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The Heart of God in the Heart of the Sea

Devotion Eighteen

April 24,2024

A King in Sackcloth and Ashes

Daniel Barta

When the Word of God reached the king of Nineveh, his remarkable response included the following:

"[The king] arose from His throne and removed his robe" (Jon 3:6). He vacated his power, authority, and honor. He descended from his exalted place. He lowered himself. He was humbled.

"[The king] covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes" (Jon 3:6). This act demonstrated great sorrow, grief, humiliation and repentance in the heart. The king had seen, through the hearing of the message from Jonah, the reality of God's wrath and coming judgment and his heart grieved. His heart flooded with sadness and sorrow over the coming destruction of his life, his family, his kingdom, and his citizens. His heart turned from the evil and wickedness which gave rise to the wrathful judgment of God.

"[The king] issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh" (Jon 3:7). Out of concern for the city and from a tinge of hope that God might relent (Jon 3:9), the king ordered the whole kingdom to join him in humble repentance. He called every person to deny their stomach food, to put on the garments of sorrow, grief, and repentance, and to turn from their evil and violence.

Amazingly the wicked king who sat on top of the evil and wicked city underwent a massive transformation. He, to a degree, became the prophet to the city. The word of God confronted him, exposed him, humbled him, and then used him to spare the city.

God's Wrath and Justice Make Nothing Out of Our Positions of Power, Authority, and Wealth.

All men, from the least to the greatest, are reduced to creatures equally dependent on the merciful forgiveness of God. God is no respecter of persons. All have sinned and fall short of God's glory (Ro 3:23). All are born into this world in darkness and under the wrath of God (Ep 2:1-3). Each must stand before God and give an account. And everyone - no matter how great he or she is in the world - will fall to their face in fear in the presence of God. Every mouth will be stopped. All will acknowledge He is God. All will be humbled.

The king and the peasant alike stand on level ground before the throne of God. The millionaire and the beggar must together stoop low and call out to God. Nothing one possesses - power, money, influence, acts of charity - nothing will serve the sinner before the holy and just God. The great and small equally rely on one hope, the mercy of God.

Get off Your Throne and Become a Beggar

Most likely you and I have spent very little time sitting on a throne. We are not kings. We do not possess a scepter nor clothe ourselves in royal robes.

Yet we, like the king, work hard to build our own little kingdoms. We exalt ourselves. We set ourselves up over others. We build our platforms. We take pride in the little power, authority, glory, and wealth we manage to accumulate. We seek to secure ourselves and do a decent job in convincing ourselves we have done well; that we are ok.

But God has spoken to us. If we will hear his message and believe what He has said, we will see that we are anything but secure. Our own sin has left us in a terrible place; God's wrath hangs over our heads. We have no reason to remain proud and every reason to exchange our pride for humility. Rather than exalting ourselves with confident strokes of our chest, we should be stooping low to beg for mercy. We like the tax collector who saw his sin should cry out, "God have mercy on me a sinner" (Lu 18:13).

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