Word for the day by Christian Education Forum
REPENTANCE: THE LESSON OUT OF JONAH’S BOOK
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” (1-2)
The story of Jonah is etched in our minds from childhood. The story is fascinating to children because it depicts Jonah being thrown into the sea and swallowed by a great fish. This unusual story is much bigger than a tale of Jonah and the fish. The story has other characters and it holds certain lessons for us today.
Nineveh is described as a ‘great’ city. But the city was marked for destruction because of violence and wickedness of its people. There is no indication in the Bible that the people of Nineveh worshiped the true God. But God watches over all nations. The deeds and the misdeeds of all the peopleare under His scrutiny. Violence and wickedness are abominable in God’s sight. God offers a chance for people to repent and to turn back from their sinful ways. We notice that God did not destroy Nineveh outright, but He warned its people of what was in store for them. God’s word serves as a constant warning and as a guidepost to all humanity. The Bible teaches us that God is compassionate. He honors true repentance. Lent is a season for self examination and for genuine repentance.
Jonah’s pronouncement jolted the people of Nineveh. They believed God and they fasted, prayed and put on sackcloth as a mark of repentance. Jonah 3:10 says, “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.”(NIV) God’s mercy and compassion is eternal and it is a promise for all generations. True repentance is much more than a thought process and the performance of some religious rituals. It demands a complete change of heart and reshaping of our lives in line with His commandments.
The story of Jonah also teaches us as to how to respond to God’s calling. There are several “great” cities in the world today which are torn with violence and are reeling in immorality. God must be calling people to go and preach to them so that they are saved and not destroyed.Are we guilty of being silent in the face of violence and wickedness in our nation, our cities and our neighborhoods? We may not end up in the belly of a fish when we ignore or disobey God’s calling, but we become estranged from Him. May this Lenten season help us to do what God wants us to do. Let us also rejoice when people turn from their evil ways and receive God’s grace and guidance in their lives.
Prayer: Lord, help us to hear your voice and obey You. Make us willing laborers in your vineyard. Lead us to true repentance and help us each day to shape our lives according to Your will. Amen.
Thought for the day: God does not despise a broken spirit and a contrite heart. (Psalm 51:17)
Abraham Mathan, Seattle Mar Thoma Church