Thursday, December 14, 2006

And also much cattle

You've probably heard the story of Jonah; the Lord told him to go to east to Nineveh (today part of Iraq), but Jonah went to the sea and boarded a westbound ship. He hated the Assyrians (Nineveh being the capital) and didn't want to warn them about the coming disaster, didn't want them to repent. He would rather prefer that God flatten the city. (Which history shows us he did — but that was much later.)

Jonah never made it to Spain; he was swallowed by a fish, which took him back to dry land. This time he obeyed. He preached that after 40 days the city would be destroyed. And just as he feared, the city repented: the king of Nineveh told his people to “give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

It's interesting that the king knew that his ways, and the ways of his people, were evil, and especially interesting that he mentioned violence in particular.

And it struck me, reading the story this time around, that God might have put that message in the king's mind to speak to Jonah. Because Jonah dreamed of violence against Nineveh. He even constructed a shelter for himself to watch - hoping no doubt for fire and brimstone to rain down on Nineveh, as it did on Sodom and Gomorrah.

But you probably know the story; the Lord relents and leaves Nineveh’s destruction for another day. Jonah is furious, though; he wanted the city destroyed. And God answers Jonah, showing his care for human beings (made in his image) as well as cattle (which aren't):
“...Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”
Jonah 4.11
Indeed. I wonder if this is why George MacDonald said there would be dogs in heaven?

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