And the People ... Believed God!
“And the people of Nineveh believed God.” Jonah 3:5a CEB Almost exactly four years ago Debbie and I purchased the car I now drive. At the time it was a new 2013 Honda Pilot. We had done a pretty good amount of research and narrowed it down to about three different vehicles in which we were interested. We ended up choosing the Honda Pilot because we thought it would last the longest as we intend to keep the vehicle as long as possible. I have to say, four years later, I really love the vehicle. As soon as we made the decision and drove it off the lot I began experiencing something I believe you may have experienced as well. All of a sudden Honda Pilots were everywhere! I may have noticed a few of them prior to our purchase, but afterward they seemed to be all over the place. Have you ever had this experience? When I read the scripture passage for this week I had a similar thought about the people of Nineveh. No, I don’t think they saw Honda Pilots everywhere. I do believe that when Jonah finally showed up in Nineveh and told them what God had asked him to, something changed. The Scripture records it this way, “And the people of Nineveh believed God.” I don’t think it was any kind of spell that Jonah cast over the people of Nineveh. I believe that Jonah confronted them with their sin and they had to do something. They could either believe that Jonah was a messenger from God or they could dismiss him as crazy. As they are confronted with their own sin they realize that they must change. They choose to believe God! Have you ever had this experience? So here is what I believe … when we are confronted with our own sin it changes us. As the people of Nineveh were confronted with their own sin it changed them – one by one. As individuals began to turn away from their sin and turn to God others would look around and be confronted with their sin and choose to turn away from their sin and turn to God as well. It’s as if a whole city had gotten sucked into the belief that what they were doing was acceptable. This is why God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh. God wanted Jonah to expose their sin and hold them accountable. Once they were confronted with their sin the Scripture tells us, “They proclaimed a fast and put on mourning clothes, from the greatest among them to the least significant (translation – everyone).” Everyone’s eyes were open to see that their sin was upsetting God and they all turned from their sin and believed God. Because Jonah was finally faithful and finally followed God the whole city believed God. The whole city was spared and God received the glory. Perhaps one of the lessons Jonah’s story is teaching us is to open our eyes. God may very well be placing us in situations, circumstances, and places in life so we can help others open their eyes. It may also be that God is placing us in situations, circumstances, and places in life so that our eyes may be opened. It is possible that we can be both the people of Nineveh and Jonah. We all have sin we need to confess and turn away from and we all have people we can influence for Christ. The key is to keep our eyes open and believe God. God will send a Jonah in order for us to open our eyes, but God may also ask us to be someone else’s Jonah as well. This Sunday we continue the message series on the book of Jonah. Jennifer Blessing will help us understand the result of following God’s call. I am sure this will be a great message for all of us. There is no greater purpose in life than to follow God. God is at work at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!