Our Enemies aren't Necessarily God's Enemies

Jonah 4 - Daily Devotional

By Pastor Jason Walsh

“And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle” (Jonah 4:11 ESV).

In today’s world, particularly in our country, there is something about masses of people in a great city that seems to emphasize the lost condition of humanity.  We see this every day we turn on the news. We learn of it each time we read endless information while scrolling through our cell phones or digital devices.  And if we are honest; anger and even judgement can sneak into our hearts and minds as we view images or videos of the chaos amongst the masses in these large cities.  We witness evil, hate, and criminals in these images and videos.  We read about opinions that may be offensive and before we know it, we are viewing the masses participating in these acts not only as lost people, but even as our enemies.

Though Nineveh was a great city, its people had wandered far from God. But Jonah didn’t care much about that, because Nineveh’s people were enemies of his own people. Still, God was concerned about Nineveh’s people. God even asked Jonah directly, “And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh” (Jonah 4:11 NIV)? So, he sent Jonah to teach about him, and they “turned from their evil ways” (Jonah 3:10).  But this is not the only time in history God has used one person to change the history of a city or nation.

In 430, Patrick, a young Roman Briton, was kidnapped by Irish raiders to be a slave. At the time he was a Christian by name only, but he turned to God with urgency in the midst of his suffering. “I would pray constantly during the daylight hours,” he later said. “The love of God and the fear of Him surrounded me more and more.” After six years, he escaped.

Years later, Patrick had a dream in which he received a call to evangelize Ireland, the country in which he’d been enslaved. At that time, Ireland was pagan and idolatrous, a difficult place to serve. Patrick faced fierce opposition from druids and wrote, “Daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity, but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven.”  

Called to witness to his enemies, Patrick obeyed! Patrick's ministry lasted 29 years. He baptized over 120,000 Irishmen and planted 300 churches.  But when Jonah was called to do the same, he ran…  

What was the city of Nineveh all about? This ancient city, with a population of 120,000 (Jonah 4:11) and an area of about sixty square miles, was the capital of Assyria, a world power and chief enemy of Israel. Jonah ran away not because he was afraid to take a message of judgment there, but because he was afraid the people would repent and God would relent and forgive them (Jonah 4:1, 2, 3). Jonah didn’t want his enemies forgiven and let off the hook. He understood God’s character well! Jonah told God, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2).

The Ninevites did indeed respond to Jonah’s preaching. They fasted and wore sackcloth to demonstrate humility and repentance before God (Jonah 3:5). The essence of repentance is a changed heart and life, as the king’s proclamation recognizes: “Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence” (Jonah 3:8).

God gave both the Ninevites and Jonah a second chance; His love is infinite, reaching out even to those who oppose Him (Romans 5:10). 

Even Jesus used the Ninevites as an example of repentance in response to God’s love speaking to the Pharisees.  Jesus said, “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:41).

As Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit, we are Kingdom Carriers and that “something greater” Jesus speaks of is living within us today!  Here’s a question for you; Would you share the gospel with your enemies? You may not think that you have actual “enemies.” To identify the people in your life who may be your “Ninevites,” think of people whom you dislike or at least those you tend to avoid. Who is the Holy Spirit bringing to your mind right now?  Are you willing to share God’s love with them? Do you desire to spend eternity with them? Do you truly want them to be forgiven?  Can you think of specific ways, in word or in action, to communicate the love of Christ to them? Will you obey or run? What you do with your answers to these questions could determine the history and future of a neighborhood, city, or even a nation!  God has done it several times before, and He is faithful to do it again!

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