6 When word of it reached the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne, stripped himself of his robe, covered himself with mourning clothes, and sat in ashes. 7 Then he announced, “In Nineveh, by decree of the king and his officials: Neither human nor animal, cattle nor flock, will taste anything! No grazing and no drinking water! 8 Let humans and animals alike put on mourning clothes, and let them call upon God forcefully! And let all persons stop their evil behavior and the violence that’s under their control!” 9 He thought, Who knows? God may see this and turn from his wrath, so that we might not perish (Jonah 3:6-9, Common English Bible).
What a difference from the society we live in today!!! The king issued a decree and people actually listened. “Stop what your doing. Go put on sackcloth and sit in the ashes, mostly because the king said to do it.
Once the sackcloth and ashes were on, they were to call upon God forcefully. We all know that none of us can make God do anything. Yet that is what it sounds like the King of Nineveh is asking. Go put on your mourning cloths (your sackcloth) and sit in the ashes and ashes and try to force God to change His mind? I don’t think that is exactly what the writer was thinking. Nor do I think this is the meaning of the text.
There is an acronym I learned some 20 years ago that I think fits here.. PUSH – Pray until something happens.
That is what the king was asking the people to do. “Call upon the name of God…’ That is Old Testament speak for pray. “Call upon the name of God forcefully” carries the original idea further. Don’t just pray, pray hard. Pray like your very existence is at stake. For Nineveh, it was. Do this because, when God sees all of us, when God hears all of us praying and praying hard, maybe, just maybe, God will relent and our city won’t be destroyed and God might let us live.
How different the ancient society was from our own. No matter who is in the seat of power, roughly fifty percent of the country doesn’t like the President and refuses to do anything he says. At the same time, the roughly other half of the country lives the President and insists things will be better if we will just follow the President. It holds true no matter which party holds the White House.
Yesterday we talked about how many people, including us, might hear a Jonah type prophet who really was speaking for God and yet we don’t hear because we don’t listen. Further, if the President had heard (and I am not speaking about any particular president) God and reacted the same way people reacted in Nineveh, for Israel would have been loss and devastation.
As people of faith we need to be willing to put a look past the sin and pray. Further, we need to pray hard. Pray for longer periods of time.
We also need to work with children and youth. “We don’t have any children or youth to work with.
That may be true, and it is to say we want kids in church, We need to provide worship and other opportunities to not only to the students we have in our churches. We also need to provide them opportunities for help with homework. We need to teach children to read earlier. We need to do things that will make a difference.
Nineveh united and prayed. Perhaps God is waiting on the same thing from us.
With Joy and Thanksgiving,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved