Don’t Pack for Nineveh

Throughout Scripture we see periods of transition that are crucial for subsequent faithfulness. The book of Deuteronomy functions as a series of sermons to Israel on the brink of the Promise Land. This is how you have to think, act and trust if you want the Lord your God to bless you and your subsequent generations who are meant to inherit the land. Chapter 28 layouts out exactly what will follow either obedience or disobedience of the newly constituted nation, and later we see God making good on his promises by means of the Assyrians and Babylonians taking captive the northern and later the southern kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

Paul says in a different context that these took place as examples for us (1 Cor. 10:6). We’re supposed to see the connection between compromise and idolatry at one time, and the consequences that later follow it, whether those consequences result immediately or a long way off. What did Jeroboam the son of Nebat have to do with Assyria, hundreds of years later? Everything, the Bible tells us (2 Kings 17:21). This is central to covenantal thinking, seeing the threads of history woven together. And this is directly challenging to any notion that separates faith and the historical results of faith. Sometimes the results of faith are wandering in the desert or being sawn in two (Heb. 11:37-38), so we can’t be simple like Job’s friends, but neither can we be faithless like Job’s wife, insisting that it doesn’t matter what we do (Job 1:9).

It does matter what we do, and particularly at the beginning of new seasons and transitions of life. They say the most important years of child’s life are the first five–about which he will remember virtually nothing. Teenagers, making the transition into adulthood, are learning to complain or take responsibility for the rest of their lives. And the habits that a person establishes when leaving the house usually during 18-22 years of age are likely to continue. These are only a few well known transition periods, and they are almost universally despised for their trouble. Terrible twos, impossible teenagers, and kids sent off to college to be drunk and naked for a few years and hopefully come out employable. Expectations are low, so results are low.

The biblical mind sees these times as the most full of potential. Why was Jesus so effective at casting out demons during his ministry? Because he cast out the Devil from his own presence at the beginning (Matt. 4). This is when he should have buckled and compromised like an Adam, but he didn’t. The second Adam did it different than every other son of Adam.

Transition periods are not time for looser standards, but higher ones. By higher, I don’t mean harsher, since discipline ought to always be gracious and loving (Gal. 6:1; Heb 12:5-6). But to have high standards at these times will certainly be labeled as harsh. Do you really expect a two year old to listen to you? Give them space; it’s normal for your teenager to sulk and despise. As for your college kid, they’re out of the house–don’t ask, don’t tell. Examples could be multiplied, but parents who refuse to invest and guide, to give and correct, to love and discipline at these crucial times are crippling their children and missing the some of best opportunities to serve them.  Of course, the opportunity for faith and obedience is never past, and we serve a God who raises the dead. But it’s easier to trust God and stay in the land than to pack our bags for Nineveh.

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