Jonah 3:8 "But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence."
Nineveh’s faith resulted in the turning away of wickedness. Let’s remember that, in order to be right with God, a person must turn away from his sin. That is true for a rebellious believer like Jonah, and that is true for a wicked unbeliever. Notice the chronology here—faith is believing and then turning away from sin. If a person says he is right with God, but shows no remorse for his sin or shows no evidence that he desires to turn from his sin, he is not right with God.
It also interesting here that the people and animals were to be in sackcloth—just as both groups were not to eat or drink. What’s more, everyone was to give up violence for a short time to stay the hand of God.
And, on top of all this, the people were instructed by the king to call out to God urgently and intensity. Don’t overlook this. Although sandwiched between the other two commands above, this is, ultimately, the crux of the solution. Prayer without reform is no reform at all. Charles Spurgeon said that a “prayer-less Christian is a Christ-less Christian,” meaning true Christians actually and really seek God out in prayer.
If we are to see revival, we must repent of our lack of repentance, weep about our lack of weeping, and pray about our lack of prayer. The people of Nineveh did! Are we more embarrassed to repent than we are to sin? How we answer that question tells us much about spiritual state.
Father, I pray for pastors for whom life and ministry are so messy right now running away to Tarshish would be easier than preaching this coming Sunday. We pray for over-taxed and under-encouraged pastors this day. In their heart of hearts, let them know their labors in you aren't in vain. Instead, take them—and all of us—to this passage to remind us how you can work in places and people where it doesn’t seem possible. Father, spare us, save us, free us from status quo worship and worship of the status quo—in Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Jonah 3:9 "Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
On the surface, this appears just great wishful thinking from the king of Nineveh. Kind of like buying five different gifts for a person on the chance they will like at least one.
Thankfully, as Christians, like the king understood, hope isn't wishful thinking; it's Gospel reasoning. Hope is a thing of this world, it will be entirely nonexistent in the next, for we cannot hope for what we already have. Biblical hope is not wishful thinking, but a fixed certainty and bold assurance. Hope is not wishful thinking about the future, but a settled, unshakable confidence that God will do what He has promised.
The God who knows us the best loves us the most. The people of Nineveh took out all the stops to make sure they were ready to repent and trust God. And this is the lesson of the prophets: God will relent when we repent. Praise God for that!
(As an aside: Jesus exhausted all judgment against our sin; think we can relent towards each other a little? Be merciful as your Father is merciful).
Things could be much worse. Who knows in what countless ways God is now restraining the wickedness of human beings. Christian, the one who knows you best -- all your sins, all your secrets, all your failings, all your cravings -- loves you most. Forever. That’s staggering, humbling, and exciting!
Thank God he relented from his judgment it and laid it all on Christ!
Father, it's so good to know we'll start and finish this day in your steadfast love, sufficient grace, and unwavering delight. Like these people of Nineveh, we know that you are able and capable of all things, not the least of which is securing our salvation forever in Christ. Thank you for not giving up on us – but faithfully leading us by your Spirit to the cross. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Jonah 3:10 "When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened."
God saw the repentance was real and He postponed the judgment. There are many wonderful lessons to be gleaned from this great chapter in the Old Testament:
1) God is the God of a second chance. Truth is He is a God of the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 500th chances.
2) God is a Sovereign God who has the ability to change an entire city. What about our city? Could it be we are not proclaiming the Word to the people of our world?
3) God is a God of grace, but also of judgment. It is our job to proclaim the whole council of God.
4) When God said, "Follow Me," He did not say where or how or with whom. All we need to know is Who. It took a while, but Jonah finally, by grace, came to see God’s truth!
(Let me just say something quickly about the phrase “he relented.” There are some who believe God “learns as he goes” like you and I did. Yet, Scripture is clear that God doesn’t make things up as he goes. Rather, only God knows the future because only God has foreordained the future. We are just seeing it from our limited human perspective. That’s a not a “cop out”—that is historical biblical truth.).
The point of the Bible is to know and see and hear the God who hears and sees and knows us.
Exodus 2:24-25. The game changer. Wherever you are, whatever you're going through: God is faithful. God sees, God knows. Trust him today!
Father, we thank you that you respond to our repentance and turn us back to you. This city of Nineveh continues to showcase the correct submission to your will, character, and plan. Father, please keep us from temptation today to do anything other than what you have for us to do and meet. Thank you for guiding us and encouraging us with today’s passage. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Jonah 4:1 "But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry."
As we come to this final chapter of Jonah, Jonah is a pathetic mess. He is an emotional wreck. In chapter one, he wants to die. In chapter two, he wants to live. In chapter four, he wants to die. He is up and down—totally unstable and irrational.
Now the context of all of this depression is that God had spared Nineveh. Nineveh had repented of sin and God spared her. One would think Jonah would have been the happiest man on the earth. He was a prophet of God who had marched into the most prestigious city in all of the world and the whole city positively responded to him and his message; everyone got right with God.
Jonah was displeased with God (4:1a) The conjunction “but” which begins the verse shows a sharp contrast between the way God moved and the way Jonah was moving. God had turned from being angry and Jonah was turning to being angry. Jonah was “displeased” with what God had done, namely, demonstrated grace to Nineveh. The Hebrew word used for “displeased” is one that suggests that Jonah was so emotionally upset that he actually trembled. He was so displeased that this physically affected him
Jonah was also angry with God (4:1b). The idea of Jonah becoming angry is a key idea of this chapter. The particular word used here is used again once in verse 4 and twice in verse 9. The Hebrew word is “charah,” which refers to an anger that burns. It describes an anger that has been kindled and is burning (Ibid., p. 303). Jonah has such an unbalanced patriotic fervor for Israel and hatred against Assyria that when God did not destroy Nineveh, he became hot (John Hannah, p. 1470). Pg. 28 Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh in the first place. But now that he was there, his worst nightmare had occurred; Nineveh repented and God relented, so Jonah raged.
Do you secretly wish for the destruction of someone—even a fellow Christian? God will make it right, be it vengeance or pardon. Either way, all accounts will be settled by him. So maybe you should let it go?
A sign you're growing in grace: It's getting easier not to retaliate, get even, or even crave God's vengeance. Don't lay your head down tonight on a pillow of anger, self-pity or vengeance. Pray for those who hurt you.
Father, what more can we say? We hold grudges, we desire harm would come to others, and we don't easily forget sin against us. Lord, we are feeble people--just like Jonah. Father, guide our words Romans 12 style to your glory. May the meditation of our hearts be found in praise to you and biblical to others. In Jesus name. Amen.
Jonah 4:2 "He prayed to the Lord, 'Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.'"
Knowing God’s Word and will was never Jonah’s problem; doing God’s will was his problem.
Notice seven truths about this verse.
1. Jonah admitted what he did (4:2a). One thing is admirable about Jonah–he is honest. He tells God exactly why he is angry.
2. Jonah acknowledged why he rebelled (4:2b). He rebelled and blames God’s character for his rebellion.
3. Jonah knew God is a gracious God (4:2a). Jonah had originally stressed that God was a God of ferocious judgment who would judge Nineveh in 40 days. But Jonah also knew that God was a gracious God. The word “gracious” indicates Jonah knew that God has a part to Him that is inclined to take pity on or show favor toward those who do not deserve it
Even in Old Testament days, Jonah knew of the grace of God. He knew many passages of Scripture (Ex. 34:6-7). He certainly had experienced it himself. He was a rebellious prophet and he did not deserve a second chance.
4. Jonah knew God is a compassionate God (4:2b). This is a beautiful word for it means that God has a tender and gentle affection for fallen mankind, both men and women, especially when they repent. God takes no pleasure in destroying or damning people. He has a heart that is very compassionate. He provides a way that even the worst of sinners can be saved and Jonah knew all about this attribute of God.
5. Jonah knew God is a slow-to-anger God (4:2c). The specific thing Jonah knew was that God is slow to anger in the sense of being slow to pour out His wrath and judgment. Judgment is always the last thing God does. First, He reaches out to people in His grace and His compassion. God is not a God who typically instantly sends His judgment.
6. Jonah knew God is a lovingkindness God (4:2d). The Hebrew word for “lovingkindness” is one that means that God has an eager and ardent desire and zeal to demonstrate His grace and mercy to people. God loves to demonstrate His grace and mercy and compassion on sinners who have botched it and blown it.
7. Jonah knew God is a relenting God (4:2e). Jonah knew that God moved in accordance with people’s response to Him. If people persist in sin, God sends judgment. If people turn from sin, God sends blessings. Jonah knew that even heathen wicked sinners could escape the judgment of God if they would repent.
Do we not serve a mighty God? Why don’t we see this in our daily lives?
Father, help our theology to be our practical steps by grace and your Spirit today. We know nothing at all except grace. This book of Jonah reveals to us that even your prophets and pastors are faulty, sinful humans. Father, we are are weak and frail. Help us to live for your glory and not our excess. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Jonah 4:3 "Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."
Oh boy, Jonah may win the award for “Mr. Inconsistent”!
In chapter two, Jonah praises God for saving his life (2:6, 9) and now in chapter four he is praying and asking God to end his life.
Now it is not uncommon for a prophet of God to become depressed. Elijah once became so depressed that he asked God to end his life (I Kings 19:4). There was a major difference, however, between Elijah and Jonah. Elijah was asking God to take his life because he sensed he was a failure. Many wanted him dead and he thought he was the only righteous man left on earth. Jonah was asking God to take his life because he was a success! He had gone to Nineveh and preached and the whole city had repented!
There are many practical lessons to be gleaned from this passage:
1) Are we displeased with God when He does things His way and not our way?
2) Do we get angry with God when He doesn’t immediately judge sin?
3) Have we ever been so depressed because of the world that we want to stop ministering and die?
4) Have we experienced the grace and mercy of God?
Here is wonderful news for everyone! God is a gracious, compassionate, loving and patient God. If we will turn from our rebellion, from our sin, from our failures and turn to Him, we will find His mercy. That is the story of Jonah.
Father, unburden us from small, minute thoughts of you, cold affection for you and inconsistent trust in you. Lord, what we see in Jonah is what we see ourselves. But what he saw in you – abounding love, patience, kind, and serious about sin – is what we cherish in you. Father, my love is fleeting, fickle and inconsistent. Yet, thankfully, Father, your love for us is everlasting and perfect in every way. Help us to rest in that today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Jonah 4:4 The Lord asked, 'Is it right for you to be angry?'”
Jonah’s reply is not recorded, if he made one at all. He knew he shouldn’t be angry about the accomplishment of God’s purpose when his desires were otherwise. Yet, his anger has control of him. In his blind fury, he has forgotten the lessons God has recently taught him about obedience, grace, and mercy.
Of course, the answer the Lord is looking for here is “No!” The answer to the question is assumed in the question. It was not a good thing for Jonah to be angry.
Why did God ask this? He wanted to get to the heart of the matter! Jonah needed to listen to the counsel of the Lord and seek after that same heart.
You see, Jonah had no right to be angry. He deserved God’s just wrath, just like the Ninevites (Romans 3, etc.). Question: How much does God hate sin? Answer: His hatred of sin is such that when His dear Son bore our sin, He crushed Him. But when they heard the word of God, they repented and believed—just like Jonah did. God showed his character of compassion and mercy many times.
But God did have a right to be angry with his prophet. Jonah had been selfish, disobedient, and unloving—to name a few. The complete opposite of the character of this gracious God.
Important question: As you look back across the years of your pilgrimage with the Lord, do you see evidence of God's sanctifying work in your life like Jonah here? The question is not, "Is God leading me?" Rather, the real issue is, "Am I following?” Jonah was being led – he just didn’t want to follow.
Christian, do you want to know the good news? God is not mad at you. The question is not what can God do, but what can we believe Him for. God scans the earth to strongly support those whose heart is His. Jonah had to re-learn this…again—and so will you! The big spiritual question for you today is not whether God will be faithful, but whether you will be.
What will you answer?
Father, most people who are angry at you are angry simply because you are God. Father, if we are honest—and you know all things—we do that. When you don’t do what we want you to, Lord, forgive us for our callous attitude. God, thank you for putting us in places where our weakness is revealed, not because you are angry, but because you love us and are making us willing to be near you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.