A Tale of Two Cities

Do you want a “sign from God”?

We all do, at times. We hope for some mysterious guiding voice from Heaven, some weird convergences of coincidences, or some other phenomenon to give us a divine nudge in the right direction.

Is that wrong? Only if we let it keep us from obeying what God has clearly already said.

Jonah was the world’s first missionary. So jealous was God to create for himself a people from every tribe and tongue that he sent Jonah across land and sea to preach good news to virtual terrorists in Nineveh. Scandalously, God acquitted them—a decision only justified centuries later when Christ bore their sin on the cross, inspiring heaven’s chorus: “You are worthy… for you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

Amazingly, for the glory of his own mercy, God made a generation of pagan, violent cowards in Nineveh his. After all, who was more sinful than Nineveh?

Actually, Capernaum was. (That’s in Israel.)

When Jesus arrived in Capernaum preaching repentance, the Jews innocently asked him to prove who he was. “We’ll trust God,” they said in effect, “when he shows us a miracle.” But Jesus warned them, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 12:39). That sign would be Jesus’s death and burial for three days, like Jonah’s three days in the fish (v. 40). Not as flashy as thunder from heaven.

Do you hear the disgust in Jesus’ tone? The Ninevites, heartless and godless as they were, didn’t need a sign from God before they repented. They took God at face value and let his Word cut them to the heart. But the religious folks of Capernaum wouldn’t obey God without a voice from heaven. God’s Son in the flesh wasn’t a big enough miracle. Yet in spite of their sin, it was Nineveh that God forgave; not Capernaum.

Will we be Nineveh or Capernaum? Will we demand more from God, as if Jesus is not enough for us? Will we demand a voice from heaven louder than the Bible? Will we hate our sin, like Nineveh did, or argue with our Savior, like Capernaum did?

Image credit: 12jason (CC 2.0)

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