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109. The Ninevites' Repentance
And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. Jonah 3:4

The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. — Matthew 12:41

OUR Lord never lost patience with an audience, and never brought railing accusation against any man: his rebuke was well deserved.

Nineveh under Jonah was indeed a reproof to the Jerusalem of our Lord's day, for the Jews, though favored with his divine ministry, did not repent, but wickedly crucified the Messenger of peace.

Might not our Lord rebuke the unbelievers of our day in the same way? Is not Nineveh a reproach to England?

Let us see.

The men of Nineveh repented, and turned to God; and yet—

I. THEIR CALLS TO REPENTANCE WERE NOT MANY.

Many unbelievers have been warned and entreated times without number, and yet they remain impenitent; but:

  • Nineveh enjoyed no privileges: it was in heathen darkness.

  • Nineveh heard but one prophet; and he was none of the greatest, or most affectionate.

  • Nineveh heard that prophet only once; and that was an open-air sermon, very short and very monotonous.

  • Nineveh had heard no word of good tidings; she heard the thunder of the law, but nothing else.
Yet the obedience to the warning was immediate, universal, practical, and acceptable, so that the city was spared.

II. THE MESSAGE Of THE PROPHET WAS NOT ENCOURAGING.

1. He proclaimed no promise of pardon.
2. He did not even mention repentance; and consequently he held out no hope to the penitent.
3. He foretold a crushing and final doom: "Nineveh shall be overthrown." His message began and ended with threatening.
4. He mentioned a speedy day: "yet forty days."

Yet out of this dreadful message the people made a gospel, and so acted as on it to find deliverance; while to many of us the rich, free, sure promise of the Lord has been of no force through our unbelief.

Those who heard the teaching of Jesus were, like ourselves, highly favored, for "never man spake like this Man"; and, like us, they were grievously guilty in that they repented not.

III. THE PROPHET HIMSELF WAS NO HELPER TO THEIR HOPE.

Jonah was no loving, tender pastor, anxious to gather the lost sheep.

1. He disliked the ministry in which he was engaged, and no doubt discharged it in a hard, harsh manner.
2. He uttered no word of sympathetic love, for he had none in his heart. He was of the school of Elijah, and knew not the love which burned in the heart of Jesus.
3. He offered no prayer of loving pity.
4. He was even displeased that the city was spared.

Yet these people obeyed his voice, and obtained mercy through hearkening to his warnings. Does not this rebuke many who have been favored with tender and loving admonitions? Certainly it rebuked those who lived in our Lord's day, for no two persons could afford a more singular contrast than Jonah and our Lord.

Indeed, a "greater," better, tenderer than Jonah was there.

IV. THE HOPE TO WHICH THE NINEVITES COULD REACH WAS SLENDER.

It was no more than, "Who can tell?"

1. They had no revelation of the character of the God of Israel.
2. They knew nothing of an atoning sacrifice.
3. They had received no invitation to seek the Lord, not even a command to repent.
4. Their argument was mainly negative. Nothing was said against their repenting. They could not be the worse for repenting.
5. The positive argument was slender.

The mission of the prophet was a warning: even a warning implies a degree of mercy: they ventured upon that bare hope, saying, "Who can tell?" Have we not all at least this much of hope? Have we not far more in the gospel? Will we not venture upon it?

Monitions

I saw a cannon shot off. The men at whom it was leveled fell fiat on the ground, and so escaped the bullet. Against such blows, falling is all the fencing, and prostration all the armor of proof. But that which gave them notice to fall down was their perceiving of the fire before the ordnance was discharged. Oh! the mercy of that fire;, which, as it were, repenting of the mischief it had done, and the murder it might make, ran a race, and out-stripped the bullet, that men (at the sight thereof) might be provided, when they could not resist to prevent it! Thus every murdering-piece is also a warning-piece against itself.

God, in like manner, warns before he wounds; frights before he fights "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." Oh, let us fall down before the Lord our Maker! Then shall his anger be pleased to make in us a daily pass-over, and his bullets leveled at us must fly above us. — Thomas Fuller

"I have heard," says Mr. Daniel Wilson, in a sermon of his, "of a certain person whose name I could mention, who was tempted to conclude his day over, and him- self lost; that, therefore, it was his best course to put an end to his life, which, if continued, would but serve to increase his sin, and consequently his misery, from which there was no escape; and seeing he must be in hell, the sooner he was there the sooner he should know the worst; which was preferable to his being worn away with the tormenting expectation of what was to come. Under the influence of such suggestions as these, he went to a river, with a design to throw himself in; but as he was about to do it, he seemed to hear a voice saying to him, 'Who can tell,' as if the words had been audibly delivered. By this, therefore, he was brought to a stand; his thoughts were arrested, and thus began to work on the passage mentioned: ' Who can tell? (Jon. 3:9) viz., What God can do when he will proclaim his grace glorious. Who can tell but such an one as I may find mercy? or what will be the issue of humble prayer to heaven for it? Who can tell what purposes God will serve in my recovery?' By such thoughts as these, being so far influenced as to resolve to try, it pleased God graciously to enable him, through all his doubts and fears, to throw himself by faith on Jesus Christ, as able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him, humbly desiring and expecting mercy for his sake, to his own soul. In this he was not disappointed; but afterwards became an eminent Christian and minister: and, from his own experience of the riches of grace, was greatly useful to the conversion and comfort of others:' — Religious and Moral Anecdotes

Charles Hadden Spurgeon


110. Maroth; or; the Disappointed
For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil came down from the Lord unto the gate of Jerusalem. Micah 1:12

The village of the bitter spring (for such is probably the meaning of the name Maroth) experienced a bitter disappointment.

The more eager and patient their careful waiting, the more distasteful the draught of evil which they were compelled to drink. Their trust in man proved to be vain, for the Assyrian swept over them, and stopped not till he reached the gate of Jerusalem, where Hezekiah's faith in God made the enemy pause and retreat.

Let us consider, as suggested by the text:

I. SAD DISAPPOINTMENTS. "waited carefully for good: but evil came."

Disappointments come frequently to the sanguine, but they also happen to those who wait — wait carefull, and expect reasonably.

1. Disappointments are often extremely painful at the time.
2. Yet could we know all the truth, we should not lament them.
3. In reference to hopes of several kinds they are certain. As for instance, when we expect more of the creature than it was ever meant to yield us, when we look for happiness in sin, when we expect fixity in earthly things, etc.
4. In many cases disappointments are highly probable. Conceited hopes, groundless expectations, speculations, etc.
5. In all cases they are possible. "There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip."
6. They should be accepted with manly patience.
7. They may prove highly instructive, teaching us:

  • Our fallibility of judgment.

  • The uncertainty of sublunary things.

  • The need of reserve in speaking of the future (James 4:14).

  • The duty of submitting all our projects to the divine will.
8. They may be greatly sanctified.

  • Sometimes they have turned the current of a life.

  • They are intended to wean us from the world.

  • They tend to make us prize more the truthfulness of our God, who fulfills the desire of them that fear him.

  • They bring us precious things which can only come of experience.

  • They save us from unknown evils which might ruin us.

II. STRANGE APPOINTMENTS.

The text tells us, "evil came down from the Lord."

1. The expression must not be misunderstood. God is not the author of moral evil. It is the evil of sorrow, affliction, calamity that is here meant.
2. It is nevertheless universally true. No evil can happen without divine permission. "I make peace, and create evil" (Isa. 45:7).
3. Some evils are distinctly from the Lord. "This evil is of the Lord" (2 Kings 6:33).

  • For testing men, and making their true character to be known,

  • For chastening the good (1 Chron. 21:7).

  • For punishing the wicked (Gen. 6:5-7; 19:24-25).
4. Hence such evils are to be endured by the godly with humble submission to their heavenly Father's will.
5. Hence our comfort under them: since all evils are under divine control, their power to injure is gone.
6. Hence the antidote for our disappointments lies in the fact that they are God's appointments.

III. EXPECTATIONS WHICH WILL NOT END IN DISAPPOINTMENT.

l. Hopes founded on the promises of God (Heb. 10:23).
2. Confidence placed in the Lord Jesus (1 Pet. 2:6).
3. Desires presented in believing prayer (Matt. 21:22).
4. Harvest hopes in connection with sowing seed for the Lord (Ps. 126:5-6).
5. Expectations in falling asleep in Jesus (1 Thess. 4:14). Is your life embittered by disappointment?

Cast the cross into the bitter water, and it will become sweet.

Gatherings

During the period when lotteries were unhappily allowed to flourish in this country, a gentleman, looking into the window of a lottery office in St. Paul's Churchyard, discovered to his joy that his ticket had turned up a 10,000 prize. Intoxicated with this sudden accession of wealth, he walked round the churchyard, to consider calmly how he should dispose of his fortune. On again, in his circuit, passing the lottery office, he resolved to take another glance at the charming announcement in the window, when, to his dismay, he saw that a new number had been substituted. On inquiry, he found that a wrong number had at first been posted by mistake, and that after all he was not the holder of the prize. His chagrin was now as great as his previous pleasure had been. — W. Haig Miller's "Life's Pleasure Garden"

It is wise, when we are disappointed in one thing, to set over against it a hopeful expectancy of another, like the farmer who said, "If the peas don't pay, let us hope the beans will. "Yet it would be idle to patch up one rotten expectation with another of like character, for that would only make the rent worse. It is better to turn from the fictions of the sanguine worldling to the facts of the believer in the Word of the Lord. Then, if we find no profit in our trading with earth, we shall fall back upon our heart's treasure in heaven. We may lose our gold, but we can never lose our God. The expectation of the righteous is from the Lord, and nothing that comes from him shall ever fail.

I knew one who had made an idol of his daughter, and when she sickened and died, he was exceedingly rebellious, and the result was that he died himself. Expectations which hang upon the frail tenure of a human life may fill our cup with wormwood if we indulge them. Could this father have owned the Lord's hand in the removal of his child, and had he beforehand moderated his expectations concerning her, he might have lived happily with the rest of his family, and have been an example of holy patience. — C. H. S.

Who has not muttered "Marah" over some well in the desert which he strained himself to reach, and found to be bitterness? Have you found no salt waters where you thought to find sweetness and joy? Love, beauty, the world's bright throngs, marriage, home, the things which once wooed you, and promised to slake the thirst of your soul for happiness, are they all Elims, sweet springs and palms? Oh, what fierce murmurings of "Marah" have I heard from hearts wrung with anguish, from souls withered and blasted by a too fond confidence in anything or any being but God! Believe it, no man, with a man's heart in him, gets far on his wilderness way without some bitter soul-searching disappointment; happy he who is brave enough to push on another stage of the journey, and rest in Elim, where there are twelve springs, living springs of water, and threescore and ten palm trees. — L B. Brown

Disappointments in favorite wishes are trying, and we are not always wise enough to remember that disappointments in time are often the means of preventing disappointments in eternity. — William Jay

Charles Hadden Spurgeon


111. The Worst of Enemies
Even of late my people is risen up as an enemy. Micah 2:8

WHEN men are in trouble they are apt to blame God. But the blame lies with themselves. "Are these his doings?" (verse 7). Does the good Lord arbitrarily cause sorrows? No, they are the fruit of sin, the result of backsliding.

The Lord here answers Israel's complaint of him by a deeply truthful complaint of them.

They should not have wondered that they suffered, for they had become enemies to God, and thus enemies to themselves.

I. LET US LISTEN TO THE GRIEVOUS CHARGE.

There is a deep pathos about this as coming from the God of love.

1. They were his own people. "My people:' God has enemies enough without his own beloved ones becoming such. It is horrible ingratitude and treachery for the chosen to rebel.
2. They had risen up "as an enemy." Faithless friends wound keenly, and are often more bitter than other antagonists. For favored ones to rise up as foes is cruel indeed.
3. They had lately done this: "even of late," — "yesterday;' in the margin. The sin is fresh, the wound is bleeding, the offense is rank. A fit of willfulness was on them.
4. They had done this wantonly (see latter part of verse). They picked a quarrel with One who is "averse from war." God would have our love, yet we turn against him without cause.

How far may this indictment lie against us?

II. LET US HEAR THE MORE GRIEVOUS EVIDENCE BY WHICH THE CHARGE IS SUBSTANTIATED.

Taking the words "my people" as referring to all professing Christians, many of them "rise up as an enemy" from the fact of—

1. Their separation from their Lord. "He that is not with me is against me" (Matt. 12:30). They walk not in communion with him, neither are they diligent in his service, nor careful in obedience, nor consecrated to his cause.
2. Their worldliness. By this the Lord's jealousy is moved, for the world is set up as his rival in the heart. "The friendship of the world is enmity with God" (James 4:4).
3. Their unbelief, which stabs at his honor, his veracity, his immutability ( 1 John 1:10). A man cannot treat another more maliciously than by calling him a liar.
4 Their heresies, fighting against his revealed truth. It is wretched work when the church and its ministers oppose the gospel. It is to be feared that this is by no means uncommon in these degenerate days.
5. Their unholiness. Unholy professors are, par excellence, "the enemies of the cross of Christ" (Phil. 3:18).
6. Their lukewarmness: by which they sicken their Savior (Rev. 3:16), grieve his Spirit (Eph. 4:30), encourage sinners in sin (Ezek. 16:54), and discourage seekers.

By these, and other miserable courses of action, those who should be the friends of God are often found to be "risen up as an enemy."

III. LET US HEARKEN TO MOST GRIEVOUS WARNINGS.

No good can possibly come of opposition to the Lord; but the most painful evils will inevitably ensue.

1. In the case of true Christians, there will come to them heavy chastisements and humiliations. If we walk contrary to the Lord, he will walk contrary to us (Lev. 26:23-24).
2. With these will come the keenest regrets, and agonies of heart. It may be pleasant to go down By-path Meadow, but to return to the King's highway will cost many a groan and tear.
3. In the case of mere professors, there will soon come abandonment of profession, immorality, seven-fold wickedness, etc.
4. To such may also come special punishments, which will make them a terror to the universe of God.

Be anxious to be truly reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus.

Abide in peace with God by yielding to his Spirit.

Increasingly love and honor him, that no root of bitterness may ever spring up between him and you.

Home-Thrusts

It is not, perhaps, that we are determinably his enemies, but his love is so great that he feels very keenly the slightest swerving of our hearts from him. So much so that he that is not with him is against him, he that turns aside from his friendship is felt to be "an enemy." — From "Wounded in the House of his Friends, "by F. M.

Sin will cause repenting work, even for the children of God. The sins of the wicked pierce Christ's side, but the sins of the godly plunge the spear into his heart.

Carlyle, speaking of the changes made by time, says, "How tragic to me is the sight of old friends; a thing I always really shrink from!" Sin has made still more painful changes in some once numbered amongst the friends of God.

Pharnaces, the son of Mithridates, the king of Pontus, sending a crown to Caesar at the time he was in rebellion against him, he refused the present, saying, "Let him first lay down his rebellion, and then I will receive his crown." There are many who set a crown of glory upon the head of Christ by a good profession, and yet plant a crown of thorns upon his head by an evil conversation. — Secker

After poor Sabat, an Arabian, who had professed faith in Christ by the means of the labors of the Rev. H. Martyn, had apostatized from Christianity, and written in favor of Mohammedanism, he was met at Malacca by the late Rev. Dr. Milne, who proposed to him some very pointed questions, in reply to which, he said, "I am unhappy! I have a mountain of burning sand on my head. When I go about, I know not what I am doing!" It is indeed an evil thing and bitter to forsake the Lord our God. — Bate's Cyclopaedia

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.

Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky,
Thou cost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though more the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remembered not.
— Shakespeare

Charles Hadden Spurgeon

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