Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“Arise! Go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it, for their wickedness is come up before me.”
Why did God choose the Assyrian nation to be the instrument of his fierce wrath against His own people? While the ultimate answer to that question is hidden in the mind of God, we can see in the book of Jonah how God prepared the Assyrians to be the instrument of His wrath.
Practically everyone knows the story of Jonah and the whale that swallowed him. Even children in this culture have heard the story. God commanded Jonah to go preach, but Jonah did not want to go where God sent him, and so he boarded a ship in a foolish attempt to escape from God. When God sent a strong storm against the ship, the sailors prayed and discovered that Jonah was the reason for the storm. He told the terrified seamen that if they would throw him overboard, the storm would stop, and so they did. After begging God’s forgiveness, they threw Jonah into the raging sea, where God had a whale waiting to ingest the runaway prophet.
The most famous prophetic element of Jonah’s story, of course, is that God caused him to spend three days and nights in the belly of the whale that swallowed him. Jesus said that this was a prophecy of the three days and nights that he himself would spend in the heart of the earth after his crucifixion. That is the greatest value of Jonah’s story that can be applied to the New Testament.
But the greatest Old Testament application of Jonah’s story concerns the geography of God’s call to Jonah. The place to which God sent Jonah, and from which he fled, was the mighty Mesopotamian city of Nineveh. Nineveh, the capitol of the Assyrian nation!
When Jonah was vomited on the shore by the whale, he repented and made the long trek to Nineveh, as God had originally commanded him to do. When he arrived and prophesied in the Assyrian capitol, the king of the Assyrians believed Jonah’s warning of imminent destruction from God, and he and all the people repented in dust and ashes and cried out to Jonah’s God for mercy. The fear-stricken king forbade anyone in the city to eat or drink anything for days, or even to feed or water their animals until they obtained mercy from God. Subsequently, when the Lord saw the sincerity of their repentance and fear, He forgave the Assyrians for their wickedness and did not destroy them as Jonah had prophesied that He would do.
Think about this. Repentance at the preaching of God’s servant Jonah took place in the heathen city of Nineveh, but it was not something that happened very often in Israel. They persecuted and killed God’s prophets, and in that, the perfect justice of God in choosing the Assyrians is revealed. God chose the heathen nation that repented when God’s prophet spoke, to destroy His people Israel who would not heed the prophets’ voices.