For the last several weeks our church has been going through narratives of the Old testament, discussing them, and doing our best to understand this big God of the universe. On Saturday night, we took a swing at the book of Jonah. From rebellion, to a ship, to the sea, to the fish, to the city, to the shade, to the land of despair. Our group couldn’t get over how powerful God was in showing His ability to save an entire city in a moment. That is of course contrasted with Jonah’s hatred of the people he spoke to and his desires to die if his plant couldn’t give him enough shade anymore.
I was riding with Jeremy on the way to play some music with he and Bwet at the center today when we started talking about how much like Jonah we are. We stump our tow and we act like we’re going to die. Not really even being figurative here. Tiny things really jack us up and our minds and hearts swirl. I’d like to think that I’m a lot more spiritual than Jonah but I’m not so sure. That’s another issue for another day.
I’ve been humming the song “God of This City” all evening. I’m thinking of how Nineveh came to God in repentence. We don’t know too much about how serious or long such a decision lasted but there seems to be some serious, miraculous stuff going on in just a brief period of time. 120,000 people turned from their wickedness and began fasting, calling all families (even animals) to God in repentence. Intense. I’m all about this ministry of presence that we do. We talk about, live it, and do our very best to hang in there over the long haul. I’m reminded however, in the story of Jonah that the God of this city is powerful. In a moment everything can change. Jonah himself was ticked because He knew the character of God: merciful, compassionate, abounding in love and who relents from sending calamity
I’m challenged when I look at the city in need all around me. I pray I understand the character of God. Perhaps, I’ve tried to make the God I proclaim a little too human, a little too much like John. Quick to fight, quick to cast judgement, and someone that likes to play hardball. This isn’t the God we have fallen in love with, nor is it the God that we have revealed in Jesus on the cross. Slow to anger, abounding in love, and who relents from sending calamity. To the city He races and has divine power to (in a moment) flip evil on its head and propel people to their knees. Not human. Not John-like. Not even that logical. . . . only illogical if I don’t understand the character of God.
You’re the God of this city. You’re the king of these people. You’re the Lord of this nation. You are. You’re the light in the darkness. You’re the hope to the hopeless. You’re the peace to the restless. You are. There is no one like our God. There is no one like our God. Greater things have yet to come. Greater things have still to be done in this city. . .
Nineveh. St. Paul. Manila. Tokyo. Nairobi. Podunk Kansas. His character is still the same – slow to anger, abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity. Powerful. Soverign. Jonah really loved his plant. God really loves people. He loves cities. Hanging in homes, sharing life on life one moment at a time was modeled in the life of Jesus. But let me not forget in the midst of facilitating trust amongst a distrusting, hurting world that Jonah was in a big fish for three days, coughed up on shore, tells His enemies to repent. And they do. Big. City changing big.