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The Heart of God in the Heart of the Sea

Devotion Five

April 5, 2024

Forty Days

Daniel Barta

"Yet, forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown," preached Jonah (3:4). The Scriptures do not disclose how Nineveh would be overthrown. God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah in a single day with fire from heaven (Lam 4:6) He overthrows the wicked by spoiling their plans and bringing their works to ruin (Job 34:25). On many occasions, God overthrew cities and nations by raising up foreign military forces which break through the city walls, destroy homes and plunder resources (Is 10). The means by which they would be overthrown mattered little. The point worth noting is that the overthrowing of Nineveh would come by God’s hand, and in the act He would be punishing and judging according to their evil.

We see in their response that the Ninevites understood the message clearly. First, each man "turned] from his evil way" (3:5). When the message exposed their guilt and evil they saw the need to forsake the former way of life.

Second, they saw their only hope for preservation in the possibility that "God may turn and relent... from his fierce anger" (3: 9) . They clearly concluded from the message that God stood against them on account of their sin. The message from God through Jonah at minimum conveyed, “You are guilty of sin and evil, and on account of your guilt God in wrath will overthrow you.”

God Mercifully Warns of Judgment.

Like a parent who challenges a child's wrong behavior, calls for the child to change, and warns of dreadful punishment if he stubbornly persists, God endures with much evil while delaying just punishment so that He might challenge sin and warn of the inevitable consequences. God, desiring that Nineveh and all others not perish and escape the wrath that is to come, mercifully holds back his wrath and justice today so that the nations might hear and heed the warning that God will not let the guilty go unpunished. By their sin they are storing up wrath for the day of judgment, and though they might think they are fine, they are not.

The word of God which exposes sin and warns of judgment and wrath sets before man his greatest danger. He is guilty and will stand before the Holy God who will not clear the guilty. The exposing of sin and announcement of pending judgment serves to direct the hearer toward His only hope - mercy.

God's word to sinners rightly brings men to their knees as they cry out in desperation with the psalmist,

“You are to be feared who can stand before You when once Your anger is roused?” - Psalm 76:7
"If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O LORD, who can stand?” - Psalm 130:3

It is a "broken and contrite spirit which the LORD does not despise," and it is by His word of sin and judgment that melts proud and rebellious hearts. Those affected by the warning of judgment fall to their knees and cry out for mercy. And those who cry out for mercy will indeed receive mercy. The same mercy in God which compelled him to send the warning will compel him to forgive and spare those who call out to Him in faith.

Do Not Fail to Warn.

A Christianity that fails to warn the world of God's fierce anger and inevitable judgment fails to deliver the message entrusted to them. It is the warning of judgment that God uses by design to bring men to awareness of their need of a Savior. They need one who can bring them out from under God's wrath, one who can remove their guilt and wash away their sins. That One is Jesus Christ, God's Son. He came to remove the sins of the world so that guilty sinners might be declared right rather than guilty before God.

When the church fails to expose sin and warn of judgment they present to the world another Jesus. Some say Jesus came to save us from our past mistakes, our weaknesses, our dysfunctional families, our oppressive authorities, our addictions, our lack of purpose, our anxiety, our suffering. When we fail to identify man's core problem, we craft a Jesus who we claim will save them from their felt need.

Sadly many will turn to a false Jesus trusting Him to deliver them from their problems, but only those convinced of their guilt and condemnation will turn in faith to the real Jesus - the Jesus who came and died, not so that their issues will be solved, but that their sins will be forgiven. No one confesses their guilt and cries out to God for mercy unless God's word first comes and softens their hearts like fire softens metal (Jer 23:29).

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