God said ‘Jonah, arise and preach to Nineveh.’ (Jonah 1:1-2)
|Jonah outside Nineveh’s gate. Rembrandt|
We know the rest of the story. Initially Jonah refused, and ran in the other direction. He boarded a ship and sailed away. God sent a storm and overboard Jonah went. As Jonah contemplated his options on the way down to the bottom of the sea, he relented and acknowledged the sovereignty of God. He accepted the call to preach repentance to Nineveh. God had appointed a big fish and the fish swallowed Jonah and then spit him up back to where he began. Hoisting his toga, Jonah set off for Nineveh, heeding God’s call.
It was ‘an exceedingly great city’ some three days’ travel in breadth. Some historians calculate that as many as 250,000 lived in Nineveh. For several decades it was the largest city in the world. When Jonah preached, all the Ninevites repented, from the king on down to the lowliest peasant. All of them. It surely was a great move of God and a great shower of grace upon the many people of Nineveh.
|Nineveh’s Adad gate exterior entrance. Wiki CC|
God’s move was so powerful and so amazing that even till this day Eastern Orthodox churches of the Middle East commemorate the three days Jonah spent inside the fish during the “Fast of Nineveh”. There are streets named after Jonah in the Middle East and monuments to him. There are even several places claiming to be his tomb. He is known to Muslims as Nabi Yunus, and Prophet Jonah is mentioned in the Q’uran. Therefore we see that God’s move was SO GREAT that the vestigial memory of it rests in the hearts and minds of even the most blinded and spiritually distant from God.
Unfortunately, the Ninevites’ repentant attitude was not permanent and Prophet Nahum records Nineveh’s end. One hundred years later, they had gone back to their ways. Nahum says that it was a city full of blood, lies, and plunder. God said He would make an utter desolation of the city and He did.
The city was so obliterated by 400BC the city of Nineveh itself had passed into history. Even the very name was forgotten. The city was buried so well it was never re-discovered until 1842.
In 1842, French Consul General at Mosul, Paul-Émile Botta began to search the vast mounds that lay along the opposite bank of the river. The Arabs whom he employed in these excavations, to their great surprise, came upon the ruins of a building at the mound of Khorsabad, which, on further exploration, turned out to be the royal palace of Sargon II, which was largely explored for sculptures and other precious relics. Wikipedia
Today’s Nineveh overlaps Mosul. Mosul is in Iraq, or what used to be Iraq, now that the ISIS group has taken over and established “The Islamic State”. You might know that the goal of the Caliphate is to have 100% of all residents in it compliant to Allah. If someone is not a Muslim, they must pay jizya, a religious tax to the dhimmi (community). Or convert. Or die.
|Nineveh’s Mashki gate from the west. Wiki CC|
The leaders of ISIS issued an ultimatum recently to that very effect. Before the war in Iraq in 2003, there were about 65,000 Christians living there. That is according to official records. However, spiritually, most of those are not Christians, because they adhere to an Eastern Orthodox religion, which is false. Personally I cannot say that the numbers were so large, but we do know that at out of 65,000 claiming Christianity, least some are true Christians.
Remember, Iraq is also home to Baghdad, AKA Babylon, the first city which Nimrod built and future history’s (almost) the last city; a city which will be the prophetic focus of the Tribulation. It has been said that the bible could be subtitled “A Tale of Two Cities: Jerusalem and Babylon.” What I’m saying is, the area has a long, loooong spiritual history. Moreover, and future history will dwindle down to events in this exact region.
After the 2003 invasion of Iraq about half the Christians left. After ISIS came, 10,000 more left. Suffice to say that life for a true Christian in this war-torn, spiritually hostile ground zero place would be hard. And this week, it just got harder.
Iraqi Christians are fleeing Mosul after Islamist militants threatened to kill them unless they converted to Islam or paid a “protection tax”. A statement issued by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) was read out at the city’s mosques. It called on Christians to comply by midday on Saturday or face death if they did not leave the northern city. Isis has control of large parts of Syria and Iraq and said last month it was creating an Islamic caliphate. The ultimatum cited a historic contract known as “dhimma,” under which non-Muslims in Islamic societies who refuse to convert are offered protection if they pay a fee, called a “jizya”. “We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword,” the Isis statement said.
This is very similar to the upcoming ultimatum that the antichrist will issue. The antichrist will locate headquarters in Babylon. At the Tribulation, the antichrist will force all to worship him by accepting a mark on their hand or forehead. Or be excluded from the economy and unable to buy or sell, and then to be beheaded. (Revelation 13:16-17).
In addition to the hostility against perceived Christians, the ISIS people also took a sledgehammer to “Jonah’s tomb” in Mosul.
Donning balaclavas and black coats, they swung sledgehammers into the tombs, causing pieces of dust and stone to fly through the air. One of the devastated tombstones belonged to the Prophet Jonah (Younis in Arabic) and was revered by Muslims and Christians alike, according to Iraqi authorities. Speaking of the latest attack, Ninevah official Zuhair Al-Chalabi, told IraqiNews.com: ‘The elements of ISIS [have] controlled the mosque of the Prophet Younis in Mosul since they invaded the city.’
It should be noted that there are also alleged burial sites for Jonah in Hebron, Lebanon, and Galilee in addition to Mosul.
1. Pray for the true Christians in the Middle East. As Joel Rosenberg calls it, it is “the epicenter” because geologically the epicenter is the point on the earth above the center of the earthquake. It aptly describes Israel, Jerusalem, and the countries surrounding her. Geographically, God considers Israel the center of the world. (Ezekiel 5:5) as Rosenberg explains here. Spiritually, it all comes down to God and His people, and history’s last events will be located in Jerusalem and surrounding environs.
From this moment forward, whenever you are reading this, life will only be harder for Christians there. Jews also. Every day will be harder than the day before it.
2. Pray for the rapture. (2 Timothy 4:8). It is spiritually all right to pray for a time of deliverance, in so doing, acknowledging your citizenship (heaven), identifying yourself with the promises of Jesus, and wanting to be where there is no more pain.
3. Be strong in the word. Persevere, and in so doing, being the Light of Hope within us. Let it shine, your patience, calm, and hope will be a balm to those around you.
4. Study scripture and memorize it. Even in America, the time is coming and might already be here when we will need to rely on memory for scripture- as possessing a bible may soon be not-possible. The noose is tightening daily. Apostasy is rising and as John MacArthur said, “Cultural Christianity is dying at warp speed.” I’ll do another blog post later today about that. Therefore we should be aware of what is happening in the world and in our nations, and in that way we can be responsible to our duties as Christians on behalf of the glory of God.
5. Always shine the glory back to Him, He is the originator of the world, the sustainer of the world, and the King, Lord, and Judge of the world, He deserves all glory and acknowledgement in all we say and do. At the very moment that attitude is becoming more rare, is when we need to display it the most.