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The Heart of God in the Heart of the Sea

Devotion Ninenteen

April 25, 2024

The Decree of the King

Daniel Barta

In a call to the people, the repentant king of Nineveh urged the city to take several actions:

  • Let no one and no beast eat (Jon 3:7)

  • Let each man and beast be clothed in sackcloth (Jon 3:8a)

  • Let each man call out mightily to God (3:8b)

  • Let each man turn from his evil way (Jon 3:8c)

  • Let each man turn from the violence in his hands (Jon 3:8d)

Rightly, the king identified their way of life as evil. In this, he acknowledged that the city possessed a culture, a "way" of living, a shared lifestyle. As in every city or people group, Nineveh shared a way of thinking, of valuing, of acting, of feeling. The king did not call out one political party, he instead addressed the whole city in all their shared way of living.

The works of such an evil way in Nineveh was violence carried out by wicked hands. Violence marks the evil way and characterizes a city whose culture is against God. Violence is oppression. It is acting against another for one's own selfish gain. It is to wrong another.

God's Way Is Not Evil and Is Free of Violence

Violence always accompanies the evil way for the evil way of the world...

  1. knows hostility toward the Creator, and

  2. an insatiable lust for the creation.

The disconnect from the satisfying goodness of God and the individual pursuit of pleasure in the created sets men and women against each other. To have what they crave, men must do violence to others whose craving are in competition.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. - James 4:1-2a (ESV)

In contrast to the way of the wicked stands the way of God. The way of God is marked not by evil but by righteousness. The works of the righteous way are not violence but loving kindness. When the way of God is restored in a city,

Violence shall no more be heard in [the] land, [neither shall] devastation or destruction [remain] within [the] borders. - Isaiah 60:18a (ESV)

Instead, the city will know peace, justice, and righteousness.

I will make your overseers peace and your taskmasters righteousness. - Isaiah 60:17b (ESV)

The great renewal of a city from injustice to justice, violence to peace comes through the right knowledge of God and a return of the people to their Creator.

The LORD will be your everlasting light. - Isaiah 60:19 (ESV)

Seek Justice in the City by Confronting Evil Men with the Truth about God.

The turn of the city came about when God's prophet confronted them with the truth about the LORD. The people of Nineveh assumed their safety. Perhaps, they looked at their wealth and greatness and presumed that God was either on their side or not concerned with them.

The truth on the other hand would assert that God indeed was against them and in time He would judge them and overthrow them. It is this truth preached to the city that led to repentance, a forsaking of the old evil way and a turning to new way.

The church today seems to agree that the cities and nations in which we live are full of evil. Constant news feeds remind us continually that our communities are filled with unrighteousness and violence. Yet the church often shies away from the one means by which renewal will come, bold proclamation of the knowledge of God as the just and holy judge who will not tolerate evil.

Of course, the justice and holiness of God and His judgment and wrath against wickedness is not the full message the church has been given for the city. We must go on to announce that the hope any wicked city has is in the good news that Jesus has already taken the judgement of God on himself so that all who repent and believe will be saved.

But we must realize that the message of Jesus' work finds significance and value only in the eyes of those who first hear and believe what God's word says about their sinful selves. The renewal of a sinful and broken city begins with the news that sin is our problem and God is our judge.

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