In Jonah 3, we are met with one of the greatest revivals of all time. Nineveh was such a wicked city that God was going to destroy it, but when they heard the words of Jonah, they immediately came to repentance.
Jon 3:4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
Jon 3:5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
Jon 3:6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
I find it interesting that even the king repented. Before the prophecy came from Jonah, the king would have at least silently approved what was going on with his people. It wasn’t as if he was actively policing the city and trying to straighten out his people.
However, as soon as he heard about God, he realized that things had to change. I don’t know if perhaps the change was largely self-serving. Obviously, it would have been important to all of the people of Nineveh not to be destroyed. However, it seems as if there was a genuine repentance there. The people recognized that they were not doing what God needed them to do and that included the king.
Revival is something that people like to talk about, but here is a time where it actually worked. It worked because first of all Jonah was obedient to God. He was called to be a leader, and, eventually, he did what he had to do. Second, the people understood that they were not living in line with the will of God. As we see with the king, even people who previously had evidently no problem with what was going on recognized that it was important to do what God told them to do.
Both of these elements are important if we want revival to happen.
2 Chronicles 33 brings Judah into a difficult spot. Manasseh became king after his father Hezekiah passed away, but he did not follow in the great tradition that his father had established.
2Ch 33:9 So Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel.
It is definitely something to say that the people were worse than all of the idolatrous nations that Israel had destroyed in the past. It must have gotten pretty bad.
Like God seems to do quite a bit, He brought a storm into Manasseh’s life to make him realize what he was doing and to understand that he needed God.
2Ch 33:11 Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon.
2Ch 33:12 And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers,
2Ch 33:13 And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God.
He had a life-changing experience. He was no longer interested in ignoring God. It took a difficult time to make him realize that, but God does that from time to time.
He loves people, and He wants to bring people into a relationship with Him. Manasseh must have had solid Biblical teaching as a child given who his father was, but he went away from it for some reason.
God brought him back though. He didn’t just forget about him. While he was in captivity, something changed for Manasseh. He suddenly realized what he had been doing wrong, and after his time in chains was done, he came back as a better leader who brought the people of Israel in the right direction.
It must not have been pleasant to be in a Babylonian prison, but that is what he needed to realize his problems. God will allow things to come into our lives to help us grow as well as correct us if we start to wander.
The story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5 is pretty well known. He had leprosy, and he came to Elisha to be healed. Previously, he had been a great general, but in Israel, his leprosy made him an automatic outcast.
When he actually arrived, Elisha told him to go wash in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman was kind of upset about that, but I absolutely love what his servants told him.
2Ki 5:13 And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?
Sometimes I feel like we handle our Christianity in the same way. We feel like that if we want to be forgiven of some sin, we need to do some amazing thing to prove to God that we really mean that we are sorry.
However, forgiveness doesn’t work that way. It is actually a very simple process that requires sincerity and confession. Here are two very important verses that deal with this idea.
Act 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The first passage emphasizes that sincerity. You need to repent. The second one emphasizes confession. The message is still that same. It is still a pretty easy process. I know that it does require admission which is difficult for many people, but it is not like we need to go do something incredibly strenuous in order to be forgiven.
Just like with Naaman, it is not too difficult to get rid of our burdens. However, we do need to be willing to do what God tells us to do in order to really reach that better place.
I think that we can all agree that Ahab was a pretty bad man, but I also think that he had a conscience at the end of 1 Kings 21.
For a limited background, he wanted a vineyard that was owned by a man named Naboth. He offered to trade another piece of land for it or pay the equivalent in cash. However, Naboth would not sell it.
Naturally, Ahab started moping around, but his wife Jezebel had a plan.
1Ki 21:7 And Jezebel his wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.
1Ki 21:8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth.
1Ki 21:9 And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:
1Ki 21:10 And set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die.
Everyone went through with the plan, and Naboth ended up dead.
That is where God brought Elijah back into the picture. He essentially proclaimed a death sentence on Ahab.
1Ki 21:20 And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee: because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD.
1Ki 21:21 Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel,
1Ki 21:22 And will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin.
1Ki 21:23 And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.
1Ki 21:24 Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat.
This is where we get to the interesting part. He was an evil man, and it was never a good sign when Elijah came in and told you were going to be eaten by the dogs when you died. However, I want you to see his reaction.
1Ki 21:27 And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.
1Ki 21:28 And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,
1Ki 21:29 Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house.
God was willing to forgive, or at least somewhat reduce the penalty for, Ahab after all of the evil that he did. He got his heart right with God and humbled himself. Isn’t that great news for all of us?
We all have the same opportunity to repent and get our hearts right. The offer is still open today, and if you need more information on that process, pop over to my “Start Here” page.
1 Samuel 28 is a pretty weird passage to say the least. Saul was really concerned that he was not able to talk to God anymore. Without that source of advice, he had to reach out to someone else, so he went to a medium even though he had outlawed all people of that sort from Israel.
She asked him who he wanted to see, and he said Samuel. That’s kind of an odd choice, but here is what he heard.
1Sa 28:15 And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.
1Sa 28:16 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?
1Sa 28:17 And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David:
1Sa 28:18 Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day.
1Sa 28:19 Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.
I am sure that that is not what Saul wanted to hear. However, I am not sure what else he would have expected. He must have had some realization that he was doing something wrong, but if you read verse 15, it seems that he really had no idea. He knew all of the consequences, but he did not understand the source.
On one level, I know that if he would have simply repented and demonstrated that he wanted to work for God, God would have taken him back since God is the God of forgiveness. He could have had it on a personal level.
However, given the tone that Samuel used, it seemed as if the consequences were inevitable. Sometimes, it seems that sin creates consequences that we have to live with. For instance, when Samson repented and asked for the strength of God one more time, God gave it to him, but it did not prevent his own death. Certain earthly consequences were already in place.
I hope that none of us ever get to that point. By avoiding this sin, we can then avoid the consequences.
In 1 Samuel 7, we get to see a very nice picture of the forgiveness of God. At this point, Israel had been doing some pretty bad things for a long time. If we look back to chapter 4, this entire situation started because of disobedience.
Nevertheless, Samuel knew that God would be faithful to forgive the people if they truly repented.
1Sa 7:3 And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.
The people were quick to return to God again, and guess what happened.
1Sa 7:13 So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more into the coast of Israel: and the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.
1Sa 7:14 And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even unto Gath; and the coasts thereof did Israel deliver out of the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.
I think that the application here is rather straightforward. If we want God to do great things through us, we need to make sure that we have our hearts in the right place. If we’re busy worshiping other things, God will not be happy with that. He wants all of our hearts.
I know that sounds a little bit possessive, but when you think about from the perspective that He owns the entire universe, why would He not have access to our hearts?
Judges 16 is one of the most well-known books in the entire Bible. We are talking about Samson and Delilah.
You all know the basic story, but just for a quick recap, you will remember that she was continually asking him where his great strength came from. She wanted to know because her countrymen knew that Samson was in love with her and incredibly susceptible to women. Therefore, she would be able to disable him and allow the Philistines to finally get some revenge on him.
After lying to her three times, he finally told her the truth that his strength came from the bond that he shared with God as symbolized by his long hair, but I guess he thought that she was genuine. Unfortunately for him, she cut off all of his hair, and he was easily captured by the Philistines.
At this point, it would not be hard to wonder if God gave up on him. There were plenty of reasons to. First of all, he was hanging out with Delilah, a prostitute, and on top of that, his pride was ultimately his downfall. If he would not have felt the need to brag about his overwhelming strength, she probably would not have been able to isolate the source.
These are two pretty major sins if you think about the hierarchy that we traditionally associate with sin. The hierarchy is not entirely valid because all sin is sin, and all sin separates us from God just like any other sin. However, given that he committed approximately three of the “Seven Deadly Sins” from Proverbs, it is obvious that this was a pretty big deal.
However, despite all of that, God never forgot about Samson, and God will never forget about us.
Jdg 16:28 And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.
Jdg 16:29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.
Jdg 16:30 And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.
It is never too late to return to God. Unfortunately, many people experience wandering from time to time. For some reason, they have fallen into some time of doubt. While this is definitely not okay, God will not forget you. He loves and wants all of us.
Leviticus chapter 4 gives us a scenario that probably doesn’t sound too unfamiliar. Basically, the premise of the problem is that someone has committed a sin that they didn’t realize was a sin at the time.
Lev 4:27 And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty;
Lev 4:28 Or if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge: then he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned.
There are separate categories for priests and rulers who need to provide a larger sacrifice, but the point is still the same. We are talking about people who sin through ignorance.
Another way to think about this is sinning by mistake. We all have moments where we slip and do something wrong. While we might not worship idols, we are definitely capable of putting other things ahead of God at times. Sometimes we worry more about our money or our time rather than putting God first on our priority list.
It is not that we are always committing this sin, but we sometimes fall into it without even thinking.
This passage then is somewhat comforting in the fact that there can be the forgiveness of sin. We shouldn’t sin, and in Old Testament times, there needed to be a sacrifice to balance the books so to speak. In New Testament times, Jesus paid for all of our sins, so we can have forgiveness without all of the sacrifices mentioned here.
Nevertheless, I think that the concept applies here as well. We still do things that we don’t make a habit of. We sometimes mess up, and we definitely still have that annoying sin nature. Sin still requires forgiveness, and that forgiveness is here. We need to be grateful that we have forgiveness. It is truly a privilege.
1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.