There’s a little exercise that the counseling team at my church put together that walks you through and past your emotions, into your surface idols, peering past the fruits, and down the trunk following all the way deep into the roots. I’ve been treating myself to some worm-ridden apples, Satan spinning my taste buds into a palate that craves discontentment, guilty of pointing at my circumstances being the only thing in the wrong. Although I’ve walked through this worksheet a few times, it struck me that the one I did back in March looks eerily similar to the one I had to do now here in just about July. I almost shrugged it away, until the Spirit did His work through several passages I was quick to brush off as inapplicable.
Spit back up on to dry land, we find ourselves not only in chapter three of Jonah, but almost an instant replay of chapter one. The repeated words invoke a re-do of sorts, with the near death experience in the forefront of everyone's minds, only this time, Jonah does what he’s told. We wait in anticipation to see if the fish and all of it’s digestive acids wore off the ridiculousness of going against God’s Word.
This clear Israelite, foreign to Nineveh, the capital of their enemies, the Assyrians, makes his way into the city and pronounces five whole ambiguous words of prophecy. Good grief. He calls out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Maybe this was his way of avoiding as much attention as possible, in the most cruel place known in that time to potentially avoid being crushed and destroyed, but it also seems like not the kind of prophecy that God would have called him to at all, with no message of repentance as a follow up to offer these people.
Nevertheless, what seems haphazard on the part of Jonah brings about the beauty of the younger brother coming home. In yet another breath, we read, “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 vast and rapid repentance of a wildly wrong community spans the rest of this chapter, and ends once more with the grace of God in lavish abundance.
So as I thought about the gifts of Jonah, and in my current reading through the book of Micah, there is clearly something to be said about repentance. It’s not as if the people of Nineveh, Jonah himself as we will soon find out, or even those in Judah in Micah’s time didn’t believe in something; each and every one of them was operating out of a belief, or misbelief in their lives. It may look to many that the audacious and far reaching claim to repent seems to be harsh and unkind, but if there was any recognition at all that you were turning from death to life, the call to repent and believe is the most merciful and loving gift to be received. This is the way to salvation.
Repentance does call for mourning. Turning does call for some death. All that you once had an appetite for must go, and when the road of misbelief has been paved, the path of belief will look too difficult to journey. The only reason my homework looks the same after a long period of time is because I have not tasted and seen the goodness of what our God calls us to as something that can infiltrate this part of my life. I know this to be true, but the lies that I cling to that rule my behaviors and thoughts do not allow it to sink deep into my heart.
Yet, the hand extended in grace reaches further still. The chisel wielded by the gentle hands of the potter is relentless and effective. This is His love. Repent and believe. Here is where from one degree of glory to the next we are given the gift of life, its true beauty and abundance, and we turn to finally look at Him.
I believe; help my unbelief.