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Ninevah & New Orleans

I've noticed some of this, too - pointing the I-told-you-so finger at the sity of New Orleans in the aftermath of last week's hurricane. But people need our service, our message, our love - and God uses us to give those things, no matter the sin or shortcomings. Our only hope is the grace of God.
That Great City by John Fischer
(PurposeDrivenLife.com devotional, 09/07)

But the Lord said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand 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 4:10,11 (NIV)

These are the last verses of the Book of Jonah in the Old Testament, and they are important when considering those who are suffering the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

We often think of Jonah as the story of a runaway prophet and how God used a big fish to get him back on track. But that's just the main story line. There is a subplot to this story that is just as important and it reveals to us a lot about the compassion of God.

Jonah had nothing but contempt for what God calls “that great city” of Nineveh. The reason he didn't want to go preach there was that he was afraid the wicked people of Nineveh might actually listen to him, repent, and God would spare them. That's the last thing he wanted to have happen. He really wanted God to destroy them for their wickedness. He felt so righteous about this that he went off and pouted after preaching to them, sitting on a hill overlooking the city waiting for God's wrath that never came.

While he sat there in the hot sun getting madder by the minute, God caused a vine to grow up and give shade to him, but no sooner had He done this than the plant withered and died leaving Jonah once again exposed. This angered Jonah no end, and that was when God brought to his attention the 120,000 people and many cattle in the city of Nineveh who were worth a lot more than Jonah's silly little plant, and his poor self exposed to the hot sun. “Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

I have picked up a similar Jonah-like contempt for the Big Easy among some who feel that sinful party city is getting what it deserves. This is a dangerous attitude to have, in that wishing for anyone to get what they deserve means that you must get what you deserve, too, and believe me, no one wants to be in that position, because no one is righteous enough to not deserve the judgment of God.

Jonah's only hope was the grace of God. That was Nineveh's hope, too, but Jonah had a hard time seeing it applied to someone he despised. Should God not be concerned about a great city like New Orleans? It has more people than Nineveh, and many animals, too .


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our Sunday school teacher used Hurricane Katrina as an object lesson in our series on God's Will last week. Basically it came down to this: Everything that happens is allowed by God, but not necessarily caused by Him. If the hurricane was meant as judgment on New Orleans, wouldn't there have been a prophet - a true prophet, not televangelists and the like - to give warning first, as in OT times? What it all boils down to is that we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. One day there will be perfection, but until then we just have to deal with things as they come and know that nothing can separate us from the love of God. It was a really good message and he handled it well, as always.


7/9/05 10:42 PM  

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