Text: 3:1 – 4:1
Throughout Scripture we find God being merciful and patient with His people. Jonah must have understood this, especially now that God had given him a second chance. Without such amazing grace none of us would be able to stand in His presence. The full extent of God’s unlimited love is found only in Christ.
The revival in Nineveh came about through the preaching of repentance and the need for holiness. God was willing to put the whole matter into the hands of one man, Jonah. It only takes one person to set the flame of revival blazing throughout the land. Why is there nothing like this today? “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30.)
Tell the Truth (3:1-2)
The population of Nineveh included 120,000 innocent children who knew no other way to live but by that which they saw in society (4:11.) Like them, the children of our generation do not know the truth about God. Why? It is because no one is telling them. We cannot expect the modern Ninevites to instruct them in the way of righteousness. They know more about Buddha, Allah, and the New Age than Jesus Christ. They deserve to hear the truth before the final judgement comes.
Jonah did not need tracts, videos, music groups or gimmicks to reach the huge city. He did not send teams to prepare acceptable venues and comfortable hotels. He simply preached the truth. Is this not what Christ called us to do? Can we doubt that this is a factor in determining why the church is so ineffective today? We are busy, but because we do not use the correct means, we are not getting the job done.
Long Walk – Short Talk (3:3-4)
So Jonah sets off on his forty day preaching campaign in Assyria’s capital city. We can imagine him preaching while he walked. People listened and were captivated by his simple but God-anointed words. His message left them without doubt regarding their situation before the Almighty God. God used Jonah, even though the prophet’s heart was not in it. He probably liked preaching about “Hellfire and brimstone.” His was a “Turn or burn” message. God has used some peculiar characters in the past, but it is not the vessel that is important.
How Will They Hear? (3:5-10)
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14.) These people heard, believed, repented and turned to God. The truth had set them free. From the king to the lowest slave, all bowed before the only true God. Nobody allowed position and pride to get in the way, for each one wore the same sackcloth and ashes.
King Ashduran III called for the nation to repent. History informs us that Assyria turned from polytheism to monotheism during his reign. Jonah’ preaching was the climax of the “signs” he had received. In 765 and 759 B.C. Assyria experienced plagues. In 763 B.C. there was a total eclipse of the sun. To the superstitious Assyrians these were bad omens, so when Jonah preached about damnation they eagerly accepted the truth. Today we would have mass retaliation instead of mass repentance if the government called for national repentance.
And They All Lived Happily Ever After!
For 40 days the Ninevites watched and prayed. Their joy must have overflowed at the end of this period. They were happy, but Jonah was not. He had brought about a dramatic change in the hearts and minds of these pagan people. Their dream though was his nightmare. As far as he was concerned, it was the worst possible outcome. He still hated them with a passion.
Nineveh rejoiced while Jonah fumed. He was hoping and praying that God would change His mind, pour out fire from Heaven, and burn up the Ninevites. James and John had exactly the same wrong attitude towards others, for they too wanted to call fire down from Heaven upon the enemies of Israel (Luke 9:52-65). The words of Jesus to His disciples could easily be applied to Jonah … “But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of” (Luke 9:55.) In both instances the Lord had to show them that He loved the lost … “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them … And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city,” (Luke 9:56; Jonah 4:11.)
Remember, Jonah was not just angry, he was angry at God. If we hate others, we actually hate the Lord … “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40.)