1 September 2014

The LORD’s concern for Barking and Dagenham

Looking at Nineveh (now the Kurdish city Mosul) the LORD said, "..should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left...?" (Jonah 4v11).

The LORD spoke these words to the ancient prophet Jonah. Jonah was having a strop because all he cared about was himself and his traditional way of life. The LORD had sent him to a people not just different from him, but a people who had been the sworn enemies of his own people Israel for many generations.

The LORD sent him to warn them of the LORD's judgment on their sinful way of life. They had been living as though the LORD was not God, as though they were in charge, as though they could just live how they liked with no eternal consequences.

But Jonah knew the LORD is very kind, and that his real intention was for Nineveh to heed his warning, say sorry, turn from their evil ways, be forgiven, and then live lives that please him. Jonah wanted Nineveh destroyed. The LORD wanted them to turn to him and be saved. It turned out that Jonah was no less sinful and in need of the LORD's kindness than Nineveh. He, too, needed a change of heart.

The LORD is God. He is God of all people everywhere, because he made the world. And he is eternal which means the LORD who spoke to Jonah and Nineveh has not changed. And he says to us now what he said to them then. And his attitude now is the same as it was then.

The LORD has concern for Barking and Dagenham(about the same size if not bigger than whole population of Barking and Dagenham hears both his warning of judgment on our sinful way of life (and there's plenty of evidence that the Borough's every bit as wicked as ancient Nineveh!); and that the Borough hears that if we say sorry, and turn from our evil ways, and put our faith in his kindness, we, too, will be forgiven and can live lives that are pleasing to him.

Since Jonah's time, the LORD sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world. He preached this message to the world. He also died on a cross for our sin, paying in full for us the penalty of death owing to us for our sin (that's God's judgment - death for sin). We can be sure of forgiveness because of Christ's death in our place. So in the New Testament Jesus says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not suffer [eternal] death but have eternal life." (John 3v16).

People of Barking and Dagenham - will you heed the LORD's warning to you, turn to him and be saved?

Members of St George's (and other churches in the Borough) - will you obey the LORD and take this gospel message from God to your whole neighbourhood? Rather than being like Jonah and caring more for yourself and your traditional way of life, will you show the same concern that the LORD has for all the people of Barking and Dagenham, whatever their social or national or religious background?

Simon Smallwood
Pastor at St George’s