THE PREACHING PROPHET
by Dean Robinson
In chapter 1 we learned the lesson of God's patience with Jonah running away from God in disobedience to go and preach to the Ninevites. In chapter 2 we learned the lesson of God's pardon with Jonah running to God in prayer as he sincerely repents of his rebellion against God's command. In chapter 3 we learn of God's power with Jonah running with God as he promptly obeys by proclaiming God's message to the people of Nineveh. While in chapter 2 God demonstrated His sovereign power in rescuing Jonah, in chapter 3 God now displays His sovereign grace, in not only giving Jonah another opportunity to obey, but also in sparing the Ninevites judgment because of their repentance.
I. THE COMMISSIONED MISSIONARY vs.1-4
A. Repetition of the Command, vs. 1-2.
1. Now that Jonah is safely back on land, repentant of his sin and restored to God's favor, the Lord repeats His command to go and preach to Nineveh. The fact that Jonah was recommissioned a “second time,” v.1. is a demonstration of God's marvelous grace, forgiveness, and full restoration. Jonah did not deserve a second opportunity but thankfully we serve a God that is full of tender mercy – Lamentations 3:22-23, “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” Our God is the God of a "second chance" as illustrated in the lives of such men as Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, John Mark, etc. Serving God is a privilege, not a right.
1. As God mercifully recommissions His messenger, Jonah is specifically told where to preach and what to preach, v. 2. Anyone sent by God to preach is under this edict. The message to be preached is God's, not man's. It was not left up to Jonah to determine what, when, and where to preach. A true man of God will always preach what God says to preach. The preacher's primary task is not to build a following but to faithfully deliver God's message.
B. Response to the Command. vs. 3-4
1. Jonah's response to his renewed commission was prompt and precise, which gave evidence of his true repentance and determined dedication in serving the Lord, v. 3. True repentance replaces the rebellious attitude towards God's commands with an attitude of humble submission to God. The first time God gave His orders, Jonah rose up to flee but this time he rose up to preach. There was no delay, no procrastination, no waiting for a more convenient time. Jonah immediately obeyed.
2. The standard by which we measure the validity of Jonah's immediate response of obedience is: “according to the word of the LORD,” v.3. The true test of one's dedication and devotion to God is determined by how closely and persistently one adheres to the Word of God.
3. The fact that Nineveh was "exceeding great" was in reference to its large land area. "Three day's journey" meant it was about 60 miles in circumference. This city had walls surrounding it that were 100 ft. high and wide enough for 3 chariots to ride side by side.
4. Not only was Jonah's response prompt and precise, but his preaching was plain and pointed as he declared the soon-coming judgment of God upon Nineveh, v. 4. Jonah's message of judgment warned Nineveh that it would be "overthrown"-- same strong word used for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Note: the number 40 was often used in Scripture as a number of testing. Examples:
1) The flood-Genesis 7:17, “And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth.”
2) Moses in the mount-Exodus 24:18, “And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.”
3) Israel wandering in the wilderness-Numbers 14:33, “And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.”
4) Temptation of Christ-Matthew 4:2, “And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.”
II. THE CONFESSING MULTITUDE vs. 5-9
C. Demonstration of Repentance. vs. 5-6.
1. As soon as the people of Nineveh heard Jonah's bold and uncompromising message of warning and devastating judgment, the entire city, everyone without exception, turned to God in faith and gave evidence of genuine repentance of their sins, v.5. Fasting and sackcloth were outward signs of inward grief and mourning over one's sins; Nineveh was made to realize the awfulness and shame of their sin and demonstrated it by their fasting and putting on of sackcloth. True repentance does not treat sin lightly; it acknowledges the wickedness of it and is filled with sorrow for having done it -- 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”
2. In his repentance and faith the king reacted exactly as the people did as he changed the location where he sat (from the throne to ashes) and the clothes which he wore (royal robe to sackcloth), v. 6. The people and the king so understood the warning that without any delay, they immediately and accordingly complied with the implication of Jonah's message: repent or perish, Luke.13:3, 5, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
B. Decree of Repentance, vs.7-9.
1. After the king of Nineveh took action regarding his own personal repentance, he and his nobles issued a proclamation throughout the city for all citizens, along with their animals, to fast and be covered with sackcloth, vs.7-8a. The animals were included so that everything around the people would help keep their attention on repentance. Without food or water, the animals would be bellowing and bawling all day long which would continuously remind the people of the mourning of repentance and of the spiritual work at hand.
2. The king's decree also called for the people to fervently pray unto God and to wholeheartedly turn from and forsake all of their evil ways of barbarianism, brutality, oppression, and vicious cruelties, v. 8b. Evidence of a genuine work of repentance and faith will be a complete change of one's conduct and behavior, Matthew 3:8, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:” 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
3. The king issued his decree of repentance in the hope that God would mercifully turn from His fierce and justified anger and spare them from divine judgment and destruction, v. 9. The king's hope for God's mercy rested upon the experiences of Jonah, Luke11:30 says Jonah was "a sign unto the Ninevites." Jonah was a living example of mercy received through repentance.
b. The Ninevites could see in Jonah that God punishes sin but also spares the sinner on repentance.
c. Jonah was not only a sign of the judgment of God upon sin but was also a sign of the mercy and grace of God who delivers the guilty from divine judgment when they cry out to God in repentance and faith for salvation.
III. THE COMPASSIONATE MASTER v.10
A. Recognition by God, v.10a.
1. God saw the works of the Ninevites, how that they truly turned from their wickedness and sin. This is not teaching salvation by works but their fasting and forsaking of sin showed a real change within their hearts, giving proof of true repentance and faith toward God.
2. Faith without works is “dead,” James 2:17, 26, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
3. God sees and knows all things, John16:30, “Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.” See also John 21:17, 1 John 3:20.
4. God sees and knows all men, including their deeds and actions, the thoughts and intents of their hearts, 1 Kings 8:39, “Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)” See also Psalms 139:1-4, 23-24; Jeremiah 17:9-10; Ezekiel 11:5.
5. Everything we say, think, or do is known to God, Proverbs 5:21, “For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings.”
B. Repentance of God, v.10b.
1. God changed His method of action against the Ninevites because of their sincere repentance and faith. The threatened doom in this instance was conditioned upon repentance; when that condition was met and fulfilled, God had no need to execute the warning.
2. When God institutes a change in His dealings with men, His course of conduct is referred to in the Scriptures as repentance. God seems to change His mind because He changes His method. God's perfect and eternal character of immutability remains the same but His dealings with sinful men change as they change from ungodliness to godliness, from disobedience to obedience.
3. We know that the repentance of Nineveh was legitimate and for real in Jonah's day, as stated by our Lord in Matthew12:41, “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.”
What happened in Jonah 3 was undoubtedly one of the greatest evangelistic campaigns to ever be recorded in the Bible. It shows what the Lord can do with a frail human instrument, after being given a second opportunity that is willing to preach God's message. After repentance and forgiveness, Jonah was given another chance to faithfully declare God's Word without fear or favor of man. Thank the Lord we serve a God of a "second chance."
This chapter also clearly reveals how that through "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21), one can escape the wrath and judgment of a holy and righteous God. Without repentance and faith, the lost sinner is doomed for eternity.