After what happened in Chapters 1 and 2, Jonah is now on a revived and effective mission in Chapter 3. But something is still not right. Have you ever questioned God about the path you’re on? ◊
As seen in Jonah chapters 1 and 2, this Hebrew prophet, who lived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the latter half of the 8th century BC, is quite a case study in human misadventure.
Yet his misadventure is out of his own doing. Like all of us, Jonah makes choices he later regrets. He is a God-fearing man yet will even act in flagrant disobedience to God’s word and instruction because he thinks he knows better.
Or just wants to go his own way. Or thinks that God will not notice and let it slide.
Big mistake we all learn, as does Jonah.
While a Godly man – after all, he’s designated Hebrew prophet(!) – Jonah gets himself in a worldly mess out of his own disobedience in following God’s clear instruction to go and preach repentance to the pagan city of Nineveh, north of Israel. His issue is that this is the capital city of the hated Assyrian nation, enemy of Israel.
Jonah wants no part of this and so flees in a ship headed toward Spain. A clear lesson to all of us is that you cannot flee from God. Chapter 1 ends with Jonah and this ship caught in a violent storm resulting in the crew (with Jonah’s approval) throwing him overboard as he recognizes his sinful disobedience and its repercussions.
“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Jonah 1:12
Chapter 2 finds him miraculously, and supernaturally, rescued by God through being swallowed by a large fish (ketos, meaning sea serpent, is the word used by Jesus). Jonah’s prayer from the belly of this fish recites his cry out to God as he’s drowning in the swirling sea. He concludes his heartfelt prayer by humbly resetting his commitment to God, the God of his salvation:
“What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” (Jonah 2:9)
Then God commands the fish to deposit Jonah back onto dry land:
And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. (Jonah 2:10)
Jonah, Chapter 3
Now Jonah gets another chance to show obedience to God:
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. (Jonah 3:1-5)
Jonah’s ministry in Nineveh was highly effective. The people responded well when presented with the word of God’s judgment and the threat of doom and destruction. Interesting how even evil-doers know they are guilty when pierced by the true word of God.
Even kings in high places who succumb to God’s authority:
When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” (Jonah 3:6-9)
And God does relent.
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. (Jonah 3:10)
Lessons in Jonah 3
God’s ways should not be questioned. God accomplishes His will through ways and means only He knows with ever-present love, grace, and mercy. And holiness. His timing and methods are always a mystery.
We do best when we simply submit our will to the will of the Living God.
Here are 4 key lessons from Chapter 3:
- One cannot escape God. – We may think ourselves clever and wise or, like Jonah, are just plain obstinate; but we cannot outthink or outrun God’s will or plan that will ultimately prevail over our own.
- God gives second chances. – No matter how far we run or sin or deeply reject God, thankfully He is relentless in His love and plans for His creation. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
- There is power in repentance. – The king and people of Nineveh hear and immediately respond to the word of God and His threat of destruction within 40 days. And because of their response, God relents on His plan to destroy the city.
- God is not mocked. – Yes, Nineveh’s judgment was reprieved. But only for about 150 years. After being used by God to destroy Israel’s Northern Kingdom in 722 BC, Nineveh itself fell back into evil deeds, pagan worship, sorcery and witchcraft (see the Book of Nahum). The city of Nineveh was decimated and the Assyrian nation was crushed by the Medes and Babylonians in 612 BC.
Are you a reluctant Christian?
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. – Jonah 3:10
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