"The Power of Ideas"
Nineveh was a great city of antiquity and was then the dominant city of the region. God had a heart for the Ninevites and Jonah didn’t. In fact, Jonah cared so little about them he tried everything possible to avoid bringing them healing and forgiveness through God. God eventually persuaded Jonah to obey Him (ever heard that story of the big fish?), and Jonah told the Ninevites to turn from their wicked ways. And then the remarkable happened. The entire city altered its course. They turned from the wicked things they were doing and embraced what God wanted them to do. Jonah was one of the most successful prophets of all time.
But the story doesn’t end there.
That’s why I love reading the Bible. There is so much humanity represented authentically. Jonah then turned on God because God forgave the city of Nineveh. Instead of Jonah changing his heart about the Ninevites, as they did with God, Jonah vented his frustration to God and told him he was so angry he wanted to die. Not exactly your model prophet of God. We learn an incredible insight about God from the last verse of the book of Jonah. In verse 11 of chapter 4, in response to all of Jonah’s whining, God asked him, “Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left?”
God pointed out the depravity of the Ninevites to Jonah. He used an incredible phrase—”people who cannot tell their right hand from their left”—to sum up an entire culture of belief leading to brokenness. It wasn’t just one person’s belief, because beliefs aren’t private. There were a hundred and twenty thousand people who held the same values. God told Jonah that He needed him to help them change their ideas. And we see that when they changed their shared ideas, they changed their city’s history.
The same happens when we change the way we follow after God and the ways in which we pursue pleasure. Entire cultures can be transformed.