When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He has declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. Jonah 3:10
Deeds – How many sermons have you heard from that famous passage in Chronicles? “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves . . .” In times of threat, sermons about national humility sprout up like weeds. Guess what? God isn’t listening anymore.
Sunday sermons about crying out for forgiveness don’t matter. Shedding tears over past idolatry have no affect. Pleading for God’s intervention is useless. Only one thing changes the inevitable: actions.
The great city-state of Nineveh was doomed. The consistent disobedience and idolatry of the people brought about God’s judgment. Jonah was more than happy to see this pagan culture erased from the face of the earth. Even after Jonah proclaimed their doom, he waited in hopes that fire would fall from heaven. But the people of Nineveh did more than listen. They turned. They stopped living in denial of God’s sovereignty and authority. They ceased practicing their insulting idolatry. They gave up their selfish pursuits of personal importance. They changed their behavior, and God saw their deeds.
The Hebrew is ma’aseihem. It covers work, workmanship and deeds. In other words, it is a nice broad term for the activities of living. It covers the means of production and the products that result. The citizens of Nineveh changed everything about the way they conducted life. Then God changed His decree and spared them. Of course, He didn’t have to spare them, even after they repented. They still deserved God’s punishment. They were still accountable for their apostasy. But God is also merciful, and in His mercy, He removed the decree of extermination. They got what they did not deserve – grace.
In my opinion, we face very much the same situation today. Our society is violently disobedient, unashamedly arrogant and scandalously contemptuous of God’s instructions. We are the global Nineveh. Amazingly, our religious duplicity allows us to think that somehow God’s judgment will be diverted simply because we cry out to Him. But wailing walls and whitewashed sanctuaries will not forestall God’s chastisement. The only thing that will avert disaster is a change in action. Our deeds must be turned. You and I know this. I am exhorting those who already see the handwriting on the wall. I am pleading to those who know the agony of starvation in a world of pointless affluence. But our wrenching hearts will not turn the tide. Even the remnant went into Babylon along with the wicked. What is required is a massive return to the ways of God – a revival, not of words and wails, but of attitudes and actions. Nothing less will prevent the destruction that hovers over us even now.
Pray to the Lord of the harvest that His mercy will outweigh His wrath. Pray that our small acts of obedience will foster more acts of obedience and that the tide will turn. And pray hard. The days grow shorter.
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