Tomorrow night (Tuesday, June 14), Resurrection will host its first Summer Lite Worship at 7:00 pm. A central component is the study of neglected, yet vital Bible stories. Our first four weeks will be the book of Jonah.
Many Christians see the book of Jonah simply as a children’s story that has no relevance to today’s world. The only part they know is that Jonah was swallowed by a whale (or great fish). Yet the book has a great message that is told with humor, style and grace that speaks to us today.
Jonah is listed among the prophetic books of the Bible, yet it is so different. While the other prophetic books are composed of primarily prophetic poems, Jonah has one prophetic speech that is less than ten words. Whereas most prophetic books have some description of how God called the prophet to speak, Jonah goes into great detail in how he runs away from God’s call to go to Nineveh. The contrasts all have a purpose that drives Jonah’s message for us. I am looking forward to our study.
One key feature in the story that is challenging to understand is the city of Nineveh. Nineveh was not a city in ancient Israel, but of an arch-enemy. Nineveh was the capital of the great Assyrian empire. The Assyrians captured the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BCE and destroyed it as an independent nation. The Assyrians nearly captured the southern kingdom of Judah as well. The brutality and cruelty of the Assyrian empire was legendary. Nineveh became a symbol of all that was evil and hated. The book of Nahum is a long Hebrew poem celebrating Nineveh’s destruction by the Babylonians in 612 BCE.
O King of Assyria, your people are scattered on the mountain with no one to gather them. There is no assuaging your hurt, your wound is mortal. All who hear the news about you clap their hands over you. For who has ever escaped your endless cruelty? Nahum 3:19
As Americans, we have trouble identifying with such hatred, because we have not been dominated by other nations. Yet Israel had a deep hatred of Nineveh as symbol of raw power and brutality.
In what ways is hatred appropriate ever appropriate for Christians?
Lord Jesus, help me to follow your call no matter what.