Unlike Charles Dickens, I am a generous man, and so today I will not share with you a tale of two cities, but rather a tale of three cities. God gave me this message Saturday night, and I preached a version of it Sunday morning, and so for those that were in the service, I apologize for the repetition.
It seems that if most don't know what 'a tale of two cities' is about, at least they know the opening line of the cumbersome volume, 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.' Just for fun, if anyone ever quotes that line to you, ask them to quote another line from the book. Incidentally since I had to read it in school, and pretty much everything I read sticks to me like a warm cinnamon roll and a glass of cold milk sticks to my midsection, the book is about the French Revolution, spanning some thirty six years. Not a fun read by any means, and here I am getting sidetracked.
For the three cities we are about to discuss, the best of times was behind them. The had crested the hill of success, and now were on the decline, each in their own way.
The first city, is the city of Sodom, a city where sin ruled unhindered. Homosexuality was rampant, and the laws protected the vile, and the criminal element.
The second city we will be discussing today, is the city of Nineveh, a powerful city of close to two hundred thousand citizens, a large number for that time, a city that was self assured, living the sin of pride and arrogance. They thought themselves invincible, and their cruelty toward their prisoners knew no bounds.
The third city, perhaps the most lamentable of all, due to its wasted potential, is the city of Jerusalem, the city of David. Here it was celebrating one thousand years of existence. Having been conquered by the Romans, Jerusalem prided itself, smiling through the tears, with a well established if somewhat hollow faith. The hypocrisy of externalized religion had overtaken its leaders, and truth was rare indeed. Everything was formality, going through the motions, and now the religious leaders were forced to contend, and indeed were troubled by the sermons of a carpenter's son from Nazareth.
Three men, were inexorably linked to these three cities, whether by family ties, duty, or love.
The first man, was Abraham, a man with no hidden agendas before God, unshakable in His faith, having an established relationship with God. A man whom God called his friend.
The second man, was Jonah, a prophet, bound by duty, sent on a mission, straightforward and direct, unwilling to mince words.
The third, of course was Jesus, man, yet more than man, in fact the Son of God born of a virgin, raised with bread and water like all children, yet one who started preaching when He was twelve, an felt more at home in the Temple than in his mother's embrace.
Although these cities spanned a great length of time, all three had something in common. Their one commonality was sin. In one, the sin of sexual perversion and immorality, in another the sin of pride and trusting in their sword, their force, and their high towers, and in the third the sin of hypocrisy and religiosity without substance.
For now, let us gloss over the fact that all three of the sins for which these cities were judged individually, can be found together in one place, in this nation we call home, this land of the sort of free, and this home of the not quite brave. Yes, dear friend I speak of America.
Let us also overlook the fact, that just as it was in ancient times, for most of those who dwell within this nation's borders, it is business as usual. Although sin is growing, mutating and multiplying, although mindless violence is escalating, although the only item on the spiritual menu is empty and absent of substance, although pride is the fragrance of the day, we skip merrily along, content with having a few shekels in our pockets, and a better carriage than our next door neighbor.
All these three cities had one other thing in common, the fact that judgment had been pronounced against them. Utter and complete destruction was at the door, the pouring out of God's wrath was upon them. All three stood on the threshold of destruction.
There is also one other commonality that linked the three men. They all walked with God, they all knew of God's future plans, and they knew that judgment was about to descend.
Knowing that judgment was imminent, how did these three men react?
Abraham began to intercede, begging God not to go through with the planned judgment, trying to point out that if there were sinners, surely there must be some righteous. He did his best, he negotiated with God, until with pain in his heart he realized there weren't even ten righteous.
Upon hearing of the judgment to come, Jonah rejoiced, and bought a one way ticked to Tarshish. He considered that justice must be served, and that God should show no mercy. He was content, happy, and full of glee thinking of the soon to be charred city.
Jesus wept for Jerusalem. The misunderstood cries of the rejected one echoed as he saw the future of His people.
Luke 19:41-44, "Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying: 'If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation."
Three cities, three men, three different attitudes. One interceded, one rejoiced, and the last wept. Judgment is coming, and we know it. The world is beginning to see the writing on the wall, while the church blinded by the glare of their diamond studded rings, still refuses to acknowledge it. Even so, there are those whom God has chosen, whom God has called, and whom God has sent, and the only question that remains, is whom do we most liken ourselves to Abraham, Jonah, or Christ?
Too few Abrahams are still about, and even less who weep like Christ. One thing is certain, we must redeem the time, and now while we are still able, pull as many out of the fire as we can, tireless in our quest to see another soul redeemed and sanctified, and brought into the kingdom of God.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.