Do you know what to do when God has a problem with you?
Eli didn’t. He was High Priest over all Israel and he didn’t have a clue.
The runaway prophet Jonah knew (he just didn’t want to — until a stay in a sea monster changed his mind). The wicked, barbaric people of ancient Ninevah knew — they knew exactly what to do. And they did it.
But not Eli.
Remember the sweet Sunday School story about the little boy Samuel who heard God calling his name? When he finally understood it was God and answered, “Speak, Lord” the message he got was … um… not as sweet. Which is why we stop telling the story there, at least when it’s for kids.
God gave Samuel a word of judgment for Eli. Eli’s sons had turned the Temple into a brothel; they were shaking down the people coming to worship the Lord, demanding bribes, skimming from the tithes and offerings. All kinds of awful stuff.
Eli knew about it and it disgusted him, but he made no attempt to restrain his sons. So because of their sin and Eli’s failure to correct them, God told Samuel to tell Eli that both of his sons would be killed on the same day. That none of their descendants would ever live to be old men. Every one would die tragically in the prime of life. Their entire family would be destroyed.
Think for a minute how you would feel if God said something like that to you.
What would you say?
Now listen to Eli:
“He is the Lord; let Him do what seems good to Him.” (1 Samuel 3:18)
Or in contemporary language:
“Whatever.” Sighs. Shrugs shoulders. “It is what it is.”
Que sera sera.
When God confronted them, how did the heathen people of Ninevah — who didn’t know God nearly as well as His prophet and priest should have — respond? The king declared a citywide fast and humbled himself, putting on sackcloth and ashes to symbolize mourning and repentance:
“Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence… God may yet relent and with compassion turn from His fierce anger so that we will not perish.” (Jonah 3:9)
Over and over we see this pattern in Scripture. God confronts a person or a people with their sin and declares His intention to hold them accountable for it. But when people humble themselves and repent, God relents. When they ask for His forgiveness, He gives it — mercifully, graciously, generously.
Sometimes He takes away the consequences of their sin completely. Other times He tenderly softens the blow.
Because it’s never about how bad we’ve been, but about how good He is.
How eager He is to reveal Himself to us, to show us His love and compassion, His mercy and grace.
That’s something the people of Ninevah have to teach us today. Something they could have taught Jonah:
What do you do when you know God has a problem with you?
Drop everything and run right to Him.
This week’s Virtual VBS for GrownUp Girls Assignment:
Read: Jonah 3 (again), Matthew 21:28-31, Revelation 3:19. As you read these verses, think about the different ways we can respond to correction… the different ways people in Scripture responded, the different ways you yourself have responded. What have you learned in the process? When you know you’ve made a mistake, a poor choice, a foolish decision — when you’ve done wrong — what matters more than anything is what you do next. See if you can formulate a strategy, your own personal “in case of emergency” statement that you record in your journal or on a file card or sticky note to remind yourself what to do when you find yourself in a mess — and why!
Memorize: Joel 2:13
Hard to believe we’re in Week Four of our Five Week study… still time to catch up if you’ve fallen a little behind! If you have any questions or thoughts or ideas, I’d love to hear from you!