Trinity Thirteenth Sunday Family Worship Service (29 August 2021) Jonah 3:1-9 and Revelation 3:14-22
The title for today’s meditation is Nineveh and Laodicea based on our Old Testament and New Testament Readings, Jonah 3:1–9 and Revelation 3:14–22.
The City of Nineveh
Jonah, the son of Amittai, was a prophet who lived in the Northern kingdom of Israel. He lived between 836 and 795 BC and wrote the prophetic book of Jonah. Theologians believe that Jonah was Jesus’s predecessor because of the similarities between Jonah and Jesus. Jonah was the missionary sent to the gentiles calling the people to turn towards the LORD God. Jesus shared the gospel and called the people to repentance. When Jonah was thrown into the sea, he was inside the fish’s belly for three days. After Jesus died on the cross, He was buried for three days. After Jonah came out, he went to Nineveh and cautioned the city. The city of Nineveh was saved because of Jonah’s work. After Jesus rose from the dead, He continued His work. We have received salvation because Jesus shed His blood on the Cross.
God created the Garden of Eden and a river to water the garden. Out of Eden, this river parted into Euphrates, Tigris, Gihon and Pison rivers. When Adam and Eve were sent out from the Garden of Eden, they must have started their earthly life at the banks of these rivers. Theologians and the historical researchers believe that the Garden of Eden was located in modern-day Iraq. Historians also say the first civilisation started on these riverbanks. Nineveh was a trade city and the capital of Assyria. The ancient city was a fertile land located near Tigris River.
The people in Nineveh followed a different faith and did not know about the LORD Jehovah. In Jonah 4:11, we read that there were more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand and also much cattle in the great city of Ninevah. Bible does not mention about the sins of Nineveh but God sent them a prophet from their enemy country, the Northern Kingdom. God told Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh … and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me”.
But Jonah did not listen to God. He went to Tarshish. God gave Jonah another chance. A fish took him to Nineveh. Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey, but Jonah travelled into the city just one day. He preached that the city would be overthrown in forty days. The people in the great city and the king believed in LORD Jehovah, fasted and turned back to the LORD God. The city was not overthrown in forty days but destroyed around 630 BC by Babylonians.
The Church of Laodicea
John was one of the twelve apostles. He was deported to Patmos because of his faith and work for Jesus Christ the Saviour. God revealed the end time events to John when he was imprisoned in Patmos. He wrote this letter to the seven churches in Asia minor. Laodicea was located approximately 65 miles southeast to the city Philadelphia. God was pleased with the church in Philadelphia but not with the church in Laodicea. The church in Philadelphia glorified the LORD Jesus but the church in Laodicea did not. The church in Laodicea was neither hot nor cold. That is, they went to church to please God and inclined to worldly activities and practises on other days. They said they were rich in physical, material and spiritual good but they were not. We can read God’s expectation in Revelation 3:18: “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see”. God wanted the church of Laodicea to buy three things from Him:
1. Purification: God told the church to buy of Him gold tried in the fire, that they may be rich. We know that the metals are purified in the furnace. 1 Peter 1:7 says, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ”. Our faith on Jesus must be purified and tested so we stand firm in our faith and calling.
2. Salvation: God told the church to buy of Him white raiment, that they may be clothed and that the shame of their nakedness did not appear. 1 Timothy 1:15 says, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. Jesus Christ died on the cross and redeemed us through His precious blood. Jesus came to give us salvation. When we repent and trust on Jesus, He purifies our faith and we receive the garment of salvation from Him. He gave His life to give us salvation.
3. Righteousness: God told the church to buy of Him and anoint their eyes with eyesalve, that they may see. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says “he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” When we wash our garments in the blood of the lamb of God, He will clothe us with the robe of righteousness. When we repent and receive salvation, we are made righteous.
These three expectations that God expected had on the church of Laodicea were relevant to the people of Nineveh. Similar to Nineveh, God was not pleased about Sodom and Gomorrah. We can read this in Genesis 18. The sins of that city went up to heaven “And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me.” Abraham pleaded with God not to destroy the city because of Lot. God protected Lot but the whole city was destroyed with brimstone and fire. The people of Nineveh fasted and prayed. They repented and turned from their evil way. Nineveh was not destroyed. But Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their grievous sin that they did not repent of.
John’s letter to the seven churches and God’s expectations on the church of Laodicea are relevant to us also today. Theologians compare the seven churches in Asia minor to the New Testament churches in different time periods. They compare the church of Laodicea with the present churches in this world and the Philadelphia with the generation before us. The churches in eighteenth century pleased Jesus. There was a world-wide revival in the 1800s.
Jonah prophesised that Nineveh will be overthrown in forty days. But when the whole city turned to the LORD God, the destruction was delayed because of the grace of Almighty Father. The prophecy in Revelation 3:16 is yet to be fulfilled. The verse says, “because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth”. This prophecy will be fulfilled on the day of the great White Throne Judgement.
Let us examine ourselves. Bible says we cannot serve two masters. But the people in Laodicea church tried to serve two masters. Are we serving two masters? Which master do we love? Which master do we hate? Have we turned to God like the people in the city of Nineveh? Or are we still like the people in the church of Laodicea? Micah 7:19 says, “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea”. Do we repent of our sins when we are convicted by the Holy Spirit? Or are we grieving the Holy Spirit? Do we have the real transformation that God expected from us? Isaiah 61:10 says, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels”. Are we clothed with salvation and righteousness? If not, “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). It is high time we washed our garments with the blood of the lamb of God, restored our relationship with Him and covered ourselves with the robe of righteousness. May the LORD Jesus help us to be hot in spirit and prepare and preserve us to inherit our eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. Amen!