Israel constantly rebelled against God.
Time and time again, a prophet would be sent and the people wouldn’t listen.
It would take an enemy warring against them for them to wake up and repent.
This consistent theme throughout the Old Testament makes this account that much more intriguing.
Here is a wicked people who are the worst of the worst.
We have discussed how bad their war crimes were and how heinous their tortures were to their enemies.
These people were so wicked that God had sent Jonah with a message that He would personally destroy this great city off of the face of the earth.
As we will see, this evil people gives a surprise response to the message of warning from Jonah.
It is indeed a radical response.
As we study this third chapter in this great book, I want you to consider your response to the Word of the Lord - the Word of God - and compare it to this pagan people of Nineveh in Assyria.
Do you respond in humility like they do?
Or do you respond like Jonah did in chapter 1?
Let us pray.
Today we are going to discuss a right response to God’s Word.
The first is:
We Should Not Respond Reluctantly (1-4)
Looking at verse 1, we have a direct parallel from the first verse of this book.
The last time the word of the Lord came to Jonah he fled.
Yet, this time the word comes to a changed man.
As we will see next week, he may not be as changed as we would hope, but he is changed none-the-less.
This is the same word of the Lord.
God is consistent with His word regarding Nineveh.
Jonah is to go and speak to this evil city.
The author gives us more detail regarding what Jonah was to say here, but the message is the same.
Jonah’s antics have not changed God’s mind on this whole ordeal.
He still commands Jonah go and preach a message to the city of Nineveh of Assyria.
Smith and Page in their commentary press in on the mercy of God in these first two verses.
Not everyone was given a second chance in the Bible.
Yes, some were by God’s grace, but some where not.
Think of Adam and Even in the Garden (Genesis 3) or Moses in Numbers 20:12 who sinned against the Lord and was unable to lead Isreal to the Promised Land.
These two situations were handled directly without a second chance.
Although we have a wonderful God who does give a second chance to many - we should not rebel and presume upon His great mercy.
As Romans 9:15 states:
He is sovereign and has mercy upon whom He wills.
This is a difficult teaching but is truth nonetheless.
Next, we need to note in verse 2 that Yahweh gave a direct and verbatim message that Jonah was to proclaim to Nineveh.
There was no artistic liberty or reinterpretation that Jonah was allowed to do.
He was to deliver the exact Word of the Lord.
That is my job as well, friends.
Obviously, the word of the Lord does not come to me audibly as it did to Jonah here.
But I am given the Word of God - namely the Bible.
My job is not to give my opinion or feelings regarding the Word.
My job is not to re-create or re-interpret the Word.
My job is to deliver it and apply it to the lives of believers.
That is what God has called me to do.
The Word is most always singular in its interpretation but endless in its application.
What it says it means and what it means it says.
Yet, God can use the Word to teach and apply His truths through His Holy Spirit in many different applications in life.
The same verse can teach a child to share his toys and an adult to share her time.
The same verse can rebuke an employee for slacking at work or a student from slacking at school.
The life applications are endless but the underlying truth is transcendent of those applications.
Sadly, that is not the way many preach it today.
I want to earnestly warn each of you as i have before - beware of so-called pastors and teachers who explain away the Word of God and give their own opinions and re-interpretations.
Such men deserve the judgment that will befall them if they will not repent of their wicked blasphemies.
God is zealous for His Word.
And to twist or misuse His Word for your own advancement or agenda is to blaspheme His name.
Moving forward we get to verse 3:
As L.C. Allen states in his commentary on this great book, “Jonah is now compliant as those other servants, the wind, the sea, and the fish.”
God has been sovereignly directing man, a ship, a huge sea creature, and the climate.
And now Jonah finally bends to the will of Yahweh.
As chapter 4 reveals, he still does this reluctantly.
He obeys but note that he still does not answer back to God.
In most of the prophet narratives, the prophets will speak back to God.
They may question God at times, but they will acknowledge Him and eventually come to terms with what God has spoken.
Not Jonah - after a beautiful prayer-filled interlude in chapter 2, he resumes his silent treatment to God.
This time he does arise and go to Nineveh however.
This trek is likely around 500 miles from where he was in Palestine.
See the map for details.
He was likely back in Joppa when the great fish vomited him out.
This journey from Joppa to Nineveh would have likely been around a month on donkey or camel or even greater on foot.
Note again, that there is no sign that he obeyed with the best of intentions here either.
But he was one step further than he was before.
He was at least going in the right direction.
The city of Nineveh is referred to as a great city in verse 3. It was some three days journey in breadth.
Around 150 years after Jonah’s message (around 612 BC), the city was completely destroyed to rubble to the point that Xenophon (A Greek philosopher, historian, and military leader) walked past it in 401 BC without even noticing it.
There are some other historical references to the vastness of this great city, but the book of Jonah states that it was around a three days journey in breadth which would be between 45-60 miles in breadth.
We see in chapter 4 that there were some 120,000 persons in this great city (Jonah 4:11).
Jonah finally arrives as we get to verse 4:
He makes it a day’s journey into the city and starts proclaiming the Word of the Lord.
“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
Note that this is not a prophesy of God that was guaranteed.
This was a warning.
If it was a prophesy that was guaranteed and the Lord did not offer any chance at repentance, then it would have been like Sodom and Gomorrah.
God would have just rained down His judgment as He did to those two cities after getting Lot out.
But instead, this is a warning of what is to come.
And note the word choice that Jonah is given by God.
This Hebrew word can be translated as turning something into a heap of ruins, destroyed, or demolished.
Obviously, the message is clear.
If there isn’t a change, this city is doomed to destruction.
This city will be wiped from the face of the earth.
We will go into Nineveh and their response in our next two points.
But I want us to take a moment and consider Jonah first.
He has reluctantly proclaimed this message from the Lord.
He has obeyed, but as we will see next chapter, his heart is definitely not in it.
The way that we obey is important.
Yes, we need to obey whether we feel like it or not.