner! You have called me to be your light, your voice, your Spirit in this world around me. People’s lives are at stake. Eternity hangs in the balance. Give me the boldness and the courage to go where you are sending me. Give me eyes to see people with your compassion. Open our eyes Lord. Amen.