Tuesday, August 4th

Tuesday, August 4

2 Timothy 4:6-8

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

John Akwhari was a member of the Tanzanian Olympic team in Mexico City in 1968. He competed in the marathon, and is remembered not for winning the gold medal, but for finishing last. Here’s why.

Mexico City is located some 7,000 feet above sea level, an altitude that makes it much more difficult to run a race like the marathon. Mr. Akwhari had trained hard for the 26 mile race but had not trained at altitude. So by the halfway mark of the race he developed severe cramping and then, during some jockeying for position, fell and injured his leg seriously enough to consider quitting the race. But he continued running, limping along until he crossed the finish line over an hour after the winner.

When word came that one runner was still on the course a television crew was dispatched to get the story. By the time he reached the finish line only a few spectators remained and the sun had set.

As he finally crossed the finish line a cheer came from the small crowd. When interviewed later and asked why he continued running, he said, "My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race."

In his beautiful letter to young Timothy, the aging Apostle Paul writes of his life with Christ as if he is nearing the finish line.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Athletes often talk about “leaving it all on the field” after a particularly competitive or grueling contest. Paul says he has been “poured out as a drink offering.” That’s a reference to a kind of religious sacrifice in the ancient tradition of the Jews. Paul has poured his life out for the sake of the great call he received from the Lord Jesus himself, to take the gospel to the Gentile world.

Runners often try to save just enough strength to put on a “finishing kick” at the end of a race. They try to run the last 100 yards faster than they ran the first 100 yards. They want to finish strong in an effort to win the prize. Paul says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race...” I think he means that, as he faces the end of his earthly life, he has finished well, and he wants young Timothy to begin his journey with the end in mind.

How is your race of faith going? Where are you on the course? While it’s true that we can’t know when our particular race will end, we can, with the Lord’s help, pour ourselves into the race so that we can say with Paul,

“I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Finish strong my friends!

Pastor Brian Coffey

Monday, August 3rd

Monday, August 3

Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

A long time ago I spent several years coaching basketball at Taylor University in Indiana. The head coach at the time was known for his particularly grueling preseason conditioning program. It lasted for about four weeks and consisted of lots and lots of running; sprints, distance runs, combinations of sprints and distance runs, then more sprints; you get the picture.

The most dreaded day of the whole month was the day the players had to do the “12 minute run.” Now “12 minute run” sounds rather innocuous, but, in reality, it is sheer torture. Here’s how it works. The athletes all line up on a track; the coach blows the whistle and they all run as far and as fast as they can for 12 minutes.

It’s brutal.

One year we had a guy try out for the team who had played intramural basketball for two years and then had decided to try out for the men’s college team. He was about 6’4 and a pretty good athlete as I remember. Early in the conditioning program he impressed the head coach with his speed for a bigger guy. Soon we noticed he had a tendency to run fast only when he was sure we were watching; but when he was on the far side of the track and though he was out of view he would slow down considerably.

The head coach preached giving your best effort all the time and so not only did he notice the loafing on the back side of the track, he was somewhat annoyed by it.

Well the day of the “12 minute run” finally came. The guys all lined up and the coach blew his whistle and off they went.

The kid in question took off like a shot and was with the leaders for the first lap. But part way into the second lap we noticed he was losing ground. By about five minutes into the run he was being lapped by the faster guys. The thing about a “12 minute run” is that you have nowhere to hide! By about the 7th minute the poor guy had slowed nearly to a painful looking jog. Finally at about the 8 minute mark he stopped running altogether.
Now you need to know that the head coach’s rule was, “If you stop running, you cut yourself from the team.” So we watched as the young fellow stopped running, turned and started the long slow walk across the track to where I was standing with the head coach. As we waited we wondered aloud what he would say when he arrived.

When he finally got to where we were standing he looked at us and, still trying to catch his breath, said, “Coach, I’ve been praying about this a lot lately, and I just don’t have any peace about playing ball this year.”

The head coach looked back at him and said in his steely coach voice, “Son, the middle of a 12 minute run is no place to be looking for peace.” That young man didn’t play basketball that season.

In the New Testament the Christian life is sometimes pictured as a race.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us...

I love this text! I love it not just because it carries obvious athletic overtones; a race with a crowd cheering the athletes on; but because Paul presents the journey of faith as requiring endurance.

I think this is what that young man so long ago failed to understand. The “12 minute run” wasn’t about how fast he could run or about how he compared to the other guys running with him; it was about endurance. All he had to do was set a pace and keep with it! Even if he finished last, he would have finished and he might have made that team.

But how do we endure? How do we keep running when everything in us tells us to quit? Paul concludes his thoughts on endurance with this:

...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

See it? Jesus endured the cross because of the “joy set before him.” That joy was the pleasure and reward of God the Father.

That’s also why we run this race called faith!

Pastor Brian Coffey

Friday, July 31st

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But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.  He prayed to the LORD,  “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.   Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”   - Jonah 4:1-3
For the second time in this story, Jonah prays.  In the first part (Jonah 2) he prays when he's desperate, when he's in the belly of the fish, in the depths of the sea, and it looks like he's going to die, and he wants to live. "Oh, God!, help me. Let me live. Forgive my disobedience." and God hears him and gives him grace.  
In his first prayer, Jonah's going to die and he prays, "God, let me live." This time he's in the middle of this amazing triumph of life, he prays, "God, let me die."  At this point, he doesn't really want to die.  This is like an adolescent. "God, I want my own way, and I want it to be the destruction of the Ninevites." "Please," he says twice in this verse. This is not a polite please; this is an annoying two-syllable please that kids use when they are whining - “Puh-leeaase!” 
Notice that Jonah says in his prayer, "is this not what I said when I was still at home? "  Now, in fact, Jonah didn't say anything like this back home in the first chapter.  The truth was that he said nothing at all, he just ran away out of fear.  Now he conveniently remembers himself as the champion of justice. "I saw this one coming." He claims he always knew God was going to go soft.
There's something else going on in this prayer that would be very apparent to its readers. It's important for us to see this to get the tension. Jonah says, "I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God." He's quoting here one of the most famous confessions of God's identity in the history of Israel.
Exodus 34:6 - And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming,  “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
God is revealing here, not just His reality, not just His power, but His character...His heart. This was so sacred to Israel. This was the most prized revelation of God's identity in the history of their people. Any devout Jew knew these words by heart.  They knew these words like we know the words to the song, Happy Birthday.  Only Jonah leaves something out. This would be glaringly obvious to any Israelite reading this text.  Let’s compare the two texts...
Exodus 34:6 - the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
Jonah 4:2 - I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love,
What word is missing?  “faithfulness” 
What is going on here?  Did Jonah just make a mistake?  Was this simply an innocent omission?  I don’t think so.  Jonah is intentionally impugning the character of God.  He is saying (in effect) “Oh sure God, You abound in love, but what about faithfulness to Your Word?  You said You were going to punish Nineveh....well?  What about it?”
How does God respond?
God is so patient with Jonah. Jonah goes on this tirade and impugns God's character, and all God says in return is, "Is it right for you to be angry?"  Jonah doesn't give any answer. Jonah gives God the silent treatment.  (it may seem ridiculous to us, but don’t we often do the same thing when we ignore the clear Word of God?)  
In the next part of the story we are told Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city, and waited to see what’s going to happen. I think Jonah's still hoping...forty days...Nineveh is going to get blasted.
Then there's this odd little part of the story. If you've ever read through the book, you may have wondered about this. It is such a strange account. Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. (4:6) That word "provided" is going to recur here, same word as provided a great fish back in the first chapter. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. (4:7)  That seems like a dirty, little trick, doesn't it?  When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said,  “It would be better for me to die than to live.” (4:8)
But God said to Jonah,  (Here is that question again) “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?”  “I do,” he said.  “I am angry enough to die.” (4:9)
Does that seem a little immature to you?  (me too)  It's like God's dealing with a five-year-old here. You understand there's something here going way, way deeper than Jonah just worrying about getting a sunburn or something.
God is trying to teach Jonah about His heart for people.  It's a funny thing, God seems to have have a harder time saving Jonah than He does saving Nineveh.  When Jesus came, the people that Jesus had the hardest time with were not the people that everybody considered the big sinners...not the prostitutes, not the tax collectors, not the people that you'd obviously associate with a place like Nineveh. The people Jesus had the hardest time with were people who considered themselves the spiritually mature. They had these superior, judgmental, unloving hearts. It's a funny thing.
People matter to God. The jobless person. The homeless person. The wealthy and successful person. They just matter to God. God is not like you & me. God doesn't look at categories like we do, and think, People in this category, they’re my kind of people. I like these kinds of people. But people in that category over there, I can let go of them without much pain. People matter to God. Depressed people. Educated people. Divorced people. People with different politics than yours. They all matter to God. Conservative people and liberal people. Muslims. Atheists. New Age people. Every color of skin. Asian people. Hispanic people. Caucasian people. African American people. Gay people. Old people. Young People.  All People matter to God. Every one of them!  And they should matter to us too.
Jeff Frazier

Thursday, July 30th

To download an audio version of this, click here.

Yesterday we saw how Jonah obeyed God (even if he did not have the purest of hearts) and God used his act of obedience to reach the great city of Nineveh.
On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed:  “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”  The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.  - Jonah 3:4-5
The point of the story is people of Nineveh are overwhelmed by an awareness of their sin. It's not because Jonah gave this eloquent sermon. It's just God. It's just the Spirit of God falling on people. Their hearts are broken, "Oh, God, we've been so far off track. We've been so wrong." They repent the best they know how...the best they know how.
God looks at this poor miserable people... We're told later on, when God talks about Nineveh, that this is a people who do not know their right from their left. That's a way of talking about people who do not know right from wrong, a people who are totally morally lost.  God, being God, is filled with compassion when He sees the Ninevites repent.
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.          - Jonah 3:10
He has mercy on them and gives them His grace. He says, "I forgive."  They have turned away from their violence and their aggression and their sin, and they are repenting.  They are receiving grace. Now the story could end happily ever after, except for one tiny little problem (can you guess what it is?) - Jonah.
Jonah looks at all this... Now, you would think he'd be thrilled. This is the greatest spiritual achievement of his ministry. It is a whole great city of Assyrians, and they are brought to God through his preaching, and his wasn't even preaching wasn’t even any good; because when God moves it's not about human effort.  He has never been used by God like this. 
But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.  - Jonah 4:1
Jonah can't take it.  He thinks, “This cannot happen!  This should not happen!”  He looks at Nineveh repenting and being forgiven by God, and he says, "This is terrible, this isn’t right!"   The Hebrew text actually implies that Jonah saw it as “evil”.  Think about this for a moment, what is great to God, Nineveh being forgiven and receiving grace...appears evil to Jonah.
Jonah was okay when grace was being given to him, but now it's going to Nineveh.  Now Jonah is not okay.  Now Jonah is really mad.  Ann Lamott writes, "You can tell you have made God in your image when it turns out He hates all the same people you do."
I imagine Jonah thinking to himself -”C’mon God, You said You were going to blast them, and I took you at Your Word. I told them, 'Forty days, Nineveh and it's Sodom and Gomorrah time...you’re all gonna get it!   Now it's not going to happen?  God, I'm going to look like a fool.  What’s worse is I'm going to go back to Israel, Your people, and it's going to look to Your people like I like the Ninevites. I don't like the Ninevites, God. I thought You didn't like them either.”
At the start of the book...to any Israelite reading it...to you and me, we think God's big problem in this book is, "What are you going to do about Nineveh?"  That is sin city.  Those people are degraded and vile.  We think God's big problem is, "What are you going to do about Nineveh, about those evil people over there?”
That's not God's big problem. God's big problem is, What am I going to do about Jonah?  What am I going to do about the man of God with a smug, superior, resentful heart?  What am I going to do about my own children who lack compassion and grace?  That's God's big problem.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be one of God’s big problems.
Jeff Frazier

Wednesday, July 29th

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Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,  “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”  So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth.  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”   - Jonah 3:1-4
We should stand and give Jonah a round of applause at this point, because it’s the only time in the story that Jonah gets things right. Everything else gets mixed up in his disobedience, his running away, and his stubborn pride.  But here, in this brief moment, Jonah finally obeys.  Now I want to pause and reflect on this for just a moment, because I know that we all get stuff wrong a lot of the time.  Like Paul says in Romans 7, we do the things we don’t want to do and we don’t do the things God wants us to do.
But amidst our struggles and failures, there are moments... moments when we get things right.  Moments when you resist the temptation to talk negatively about that person. Moments when you feel frustrated with your spouse, but you hold back your sharp tongue.  Moments when you might act lustfully or impulsively... and you resist.  It is important to know that in those moments, when we obey, even if it seems small  (even if it’s just one verse in the whole book of Jonah) it pleases God.  We need to know that our obedience matters... because it does. If Jonah didn’t obey God, if he didn’t go, we wouldn’t see what we are about to see happen in Nineveh.  So Jonah obeyed God and went to Nineveh.
But just because we obey God doesn’t mean the circumstances are going to be any less daunting. As soon as Jonah arrives in Nineveh, the reality of this situation sets in...Jonah travels one third of the way into town and stops (remember that the text says it would take 3 days to travel through the entire city).  He’s probably already frustrated; he’s probably seen more sin and evil than he can stand. And so he stops and gives what may be the shortest sermon in human history. It’s 8 words long—only 6 if you read it in the original Hebrew.  A six word sermon!?  
And Jonah’s message is incredibly vague. It lacks all the characteristic features of Old Testament prophecy. There is no word from the Lord, there is no naming of sins, there is no appeal for the victims of injustice.  And most importantly, there is no mention of God. What happened to “Go and proclaim the message I give you?”  What’s going on here?
Several Biblical scholars scholars think that even though Jonah obeys, he still has a prideful and stubborn heart, and he is unable to see any possible good coming out of this situation.  But as we have seen throughout this story, whenever we think things are heading down, God is up to something great!  (even in places like Nineveh)  After Jonah’s one day march and six word sermon, the text says, “And the people of Nineveh believed God.” - Jonah 3:5a
The people farthest away from God. The people least likely to believe come to believe in God. And not just some of the people, it’s all of the people, even though Jonah is only 1/3 of the way through town.   And they didn’t just believe in God...
“They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.”  - Jonah 3:5b
Sackcloth was an abrasive covering made of goat hair that was worn in public as a sign of repentance. Does that sound like something a respectable person would do? Is that something you would do?  Well here, even the people of privilege and power are doing this. Think of Donald Trump publicly fasting. Think Paris Hilton putting on sackcloth. These are public acts of conversion made by all the people of Nineveh.
“The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.”   - Jonah 3:6
The king of Nineveh, of whom the prophet Nahum wrote,
“Nothing can heal you; your wound is fatal. All who hear the news about you clap their hands at your fall.”
And here this brutal dictator gets off his throne, takes off his royal robes, and falls to his knees before the mercy of God. Now you might be thinking, “Okay, this is getting a little ridiculous.” But God is just getting started. God didn’t just reach the people, the nobles, and the king, God reached the very laws of the land.
And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything.  Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.  Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”   - Jonah 3:7-9
The point? - Never underestimate what God can do with one simple act of obedience!

Jeff Frazier

Tuesday, July 28th

To download an audio version of this, click here.

The book of Jonah (which we are studying this week) is unique in that it is not primarily a record of the prophets words, but of the prophets interactions with God.  It is a story told in four parts/four chapters.  In chapter 1, Jonah runs from God because he does not want to go to Nineveh.  This chapter ends with Jonah being thrown overboard during a terrible storm at sea, and being swallowed by a great fish (sent by God).  In chapter 2, Jonah prays.  In fact, there is no plot action at all in this chapter, it is just Jonah’s prayer, but what a great prayer it is!  He cries out to God from the belly of a fish in the depths of the sea...and there in the depth, God hears Jonah.  He hears him and loves him and refuses to let him go.  So God causes the fish to spit Jonah back onto dry land, and Jonah is rescued from his own sin and death.  
God is up to some great things in the life of Jonah, so it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine what Jonah must now be thinking.  “Ah-ha! I’m alive. I’m covered in fish vomit, but I’m alive. God heard my prayer and he saved me. I should do something about this. I should write this down, I should write my spiritual memoirs, I’ll call it ‘Tuesdays with Jonah.’ But heck, why stop with just the story. I should build a church, right here where God delivered me, on the beach. Beautiful location, there’s lots of parking— wouldn’t that be a miracle. I’ll call it the Church of Whales, because that won’t be at all confusing.  And we’ll do baptisms by throwing people off boats, and we’ll have testimonies from pagan sailors,” and on and on and on...
It’s not hard to imagine that Jonah wants to get started on his new life. He wants to forget about all his past disobedience and move on to the bigger and better things, which is where we pick up our story from Jonah ...Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”   - Jonah 3:1-2
Does that sound like God has moved on to bigger and better things?  Not at all.  God has not moved on.  God is not going to just forget it.  God calls Jonah a second time, “Jonah, I want you to go to the great city of Nineveh.”  Do you notice that the focus in the call of Jonah is not really on the message (yet), it is on the word “GO”?  
Unfortunately, all too often we focus solely on the opposite word, “Stop.” I know too many Christians who think God’s primary focus is for them to stop doing this, stop doing that, stop, stop, stop. I hear this all the time when people tell their story of coming to faith, and they say something like, “I gave my life to Jesus and then I stopped...” and then give me the list of sins they’ve tried to put off.
Don’t misunderstand this, it’s a really, really good thing to put off habits and behaviors that are sinful or harmful or not of God. But the heart of Christian discipleship is not the word stop.  If it was, we’d all be better off just staying home and hiding in the basement. The heart of Christian discipleship is the word “GO.”
When God calls Abraham, he says, I want you to leave behind your city, your family, your stuff.... and “Go.” When God calls Moses, I want you to stop being a shepherd in Midian and “Go” back to Egypt.  After his resurrection, Jesus told his followers, “Just as the Father sent me, I am sending you.”  In other words, “GO!”
At the heart of Christianity there is a movement, an outward focus, a going that we can easily forget as we face the demands of our lives, but God doesn’t forget why he has called and saved Jonah... to go...And where is Jonah called to go?  To Nineveh, which, as you know, is not a good place to be going. 
God says, “That’s where we are going.” And when you get there, God says, I have a new message for you. If you remember back to the first time God called Jonah, he told him to “Go to the great city of Nineveh” and what... “Preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
And Nineveh, indeed, was a horrible place. This is the empire whose armies ravaged the northern tribes of Israel and left the dead bodies piled up along the roads. If any city in the world at that time deserved judgment from a holy God, it would be Nineveh.  But now God says, “Go to the great city of Nineveh” and what... “Proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Now I don’t think this means God is getting soft on sin. But God is telling Jonah, “I still want you to go to the Nineveh, but when you get there I want you to stop and listen closely to me, because I have a particular message for the people of Nineveh, one that you might not expect... one that you might not come up with on your own... one that might surprise you... because God is up to something great.  
And so Jonah goes...and so we too go where God leads and speak the message God gives us - The Gospel!
Jeff Frazier

Monday, July 27th

To download an audio version of this, click here.

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai:  “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”  But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.   - Jonah 1:1-3
Jonah was a prophet; he was not a priest. Priests served in the temple. They offered sacrifices. They led worship. A prophet was different kind of character altogether.  A prophet was a reformer, an activist.  Prophets were often asked to do and say hard things, and they were rarely ever appreciated for their role.  Israel always had a lot of priests, but generally just one prophet at a time because that was all Israel could stand.
One day the Word of the Lord comes to this prophet Jonah. Life is not easy when you are a prophet. The Word comes to Jonah and says, "Go to Nineveh." When you hear from God, and sometimes you will, it may be just three little words, but they can change your life. "Go to Nineveh." Jonah was a prophet, but he was a prophet to Israel, for crying out loud.  Why should he go to Nineveh?  If God wanted him to prophesy against that wicked city, why couldn’t he just do it from Israel?   But the Word of the Lord comes to him, "Go to Nineveh and preach." It's very striking how this is expressed.  Not go to Nineveh and preach to it; go to Nineveh and preach against it, the text says.  This is a very daunting task.
Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. In the seventh and eighth centuries BC, Assyria was the great world power. It chewed up and spit out countries right and left.  It would put the populations of countries that it defeated on death marches.  It practiced genocide basically as state policy.  When Israel was split into two sections, there was a northern kingdom, ten tribes up there, and the southern kingdom, just two tribes. The northern kingdom, those ten tribes, was captured and basically obliterated, by Assyria.  the southern kingdom had to pay tribute to Assyria and they would have made those payments directly to the city of Nineveh.
Assyria was hated so much...this is what a prophet named Nahum said about Nineveh, which is the capital, kind of embodied Assyria, "Woe to Nineveh" (Nahum 3) "woe to the city of blood...full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims, piles of dead." Now think about this, "...bodies without number, people stumbling over corpses...your injury is fatal."  Nahum here is predicting the fall of Nineveh. "...your injury is fatal. Everyone who hears the news about you claps their hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?"  Nineveh is so hated. Not just cruelty, but endless cruelty. When it is destroyed Nahum says, people are going clap; they are going to stand up and clap.
If you want to understand how an Israelite felt about Nineveh, think of Al- Qaeda, think of Nazi Germany, think of a power that killed your children, enslaved your brother, brutalized your sister. Nahum said very, very strong condemning words about Nineveh, but where do you think Nahum was when he said those words? He was in Israel. He was a long ways away from Nineveh.
Then the Word of the Lord comes to Jonah, "Go to Nineveh."  Learn to speak Assyrian and tell them face to face that they're facing judgment. Jonah says, "Lord, Nahum got to taunt them from a distance. Couldn't we like send them a telegram or something?" "The Word of the Lord came to Jonah, 'Go to Nineveh.'"
How did the Word come?  Was it a burning bush?  Was it a still small voice?  Was it an angel?  Was it a vision?  Was it a dream?  Was there room for doubt or discussion?  The text doesn't say.  Was there a Mrs. Jonah?  If so what did she think about all of this?  The text doesn't say.  It just says the Word of the Lord came to Jonah, "Go to Nineveh."
Nineveh was not at all in Jonah's comfort zone.  What do you do when God asks you to "Go to Nineveh."? Nineveh is the place God calls you to where you do not want to go. Nineveh is the person you don’t want to face.  It is the issue in your life that you don’t want to deal with.  How do you respond?  Because God will say that to you.
We know how Jonah responded, he ran, he ran away from God.  This is really a pretty ridiculous thing to do when you think about it...God is omnipresent!  Where is he going to go? 
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.   - Psalm 139:7-10
But Jonah knows this about God, he knows that he can’t really get way from Him.  He is running to get away from his own awareness of God’s presence in his life (do you ever do this?), so he heads in the exact opposite direction, for the city of Tarshish.   Nineveh is located in Northeastern Iraq today, Tarshish was a wealthy seaport in Spain!  This was the opposite end of the known world!  Tarshish was well known for it’s prosperity and wealth through trade.  Perhaps Jonah thought he was running to a place of security and comfort...but what often seems safe and secure from a human perspective, turns out to be trouble.  
Jonah will eventually learn that the only truly safe place in this life is in the center of God’s will!
What do you do when God calls you to "Go to Nineveh."Do run toward Him or do you run away?

Jeff Frazier