Jonah Running With God

Jonah Three  


            Have you ever messed up really bad? What would you do if given a second chance to deal with the same opportunity? Jonah was given a second chance to go preach to Nineveh. Each day that we live provides us with another "second" opportunity to get right with God or to render greater service in His kingdom. It took him a while to get to Nineveh but when Jonah finally surrendered to God he was able to do a great service for Him.


            Nineveh was a very large city. “So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey." (Jonah 3:3) It took three days to walk, either from one side to the other or around the city. "In that city of Nineveh there are more than a hundred twenty thousand people who cannot tell right from wrong, and many cattle are also there." (Jonah 4:11)  Jonah preached a message of doom that had been brought on by the sins of the people. He warned the people, "Forty days from now, Nineveh will be destroyed!" The response to the preaching of Jonah was great. The people repented, from king to beggar. "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." God saw their repentance and changed His mind about the destruction.


            God sent His prophet with a clear, concise message and those people repented. People have always been admonished to hear the word of the Lord.  "Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land." (Hosea 4:1) Today God has sent His Son and all the people of the world should repent. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10)


            Jonah goes to Nineveh to preach -- Jonah 3:1-3: How relieved Jonah must have been to have been restored to dry land. After three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, "the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land." (Jonah 2:10) Again the Lord renewed His instructions to Jonah. "Once again the LORD told Jonah to go to that great city of Nineveh and preach his message of doom." (Jonah 3:1-2)  Jonah had learned his lesson. When the word of the Lord came to him a second time telling him to arise and go to Nineveh he went. People should always be eager and open to doing the will of God quickly.


            Jonah had repented and so in God's mind the past was forgotten. With God it was just as if nothing had happened between Jonah and Himself. In Jonah three we learn exactly what God's message for Nineveh involved. God said that Jonah was to "go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee." At first Jonah ran away from God. This time, "Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD." He went in the direction of his duty instead of away from his responsibility to God. "Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth." You can just imagine the depth of compassion with which Jonah preached as he walked for three days across this city.


            The people of Nineveh repented-- Jonah 3:4-5: Jonah went a day’s journey into the city of Nineveh and then began his preaching. It sounds as if he reached the thickly populated part of town and then started his work. He warned the people, "Forty days from now, Nineveh will be destroyed!" This was what the Lord had commissioned him to preach. He is now a faithful prophet. Nothing is said about the particular sin that had brought Nineveh to this sad state. However, the people understood about God and what they needed to repent of.


            Fasting is often connected with great blessings from God. In Ezra 8:23 we observe the power of fasting in that day. "So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty." In Nineveh "They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them." They did this in the hope that God would spare their nation even though that thought was not included in Jonah's preaching. Fasting and wearing sackcloth was a custom in ancient times to show grief or repentance. These people did this because "they believed God."


         The people of Nineveh repented -- Jonah 3:6-8: Just Jonah saying those words, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown" would likely not have brought about this change among the people. There must have been something done or actions to make the people understand what this was all about. The king of Nineveh set the example for the people to repent. "When the king of Nineveh heard what was happening, he also dressed in sackcloth; he left the royal palace and sat in dust." Leaders must always take the lead by setting the example. Leadership demands doing the things that you expect of others.


         Fasting and praying helped saved the people of Nineveh from God's wrath. The king proclaimed a fast among all the people. The decree was that "none of you or your animals may eat or drink a thing. Each of you must wear sackcloth, and you must even put sackcloth on your animals." Without food the beast of burdens would be unable to work and so this would mean a further sacrifice to their owners. From king to beggar the people were to turn from their evil ways and from the violence of their hands. They were to repent of their sinful ways.


            God repented or changed His mind -- Jonah 3:9-10: The message was,    "You must also pray to the Lord God with all your heart and stop being sinful and cruel. Maybe God will change his mind and have mercy on us, so we won't be destroyed." God does not want people to die lost and hopeless. He is gracious and compassionate and desires that sinners repent. The text says, “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." He was pleased with their repentance and had mercy on them. This was the hope of the King of Nineveh when he called upon the people to repent.


            Through His mercy God wanted to spare the children of Nineveh. "And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” God was willing to save this city in order to save the young children of Nineveh. He even had pity on the cattle of Nineveh. We serve a God that cares.


                            Are you running with God? Are you in Christ? Have you heard the gospel (Romans 10:17); believed in Christ (John 8:24); repented of sins (Acts 17:30-31); confessed your faith in Christ (Matthew 10:32-33) and been baptized into Christ for remission of sins? (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16.) Those that run with Christ are the people that faithfully obey Him. Are you faithful in Christ?