Jonah chapter 3
Is there an area of your life that you wish you could have the opportunity to try again, or have a do-over?
Every day God invites us to start afresh and see a different ending, this is the amazing truth of the grace of God.
As we see in the third chapter of the book of Jonah, God is gracious to Jonah and gives him a second chance to be obedient to Him. Verse one starts with, “And the Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time”. Jonah is the only prophet in the Bible who had to have his assignment given twice.
One could say that Jonah didn’t obey God the first time because it wasn’t convenient, he was quite comfortable as a prophet to the Hebrews, and this call would change his ministry prospects dramatically.
Quite often it would appear that the call of God is inconvenient. For example, God calls businessmen out of their careers and onto a foreign mission field. Many parents have been challenged by the call of God on their children. The call of God on a young person is often contrary to the plans that their parents had for them. Difficult conversations happen all over the world as the Lord touches people’s lives, and they feel compelled to obey the Lord.
Throughout the Bible, God called people and they responded; Abram was called to leave his family and go to a place he had never seen. Jesus called fisherman who were getting ready for the next fishing trip, he also called a busy tax collector and a physician.
The common theme of all the stories of God calling his children, is that when God calls, the only response is one of obedience. When God called Jonah, he expected Jonah to be obedient. There is incredible blessing in obedience, the journey is sometimes tough, but the blessings are eternal (See Luke 18:28-30).
There is not much talk about obedience in modern Christian conversation, and sadly the truth is that we have made it so easy to be a “Christian”. We have made it a simple matter of coming to church and following some rules. In our Western mindset, we have lowered the bar of what it means to be a Christian. But being a Christian means dying to yourself every day, making a commitment to following the Lord every day, daily asking him for his plan for your life. Being a Christian affects every aspect of your life – where you go, how you spend your money, how you relate to your neighbors and how you behave when no-one is watching.
Jonah had no idea what lay in store for him in Nineveh, but he went there in obedience and faith.
Being obedient to God places us in situations where we are weak and vulnerable living a life of faith, that is what it means to be a Christian. Only when we are living in faith and are weak and vulnerable do we fully understand the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Jonah arrives after a 500-mile journey to Nineveh and begins his ministry. Nineveh is a large city for that time in history, and it takes 3 days for Jonah to walk through the city declaring his message.
“40 MORE DAYS AND NINEVEH WILL BE OVERTHROWN”
Jonah’s message is an interesting one, the word overthrown has two possible meanings.
Firstly, it is the same word used in the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, it was a complete destruction by God, a cataclysmic event that would have been widely known throughout the region.
The second possible meaning is a turning upside down, a changing of headship, or a change of heart.
So, the translation of the word “overthrown” could have a bad or a good outcome. If the people do not repent, it will end badly for them, should they however repent, it will be a good change that would lead to life.
The story of Jonah in Nineveh was also a prophetic message to the People back home.
Jonah – a prophet to the Hebrews delivers his most powerful message to the People of Israel by going to the enemy city of Nineveh and calling on them to repent. The Ninevites immediately repent, and turn to God. This is a far cry from the people back in the Northern Kingdom of Israel where Jonah normally taught. Rather In less than 40 years’ time, God was going to punish the northern kingdom because of their idol worship and immoral practices. Jesus spoke about this when he addressed the Pharisees in Matthew 12:41. This is also a prophetic picture of many in people in our churches, who claim to be followers of Jesus on Sunday, but sadly they are not saved.
Looking back to Jonah, verse 5 says; “The Ninevites believed God”. Now I am certain Jonah was not the most passionate evangelist, I doubt he was trying his best to persuade the Ninevites, but the Lord used his message to save an entire city. The reason for his success lay in the twofold authority of his message.
Firstly, Jonah’s message may have contained elements of what he had just experienced, his personal testimony,
Our personal testimony is powerful, it is something every believer has, stories of brokenness and mistakes, stories of God’s blessing and God’s mercy. Our personal testimony has authority.
Secondly, his message was not delivered with persuasive speech, but it had the authority of the word of God. In the first chapter of Jonah we read that God told Jonah to preach against the Ninevites (Ch 1:2). But in his second commissioning, God tells Jonah to proclaim the message the He would give him. That is the authority of the word of God. (See 1 Cor 2:1-5).
God sees the repentance of the city and he relents and does not destroy the city. We live in a different era than Jonah’s time. While we are still sinners in need of forgiveness, the resurrection of Christ from the dead shows that our sins are dealt with, the price has been paid. God does not have to be persuaded to relent, rather he looks to his son, the spotless lamb that was slain and sees the price paid in full. Our part is to submit to the Lordship of Christ, to be born again and to live in the fullness and the freedom that Christ paid for.