THE PRODIGAL PROPHET: Jonah 3
1.A GREAT SECOND CHANCE
Verse 1 “The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time”
While we rightfully say, “Praise the Lord” for second chances, we also need to understand that The Lord is under no obligation to give them.
In fact, there are several characters in the Bible who didn’t get a second chance. Remember Lort’s wife? She didn’t get a second chance.
There’s Uzzah the Levite, who touched the Ark of the Covenant with his hand and fell over dead. No do-over. King Saul wasn’t given another crack at leading Israel after failing miserably the first time around.
While Jonah is given a second chance, not everyone in the Bible is.
HERE’S WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT: It’s possible to hear this ancient story and conclude that “it really doesn’t matter if we obey the Lord right now because there will always be a second chance”
Maybe…but not necessarily.
Paul warns the Romans not to presume upon second chances in Romans 2. He explains that presuming on the grace, kindness and patience of the Lord is the opposite of what He desires.
Romans 6:1-2 “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
Though second chances aren’t guaranteed, Jonah gets one here and that should remind us…
a. When God Forgives, He Forgives
(1) “The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time”
That’s a reminder that when Jonah cried out from the belly of the fish in chapter 2, the Lord noted his contrite heart and repentant spirit and forgave him. Here in the very first verse of chapter 3, He demonstrates His great grace by renewing the call He’d placed on Jonahs's life.
b. Gods Calling And Commands Are Not Up For Negotiation
Verse 2 “Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach the message that I tell you.”
Notice that there’s been no change in what God has called Jonah to do.
Gods' commands and His calling upon our lives is not up for negotiation.
c. The Lord Desires Not Only To Do A Great Work In Nineveh, But In The Heart Of His Prophet As Well
If all that God cared about was Nineveh, He would have just gotten someone else to go.
BUT HE DOESN’T DO THAT: Instead, he goes through all the trouble of turning the heart of the prodigal prophet around so that He can use him
The Lord graciously gives His prophet a second chance to fulfill the command and call that’s been placed upon his life to go to the city of Nineveh and preach.
Verse 3 “Jonah got up and went to Nineveh according to the Lord’s command.”
2. A GREAT SERMON
1:2 “Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because their evil has come up before me.”
Crystal Clear, right? Go to Nineveh and here’s the message I want you to preach….”You people are evil and the Lords wrath is about to fall upon you because of it…repent before it’s too late”
WE KNOW from Jonahs immediate response that this is NOT a message that he was excited to be preaching!
THOSE WHO ARE CALLED to spiritual leadership or to communicate Gods Word have been there before.
Led by the Holy Spirit, there’s a particular passage of scripture or a point of application about that passage that we KNOW the Lord has placed upon our hearts to deliver or to shape our decisions….and we know it may not be well received, no matter how careful, kind, or articulate we are with it.
We KNOW – Not everyone is going to “get” what we’re saying or doing here. At best, it’s going to ruffle a few feathers…at worst, it’s going to go over like a lead balloon!
YET: We are called and commissioned by a Holy God to follow His leading and deliver Gods message and if we’re going to be obedient to His commands, even with a trembling voice, we must do so and let the chips fall where they may.
Jonah had been given a message to deliver. A hard message. One that wouldn’t win him many friends…one that may even get him killed.
He had a choice to make and he made it. That’s why we call him the Prodigal Prophet.
What message is he given to preach this time?
Jonah 3:4 “Jonah set out on the first day of his walk in the city and proclaimed, “In forty days Nineveh will be demolished!”
And as soon as he began to make his way through the sprawling metroplex, he started preaching this great message.
I say GREAT MESSAGE – but at it’s surface, it doesn’t seem like a great message at all, does it?
I mean – there’s no attention-grabbing introduction / no memorable or catchy lines / no illustrations that capture the heart of the hearer or drive home the point, there’s not even a “Nineveh For Jesus” social media campaign attached announcing his coming to the city
AND FORGET about this being a sermon that leaves the audience feeling great!
“In forty days Nineveh will be demolished!”
A seven-word sermon. That’s it.
“In forty days Nineveh will be demolished!”
What makes this a GREAT sermon?
It was a great message because it was Gods message.
3. A GREAT RESPONSE
Jonah 1:5-9 “Then the people of Nineveh believed God. They proclaimed a fast and dressed in sackcloth—from the greatest of them to the least. When word reached the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne, took off his royal robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he issued a decree in Nineveh: By order of the king and his nobles: No person or animal, herd or flock, is to taste anything at all. They must not eat or drink water. Furthermore, both people and animals must be covered with sackcloth, and everyone must call out earnestly to God. Each must turn from his evil ways and from his wrongdoing. Who knows? God may turn and relent; he may turn from his burning anger so that we will not perish.”
The immediate repentance that we city begs a question: How’d this happen?
How could a city filled with thousands of people who were so openly rebellious, so vile, so wicked, how could they so quickly be persuaded to repent?
I shared a couple of weeks ago that biblical accounts and historical records tell us that this city was steeped in witchcraft, sorcery, sexual immorality, bloodthirst…how could a city like that hear a 7-word sermon preached by a foreigner that they hated and turn to God.
The answer is found in verse 5 “The people of Nineveh believed God.”
Notice the text doesn’t say that “The people of Nineveh believed Jonah”
BUT RATHER: The people of Nineveh believed God…that makes all the difference.
AGAIN – This wasn’t Jonahs’s message. It was Gods.
Because it was Gods message, it was a message of great power and authority, and it was received by the Ninevites in that way.
They believed God.
They believed that He had seen their wickedness. They believed that His anger was kindled against them. They believed that if there was any hope for them, they must repent (turn away from sin and to God)!
Repentance begins with believing God. In fact, true repentance relies upon believing God.
As we truly believe God and His word, the power to change, to turn away from sin, to resist Satan and live for King Jesus becomes available and that’s what we see happen in Nineveh.
They proclaim a fast – dress in sackcloth // national mourning
Even the King of Nineveh is stirred by the power of Gods message
Jonah 3:6 “Got up from his throne, took off his royal robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes”
“Who knows? God may turn and relent; he may turn from his burning anger so that we will not perish.” (9)
Their repentance was not an appeal to Gods justice but to His mercy.
4.Gods Great Grace
Jonah 3:10 “God saw their actions—that they had turned from their evil ways—so God relented from the disaster he had threatened them with. And he did not do it.”
The Lord sees their repentance and has compassion. He shows them extravagant grace and mercy by withholding His wrath.
SOME HAVE FOUND THIS TO BE A STUMBLING BLOCK
- Some translations use the words “God repented” (it's a poor translation of this word)
In verse 10 – the Hebrew word that's used to describe Ninevehs repentance is "sub" (turn) but the Word describing God "relenting" is nihum, meaning compassionate action.
- Others might say: Jonah’s message, given by God, said that in 40 days, Ninevah would be overthrown yet now it’s not.
Doesn’t that make Jonah a false prophet and God a liar?
Gods actions here are consistent with His Word. Jonahs's preaching was like all warnings of judgment – they were invitations to respond by repenting and in turn, being spared.
We interpret scripture by comparing it to scripture and as we do so here…In keeping with other warnings of judgment pronounced by Prophets, this warning clearly implied “IF you do not repent”
Jeremiah 18:7-8 “At one moment I might announce concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will uproot, tear down, and destroy it. However, if that nation about which I have made the announcement turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the disaster I had planned to do to it.”