Nineveh And The Grace Of God
The lion was an appropriate symbol for the empire of Assyria. They stalked, preyed, and fed upon the nations that surrounded them for nearly three hundred years. Nineveh, their capital, was often compared to a lion’s den that was filled with the prey and torn flesh of other nations. It was called the bloody city for good reason. Nations fell like dominoes before them. Men were filled with terror when the names Assyria and Nineveh were uttered. The empire of Assyria was the undisputed king of nations. They were like lions in the wild who had no predators of their own.
The prophet Jonah was sent by God into the lion’s den of Nineveh. He was told by God to “call out against it, for their evil has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2). Jonah reluctantly went into the city and called out “yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). How did the so-called bloody city respond to Jonah’s preaching? Their response is one of the most remarkable surprises we find in Scripture. The author wrote, “And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5). Assyria brought disaster to the nations they swept over. God, however, relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them when he saw how they turned from their evil ways. God’s compassion toward a city that was filled with the prey and torn flesh of other nations is amazing to think about. Jonah acknowledged the awesome grace of God when he said, “for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (Jonah 4:2). The people of Nineveh were introduced to the amazing grace of God. What happens, however, when people turn away from the grace that was shown to them? The answer would arrive in Nineveh about a century later.
The prophet Nahum was sent by God to Nineveh with a terrifying message. He said, “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God, the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies” (Nahum 1:2). The people of Nineveh had wisely responded to the preaching of Jonah. However, they quickly reverted back to their old ways. They continued to plunder and devour. The bloody city was once again filled with lies, plunder, and prey (Nahum 3:1). What happens when people turn away from the grace of God? God said, “Behold, I am against your, declares the Lord of hosts” (Nahum 2:13, 3:5). Assyria would now become the prey. Nahum announced, “Desolate! Desolation and ruin! Hearts melt and knees tremble; anguish is in all the loins; all faces grow pale!” (Nahum 2:10). Assyria became just like the nations she once plundered. They fell to the Babylonians just a few years after Nahum’s warning.
Assyria serves as a warning to all those who would turn away from the grace of God. He is an avenging and wrathful God. However, the Lord knows those who take refuge in him. How are we responding to the grace of God? Wise people take refuge in it.