“A True Revival- the Rest of the Story of Jonah”- by Hayley Hutchins

“A True Revival- the Rest of the Story of Jonah”- by Hayley Hutchins

One of my favorite things about Jonah is that no other prophet–especially none of the minor prophets we’ve read during “The Pursuit” series–had as effective and widespread a reception to his message as Jonah enjoyed. Hezekiah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, even John the Baptist, none of them were the catalyst for the transformation of an entire city, from the king to the cattle. This mass conversion is especially remarkable considering the sparseness of his message: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown!”

It’s like, whoa, Jonah, way to not be positive and encouraging.

But history tells us also that Nineveh was primed to hear this message. At that time they were facing famine, epidemic, natural disasters, political instability, and possibly also the bad omen of a total solar eclipse. They were an entire city just waiting for the other shoe to drop. So the message “40 days till you’re toast!” was probably easy for them to believe, the final nail in the coffin.

Obviously this mass conversion was the work of the Holy Spirit on the Ninevites’ hearts, not the fruit of Jonah’s skills of persuasion. How else would it be possible for an entire city of 120,000 people just up and quit doing evil?

That’s supernatural power. That’s revival, fam.

And that in itself is enough to revel in, but you feel for Jonah in his dismay when you fast-forward just 25 years in history and see that the city of Nineveh as an arm of the Assyrian empire is once again powerful, putting Israel under tribute and acting as a brutal force of oppression against Jonah’s countrymen. Jonah wasn’t depressed about God sparing sinners; Jonah was fearful for what mercy for Nineveh would mean for his people, and he was right. Jonah watched his God prioritize mercy to a city of evildoers over the safety of His chosen people, leaving Jonah struggling with a relatable anger.

So what I love about this story is how God reveals His character in showing Jonah that eternal salvation is more important than earthly preservation. The oppression Israel would later suffer from Nineveh did not deter God from giving them an opportunity to repent. He had compassion on them specifically because they were evildoers. A whole city was utterly helpless because not a person within knew right from wrong. And God asks Jonah, “Should I not be concerned for Nineveh?” This is the difference between human retribution and and God’s justice; God is concerned.

That’s where the written account of Jonah ends, with God asking Jonah, “Should I not be concerned?”

My takeaway from this story, aside from the themes of deliverance and obedience, is that even violent, hateful, intolerant humans touch God’s heart and stir His compassion. Even those who are the most deserving of His lightning bolts of justice He still wants to spare from His judgment and give an opportunity to turn to Him. And He will move through the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts to make that happen. And He will make good on His promise to spare them.

That’s why Jesus refers to the sign of Jonah. (Matthew 12:40-41) Like Jesus, Jonah preached a message that meant his own demise–the ultimate love for one’s enemies–all at the prompting of God the Father who asks, “Should I not be concerned about them?”

And that matters to me because in the words of the psalmist, “As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me.” (Psalm 40:17) I did not deserve rescue or mercy, but He had compassion on me because He knew better than I did that I was helpless to save myself.

God loves you. He loves you enough to send His chosen people to destruction to get that message to You. He loves you with His own life on the line. And that love is not only for we who have been adopted, it is even more for His enemies. And like Jesus, like Jonah, (willingly or begrudgingly) we His followers are unequivocally called to love our enemies, sacrificing self-preservation that the undeserving will be spared.

And revival can come where the undeserving are offered mercy.