Boy, that title sounds ominous, doesn’t it? But think about this–when you clean house, what is it that you are doing? You’re getting rid of the dirt, grim and clutter that has accumulated over time and making your house beautiful once again, right? I know in my own little piece of the world (my little seasonal rental) I can let it get quite cluttered. However, I always seem to reach a point there I just can’t stand the clutter so I take a few days to accomplish the task (well, cleaning has never really been my forte so I might not be as fast accomplishing it as others who keep an immaculate house most of the time). But, once I’ve been “inspired” and it’s done and everything is in order, my little seasonal rental looks terrific and I feel great! Here’s the rub, though… it needs to be done on a continual basis.
I was inspired this morning by reading “Our Daily Bread” for today (Nov. 19, 2011) titled, “When God Cleans House.” It’s about Jonah and his attitude towards something that God wanted him to do and he decided, in a fit of stubbornness, to run away. Well, if you are familiar with the story of Jonah (a scant four chapters in the Old Testament but full of application for today) you will remember that very early on he ended up in the belly of a big fish for three days, miraculously sustained by God, to give him pause for thought regarding his stubbornness about what God was calling him to do. Well, I imagine that if any of us were stubborn in doing what we knew God was calling us to do, and we ended up like Jonah in the belly of a big fish to think about our attitudes and actions, that would certainly give us pause for thought about the direction of our lives, too.
The main story of Jonah is not only about Jonah, but about the people who lived in the city of Nineveh which at that time had over 120,000 people living in it. Jonah was sent by God to Nineveh to proclaim a message to them to turn from their own evil ways and repent and turn back to God. While Jonah had no intention of doing that in the beginning, after spending three days in the belly of the big fish he thought otherwise, and as Jonah 2:10 states, “And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land” (NIV 1984).
Since Nineveh was a very important city, it required three days to get the information out to the people. Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD given to him and delivered his message which is found in Jonah 3. He proclaimed that judgment was coming on the city of Nineveh in forty days (the city would be overturned) and to the Ninevites’ credit, they believed this word from God through Jonah. When the word of God reached the king of Nineveh, he issued a proclamation in Nineveh and declared a fast and, in his own words stated, “Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish” (verses 7-9).
Now here’s the really great news–“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened” (verse 10). Got that? God did not bring about the destruction he had threatened on that city. That is incredibly fantastic news!!!
What astonishes me about this story is how Jonah reacted to this news (Jonah 4). It says in Jonah 4:1 that “Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.” Wow. That was definitely not the reaction I expected. I thought that Jonah would be thrilled at what had happened in Nineveh. Now I have no idea why Jonah reacted in that way nor would I even try to speculate. But despite Jonah’s reaction, the story is really all about God’s great compassion on a city that had lost its way as stated in the last verse in Jonah as God was talking to Jonah, “Nineveh has more than 120,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11).
This is one of the great “hallmark” stories in the Bible of God’s compassion and mercy for people who have lost their way. As I think about our nation and all of the turmoil that is going on and how much we are in need of clear direction, I can’t help but think about the story of Jonah and Nineveh and how God relented from destroying the city of Nineveh when the people turned to God in repentance, fasting and humbleness.
I spent three days thoroughly cleaning my little seasonal rental two or three weeks ago, and while I was cleaning it, I reviewed my own life and all that I have been through especially during this very long time of unemployment. God has taken me from being a woman who had reached a point of not knowing my right hand from my left and, over time, cleaned me up to the point where I finally stopped thinking about myself all the time and grew to have great compassion for this nation and all of the people living in our nation and the world. And, most importantly, I found my way back to my first love–Jesus Christ. Jesus really is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and the peace and freedom that I now have I would never replace with anything this world has to offer.
However, I think there is a twinge of Jonah in all of us. Because of the very stressful times we live in today, instead of showing compassion to others we vent anger and frustration. I know I certainly have at times (mostly when I’ve been in my seasonal rental ranting about something that happened that day). And, Jonah certainly did that both before he went to Nineveh and after he gave his message from God to Nineveh resulting in Nineveh’s repentance and salvation. However, I don’t want to end up like Jonah did at the end…
So I repent in sackcloth and ashes.
And, it’s a new day, and for those of us who know Jesus as Savior and Lord, we should never be afraid when God calls us to clean up our own houses (e.g. our lives). Instead of turning away from God in anger (I can’t imagine spending three days in the belly of a fish was much fun for Jonah) let us turn to Him in humility and repentance. After all, when He is in control of our lives, that is when we can truly become “salt and light” to a lost and dying world around us. As Matt 5:13-16 states, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
And let us never forget to “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever” (I Chron. 16:34).
YouTube video – “Midnight Cry” sung by Michael English and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
Photo credit here