479. Obedience To God Brings His Blessings. Jonah 3

Jonah was certainly a reluctant prophet. He was commanded by God to go to Nineveh and warn them that if they did not turn from evil, disaster would come upon the whole city.  However, Jonah arose and went in the opposite direction in an act of sheer disobedience to God. He boarded a ship to get away from God. 

God dealt dramatically with Jonah as He caused a violent storm to arise so that the ship began to sink. He was thrown into the sea and was swallowed by a great fish. In the mercy of God, Jonah repented of his sin and cried out to God to be saved.  The great fish [at God’s command] then vomited Jonah out onto dry land. 

The Opportunities Given By Second Chances. 3:1-3

1 “Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 

It’s wonderful to know that God doesn’t give up on us when we disobey Him. In the story we read how God spoke to his prophet Jonah again and recommissioned him for the task of taking His message to the people of Nineveh. When God first called Jonah his response was disobedience, “But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” Jonah 1:3. However God had dealt with Jonah so that at this second call, his response was different, “So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Jonah 3:3-4.

We see in the story, God’s persistence in getting Jonah to take His message to the people in Nineveh. We also see His compassion for those in Nineveh as He did not want to have to destroy them. He wanted them to repent and give up their evil ways. As another Jonah [Simon Bar-Jonah] wrote, “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9.

God’s Message Brought Freedom

How did the people of Nineveh respond to Jonah’s message? We read, “And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.” Jonah 3:5. The message Jonah proclaimed brought great conviction of sin and all the people of Nineveh repented of their sin, symbolised by their putting on sackcloth. This was a turning from sin and a turning to God in repentance. 

It was a widespread turning to God that affected even the king of Nineveh,  Jon 3:6  “The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes, 7 And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water,  8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.  9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.’”

This was an amazing response to Jonah’s message. The king issued a decree commanding that every person and animal be covered with sackcloth as a matter of urgency. They were all to cry out to God and turn from evil. It is interesting that Jonah as one of God’s chosen people initially turned away from God in disobedience but a whole ungodly city turned to God in obedience when challenged by God to repent and turn from evil.

It reminds us that humans have free will, the ability to make choices. Sometimes it is the most privileged people who reject their privileges while those less privileged make the right decisions. That is seen in the Prologue to the gospel of John, where John wrote of the coming of Jesus into the world, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:11-12. One would have thought that the Jewish people would have welcomed their long-promised Messiah. Instead, by and large, they rejected Him. In Jonah’s day, it was the privileged prophet of God who initially rejected God’s command while the ungodly evildoing people of Nineveh immediately responded to God’s message to them. Human free-will can be used to glorify God or misused to detract from His name and glory.

A True Turning To God In Repentance Brings Freedom. Jonah 3:10. 

“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. 3:10. 

What an incredible act of mercy. Guilty sinners being pardoned by God, of their sins. Coming from the prospect of the judgment of God to being pardoned in His sight. Why? Because they had done what He wanted them to do. They had heard His message through the lips of Jonah and had turned from their evil ways. In a sense it was the same message Simon Bar-Jonah [Peter] would later give to the  Jews in Acts 3:19  “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.”

Nineveh was a city under the coming judgment of God. But God in His mercy gave them the opportunity of being no longer condemned. He warned them of their perilous state and they responded in faith to His message. In many ways, it was the same message that Jesus would bring to His people. He was sent to be the Saviour from the condemnation from their sins and forgiveness would only be found in Him, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:18.

St Paul wrote that the whole world is under the condemnation of God because of its sin. However if individuals trusted in Christ for salvation, they would no longer be condemned, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 8:1. 

The story of Jonah is a story emphasising many of the characteristics of God. In it we read of His holiness and His hatred of sin. We read of His persistence in bringing a rebellious prophet of God back to obedience. In it we see the compassion of God in wanting guilty sinners be released from His judgment if they responded in faith to Him.

Jesus Himself made use of the story of Jonah to bring  a warning to those who were rejecting Him and His message, “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” Matthew 12:41.

Blog No.479 posted on Saturday 06 May 2023.

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement in 2006 was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
This entry was posted in Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Glorification, Healing, Holy Spirit, Judgement, Justification, Mental Health, New Covenant, Prayer, Real Life Stories, Salvation, Sanctification, Temptations and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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