As we continue our discussion of the virtue of courage and how facing our fears ultimately helps us to become less afraid, I don’t think there’s a better character study from the Bible than Jonah. For the next few days, we’re going to look at the story of this oft-misunderstood messenger of God and how we can grow and learn from his decisions and mistakes.
To start off, I want to tell you a little bit about the city of Nineveh that Jonah was called to go and preach against. Far from being your average metropolis, this stronghold was the capital of the Acadian/Assyrian Empire, which was an unbelievably evil kingdom, right up there with the Nazis and Mongols (in fact, maybe even worse). If you can imagine, their empire lasted 2,500 years (to comprehend how long this is, think from the reign of Alexander the Great to today), and not only that, it was a massive — incredibly powerful, incredibly wealthy and incredibly ruthless! To give you an example, they were known to go into a town and not only kill everybody by the sword, but skin them alive. They tortured people, impaled them, and lit them on fire. They didn’t care if it was an old person or a child, they were beyond wicked and they set the standard for nearly every great empire that came after them, whether the Babylonians, the Persians, the Egyptians, or the Romans. Beyond that, Nineveh itself was gargantuan, as ruins discovered 200 years later by the Greek General Xenophon proved. In fact, the General described walls that were higher and thicker than any he had ever seen — 50 feet thick and 150 feet tall, with a parameter of 18 miles! And this was the place the Lord called Jonah to travel to and challenge.
Friend, like Jonah, your divine assignment might not be an easy one. In fact, you may be staring at walls that are so thick and high, they seem impenetrable and indestructible. Whether it’s a ruined relationship in need of restoration, a financial situation that has turned to rubble, a medical diagnosis labeled as “untreatable,” the searing pain of the loss of a loved one, or a move God is asking you to make, it’s easy to say “no” to Nineveh because it looks so daunting. Though the reality of your situation may be steep and you might fear not emerging victoriously, the simple and powerful truth is that the Lord is with you. The One who made Heaven and earth, Who holds kingdoms and peoples in His Hands, has called you by name and given you an assignment to carry out on His behalf. He will never lead you to a place He hasn’t gone before to clear your path, so walk hand-in-hand with Him and your Nineveh will take note. Jesus is bigger than the empire of your problems!