Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that gave me a chuckle. “I love my rotten, ungrateful children.” I love my grown children, none of which are rotten or ungrateful. But I could imagine such a bumper sticker on God’s car, which of course begs the WWJD question “What would Jesus drive?” Perhaps an Infiniti, Acclaim, Defender, Grand Voyager, Mystique, or Alpha/Omega.
Bottom line: God truly loves all of us rotten, ungrateful children, including the brutal Assyrians. This is the heartbeat of the Book of Jonah. The challenge is getting God’s rotten, ungrateful children to learn to love each other. This is also the heartbeat of the Book of Jonah. Lub-dub, lub-dub. God is love. God calls us to love.
Jonah now begins his difficult journey into the heart of the city of Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrians, the most powerful empire in the Middle East, and the hated enemy of the people of Israel. By the end of the 8th century in which Jonah lived, the Assyrians had conquered much of the Middle East, greatly expanding their empire through brutal military conquest.[i]
In such a time, I can easily understand why Jonah runs away from the task given to him by God, that of speaking to the people of Nineveh. Once he’s given a second chance, Jonah heads for that very great city, and on his first day stepping foot through the great city gates, he begins to preach a short message of doom. I imagine Jonah enjoying the guilty pleasure of preaching doom and gloom upon Ninveh. Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown. Oddly though, as we will find out in chapter four of Jonah, what really needed to be overthrown is the attitude of hatred and condemnation in Jonah’s own heart.
Once a week, I write a caption for a New Yorker cartoon, hoping someday to hang an original New Yorker cartoon with my caption on my wall, the award for the weekly winner of the cartoon caption contest.[ii] I love the end-times cartoons of David Sipress where a bearded Jonah-like prophet stands on the sidewalk of New York with his sign “The End is Near.” In one, a business man asks the prophet, “Yes, but what are your goals.” In another, a professor asks the bearded end time prophet holding his sign, “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
Is the end of the world a good thing or bad thing for you? How do you respond to doomsday predictions? How near the end are we? What would change in your life is you knew you only had 40 more days of life as we know it? The time period of 40 days comes up often in the Scriptures, often a period of testing or trial. What if R.E.M. was correct, with “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” in the next month and a half? What would need to change for you to feel fine about such an ending?
R.E.M. single, “It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)”