Two prophets to Nineveh preach destruction for that powerful city. Jonah, the earlier prophet, preaches a message of doom to people whom he detests. They heed his warning. They fast and pray for repentance to Jonah’s God, asking for deliverance. God, much to Jonah’s disgust, grants their request. Jonah preaches a totally negative sermon to Nineveh; they repent and are saved. Nahum, prophesying decades later, preaches a more developed (at least, we know more of what he said) message of doom. His message, however, includes words of hope for the victims of Nineveh’s tyranny: “Though they are at full strength and many, they will be cut down and pass away. Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more. And now I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds apart” (Nahum 1:12-13). There is no recorded response to Nahum’s prophecy, but Nineveh fell to the army of Babylon, which entered the city when a river flood and washed away part of the city wall, an event predicted by Nahum in Nahum 2:6: “The river gates are opened; the palace melts away.” The city and its empire perished.
Two prophets predicted destruction for Nineveh. that destruction was delayed when people repented and prayed for deliverance. Ultimately, a return to evil sealed the fate of an empire noted for its cruelty to enemies whom it conquered. Jonah’s experience teaches us that God wants to save sinning people even when God’s people would rather see the sinners destroyed. As noted in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Years before those words were written, Peter concluded a sermon with this invitation, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, for promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:38-39). 2 Peter, like Jonah and Nahum, proclaims a message of warning of destruction, yet also holds out hope through repentance and obedience. Peter, on Pentecost, urged repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Like Nineveh, we have received warning through God’s word. Will we humble ourselves and pray, then obey? Or, will we ignore the call to change our course and maintain our right to self-determination even if it leads to our destruction?
Lord who loves and forgives, have mercy on us. Turn our hearts to you. Open our eyes and our ears to the message of hope for salvation in your Word. Remind us that you save us by the resurrection of Jesus when we answer yes to your invitation. Help us to overcome our pride and remove the chains of sin that bind us, that preclude our giving ourselves fully to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen