This has been a wild week in the United States of America.
Some “prophets” even prophesied a victory that didn’t happen… apparently.
Should we stone these partisan prophets? (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)
What are we to do, regarding them?
And what are you to do with the fact that approximately half of your neighbors picked the wrong guy—that is, the one that you didn’t pick?
Last time, we preached that all this ranker is like an argument over the babysitter; who we pick doesn’t matter in the way we’re tempted to think it matters. We’ll get another babysitter in just a few years. However, your brothers and sisters are yours forever—they do matter.
So what are we to do, regarding them?
Perhaps, we are to do what Jonah was asked to do regarding Nineveh.
The “Word of the Lord”—a walking, talking Word with a face—came to Jonah, saying, “Go prophesy to Nineveh,” and Jonah ran from the Face of the Word of the Lord.
That’s strange, for Jonah was a “partisan prophet” with an intense hatred for Ninevites, and the Word of the Lord is the ultimate weapon—indeed “a fire” and “a hammer”—prophesied to one day utterly shatter Nineveh and all Assyria.
Nineveh was infamous for her cruelty and famous for her worship of the goddess Ishtar, also known as Nina, and pictured as a fish. Nineveh appears to have been the house of Nina, and so the cruelty of the Ninevites was not simply their own; they had been consumed by the goddess Nina, a “principality and power, a world ruler, of this present darkness.”
You would think that Jonah just could not wait to use the “Word of the Lord” to call fire down upon the Ninevites, but Jonah sees the face of the “Word of the Lord” and flees. He boards a ship bound for open sea. Asleep in the bottom of that boat, a storm begins to rage. When the sailors throw him overboard, it stops the storm and calms the sea.
Jonah sinks into the abyss where he is swallowed by a great fish, a great “nuna” in Aramaic—a nuna, that looks like Nina. And Jonah calls it “Hell,” (“Sheol” in Hebrew, “Hades” in Greek, “Hell” in many English Bibles).
“There is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going,” writes Solomon. That means that no one believes in Hell—not that there is a hell—but no one believes who is in Hell. Hell is not believing. That’s what makes it hell. Without faith in Love, you are totally alone; that’s the belly of the beast. No one prays in Hell.
But on the third day, there is a miracle in Hell: Jonah prays.
He was hopeless, but something, or someone, hoped in Jonah—inside of Jonah.
Jonah spoke the word, or the Word spoke, in Jonah.
The Word had descended into Hell with Jonah, like a seed dropped into the earth or, in the words of Gregory of Nyssa, like, “hook on bait”—some Jonah bait.
The Great Fish Nina, the Beast from the Sea, Leviathan, gulped it down, and on the third day, Jonah prayed, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.” “Ye-shoo-ah” is how it sounds in Hebrew. It also forms a name—Jesus. Jonah spoke the word, or the Word spoke Jonah. Hell couldn’t stomach that Word, and vomited Jonah (and the Word) up onto the dry land.
Jonah and Jesus both refer to the belly of the beast as a womb; as if God not only conquers “Hell,” he even uses “Hell” to give birth to something—a new Jonah.
The Jonah that gets barfed up onto the beach is not the same old partisan prophet that had descended into the deep; Jonah has faith in Grace and by Grace.
As we’ll see, it’s only the size of a mustard seed, but that’s enough.
Jonah preaches the Word, and Nineveh is “overthrown,” but not in the way that Jonah had hoped it would be overthrown; Nineveh repents. Jonah gets angry.
He complains, “This is why I fled. I knew that you were a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast (relentless) love.” Jonah had known that the Word of God was all powerful, but when he saw his face, he knew: His power is Relentless Love.
God says, “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh?”
God delivered Jonah from the belly of the Great Nina, but Jonah still struggled to have compassion on the Ninevites in Nineveh, who had been utterly consumed by Nina—a principality and power of this world.
In the Revelation there are two beasts: one from the sea (like Rome or Nineveh) and one from the Land (like the old Israel, the imitation Christ, the Antichrist).
Jonah was already trapped by one beast when God arranged for him to get swallowed by another beast, to learn to call on the one true God for Salvation—Ye-shoo-ah.
I suspect that half your neighbors have been swallowed by a giant blue donkey.
And the other half have been swallowed by a terrifying red elephant.
If we saw them for what they truly are, we’d be fine, and they might even be a blessing.
But because we’re willing to hate our brothers and sisters for the sake of those beasts, God might have to give us up to those beasts… to teach us compassion and reveal the face of his Word.
How much better if we just looked in his face right now—body broken and blood shed?
He’s the King who couldn’t give a fig for that chair in the Oval Office, but suffered, died, descended into Hell, and on the third day, rose from the dead that he might sit on the throne in the sanctuary of your soul.
So, if you picked the donkey, go to the kingdom of the elephant. And if you picked the elephant, go to the kingdom of the donkey. Sit at their table, drink from their cup, have compassion, and then testify—“The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10).
You will find that you both want the same thing, and neither the donkey nor the elephant can deliver that thing. Maybe they can deliver him up… to death. But as you speak the Word and hear the Word, you’ll find Him rising in your heart. He’s delivering you and your neighbor. That’s how his Kingdom comes.