I Told You So

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

July 3, 2022
Independence Day Weekend

Scripture readings – Jonah 3: 1-10 and Nahum 1: 2-13

Today we continue with a sermon series on the “Prophets of the Old Testament.” Today’s message will focus on the pretty harsh prophetic messages given by both Jonah and Nahum.

“I told you so.”  Four words that most human beings just can’t stand to hear, especially when they are said after disaster appears.

“I told you so.”  Our former office administrator’s son said to his whole family (with some sass added in) when they doubted his prediction of Hurricane Harvey hitting Houston – when that hurricane was aiming for the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and should have broken up, of course.

“I told you so.”  Four words that are judgmental, condemning, and way too often – blindingly accurate.

“I told you so.”  Rarely said tenderly, with kindness, with love, or without some attitude.

“I told you so.”  Words that are often necessary to hear – especially if the lesson has been missed – but also hard to hear.

Yet, I think we’d all agree that the Lord has told us and told us and told us important things throughout human history, and those important things have not always been taken seriously.

In the case of our two Old Testament prophets for today, we have similar messages delivered to the great city of Nineveh but delivered 150 years apart!

I told you so – INDEED!

First, let’s start with Jonah.  Now we all know the story of Jonah and the whale.  God tells Jonah to go and prophesy to Nineveh that they would be overthrown in 40 days, but Jonah goes the opposite direction trying to run away.  He gets on a boat and sails out to sea.  A sudden…mysterious…STORM hits the boat, and the sailors are scared to death.  They are also…suspicious that someone on their boat has angered God. They figure out that it’s Jonah, Jonah confessed, and they threw him overboard.  A gigantic sea critter (whale…fish…monster… critter…whatever) swallows Jonah, and he spends three days praying to God.  Then God has the whale…fish…monster… critter…whatever…vomit Jonah back on the beach.  Then God tells Jonah a second time to go to Nineveh and prophesy. 

So Jonah goes!  Unfortunately, Jonah is a reluctant prophet.  

  • He probably felt he had no choice (and he was right!).
  • He probably felt coerced (and he was right!).
  • He may not have put his whole heart into his message, but the people of Nineveh listened and repented – just like God wanted them to do. 

That’s all we have for today from the reading about Jonah: a half-hearted prophet bringing a message of repentance, and the people heard and obeyed it.  The people didn’t not merely say that they repented…they didn’t merely go through the motions of repenting…they demonstrated their sincerity!  And they all put on sackcloth and ashes, from the lowest beggar in town to the mighty king of Nineveh. 

Makes you wonder…their sincerity seems better than Jonah’s…

Yet, when Jonah delivered the I TOLD YOU SO! message, the people heard that harsh message and acted immediately.

Fast forward 150 years.  God sent another prophet to Nineveh to warn them of their sins.  This time the prophecy of Nahum described their impending doom, and the people did not listen, did not obey, did not repent, and were not spared.  

“I TOLD YOU SO!” was now placed on their hearts and minds, where it did not do any good at all.

Historically speaking, what happened between Jonah’s message and Nahum’s message?  What occurred during those 150 years?

First of all, Nineveh was a large city in Assyria.  That nation was turned into an empire by King Tiglath Pileser III, its cruel ruler.  Then, he ordered his army to sweep down and take the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which they did efficiently in 732 B.C.  He also forced the Southern Kingdom of Judah to bankrupt their treasury in order to pay a large enough “tribute” so that he would not invade and conquer Judah too. 

In this time period, Nineveh went from an independent nation/city to a tightly controlled golden nugget of TPIII’s vast Assyrian Empire.  Somewhere in there was the punishment that God warned them about TWICE.  Somewhere in there was also a lesson – live and in color – for the people in Judah to see and to learn from.  They knew that they could be overrun at any moment.  They knew that Nineveh was given chances to turn away from sin, but ultimately chose not to.  They knew that Yahweh was not a God to be trifled with.  God is described by Nahum as loving, mighty, and merciful…but God will ultimately not clear the guilty, and God will ultimately pursue his enemies.  

They knew all this…and yet they persisted in their own sin and folly.

They knew all this…and yet they ignored their own prophets who were sent to warn them right up to the day their last king was taken captive.

They knew all this…and yet they continued worshiping other gods – the one sin that angered and hurt Yahweh more than any other.

And they knew all this…because somehow they continued to believe that no matter what they did, they were blessed (and protected!) by the God of their ancestors; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of King David and all his successors… no matter what those successors chose to do.

“I TOLD YOU SO!” doesn’t really cover all that, does it?

And although their lesson is more than 2500 years old, I wonder if we have learned it yet.  Or perhaps we all have a gigantic “I TOLD YOU SO!” coming at us as a nation.

We are not Israel.  The United States of America cannot claim any special status based on the Scriptures that identifies us by name.  All we can hope for is the Scripture that is printed at the very end, the very bottom of today’s order of worship: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

  • This does not mean we are better than anyone else.
  • It does not mean that we FORCE others who believe differently from us to bend to our perfect will.
  • It does not mean that we get a free pass from the troubles – and the troublers – that plague our world today.
  • And it does not mean that confidence and faith in the Lord and his blessings can be replaced by arrogance and insolence and ignorance.  

It means that unless we heed the warnings of the prophets from the ancient times and turn our hearts sincerely and wholly to the Lord, all bets are off.

We have been told.  

How about we take a minute and listen to the warnings?

Because none of us wants to hear “I TOLD YOU SO!” from anyone.