WEDNESDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK OF LENT
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.
Jesus calls His generation wicked for asking for a sign, contrasting them with the Ninevites and the Queen of the South. Both the people of Nineveh and the queen heard a holy man, heeded his words, and took action. The Ninevites needed no sign; they felt the weight of their own sins, and knew the wages of their sin was death and destruction if they did not plead for mercy. The Queen of the South asked for no sign; she went and sought for herself, used her reason to assess the wisdom of Solomon, and discerned that all she had been told was true and even an understatement.
But the people of Jesus’s time do not discern the words of truth and wisdom. They do not stand aware and convicted of their sins. They do not seek or employ their reason. They simply place all the onus on God to prove Himself to them. They reject the wisdom, the convicting truth, and the signs and wonders Jesus performed, and move the goal posts. They do not ask for a sign because this sign they want will be enough for them; rather, they ask for a sign because, in the disposition of their hearts, nothing Jesus does will be enough for them.
Like Jesus’s generation, we too can fall into a spiritual laziness and slowness of heart where we put all the onus on God to prove Himself to us. We may become unaware of our sins and unwilling to be convicted of them so we can change and be healed. We may reject or passively fail to attend to wisdom and sound teaching, and not put in the effort to seek out the truth for ourselves. The season of Lent is therefore a gift to us, a time where we can put special focus on repenting of our sins and taking action to get out of our ruts and comfort zones and seek out wisdom for our lives and strength for our faith.
This Lent, how can I become more aware of God’s mercy through repentance and fasting? How can I actively pursue wisdom and sound teaching? How might I have become apathetic or slow of heart, put the onus on God rather than taking initiative, and how, with God’s help and guidance, can I take responsibility for my spiritual life?
Today, let us repent from any spiritual sloth or complacency that may have crept into our lives. Let’s take action toward growth and change, trusting in the love and mercy of our God who wishes to heal and lift us up.