Loving the Enemy's Victims
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I've been preaching through a sermon series on the book of Jonah called "Witness."
It amazes me how through the book of Jonah we learn a lot about what it means to share our faith with those who don't believe in Jesus. In this book of the Bible, Jonah is called by God to go to a city called Nineveh that was filled with his enemies. These Ninevites were ruthless people who were known for torturing people and making trophies out of the dead.
My friend and fellow Pastor, Joel McCall, spent some time around the Jezreel and Megiddo Valley area which is where Jonah was born and raised. Jonah had clear sight of the area of Acco which is the only natural port that Israel had in ancient times. It is most certain that the Ninevites had military activity throughout his region up and down the coast. So scholars believe that Jonah would have witnessed first-hand the aggressive military brutality of this ancient empire.
Jonah had great personal distaste for the Ninevites as a people and as a nation, and now God is calling him to go to the very people he hates?!
After Jonah runs away from God, is swallowed by a large fish, and then spit out onto dry ground after 3 days of being in the fish, God tells him again to go and preach to the Ninevites a simple and profound message: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." Jonah goes this time and gives this message in 3 days to these people, and they confess their sins and cry out to God to show mercy and forgiveness.
Jonah 3:10 tells us:
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.
After God forgave his enemies, Jonah chapter 4 tells us that Jonah was angry at God.
"O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live (Jonah 4:2-3)."
Jonah was so angry at God because God forgave his enemies. Then God teaches Jonah a lesson. Jonah leaves the city of Nineveh, builds a shelter, and watches what God would do to the city from a distance. God then provides a vine to give Jonah shade, and Jonah was exceedingly happy. Then God provides a worm to chew up the vine and a scorching wind to cause Jonah great discomfort. At this point, Jonah is ready to die because he was uncomfortable, and God goes straight to the heart by giving Jonah the message he needed to hear:
"(Jonah) You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But 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 4:10-11)."
What was God trying to tell Jonah? Jonah cared more about his personal comfort than people's eternity. Jonah worried more about being under shade than thousands of people who would be in Hell for all eternity.
God reminded Jonah that the Ninevites could not tell their right hand from their left.
God reminded Jonah that the Ninevites were not the enemy, they were victims of the Enemy, Satan himself.
Doug Pollack in his book, God Space, says it this way:
"We need to remember that not-yet-Christians are not the enemy; they are victims of the enemy."
Before people commit their lives to following Jesus as their King, they are under the control of Satan. We know this from several passages in Scripture (see Ephesians 2:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:25-26). Here are some of them:
John 8:44 - You are of your father, the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires.
1 John 3:10 - By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.
When people have not submitted to Jesus Christ and claim them as their King, they are under the authority of Satan himself. They are victims of the Enemy. They are unable to do what God wants them to do. They are unable to do what is godly and right because they are victims and enslaved in their sins.
There are people that we know that have caused us hurt and pain. Some days we may not wish them well; rather, we may even want them to suffer for all eternity. No matter how much pain someone has caused you, we must remember if they don't believe in Jesus, they are victims of the Enemy and don't know their right from their left.
Instead of wanting people to suffer for the hurt they have caused, we need to hurt for the people who have suffered at the Enemy's cause.
Take some time today to pray for those that you know who don't believe in Jesus. Ask the Lord to work in their hearts and minds, and ask Him to give you an opportunity to share your faith in Jesus with them.