God looked at Nineveh and sighed.
It was a bad place filled with bad people doing bad things. Though people there didn’t love God, He still loved them. God decided to send a messenger to Nineveh. God’s eyes peered into Israel and found His messenger, Jonah. God had given Jonah messages before, but this one surprised him. “Jonah, My heart is sad over Nineveh. Go there, tell them I love them and I want them to turn away from all the bad things.” Nineveh?! Jonah thought. He couldn’t believe his ears!Israel’s biggest enemy? It made Jonah’s heart angry that God wouldn’t just smash and destroy them, so instead of carrying God’s warning to them, Jonah got on a boat that was sailing far away. Maybe if I don’t deliver the message, the people won’t apologize, and then God will crush them! But poor Jonah was a fool. Whether he ran away to the ocean or the North Pole or the moon, God’s plan wouldn’t fail.
Waves pounded against the boat as the storm swirled around it. Screaming sailors scrambled around, dumping boxes overboard, trying to save themselves. Jonah knew the storm was for him. God wouldn’t let him run away. He told the sailors to throw him into the sea. They picked him up, prayed to God, and dumped Jonah overboard. Immediately, the wind stopped raging and the waves sat still. In the thick churning waters, Jonah gasped and cried out for God to rescue him. God heard him and pointed to a giant fish. “You, go get Jonah.” The fish obeyed its Master and swallowed Jonah whole. Gulp! For three days, Jonah waited in the belly of the fish until finally being coughed up onto a beach. Again, God whispered to Jonah, “Go to Nineveh.”
Jonah walked slowly down the streets of the city, shouting the words God had said. “God loves you! He wants you to turn away from all the bad things, or He will destroy this place! Tell Him you’re sorry!” All the people of Nineveh bowed their heads, fell to their knees, and cried out to God for forgiveness. God heard their apologies and smiled. He didn’t destroy them.
Jonah got the attention of an entire city. They turned to God, said they were sorry, and turned away from their bad things. What messenger would ever be able to get people from every city to turn to God? God had a very special messenger for this task —His very own Son, Jesus. Jesus wasn’t angry at God for trying to rescue His enemies. Jesus didn’t try to run away. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and came out to tell the people of Nineveh God’s message, Jesus went into a deeper and darker place called death for three days. When He came out, He gave God’s greatest message to the whole world.
“I died so you can live. Turn to God. Say you’re sorry. Be rescued!”
It was hard for Jonah to give God’s message to his enemies. Think about someone who you don’t get along with very well. Would it be hard for you to tell them that God loved them and wanted them to be rescued?
Why does the Bible say that we are God’s enemies? What did Jesus do for His enemies?
This Advent devotional resource was produced by The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. The original resource can be found here.