When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
On July 2, 1505, while in college, Martin Luther was riding back to his university on horseback when he was nearly hit by lightning, an event which would terrify anyone, but which cause Luther to cry out for help to God and promise to become a monk if God would rescue him.
I’ve heard other such promises made in a time of intense distress. A monk friend of mine told me that he promised to become a monk while trapped on a ridge on an island in the South Pacific during World War II. Under heavy fire from the enemy, and unable to find anyway back to safety, Brother Martin also promised God he would become a monk if God rescued him. A year later, back in California, Brother Martin made his initial vows as a Trappist monk, and has been a monk now for close to 70 years.
God sees our lives. Nothing is hidden from God’s view. God saw clearly the lives of the people of Nineveh and the whole Assyrian Empire, including the heart of the king. God saw the heart of the king of Nineveh turning from evil, turning to God. Miraculous. This turning is greatly needed in our world today, including in such places as where the story of Jonah took place centuries ago.
Our life is one of turning. We keep turning our attention from one thing to another thing. What we do matters. Our actions speak louder than our words, including those inward actions of the heart which no one but God can see.
What are you doing with your life? How are you turning? Toward evil or away from evil toward God? God loves to have compassion upon humans. God loves to relent and rescue.
Destruction is very real. We see it and read about it in world news daily. We humans seem to have a knack for destruction, one person threatening another, one nation threatening another. God also warns, offers words which are threatening to us. Is God a bully? Why does God threaten the people of Nineveh with destruction?
God is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love towards all who turn to God for help. God warns because God loves. No matter if you’ve been knocked off your horse by a lightning bolt, or under sniper fire on a tropical island. God sees. God hears. God loves to rescue.
God came to Nineveh’s rescue. They greatly feared God’s punishment. They heard God’s warning spoken by God’s prophet Jonah. They did not want to be hit by God’s lightning bolt. They turned to the God of compassion, who’s anger is for a moment, but who’s love lasts a lifetime.
I find it fascinating that the judgment people most often mention when the talk about coming back to church is being “struck by lightning”. I’ve heard people say, “I’d think about coming back to Church, but I’d probably be struck by lightning.” I kind of understand, for God has vast power; greater power than a mere thunderstorm. Lightning is very frightening to us, especially when it hits close to home. While living in Tennessee, back in the late 1980’s, I loved standing out on our covered porch and watching the lightning storms roll through the countryside. One night while at this activity, the lightning kept coming closer, until a bolt hit the telephone pole next to our house, exploding the transformer box, sending a cascade of sparks showering down upon the road, knocking out all the power to our neighborhood. I quickly ducked back into the house full of fear and wonder.
In 2012, the people of Cannon Beach Community Church installed a new Church Steeple and Bell Tower on the roof of the Sanctuary, including a Lightning Rod to protect the wooden Church Building during lightning storms.
God invites us to come inside, into the shelter of God’s Sanctuary of Compassion, where we are safe during the storm.
On July 17, 1505, just fifteen days after lightning struck, Martin Luther left law school, sold his university textbooks, and entered an Augustinian monastery in Erfurt, Germany.