Summary: Title: For God So Loved Nineveh or Jonah's Mulligan Jonah's story reveals to us 1. God's Amazing Mercy and 2. The Awesome Power of True Repentance!
Theme: Mercy/Repentance/New Life
Title: For God So Loved Nineveh or Jonah's Mulligan
Jonah's story reveals to us 1. God's Amazing Mercy and 2. The Awesome Power of True Repentance!
Grace and peace from God our Father and from Jesus Christ who came to take away the sin of the world.
Let's take a moment this morning and recap Jonah's story up to this point: It starts off when God tells His servant Jonah to travel to the Assyrian capital city of Nineveh and prophesy that in 40 days the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY will destroy the city. God's message is extremely simple, clear to the point and direct. What should have been a rather simple but lengthy trip takes a rather interesting and sudden turn.
Rather than obey the LORD, Jonah decides to set out in the opposite direction. He boards a passenger ship in Jaffa with the intentions to travel to the city of Tarshish. Going to Nineveh was the farthest thing on his bucket list. Jonah wants nothing to do with the people of Nineveh especially if it means that in hearing God's message they may repent and be spared. Jonah also believes that he can merely veto's God's assignment without any repercussions. He was greatly mistaken.
In response to Jonah's disobedience the LORD sends a great storm that endangers the lives of everyone on board the ship. God reveals to the sailors that Jonah is the one responsible for the storm and for everyone's life being endangered. Jonah confesses, shares his story and then commands that the only way for everyone to be save is for them to throw him overboard. At first everyone rejects the idea but seeing the storm getting stronger and stronger they finally agree to throw Jonah overboard.
Immediately, the sea becomes calm and the boat continues safely on its journey. Unknown to either them or to Jonah the LORD commands a fish to swallow the prophet. For the next three days the prophet is forced to spend time reflecting, meditating and talking to God inside the fish. It is not a pleasant three days.
That takes us up to where we read this morning. God gives Jonah a mulligan and commands the fish to spit Jonah out. Apparently, disobedient prophets don't make a great meal anyway. Now, that that the LORD has Jonah's full attention He tells Jonah - "Let's try this again. Go immediately to the city of Nineveh and tell them that in 40 days I will destroy the city." And so Jonah begins his 600 - 700 mile trip to Nineveh.
Perhaps more than any other book in the Old Testament the book of Jonah has been greatly misunderstood. The story of Jonah is not centered on how he survived the ordeal of getting swallowed by a fish. It's not centered on the miracle of either the fish swallowing Jonah or the fish spitting him out.
So often when people look at this story they immediately think of "Jonah and the Whale" which is how it is often promoted and proclaimed in children's books and even some sermons. However, the fish is never said to be a whale and only three verses out the entire book is the fish even mentioned. While it is true that the story of Jonah involves a fish it is also abundantly true that it is not merely a fish story.
So, what kind of story is it? What is its message and how does it relate to us this morning who are now nearly 3000 years removed?
Jewish tradition shares with us a few interesting things about Jonah:
+It is believed that Jonah lived in the territory of Galilee near the northwest part of the Sea of Galilee - this would therefore be the same area that later Jesus would teach and would call his first disciples.
+Jonah lived ca. 800 - 700 BC and would therefore have been a contemporary of the prophet Elisha and King Joash of Judah
+Some ancient rabbis believed that Jonah was in fact the son of the Woman of Zarephath whom Elijah raised from the dead ( 1 Kings 17:21-23)
Other than those traditions we don't know a great deal about Jonah except for the fact that he was the most successful of all the prophets of Israel either that lived before him or after him. He was more successful than Isaiah, Jeremiah or Ezekiel. He was more successful than Daniel, Micah or Malachi. In fact, no other prophet in the Old Testament saw his message more received and more acted on than Jonah. Our passage tells us this morning that not only did the people receive Jonah's message they responded by fasting, praying and abandoning their evil ways.