My beloved and I just had a wonderful date together to see a production of “Jonah” at Sight & Sound Theater, which isn’t terribly far from where we live. We were fortunate enough to score free tickets to the show, which just came out within the past week or so. It was absolutely amazing! I’m not a huge musical theater type of fan and neither is my husband. However, seeing a familiar story come to life in such a way really makes you think of aspects you may not have otherwise. Growing up as a typical Sunday School girl, I heard the tale of Jonah a number of times and as a Sunday School teacher, I have probably taught it just as many times to children. Usually the story focuses on Jonah’s running away from God and how, in his flight from the Lord, he gets swallowed up by a large fish for 3 days and 3 nights. Only after being spit up on dry land and surviving this ordeal does Jonah decide to obey God and preach to the Ninevites.
After seeing the show, certain things resonated with me and one thing in particular has really stayed in my mind. There was a song addressing one of themes, which was how everyone has their own personal Nineveh. To Jonah, Nineveh was a wicked place full of godless people. It was the very last place he wanted to go to, especially to preach the word that God had given him to tell these people. I can imagine him pleading with God, “please Lord, I’ll go anywhere you want to use me, just not there!”
What is your Nineveh? Think about it. Perhaps it’s a person that you may have felt a nudge from God to talk to, but you think they would mock or ridicule you. That person may be in your own family or a complete stranger. Maybe it’s something that’s far out of your comfort zone. Even more so, it may be that thing you swore you would never do. Ever. Extending forgiveness to someone who has deeply wronged you may be your Nineveh. Or, like Jonah, perhaps it’s going somewhere you would never in a million years have a desire to visit. Each individual’s Nineveh is different because God has designed each of us differently and to fulfill a unique purpose. Throughout the Bible God uses common people in uncommon ways to do His will. Each one of us has our own set of flaws, insecurities, and things that scare us. If we truly trust in the Lord and allow ourselves to be used, He can use us common people for uncommon purposes as well. For His glory, and His alone.
Now, back to the prophet Jonah. Though he was terrified to go to Nineveh as the LORD instructed him and “preach against it,” he finally did. What astounds me about this story is what happened when Jonah became obedient, went to the imposing city, and preached that the people there would be destroyed in 40 days. Did they lock him up, torture him, or even publicly mock him? Not according to the scriptures. In Jonah 3:3-6, on the first day when Jonah went into the city and proclaimed its impending destruction, the scriptures say: “The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.” In the following verses everyone is urged by a decree from the king to call on God and give up their violent ways so that God may have compassion on them and spare them. God does indeed have compassion on them and this city of 120,000 was spared.
So, to me, whatever God has called us to do or wherever He has called us to go, we won’t be doing it by ourselves. Whatever your personal Nineveh is, you won’t be facing it alone. The Lord obviously was with Jonah in his journey and was working in the hearts of the Ninevites. God Himself will be with you and will in fact help you and enable you to fulfill His purposes. Isn’t that reassuring? It sure is to me. So, thinking about facing your own Nineveh, whatever that is for you, be encouraged by these words found in Joshua (one of my favorite verses, by the way): “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NIV)
PS- There’s even more to this story! Check it out in the book of Jonah, which is a tiny book sandwiched between Obadiah and Micah in the Old Testament.