Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When prodigals return great things are done

Men do not differ much about what things they call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable. -- G. K. Chesterton

Jonah 3:1-10
The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:
"Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you."
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD's bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day's walk announcing,
"Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,"
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh,
he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe,
covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.
Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh,
by decree of the king and his nobles:
"Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep,
shall taste anything;
they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water.
Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God;
every man shall turn from his evil way
and from the violence he has in hand.
Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath,
so that we shall not perish."
When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

How do we express our repentance? This is a critical question.

Picture the president of the United States dressed not in a fine suit but covered with sackcloth, and sitting not at a conference table but in a pile of ashes (Jon 3:6). Imagine the members of the Congress and Senate dressed also in sackcloth and sitting in ashes. Picture the whole country — both man and beast — covered with sackcloth and sitting in ashes (Jon 3:8). Imagine no one eating or drinking anything, and the animals complaining accordingly (Jon 3:7-8). What a scene! What noise! What repentance! What grace and mercy!

Even if we've never seen mass repentance and can think of a thousand obstacles to God's grace, the Lord can surprise us, especially in the worst of circumstances. Expect the Lord to do the impossible this Lent. Expect the world to be surprisingly transformed this Lent.

His grace is sufficient (2 Cor 12:9)

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