Only Eight Words
Only eight words. No introduction, no sermon, no amusing anecdotes, no funny illustrations, no altar call, no apology, no subtlety, no permission asked and none granted. It was a cold, direct pronouncement of impending judgment; the response of a holy God to their wickedness. Jonah traversed the broad expanse of the city, one side to the other, whereupon he left the city and retired to a hillside overlooking Nineveh where he could bear witness to the wrath of God. His hatred for the inhabitants of Nineveh swelled up in his heart almost to the point of glee as he sat in anticipation of the apocalyptic wrath that would soon befall them. He waited and waited……………………..and waited……………..but the fire did not come.
Judgment did not come because something remarkable had happened in Nineveh.
“And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” (Jonah 3:5-9 ESV)
Nineveh was a cruel and bloodthirsty city known and feared throughout the region. The Assyrians had troubled Israel for centuries, entrenching itself as not only an enemy of the nation of Israel, but the God of Israel as well. It is understandable that Jonah would have revelled in witnessing the overthrow of Nineveh. Yet, in response to a plain, direct warning from the prophet’s lips, the inhabitants of the city humbled themselves before Yahweh, and cried out to Him for mercy. Nineveh was spared.
Jonah had walked through a gate on one side of the city, and what a sight he must have been to the Ninevites. He was a hairless, bleached out, partially digested ghoul who walked a straight line through the city repeating over and over again the same eight words, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” The prophet did not edit or editorialize God’s message to Nineveh. It was God’s message, not his. Jonah did not expound or exegete. He did not engage in debate. He did not cajole or plead. He did not present himself as a “friend” of the people of Nineveh. He made no effort to fit in or become relevant to their culture. He expressed no compassion, no love, and no pity for the people. His was by no means a “seeker sensitive” ministry. Jonah was on a mission from God. He had a word from God to deliver. He had a warning to give; a raw, uncooked meal with no niceties or accoutrements. There was no effort to make the people feel better about themselves, to affirm them, or to minimize their condition or jeopardy. He did not couch his message in any form of subtlety, nor did he sing all the verses of JUST AS I AM, twice. This was as stark, unappealing, ingratiating, and classless as a message can be. Jonah looked Nineveh in the eye and spat out the hard, unvarnished truth; a warning that contained just those eight blunt words, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
The United States of America is living in the shadow of the judgment of God and we need a Jonah.
(The above is an excerpt from my book, CRY REPENT. You can purchase a copy of this hard-hitting book HERE.)