Last night we had our third Bible study on the book of Jonah. We are discovering all sorts of things we have never seen before! In the third chapter God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh for the second time to give the people God’s message. This time Jonah obeys and delivers the message that if Nineveh doesn’t shape up, it will be destroyed in 40 days. I don’t know about you, but we weren’t sure what we would have done if a foreigner walked into the middle of our city and basically proclaimed, “Repent for the end is near!” Amazingly, the people took to heart God’s message. They immediately declared a fast and put on sackcloth. Sackcloth was a rough material and wearing it was a symbol of mourning, humility, and submission. So, it looks like the Ninevites were serious about their sin. When the king heard the message, he too put on sackcloth, sat in ashes, declared a fast, and commanded the people to repent. As a result, God spared Nineveh.
Wearing sackcloth and sitting in ashes isn’t something we do in our culture anymore. But I’m guessing that’s what the season of Lent is for. We may not change our clothing, but hopefully change our focus and look at ourselves introspectively. That’s what these forty days are for… to take a spiritual inventory of sorts and see where we may have sinned and what we can to do to repent. Repent isn’t a word we as Lutherans use very often either. We are most likely much more comfortable with the word grace. But hold on… don’t get too comfortable with that! Because, if we really understand grace… all that God has done for us…we will want to repent. Repent literally means to turn 180 degrees in the opposite direction. To completely alter our course so to speak.
So during these remaining days of Lent, I encourage all of us to take stock of our spiritual lives and maybe pray the words of Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
See you Sunday!