Monday, August 1, 2011

Jonah 3:1-10

1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey[a]in extent. 4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish? 10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

With Jonah’s repentance the Word of the Lord again came to Him. For God will not use a preacher or anyone else who is not repentant of their own sins. Notice too that God’s original purpose for Jonah did not change, nor did the message change. God’s judgment was still looming over Nineveh and God's given purpose for Jonah was to warn them all of it so that God could avert taking punitive action against them if they repented. Now that notion of warning people that there is a judgment to come, (both of eternal rewards for those who turn from their sins and believe and obey the gospel and punishments for those who do not); all which will be handed out at the Lord Jesus Christ's Judgment seat. Is just as much a part of the Gospel's Message as God's love and salvation is. For it was God seeking to avert our coming under His eternal wrath and judgment which caused Him to first judge all our sins on His Son Jesus Christ. Who in obedience to the Father's Will was willingly crucified in our Place so that we might all have God's salvation when we repent and believe in Him. For it is Jesus Christ's Person and His obedience alone, and God's grace exclusively given to us because of Jesus Christ's obedience, that makes salvation possible, and ultimately happen in the lives of everyone who believes (Rom. 3:19-28). Thus God again commands Jonah to go to Nineveh, that great city, and to “…preach to it the message that I will tell you” (vs. 2). Not a message that Jonah had preached in times past, but a message that God would give him specifically for Nineveh. For God does indeed speak into all the circumstances of life through the mouth’s of His servants who obey Him. Sometimes consoling, sometimes exhorting, sometimes encouraging, sometimes even rebuking, but always instructing people everywhere to turn to Jesus Christ while they can for it is Christ alone who is the answer for every human need (John 6:35; 6:51). And so with Jonah's repentance, and having been commanded by God, Jonah now willingly yields to the will of the Lord and takes up the original journey that God intended for him, and goes straight to Nineveh “…according to the Word of the of the Lord.” Thus Jonah's preaching to Ninevah is his obeying the Divine mandate given him. Now the rest of verse three says that Nineveh “…was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent.” That is a three day journey on foot to circumnavigate or walk through. Thus Nineveh was no small city. Indeed Nineveh was an ancient city, one of the four cities that Nimrod the mighty hunter founded in Assyria (See Genesis 10:11). The fact that Jonah spent three days and nights in great fish and that it would take him three days to cover the entire span of Nineveh seems no coincidence. For the Lord Jesus Christ called Jonah a sign to the Ninevites while equating His own being three days and nights in the heart of the earth a sign to a “wicked and adulteress generation” (Matt. 12:28-45; 16:4; Luke 11:29-30) who instead of repenting at His preaching and believing in Him only sought signs from Him. That is they sought an experience of God through Christ, but did not seek Him as God Himself! Yet those who souls are truly hungering and thirsting for God when they like Jonah come to their senses and seek God, or cry out to God in their distresses, as Jonah did, will do so with open hearts and minds. Not wanting to keep their old lifestyles or even their agenda's. But instead they want to cast their sins and rebellion away. They've had enough of the consequences of serving sin, self and Satan and instead having come to the end of themselves they want Jesus Christ to be their Savior, Lord and Master.

Maybe that's you today? Maybe you've lived your life in independence of God and apart from Jesus Christ and reaped a life of only emptiness, sorrow and regret and thus isolation from all that is God and is Good. If so please come home now to God through Christ, simply open your heart to Jesus who lovingly awaits your calling out to Him so that He might save you, and begin a new life within you (Rev. 3:20). All it takes is child like faith and humility before God, acknowledging ones sin and need for Christ, and Jesus will come into you and He will both save you, forgive you, and change you and begin His life by His Spirit, within you (John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:17).

Now the results of Jonah’s preaching repentance according to the will of the Lord are stunning. The people though thoroughly pagan “…believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them” (vs. 5). Even the king of Nineveh repented, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes (vs. 6). In fact the king went on to command a national time for fasting and repentance, from both man and beast; nothing in his domain was to be excluded (vs. 7). Neither man, nor beast, herd, nor flock was to eat or drink water. Instead every living domesticated thing; both man and beast was to be covered with sackcloth and everyone was to turn from their evil ways and from the violence of their hands (vs. 8-9). A national day of fasting and repentance outside of Israel is unheard of in the O.T. Scriptures. Yet these people; both individually and collectively all repented mightily at the warning of God’s judgment that Jonah according to the Word of the Lord preached to them. And with their repentance; when God saw their works that everyone turned from the evil of his hands; the Scripture says that God relented of the disaster that He said He would bring upon them (vs. 10).

Scripture Quotations
The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982

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