Heed the warning


                And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, he began to say, “This is an evil generation.  It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation […] The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed one greater than Jonah is here”  (Luke 11: 29 – 30, 32.)


                The city of Nineveh was one of the largest cities in the ancient world (some say that it took three days to walk through.)  Nineveh was not only immense, it was completely evil.  As the center of the Assyrian empire, it’s cruelty and perversion were unrivaled.  [Warning:  The information you are about to hear is disturbing.]  The Assyrians rejected the one true God and practiced unspeakable acts of immorality.  They impaled their victims, and cut off their hands, noses, and ears.  They poked out the eyes of their enemies; and tore out their tongues.  Many who were conquered were flayed alive (they had their skin cut off); the skins were hung from the walls of their cities.  Thousands of captured children were burned alive.  They dismembered bodies and fed them to the dogs and pigs.  They forced many enemies to grind up the bones of their dead ancestors.  They severed the heads of whole populations and fixed them to the ends of poles.  They constructed giant towers made out of human heads; often after a conquest, the rulers would bring back the heads of their victims and hang them on the trees around the city as decoration.  Uncovered ruins reveal that Assyrian rulers proudly displayed scenes of torture on their palace walls; for them, inflicting pain was delightful.  When they weren’t killing their captives, they were humiliating them; the Assyrians often ran hooks and chains through the lips of their captives and treated them like dogs.  Corruption was a foundation of their society; their religious practices included prostitution and child sacrifice.  Robbery and theft in Nineveh were commonplace.  The city had become so wicked that God decided to destroy it.  Yet God in His mercy sent them a prophet named Jonah; his message was ‘repent or be destroyed.’  (Jonah desired to see Nineveh decimated; so he refused to follow God’s command.  However, after suffering hardship, he made his way to the Assyrian city as God had directed him.)  As Jonah angrily marched in to the city, he showed no signs or wonders; nor did he perform any miracles; he simply said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed.”  The evil and wicked people of Nineveh repented (they began to weep and mourn.)  The citizens (including the king and his household) started to fast and pray for forgiveness; because of their response, the Ninevites avoided destruction.  Jesus, like Jonah, came to an evil world and preached an eternal message of repentance and salvation.  The Ninevites had listened to Jonah the prophet; yet Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) was rejected by most Jews and gentiles who heard him speak.  Instead of hearing him, they demanded a sign.  Christ’s message has echoed through every generation.  On the final Day of Judgment, those who have heeded the warning and repented will be forgiven.  Those who have denied Christ will be destroyed.

                The ruins of the ancient city of Nineveh lay within the borders of modern day Iraq.  From 1979 until 2003, the Iraqi people were ruled over by a brutal dictator named Saddam Hussein.  Like the leaders of the ancient Assyrian Empire, Saddam’s cruelty was excessive.  Shortly after taking power, he convened an assembly of leaders and proceeded to read off a list of 68 names; people he believed were disloyal; they were arrested and led away; 22 were executed by other council members.  From 1986-1988, Mr. Hussein attacked 3.5 million Kurdish residents living in Northern Iraq.  Using the Koran and the teachings of Mohammed, he justified the destruction of tens of thousands of homes; entire villages were destroyed.  He massacred an upwards of 2 million people; another 17,000 Kurds went missing; the attacking troops were informed that it was legal to claim property from the deceased (which included the widows who were left behind.)  In another incident Saddam used chemical weapons to kill and injure nearly 10,000 people living in an area populated by civilians (men, women, and children lay dead in the streets.)  He launched a war against Iran that claimed the lives of nearly a million people.  His methods of interrogation and torture were infamous (he even tortured one of his own sons.)  Throughout his time as dictator he continually attempted to develop nuclear weapons.  The United Nations, fearing he would accomplish his goal, demanded he allow U.N. weapons inspectors to enter his country.  However, in 1998, he kicked the inspectors out.  The U.N. warned him that if he did not allow the inspectors to return “serious consequences” would result.  Saddam defied numerous international resolutions (warnings); his refusal to heed these warnings led to a full scale invasion of Iraq in 2003.  During the campaign Saddam Hussein was captured and imprisoned.  In 2006, after being found guilty of war crimes, he was executed.  Before being hung, it’s feasible to assume that he regretted not complying with the U.N.’s demands.

                God has given mankind numerous warnings.  The gospel has gone out to every nation; compliance is necessary to avoid destruction.  Jesus has delivered a wonderful message to an evil world. Although most have never tortured, murdered, or beheaded anyone, everyone is a sinner; and every sinner, no matter how evil, can repent and be completely forgiven.  Those who heed the warnings and turn away from sin (adultery, idolatry, fornication, etc.) and embrace Jesus Christ will inherit eternal life.  Those who hear God’s message and refuse to comply will experience everlasting destruction.  His words are all that are needed; no sign or miracle can ever produce true faith.  Listen to the Lord; hear him; trust him; follow him, and you will be blessed.  He will lead you in to eternal peace; he will provide you with unending love; and you will experience the gift of everlasting life.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and ask that You help us to heed Your warning.  May we turn away from our sins, and turn toward You.  May our faith be rooted in Your words.  We desire to be fully committed to You Father; strengthen us by the power of Your Holy Spirit, and deliver us from evil.  We thank You for Your forgiveness; may Your mercy be with us forever.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

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