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The Bible Speaks

    by Gino Geraci

Commentary on Jonah 1: 1, 2
Date Posted: October 4, 2007

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go the Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it for their wickedness has come up before Me

Although we don’t know how the word of the Lord came to Jonah, we know that it did. The Bible says in the New Testament, in Hebrews 1:1 that God in times past spoke through the prophets. I suspect that as the Holy Spirit came upon the prophet Jonah, that he sensed the power and presence of God. Not only do I think that he sensed the power of God and the presence of God, I think that he also experienced, to a certain degree, the love, grace, generosity, and sweetness of God.

As Jonah experienced the presence of God, he heard a voice that said, “Arise, go to Nineveh.” God’s presence and direction were there; His will and call were unmistakable. Unfortunately, even though Jonah experienced the clear and undeniable power and presence of God, something welled up inside of him, because God asked him to do something he clearly didn’t want to do.

As God spoke to Jonah, in the midst of confusion, shock, and perhaps disgust, Jonah recoiled and resisted the word of God, because he detested and loathed the people of Nineveh.

Jonah’s feelings toward the people of Nineveh were not without reason. You may recall that Nineveh was the capitol of Assyria. I don’t want to get too into the perversity and wickedness of the Assyrians, but they would cut off people’s heads, empty out their brains, and use the heads as drinking vessels. They were wicked and vile. Nahum 3:1 gives a short, T.V. Guide version of what Nineveh was like: “Woe to the bloody city! It is all full of lies and robbery. Its victim never departs.”

Do you think your city has a crime problem? Take a look at the rest of the description found in Nahum 1:2-7, “The noise of a whip and the noise of rattling wheels, of galloping horses, of clattering chariots! Horsemen charge with bright sword and glittering spear. There is a multitude of slain, great number of bodies, countless corpses-- they stumble over the corpses-- Because of the multitude of harlotries of the seductive harlot, the mistress of sorceries, who sells nations through her harlotries, and families through her sorceries. "Behold, I am against you," says the LORD of hosts; "I will lift your skirts over your face, I will show the nations your nakedness, and the kingdoms your shame. I will cast abominable filth upon you, make you vile, and make you a spectacle. It shall come to pass that all who look upon you will flee from you, and say, ‘Nineveh is laid waste! Who will bemoan her?' Where shall I seek comforters for you?’”

This paints a picture of a vile, filthy, horrible place. If you think of New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas rolled into a ball of lawlessness, you have an idea of what Nineveh was like. To put it into perspective, consider this: Imagine being a Jewish person who lived in Eastern or Western Europe during WWII. Imagine that your family was kidnapped, imprisoned, and killed. Wouldn’t it be difficult to, under those circumstances, love the Nazi people who destroyed your life and family? When Jonah heard the words, “Go to Nineveh,” the repulsion he experienced would have been similar to what a Jewish person would feel upon being told, “Go to Auschwitz.”

Nineveh was the capitol of the nation that sought to subdue and destroy Israel; it was everything Jonah hated in the Gentile world. It was a city where every filthy, unimaginable, unspeakable horror existed, where God was least respected and honored. Breathing its air or walking in its dirt would render a good Jew unclean. Going to Nineveh would be like visiting on a cosmic scale every pornographic site, every murder, every act of violence, every abuse and every kind of sick and perverse thing you could imagine, with the knowledge that chances are, if you went, you wouldn’t survive. If you think of the most despicable and horrible thing you can imagine, you’ll understand Jonah’s feelings for Nineveh. Jonah had to be thinking, God, How could You possibly want me to go there?

We know theologically that God is sovereign and that He can do whatever He wants to do. When God has an agenda, and plans to accomplish that agenda, He will do whatever it takes to get the job done. And yet, Jonah’s freedom to choose was real.

Jonah was a strong-willed prophet in a power struggle with God. He entered into a territory of disobedience based on feelings, will and desire – the same thing many of us experience when God asks us to do something we don’t want to do. Jonah was willing to be a faithful prophet as long as God didn’t make him go where he didn’t want to go or do what he didn’t want to do.

Have you ever been in that situation? Have you ever said within your own heart, “I’m willing to be a faithful Christian, Lord, as long as you don’t ask me to do something that I find uncomfortable or repulsive”? That’s exactly how Jonah felt-- his willingness to obey God was dependent on what God asked of him.

Before you’re too hard on Jonah, examine your own mind and heart. Think back to the last time God asked you to do something and you were reluctant to do it. Within yourself you may have said, “God, that can’t be You. You asked me to do something or love someone I absolutely despise.” Think again; the thing you are reticent to do could very well be exactly what the Lord has asked you to do. Jonah was faced with the exact same decision we are all faced with: when God clearly speaks to us, will we obey or disobey?

You’ll note that when God gave the clear command to Jonah, He didn’t begin by sticking Jonah in the fish. He told Jonah clearly what He wanted him to do and then gave Jonah the opportunity to think about it and make a decision.

If I were to ask you who you find difficult to love, your first inclination might be to say that you love everyone. After all, the Bible says to love your enemies, to love your friends, to love everyone. You may say that you can’t think of anyone off the top of your head that you despise or really hate.

Really? How about if we start here: Is there anyone you find difficult? Are you annoyed by anyone’s criticism? Has anyone become the object of your cynicism, hatred, pessimism, defeatism, skepticism, suspicion, disbelief, or distrust? For some blacks, it’s white people. For Republicans, it’s the Democrats. For some rich, it’s the poor. For fans of the Broncos, it’s the Raiders!

Now think about the people you are least likely to come in contact with, not because they are far away from you, but because you avoid them, because the moment you see them, they rub you the wrong way. You may experience a twinge of guilt of conscience, because God continually talks to you about them, and because you know the Bible tells you to love your enemies, 2 but you avoid them, because you detest them.

If you’re wondering if I’m saying that God may call you to do something you’re uncomfortable with, the answer is yes. God may call you to go to people you hate. You may find it difficult to admit, even to yourself, that you hate them. You may feel justified in your anger and content in your prejudice and hatred because their behavior is so blatantly anti-Christian.

I’ve heard of Christians shooting abortion doctors and blowing up clinics. I’ve heard of so-called Christians beating up homosexuals. I personally have engaged in sarcasm, baiting, and unkind behavior toward cultists, pagans, politicians, and perverts. Unfortunately, it’s true. When Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door, I tease them in the worst way.

You may mask your hatred with the despicable attitude that you have toward them by saying, “If I feel this way about them, can you imagine how God must feel about them?” The truth is, God loves the people we hate and despise. Do you remember how God loved you and drew you, when, in the circumstances of your life, you were a despicable person?

Does Jonah’s reluctance to obey God sound familiar to you? It should, because the truth is, there is a little of Jonah in all of us.

Pause and ask yourself the following questions: What has God asked you to do? What words has God asked you to hear? What person has God asked you to love or serve or submit to or uphold? Has He asked you to do something that has thrown you into a panic, or made your heart beat a bit faster and your palms sweat a little more severely? What has God said that has prompted you to say, “Lord, I’m willing to do anything -- anything, except . . . that”?

It could be that Nineveh is the place where God has called you to love and serve, but because of your hatred, prejudice, and animosity you can’t bring yourself to do it. For me, it’s Christian radio, and T.V. and the hyper politicizing of the moral agenda and our government. It’s evangelists with big hair begging for money, and false prophets who drag people into hell. For me it’s the sham of cultural Christianity and the hypocrisy and inconsistency of the church which puts a black eye on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Then I realize that it’s. . . me. It is me. The thing I hate the most in others is the thing I hate the most in myself.

When you and I became Christians, God called us to love Him, and to love each other. He’s called us to love, serve, and minister the mercy of God to a broken, sin-filled people. This begins by making a break from our petty prejudices and our narcissistic self absorption.

© 2007 by Gino Geraci

(Jonah 1:1-2 NKJV).

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Biography Information:
Gino Geraci is the founding Pastor of Calvary South Denver.

He has served as a police chaplain for several police departments and currently serves as a Police Chaplain for the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department. Gino has provided emergency service support in many national tragedies. He was a first responder at Columbine High School, Ground Zero in New York, and Platte Canyon High School.

Gino has appeared on scores of national and local radio programs as a guest, including television appearances with Lee Stroebel's Faith Under Fire. He currently hosts a daily radio program with Salem Media in Denver, Colorado area.

Gino is a much sought after conference speaker. He has conducted leadership conferences, Bible conferences, and emergency service support conferences with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Samaritans' Purse, Gospel for Asia in India and Sri Lanka, the Bible League in Africa, Food For The Poor in Jamaica, Mike McIntosh Crusades in Mexico, Somebody Loves You Bible Conferences with Raul Ries in Chile, Columbia and Peru, and pastor's conferences in much of the continental United States.

Gino is currently the pastor of Calvary South Denver where he continues to minister, preach, teach, and serve.
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