Talking vegetables notwithstanding, most folks know the story of Jonah. They know he was swallowed by a big fish for disobeying God. But most do not realize that Jonah was not sent to Ninevah with the message: "Stop sinning."
God's message for Nineveh was "Nineveh shall be overthrown." Jonah did not call them to repentance. In fact, chapter four of Jonah tells us that he did not want them to repent. He wanted the city to be destroyed for its crimes.
But, God turned the hearts of the people of Nineveh. They believed God, and fasted and prayed and grieved over their sin, "from the greatest to the least of them." After the people repented, the king of Nineveh heard and called for a fast.
"Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?" —Jonah 3:7b-9
The king had no word from God that there was any hope for mercy on Nineveh. But he chose to lead the people to spend their "final days" in prayer and fasting, denying themselves, and turning away from evil.
But God DID relent.
God Judges Nations
"He makes nations great, and destroys them;
He enlarges nations, and guides them." —Job 12:23
Throughout the times of the Judges and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, godly and ungodly leaders reigned. Some were magnificent; some were cruel. But the judgment pronounced on the nation was that the people did what was right or wrong in God's eyes. If they followed the practices of an evil leader, judgment came as a result of the people's actions, not the leader. (The leader suffered the consequences of his own sin, to be sure. And causing others to stumble carries a hefty penalty.)
When judgment comes on a people, it comes because the people have forgotten God. They have done what is right in their own eyes. They have followed in the sins of their fathers.
Our fathers, a generation ago, made the murder of the most helpless of society a right. But, that stemmed from generations prior disbelieving God when He said that children are a blessing, and a reward from Him.
Around that same time, women began to throw off the safety and responsibility of hearth and home, choosing different chores instead. In the name of equality, they have devalued themselves, so that now they are no longer protected within the home, but are expected to place their lives on the line for their country.
And our country is under judgment. Consider the divorce rate; look at the crime rate; see how heavy is our tax burden; think of the laws that restrict our very lives. "Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. Blocking out the scenery and breaking my mind. Do this, don't do that. Can't you read the signs?"
Removing the Log
In Economics, the Law of the Commons tells us why whales are endangered and cows are not. It comes down to ownership. Cows are the private property of the rancher. He takes responsibility for his cattle, for their health, their survival and multiplication. Whales belong to no one. If one whaler doesn't kill all he can, another whaler will. There is no incentive (or protection) to save some to protect the species. They're succeptible to "just one more" until there are no more.
Judgment is the same way. As long as we point to other people's sins and THEIR responsibility to do this, don't do that, we sin "just one more" time. "It's just a little white lie." "My employer won't miss one box of staples, one pen, one marker, one minute of my time." "It won't hurt if I just take one peak at that internet site." "I'll place one vote for the lesser of two evils; next time I'll fight for more righteousness." Ad infinitum.
Yes, pray for miracle; pray for deliverance. But, first pray for a heart of repentance. I have no word from the Lord that our destruction is coming in forty days, but given our current course—as history shows us—bondage and captivity are coming.
Lord, teach us to loathe our sin. Remove our hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh that cry out, "Abba, Father." We are children caught with our hand in the cookie jar. We need your forgiveness; we need your righteousness. We dare not ask for your justice to be poured out on your enemies, for we know that we would perish in its wake, were it not for the blood of Christ alone. Rend our hearts over our own sin, and help us not to commit "just one more" sin against you. Thank you for your grace and mercy upon us. Amen.