For the exhortation I want to look at the city of Nineveh.
Two weeks ago we heard from Pastor Joe teach on this same city from the context of Jonah. And in Jonah, the city is described as being a large city and an evil city. And that is correct. This was a very evil and wicked city. Nineveh was the largest city in the world for about 50 years during this time period. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. Assyria the nation was like Nazi Germany. I mean, they did terrible, terrible things to human beings. Massacres. Torture. Ripped lives and families apart. So when Jonah came and preached to the Ninevites and the Ninevites repented it was a stunning event.
Let me read Jonah chapter 3 verses 5 and 10… “verse 5, And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sack cloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them… verse 10, When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” You may have thought that this was the only time Nineveh is mentioned in the Bible, here in Jonah, and you may have thought or assumed we really don’t know anything more about Nineveh, well, that’s not true, we do know more, and we find it in Nahum. Actually Nahum, is all about Nineveh. Crazy, I know, I was surprised too.
Let me read Nahum 1:1-2… “An oracle concerning Nineveh. (See I told you it was about Nineveh). The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh. The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.”
Nahum hits it hard right at the beginning that this oracle is all about God taking vengeance on Nineveh on behalf of his people. Let’s look at another verse from Nahum that is clear on God being against this city. Nahum 2:13 says “Behold, I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions. (evidently young lions were important) I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall no longer be heard.”
Why is God against the Ninevites? What happened to Nineveh? I thought they turned from evil and they lived happily ever after.
The quick answer is that God was against the Ninevites because they were extremely prideful, arrogant, haughty, and did not trust God any more. And if that wasn’t enough reason for God to be against them, the Ninevites also destroyed the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people. But let’s dig deeper; let me make this observation: The Ninevites repented in Jonah’s day, but it was a onetime deal and was not sincere since only 40 years later, Assyria came in (Nineveh the capital city was involved) and destroyed the northern kingdom consisting of 10 of the 12 tribes and led Israel off to exile.
What can we learn from this? The Ninevites’ daily lives did not carry out a pattern of repentance. What does that mean? Well they turned from evil and to God and trusted him. And, this turning from evil is not a onetime deal. Every morning we wake up we are prone to trust in ourselves, worship ourselves, prone to selfishness and prone to reject God. We must confess this every day and re align our hearts back onto God every morning. Evidently this didn’t happen with the Ninevites since they fell back into their corrupt ways and we should learn from this.
Also, the Ninevites did not mentor and train the next generation to repent and turn to God. We need to train and teach and model for the next generation what it looks like to repent on a daily basis. Are we doing that with our children amongst us? Since we have trust issues with God and don’t want him to be in control, there are lots of areas where we need to repent on a daily basis. We have areas of our life that we aren’t giving to God. And when we don’t trust God we move away from him. And our hearts grow colder towards him and we end up in a situation where God says “I am against you.” Let’s not go there. God doesn’t expect you to be perfect, he wants your heart which includes you trusting him and saying I’m sorry when you screw up.
Repentance is important, and this is why we keep this part of our service. This is why confessing our sins here on Sundays at a minimum is something we feel strongly about. We want to keep a focus on confession of sin so that we move towards God instead of away from him.
Using Pastor Jonathan’s thoughts on repentance from the Acts sermon series, repentance is first a response to what God has done and what God has fulfilled. Repentance does not start with how great we are, which is what is easy for us to think. We need to start our days remembering the gospel, remembering Jesus and the work he accomplished on the cross. And we repent for three main purposes: we repent so that we will be forgiven of our sins and reconciled to God. We repent so that the Holy Spirit becomes a part of our life. Harboring unconfessed sin impacts the Holy Spirit’s work in our life. And we repent now so that when Jesus comes back he will finish conquering sin and death in a full way for us. Repent now, so that when Jesus returns he won’t be against you.
Let’s think about this morning. The things that grabbed our attention instead of God. The places our hearts went this morning instead of to the cross. We are prone to justify our sins and live a life with an air about us that we have everything figured out and we don’t need God. I want to remind you this morning to not be like the Ninevites. I want us to quickly and readily confess our sins and run to Jesus. No matter what has transpired this morning, or the past week or the past few years, this morning let’s confess our sin and turn to God. Let’s ask him now in our moment of silence.
Prayer of Confession
Father God, indeed we confess our sins, and you say that if we confess our sins you are faithful and just to forgive us our sins, on the basis of Jesus dying in our place. Thank you for hearing our prayers. In Jesus name, amen.
Assurance of Pardon
You have confessed your sins. You have acknowledged your iniquity. Therefore, by the authority of Jesus Christ, and as a minister of his gospel, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Congregation: Thanks be to God!