Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Don't Hit the Snooze Button

"Nineveh is in ruins - who will mourn for her?" (Nahum 3:7b)

The story of Nineveh doesn't end with the prophet Jonah. One hundred and thirty years later another prophet preached against this Assyrian city. Nahum's message is the second book after Jonah in the Old Testament. This is the sermon Jonah would love to have preached - from the safety of his own country, certainly not in Nineveh itself.

The message of Nahum is that God's mercy is not unlimited. There is a day of reckoning coming. "The Lord is slow to anger and great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished" (Nahum 1:3). Punishment came in 612 B.C. and Nineveh, the great Assyrian city, was destroyed.

This is also a reminder that God has no grandchildren. Did the people of Nineveh pass the lessons of Jonah on to the next generation? Were they repenting just to save their own necks, or was their's a real heart-change? Given Jonah's attitude, I expect that there was no discipleship, no teaching about the God of the scriptures, and certainly there was no national reconciliation with Israel. The immediate threat of judgment was removed, but the root causes of Nineveh's wickedness were never addressed.

What Nineveh experienced was God's grace. They had a wake up call, but then they hit the snooze button and went back to sleep. God put the responsibility on the leadership. "O king of Assyria, your shepherds slumber; your nobles lie down to rest. Your people are scattered on the mountains with no one to gather them" (Nahum 3:18).

Another lesson should alarm us. In times of peace and prosperity, we may be in greater danger. Sometimes persecution or affliction keeps us alert. The media noticed that after the September 11 attacks on America, the following Sunday churches were packed. One month later, attendance had returned to normal. It was the same in my country when Germany invaded Holland; at the end of World War II all those people stopped coming to church.

So what do Jonah and Nahum teach us?

Like Nineveh, the Muslim world today has not received the offer of God's grace.

Will we jump immediately to Nahum's message of judgment?

Will we hear the call of Jonah - but run away?

Or will we hear God's call and respond with compassion?

- Brother Andrew
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