Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Preparing for January 25th

This Sunday, we will continue exploring God’s call and people’s response. This week, we will reflect on Jonah’s grudging response to God’s call and Nineveh’s surprisingly faithful response to the call of God. Our Scripture comes from the very middle of the book of Jonah at a very crucial moment in the story, but Jonah is a very short and entertaining book so I encourage you to take the time to read the whole book to get a sense of what is going on.
3The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2“Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” 3So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. 4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
5And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. 6When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. 8Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. 9Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.” 10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. Jonah 3:1-10
Jonah was one of the most reluctant prophets in the Bible. God calls him to go to Nineveh and he goes in the opposite direction, ends up being swallowed by a big fish, and then spewed onto the shores of Assyria.
• What happens when we ignore God’s call on our life?
• Why do you think God called Jonah given his reluctance and his critical spirit?
It’s easy to criticize Jonah for not doing what God called him to do. But we need to remember that Nineveh was not only known as “Sin City” but it was the capital of Assyria which had conquered Israel and had oppressed the people. In fact, just to bring Jonah’s discomfort home to us, Nineveh was located near what is in now Mosul in Iraq. Jonah finally went (against his better judgment) and preached history’s shortest and most effective sermon: “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
• How would you feel if God called you to go to our greatest enemy and preach the gospel?
• Who are those that you doubt God can change?
• How might God be calling you to reach out to them?
The Bible tells us that the people of Nineveh turned from their evil ways and that God changed his mind about what he had planned for the people of Nineveh (just as Jonah had feared!—see Jonah )
• Can you imagine God changing his mind?
• How does this story change your mind about God, about ministry, and about those who are different from you?
• How do you think this event changed Jonah? Or do you?
Just some thoughts for a Wednesday afternoon.

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