Jonah: The Second Time Around
“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.” The second time around.
There is one other mention of Jonah in the Old Testament. He is mentioned in II Kings 14 as the prophet who was the spokesman for King Jeroboam II. So Jonah was one of the king’s main advisors. He would hold what we would consider today a position of influence as a highly placed insider in the king’s administration.
As an important person in the king’s administration he would also probably think not only as a believer in the True and Living God, but he also thought politically. He would have loyalty to his king and to his country.
This story should remind us as believers wherever we are in life, we are where God means for us to be at this time. Sometimes God leads us to places we would not choose to go and fear to go. A bout with cancer is not where any of us would volunteer to go. But God knows the way even when we do not.
Listen to what Andrew Murray wrote when facing a crisis in his ministry and life:
“First, God brought me here, it is by His will that I am in the place I am in, and I will rest in Him. Next He will keep me here in His love, give me grace to behave as His child. Then He will make this trial a blessing, teach me the lesson He intends me to learn and work in me the grace He means to bestow. And last, in His good time He can bring me out again – how and when only He knows. “
Isn’t that an amazing analysis of a crisis? Andrew Murray is saying, I am here by God’s appointment, in His keeping, under His training, for His time.
Contrast this with Jonah’s attitude: God reveals where He wants Jonah to go and do and Jonah runs in the opposite direction. He heard God’s command, His word and chose not to obey it. Jonah did not rest in God’s Sovereignty – he resisted God’s sovereignty. He did not behave as God’s child- he behaved like a spoiled brat. Jonah was selfish, fearful and a man with divided loyalties. Jonah is not a person in whom we find much to admire. But I am afraid we are quite often Jonah-like in our actions. Yet God used Jonah in a mighty way.
Would God lead us to such difficult places? The Bible is full of stories of such occasions. From Joseph who was sold by his own brothers into slavery and ended up in an Egyptian prison to Paul who was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked and imprisoned to the Lord Jesus who was hung on a cross. When we find ourselves in a difficult place what is the answer to our dilemma? Do you begin to question God as to why you are in this dilemma? Do you ask God how did I get in this mess and how do I get out of it? Do you ask God when are you going to do something?
Maybe you are asking the wrong questions? I believe God is teaching us the question we should ask God- how can I glorify You, God, in this situation? In John 9, Jesus and his disciples encounter a man born blind. His disciples ask Jesus why was this man born blind? Was it his parent’s sins or this man’s sins? Jesus’ answer had to shock them. Jesus said: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus, “but this happened that the works of God might be displayed in his life.” This event occurred so God’s power could be displayed and God would get the glory. (The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.)
God leads us to a place our flesh would never want to go. He led the nation of Israel out of Egypt to put them between the Red Sea and the Pharaoh’s army. Spurgeon said, “That which like a sea, threatens to drown you, shall be a highway for your escape”.
And Jesus gives us an insight into his own concerns with this statement in John 12, knowing a cross which awaits him: “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason, I came to this hour. Father, GLORIFY YOUR NAME!”
Paul said let this mind which is in Christ be in you. A mind more concerned with God’s glory than one’s own relief. This is the single mindedness Paul developed which led him to claim his being in chains in prison occurred for the furtherance of the gospel. Paul’s prison epistles have impacted millions and millions of lives in the last 2000 years.
Chuck Colson, like Jonah, was a man in a high positon of influence in the Nixon administration. He was described as Nixon’s hatchet man. He found himself in the belly of a prison. He said I realized I had lost everything. I had lost my power, my prestige, my friends, even my identity as I became a prisoner number. But there in the belly of that prison, I found everything I needed. I found a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I was born again. I was given a second chance. (From his best -selling book, “Born Again”, Chuck Colson.)
His story became a best seller. Led him to start a prison ministry, write over 20 books and speak to millions about his redemption. And brought the term ‘born-again’ to the forefront of the discussion. In fact in 1976, a man named Jimmy Carter presented himself as ‘born again.’
It is the never ending story which takes place in every person ever born again. The story of how God reaches down and reveals Himself, offers Himself as the One who forgives us our sins and gives us a second chance, and a third and fourth and infinite number.
Do you know what Jonah underestimated? The persistence of God.
Jonah acknowledges his sins. Confesses and is restored. Now watch what happens once he is back on dry land. The Word of God comes to Jonah a second time. He hardened his heart the first time the Word of God came to him. Had Jonah learned his lesson? God is about to give him a second chance to get it right. Jonah obeyed the Word of God. You will never go wrong when you obey the Word of God.
The Word of God is simple, singular and clear: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim the message I give you.” Nineveh was the capital, the chief city of Assyria. We read it took three days for Jonah to cover the city. Experts estimate the city covered an area of 60 miles. We notice in verse 2, God calls Nineveh a great city. And in verse 3 God refers to it as a very important city (NIV) which in the NKJV is called ‘an exceedingly great city.’ This emphasizes to us, God considers it a great city in multiple ways. Size, population and perhaps sinfulness. But God is not willing that any should perish, but all would come to repentance. The population of Nineveh at this time was estimated to be 600, 000 people.
There is a current movie out in the Mission Impossible series. It is entitled: Mission Impossible: The Rogue Nation.” Surely this is how this mission God wanted to send this reluctant missionary on must have seemed to Jonah. Rogue is a word which describes an unprincipled, deceitful violent, solitary person or animal. I believe this is an excellent description of the terrorist nation of Assyria and its capital city, Nineveh.
Listen to the message Jonah is to deliver. It is simple, sharp, and powerful and there is no confusion about its meaning and interpretation. Here is it: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” The Word of God is alive and powerful and sharper than a two edged sword.
When there is clear teaching and preaching that comes from the Word of God it will reach other’s hearts. But when the teaching and preaching comes from man’s head it will never get into other’s hearts. This is why Paul said he was not ashamed of the Gospel, for it was the power of God unto salvation to all who believed.( Romans 1) His Word does not return void and will accomplish the purpose for which it was sent forth. This is why the enemy wants the Word of God out of the marketplace and out of people’s lives and out of the church.
This is a message of prophecy about the sure and coming judgment of God.
God was warning the people of Nineveh through his prophet. Jonah was to speak the truth.
What happened? We read when the news 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. He then issued a proclamation in Nineveh: “do not let any man or beast, herd or flock eat or drink. 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.”
If a rogue nation, a great and sinful city like Nineveh can repent upon hearing God’s Word and the warning of what will happen if they remain in sin- will not the same also be true in today’s culture? Might God relent from His judgment of our country?
Then we must do as they did: take off our royal robes of hypocrisy; hunger and thirst for righteousness more than the food so readily available to us in such abundance; and call with urgency on God. Turning from our evil ways.
Today people have hardened their heart to God’s Word. There is a falling away even from the main line denominations who have been Bible believing, Bible teaching, Bible preaching churches.
As this chapter ends we see what occurred in Nineveh, a great city, a wicked, sinful city of 600, 000 souls: “ When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them destruction He had threatened .”
Perhaps the conclusions we can draw from this story to this point are:
- Have we hardened our hearts against sinners, or particular types of sinners? Wanting to see them destroyed rather than saved?
- What do you think Gods’ view of America is today in the 21st century?
- Have we become a Rogue nation?
- Do we believe the turning back of America to its biblical foundation is a ‘mission impossible?’
- Are we making excuses as to why we are not doing God’s divinely appointed task?
Are we neglecting our role as waiters? Are we serving the One upon whom we are waiting?
Are you coming to the Lord this morning and confirming who you are: Good morning Lord, I am Tim, I will be your server today. What can I do for you?
You realize the waiter or server in a restaurant is rewarded based on their service.
Charles Stanley in his Life Principles states as principle # 2: “Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.
Obedience can be a challenge, especially when we feel tempted to believe that we stand to lose more through our obedience than we might gain.
The story of Jonah tells us disobeying God has consequences. You will find yourself worse off than you were before. You will not experience the joy and happiness which comes from obeying God. Ask Adam and Eve what their disobedience costs them? Disobedience can have dreadful consequences: guilt, shame, broken lives, ruined marriages, unresolved anger which congeals into bitterness.
Proverbs 3 tells us to: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.
Over and over the Bible tells us to wait on the Lord and do good.
We are told blessed is the man who meditates in the Word of God day and night. (Psalm 1)
We are told to know to do right and not do it is a sin.
We are told to listen to the Holy Spirit. Be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Be willing to walk away when unsure what God would have you to do.
Be willing to endure conflict for your convictions.
Bottom line: Obey God and leave the consequences to Him.
Stay on the path of obedience. Take the narrow way, through the straight gate. No matter how many others are going the broad way through the wide gate.
The Spirit of God will use the Word of God to make us like the Son of God.
God will also use our mistakes to conform us to the image of His Son.
If God is for us- who or what can be against us?
Fear not I am with you. Even in the belly of a great fish. Or a prison cell. Or in a hostile work place. Or a culture which ridicules you for your beliefs. Or in a hospital where illness has placed you. God led the nation of Israel to a place between the Red Sea and the Egyptian Army. He led Jesus to the desert to be tempted and tried. He then led him to a cross.
God will never take you to a place where His grace cannot keep you.
His Grace is the source of our second; third, fourth and infinite number of chances to get it right and learn what our teacher who is gentle of heart wants us to teach us.
Remember with God – a setback is a set up for a comeback.
God is telling us today to keep pressing on for He is training us to become overcomers unfettered by circumstances.