One of my favorite Bible stories is the story of Jonah. Too often in my life I see many similarities between Jonah and myself. God tells me to do one thing and I want to do another. Do you find yourself like Jonah going in a different direction than what God wanted? As fun as the book of Jonah is to read it is still a powerful story of a sinful city (Nineveh) and a stubborn prophet (Jonah). If you are not familiar with the story it only takes about 30 minutes to read. It is short but it will show some powerful truths about God, the Gentile people, the nation Israel, and opportunities for repentance.
The city of Nineveh was doing all the wrong things. They were prideful, worshipping idols, and self-centered. It was known as one of the most luxurious cities of its time and has been compared to modern day America. The prophet Jonah had a message for Nineveh; repent or be destroyed. In reading the book, you will see an immediate response from the people of Nineveh. They cried out to God and turned from their evil ways. Because of their response, God spared their city and then spent time teaching Jonah valuable lessons about His grace.
When we finish the book we think "all is well that ends well". However, 100 to 125 years later, Nineveh is back at it again. They have fallen into the trap of rejecting God and living evil lives. The prophet Nahum has a serious message for the city. Nahum 2:1 says:
He who scatters has come up before your face.
Man the fort!
Watch the road!
Strengthen your flanks!
Fortify your power mightily.
[The New King James Version. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Na 2:1.]
The city is commanded to be ready because God is getting ready to destroy them! The book of the prophet Nahum is only three chapters but outlines Nineveh's destruction. They have returned to their former habits of arrogance, violence, and idolatry.
We have heard many times that God is love. That statement is true; God is a God of love. He is also a God of mercy and grace. But here is where we make a mistake. We stop at this point and go no further. Not only is God a God of love, mercy, and grace, but He is also the creator and the judge. He is Holy and just and the result of His character demands Holiness from His creation (1 Peter 1:15-16). If we are disobedient to our creator, then a penalty is required for payment. Romans 6:23 says that penalty is death.
So, what about God's love"? He has shown it to us! We all have messed up (Romans 3:23), so He provided the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Out of His love for us, He sent His son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sins. John 3:16 says whosoever believes upon Him (Jesus) will be saved. He provides that opportunity everyone because we can not correct our problems on our own. We can either accept it or reject it. If we believe and repent, we will be saved and have life. If we reject Him then we choose death. God has provided a way, but the decision is ours. So, when someone asks "why would a loving God send someone to a place called hell?" the answer is that He doesn't, but rather we choose it.
God had enough of Nineveh's rejection and Nahum painted an accurate picture of their destruction. I am heartbroken over our nation and the direction in which we are headed. Our great sinfulness is leading us on a path to destruction. As we move further and further away from God, we are beginning to see the results. Is it time to "man the fort"?