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Matthew 13:37-39 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the wicked one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age;[1] and the reapers are angels.

Here Jesus explains the parable of the wheat and the weeds. Jesus says he is “the one who sows the good seed,” the Son of Man. However, Christians do the work for Jesus, as they sow the Word of God. The “field” is human beings, who are alienated from God and must be cultivated [reasoned with], as Christians go about sowing the good seed [evangelization] of biblical truth. This field encompasses the whole world.

Each Christian has their own part of the “field” to evangelize, which would be their local community. Have you been sowing the Word of God where you live? Does the church you attend go out into their community sowing the good seed of biblical truth? More specifically, do you carry out the command of Christ to spread the Good News? (Matt. 28:19-20) How do you feel about the people in the community where you live? Do you view neighbors or others as a community of souls who need to be saved? Are they not living souls who have personal affections, despairs, needs, distresses and necessities, and who may very well take to the path of life, not the path of destruction? How will other people hear the Word of God unless someone takes it to them?

Romans 10:14-15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14  How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how will they hear without someone to preach? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who declare good news of good things!”[2]

Do you see other people a potential future spiritual brother or sister, ones created in God’s image and likeness? Do you see others as people whom God so loved that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) Should we not view your community the same way that God would view it? Let us take a short trip to an ancient biblical city, one we would not expect to show mercy.

The Bloody City of Nineveh

Nahum 3:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Woe to the city of bloodshed,
All of her is deception and plunder
never without prey.

Nineveh

Nahum delivered the prophetic decree upon Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, the second world power of Bible history, and the queen city of the earth at that time. Assyria acted like a pack of lions on the hunt as other nations on the known earth feared them. Viciousness and inhumanity held sway to a severe degree. By warfare Nineveh enriched itself, becoming the greatest and the most feared city of the day.

Genesis 10:9-12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

He was a mighty hunter before Jehovah.[3] Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before Jehovah.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went forth into Assyria, and built Nineveh and Rehoboth-Ir and Calah, 12 and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.

The cruel and ruthless Nimrod founded Nineveh; thus, it is hardly surprising that life in the day of a Ninevite would be filled with bloodshed and cruelty. Nimrod established a renown as a “mighty hunter ‘before’” (in a negative and hostile sense, the Hebrew word “liphneh” means “against” or “in opposition to;” compare (Num. 16:2; 1 Chron. 14:8; 2 Chron. 14:10) or “in front of”[4] Jehovah. Some scholars view the Hebrew preposition in a favorable sense, meaning “in front of;” however, the Jewish Targums, the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, as well as the context of Genesis chapter 10 paints a different picture of Nimrod, a man who was a hunter in rebelliousness toward Jehovah.

If one considers the suburbs of Calah and Resen, Nineveh made up one great city. Its great wickedness caused Jehovah God to send Jonah the prophet to Nineveh. It was only by the Ninevites’ repentant attitude that they avoided be destroyed by God. However, it did not take long for this great city and its inhabitants to fall back into their wicked ways. Throughout the period of influence of Kings Sargon, Sennacherib, Esar-haddon and Ashurbanipal, Nineveh stretched to its height of wickedness and bloody undertakings. Ashurnasirpal, describes his punishment of several rebellious cities this way:

“I built a pillar over against his city gate, and I flayed all the chief men who had revolted, and I covered the pillar with their skins; some I walled up within the pillar, some I impaled upon the pillar on stakes, … and I cut off the limbs of the officers, of the royal officers who had rebelled. … Many captives from among them I burned with fire, and many I took as living captives. From some I cut off their hands and their fingers, and from others I cut off their noses, their ears, and their fingers(?), of many I put out the eyes. I made one pillar of the living, and another of heads, and I bound their heads to posts (tree trunks) round about the city. Their young men and maidens I burned in the fire … Twenty men I captured alive and I immured them in the wall of his palace. … The rest of them [their warriors] I consumed with thirst in the desert of the Euphrates.”[5]

As the Assyrian army arrived back in Nineveh from a successful campaign, its captives were well aware of the horrors that awaited them, for they would experience unthinkable suffering and cruelty. As the soldiers came over the horizon, there would be a numerous line of captives being led by cords that had hooks, which were pierced through the nose or lips. Many could look forward to being blinded by the King of Nineveh himself, who would use the point of a spear. Other prisoners awaited being impaled, with their nude bodies upon pointed stakes that were drove through the stomachs and into the chest cavities of the victims. Others were severely whipped or beaten and then had their skin removed from their body while still alive. It is this fear factor that made Nineveh the great military machine that would march on another city, and its inhabitants would surrender without a fight.

Nahum 2:9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Plunder the silver!
plunder the gold!
There is no end of the treasure
or of the wealth of all precious things.

The campaigns of war proved very profitable to the merchants of Nineveh, who were as numerous as the sands of the sea, or so it must have seemed. Wealth like a river during a flood poured into the great city. Merchants filled their shops with the most precious, luxurious items and appliances that the known world had to offer. Treasures filled this ancient city!

DEFENDING OLD TESTAMENT AUTHORSHIPDespite Nineveh’s cruelty and viciousness, it displayed exceptional religiosity.  Unger’s Bible Dictionary (1965, p. 102) states: “These gods are invoked at times severally in phrases which seem to raise each in turn to a position of supremacy over the others.” Notice the number of deities revealed in this section from the Annals of Ashurbanipal: “By the command of Ashur, Sin, Shamash, Ramman, Bel, Nabu, Ishtar of Nineveh, Ninib, Nergal, and Nusku, I entered the land of Mannai and marched through it victoriously. Its cities, great and small, which were without number, as far as Izirtu, I captured, I destroyed, I devastated, I burned with fire.”

The priests of Nineveh did not oppose war; to the contrary, they supported it as the nation’s primary source of income. In fact, they were largely the cause, stirring up trouble that would lead to war. This may not seem so surprising when one learns their livelihood supported the conquest from war, as they would get their customary percentage before other people. With this ultra-religious society, they believed the gods gave them victory. Those greedy priests were thrilled at the sight of the start of war, and the return of the military with its spoils.

Returning from our trip to ancient Nineveh, one can certainly gain a sense of how God would view any community, especially once someone hears the words he uttered to his prophet Jonah,

Jonah was commissioned to preach to Nineveh, but he chose to run away:

Jonah 1:1-3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Now the word of Jehovah came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah.

God repeats his command to Jonah. However, this time Jonah does not evade the commission God gave him to go to Nineveh.

Jonah 3:4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

And Jonah began to go into the city a journey of one day, and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

The city of Nineveh repents.

Jonah 3:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

Their repentance saved them in that day.

Jonah 3:10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

10 When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented[6] concerning the calamity which he had declared he would do to them, and he did not do it.

Jonah did not receive this great act of mercy well; it was more than he could take.

Jonah 4:1-3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Jehovah, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. Therefore now, O Jehovah, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

The reader of this historical account is introduced to how those characteristics of God that Jonah uttered above relate to his feelings for the city of Blood, Nineveh.

Jonah 4:11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

11 And should not I have compassion on Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than one hundred and twenty thousand men who do not know their right hand from their left, as well as many animals?”

One Bible scholar offers us these insights:

“[Jonah] 4:10. God tried to calm his prophet with a bit of simple reasoning. Let’s compare your situation with my situation. You watched a vine get eaten away and got all worked up with concern and pity over the vine. Now this vine was something that just came to you. “You did not labor over it, and you did not make it grow. It appeared one night, and it was destroyed in one night” (Literally, ‘which was the son of a night and perished the son of a night.’) Think about the real value of this vine. Does my prophet love a one-day-wonder-gourd vine more than my eternal mission?

[Jonah] 4:11. “That’s your situation, Jonah. Now look at mine. If you love the vine that much, can’t I love Nineveh at least that much? Look at all the poor, innocent, ignorant people! Love them with me. Or love your prejudice. Which will it be?”[7]

how-to-study-your-bible1Can you imagine the indifference, rejection, opposition, and threats on his life that Jonah must have encountered as he spent days walking through the most evil city on earth. This is some of what Christians would face as well, if they were to enter into their communities around the world. However, are the people not “persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (4:11) Nevertheless, we are looking for those with a receptive heart, which may very well be one in a hundred, maybe one in a thousand. Our task is to cultivate the ground by reasoning from the Scriptures, as we sow the seed of the Word of God. However, it is God, who will make that seed grow, if the person has a receptive heart.

Based on Deuteronomy 18:20-222, does Jonah 3:4-5 and 10 not prove that Jonah was a false prophet. No, both Jonah and the Ninevites were aware of a principle that is often overlooked by the modern-day reader. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel give the answer or the principle that readers of that time would have understood about judgment prophecy. Jeremiah explicitly explains the rule of judgment prophecies, when he writes, “If at any time I say that I am going to uproot, break down, or destroy any nation or kingdom, but then that nation turns from its evil, I will not do what I said I would.” (17:7-8, GNT)

The opposite is true as well,

Jeremiah 18:9-10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; 10 if it does evil in my eyes by not obeying my voice, then I will feel regret over[8] the good with which I had promised to bless it.

Yes, if one turns back from their evil ways, endeavoring to obey God’s Word, he will not receive the condemnatory judgment that he deserves. That a repentant, evil person’s previous wicked deeds will not be held against them, God states,

Ezekiel 33:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

13 When I say to the righteous one: “You will surely keep living,” and he trusts in his own righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous acts will be remembered, but he will die for the wrong that he has done.

Regardless of all that one has done throughout their life, it is their standing in God’s eyes at the time of the divine judgment, which God considers. Therefore, God goes on to say through Ezekiel,

Ezekiel 33:14-16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14 “‘And when I say to the wicked one: “You will surely die,” and he turns away from his sin and does what is just and righteous, 15 and the wicked one returns what was taken in pledge and pays back what was taken by robbery, and he walks in the statutes of life by not doing what is wrong, he will surely keep living. He will not die. 16 None of his sins that he has committed will be remembered against him. He has practiced justice and righteousness; he shall surely live.

All Christians Playing Different Evangelist Roles

1 Corinthians 3:5-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Yes, millions of churches are not even entering into their community to carry out the work they have been assigned. If they were to do so, they would find that God will help open the hearts of the sheep-like ones, who will then pay attention to the Word.

Acts 16:14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14 And a certain woman named Lydia from the city of Thyatira, a merchant dealing in purple cloth who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

A church that fails to fulfill the Great Commission lacks the proper motive, the proper Christian spirit, which the people of their community never get to hear. Some people would oppose such evangelism, but over time may soften to the Christian message in these difficult times.

If someone reads this book, and their heart is rushing at the thought that you have never been given a chance to evangelize their community, because your church has never trained you for such, do not give up hope. However, never allow anyone, even a pastor to offer reasons as to why this work is not being done in your community, or being done in a different way. You need to show persistence, real seriousness and concern in people by proclaiming the Word of God to them. This brings us back to Paul’s question to the Roman Christians.

Romans 10:14-15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14  How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how will they hear without someone to preach? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who declare good news of good things!”[9]

   0001 REVIEW QUESTION:

How does the above information demonstrate the importance of recognizing what the field is?

Reading Skills: Read Jonah 4:1-11. This assignment is to help improve our reading skills. When practicing before the meeting, read slowly enunciating every word meticulously, as well as adequate volume, and moving along at the appropriate pace. We must read and speak words clearly, to not only be understood but also leave an impression. In addition, read with precision, stopping or pausing for punctuations, as well as changing the tone of your voice, or adding the required inflections. It would be best if you had someone follow along, letting you know if you to make the appropriate pauses or inflections.

 

[1] Or the conclusion of the age

[2] Quotation from Isa 52:7; Nah 1:15

[3] I.e., He was a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah. Lit in front of or before, but in the sense of defiance of and opposition to, as in the case of the same expression in Num. 16:2; Josh. 7:12-13; 1 Ch 14:8; 2 Ch 14:10; Job 23:4. Some Bible scholars attach a favorable sense to the Hebrew preposition meaning in front of or before, the Jewish Targums, the writings of the historian Josephus, and also the context of Genesis chapter 10 suggest that Nimrod was a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah.

[4] William Lee Holladay and Ludwig Köhler, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 293.

[5] Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, by D. D. Luckenbill, 1926, Vol. I, pp. 145, 147, 153, 162.

[6] Lit felt regret over

[7] Anders, Max; Butler, Trent (2005-10-01). Holman Old Testament Commentary – Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah (Kindle Locations 7132-7138). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[8] Lit repent; I.e., I will change my mind concerning; or I will think better of, or I will relent concerning

[9] Quotation from Isa 52:7; Nah 1:15