Summary: The message is simple, the time urgent and Jonah obeys.
I want you to watch a short video clip – you have seen it before – it contains words from people to do with fulfilling the command of Christ to take the gospel to the world. Those words are striking. I also found them haunting and challenging. I want you, if you can, to keep them in mind as we hear from God’s Word this morning about Jonah. Turn with me to Jonah 3.
Verses 1-2 - Let me read to you some words of Jesus – Matthew 28.18-20 and now I want to read to you Jonah 3.1-2. Now listen to these words from Jonah 1.1-2. God had called Jonah and commanded him to go to Nineveh and you know from chapters 1 and 2 Jonah headed for Tarshish with disastrous consequences for his life. Now, back on dry ground, the Word of God comes to Jonah a second time. Note how nothing has changed with the Word of God that comes to Jonah? God’s Word does not change. God’s purpose and priorities have not changed – the message is still for the Ninevites and Jonah is still to be the evangelist.
Verse 1 tells us that the Word of God came to Jonah a second time. He had heard it the first time but had chosen to disobey it. God graciously brought the same word to him a second time. God had not changed, his word had not changed but Jonah has been changed by the grace of God. How many of us could readily identify with that this morning? Here is God giving Jonah a second opportunity to obey. Note will you that God does not bring a new command to Jonah, nor has he brought a new task – he brings the original command and task – Go and preach to the Ninevites. God’s will and purpose have not changed but Jonah is now in a place of obedience. Can I say to you this morning that Jonah’s obedience was an act of faith and not just an act of his will. He has experienced the grace of God in his life and is now obedient – but we will see in a few weeks that Jonah’s heart, whilst obedient to God, still hates the Ninevites.
Verse 2 – we read that God said ‘Go to the Ninevites…’ Jonah now realises that God meant it when he said ‘Go to the Ninevites.’ God takes the command ‘to Go’ seriously, Jonah learnt just how seriously through a storm and whilst languishing in the darkness of the deep. Secondly not only has God’s command remained the same (Go to Nineveh) but so has the task ‘proclaim to it the message I give you.’ God’s command and God’s task for Jonah have remained the same – despite Jonah’s disobedience – the constancy of God remains. Jonah might have wished there was another task, another means by which God would bring his message to the Ninevites but God has chosen, and it remains, preaching/proclamation as the means whereby he brings the message of salvation to men. Please hear that clearly this morning: God’s method for reaching men and women with the truth of the gospel is preaching/proclamation. Jonah might have wished God would send some miraculous sign to Nineveh, or shake the foundations of the city with a whirlwind or an earthquake. He may have wished for God to bring plagues like he did to soften the heart of the Egyptians but it was by the simple means of preaching/proclamation that God decreed his message would come to Nineveh. It is the same today – we may want to have clever gimmicks, great visual aids, multimedia, flashy presentations, great music/praise, starbucks coffee after the service but God still decrees that it is the preaching/proclamation of His Word that will bring men and women to the knowledge of the gospel – Romans 10.14 read.
I want you also to note that Jonah was not at liberty to preach whatever he decided to Nineveh – God would give him the message he was to preach. We know from 1.1-2 this message was to be one of God’s coming judgment because of their wickedness that had come before God. God is the author of the message, Jonah is the messenger. Again there is a simple lesson for us all there – we are not free to change the message which God has given us in His Word. How arrogant we are sometimes to think that we know better than God what people need to hear. That is why we always preach from a Bible passage here at Holy Trinity. That is why the style of preaching here is expository – we take the passage and listen to what God says from the passage – it is not a washing line to hang ideas from. Jonah was called to bring the message God had given him for the Ninevites.