Summary: Like it or not, Jonah helped bring about one of the largest mass conversions in history. He’s hoping the city will reject his message of doom, which he likely enjoyed delivering!
Jonah, “the Preaching Prophet” -chapter 3 Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
Evangelism is a program originated by God. In the light of human depravity and inability to lift ourselves from our sinful condition, God takes the initiative, opening our blind eyes and drawing us to the Cross. If God didn’t intervene, we’d all be lost. In order to make known the remedy for sin, God has chosen us, to share our faith by telling others about the grace and forgiveness we’ve experienced. None of us can ignore this responsibility.
Quick story: In 1860, Dwight L. Moody surrendered to God in downtown Boston, not in a church but in a shoestore near the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans on Court Street (next time you’re there look for the historical marker on the wall). Moody committed his life to fulfilling the Great Commission. One day Moody asked a passerby if he was a Christian, and the man snapped, “That’s none of your business”, to which Moody replied, “That is my business.” The man stared and said, “Then you must be Mr. Moody.” Spreading the Gospel is every Christian’s business. We all have a Ninevah to go to.
As chapter 3 opens, God again calls Jonah to go to Ninevah. If we were in God’s place, I imagine at this point we’d have had enough of Jonah! “Let’s find someone else!” But God is patient with His prophet. He re-commissions Jonah, giving him another chance, and uses him in spite of his faults. If God didn’t, none of us could serve. Nearly everyone God chooses to use have committed sins that would justify dismissal from God’s service. God is telling Jonah to “Cowboy up”, to be in the game, to take an active role. In the same way, God wants us to play the game, to serve Him with all our heart.
Ninevah is described in vs 3 as an “important” city, or literally, “a great city to God”. But God wasn’t impressed with Ninevah’s architecture, culture or military might; He was impressed with the number of people who needed Him. And it was a vast city, with three surrounding suburban towns. When an OT scholar asked about visiting Lebanon he was advised to make time to see all the points of interests, and was told, “Beirut is a city of three days,” just like Ninevah.
Imagine Jonah approaching Ninevah and preparing to deliver his message. What kind of reception would he get? Would the people ridicule him? Would they harm him? Or even worse (in Jonah’s mind), they might believe and repent! For Jonah, Ninevah was the place accepted, not chosen.
We can see that Jonah’s attitude was completely wrong from verse 4--judgment’s coming, period. He wasn’t preaching for conversions; he was simply announcing condemnation. I think he enjoyed delivering his message of doom. Jonah was vengeful and eager to see Ninevah toasted as a burnt offering. As he walked the streets of the city, it was like he was telling them “where to go”, shaking his fist at the people, hoping they’d do nothing and burn. The word “overthrown” indicates complete destruction, and is used elsewhere to describe what happened to Sodom & Gomorrah.