On January 27, 1986, Robert Ebling called his boss to lodge a protest. He and four fellow engineers concluded that their project contained a weakness that could prove fatal, particularly in below-freezing temperatures. Because the project had already suffered costly delays, his superiors dismissed them. The next day they forged ahead with the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Only 73 seconds into its flight, the shuttle exploded due to a failure of the O-rings, and all seven astronauts aboard were killed.
The pages of history, especially the history recorded in the Bible, are filled with those who disregarded warnings and incurred calamitous consequences. Pride, arrogance, and greed have deafened people to the hard words spoken by the prophets in their midst. Rather than repenting, they remained “stiff-necked”—a favorite biblical description (see Acts 7:51; 2 Chron. 30:8; Jer. 7:26)—even when it meant forging headlong into disaster.
This tendency to discount warnings that require costly change makes Nineveh’s response to Jonah even more extraordinary. A foreigner arrived proclaiming the impending judgment of a God that, in all likelihood, the Ninevites hardly knew. And yet, they not only heard his warning but also heeded it. Donning sackcloth and proclaiming a fast, the king ordered the people to “give up their evil ways and their violence” (v. 8).
The king and people of Nineveh were willing to put their trust in God’s character of forgiveness and compassion (vv. 9–10). We know even more about God—we live after the Incarnation of Jesus and we have the witness of Scripture. Will we heed the warning to reject evil and violence and accept the compassion of the Lord?
Evil and violence have a way of becoming intricately woven into the fabric of our lives, so much so that we can easily regard them as just “the way things are.” Closely examining your day or week, are there forms of evil with which you have grown comfortable? How might you turn from them and begin to live more in accord with God’s will?