Jonah 3:3-4 - 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent. 4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
We just read how the Lord spoke with Jonah the second time and gave him the same message to go and preach against Nineveh. Let’s look at Jonah’s reaction to the second Commission by the Lord, especially after the terrible ordeals he experienced both on the surface of the sea with the tempest and in the heart of the sea in the belly of the great fish.
“So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord….”
When the read of the Lord speaking with Jonah the first time, the sentence that followed the Lord’s instruction began with the word, “But,” and continued to read, “Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” In contrast, when God speaks to Jonah the second time, we read of a different response by Jonah. The first word that begins to describe his response to God’s commission is, “So,” and continues to read, “Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.” Notice the contrast of Jonah’s responses to both the calls of God on his life. One was of immediate rebellion and the other is of immediate, implicit obedience. This time, instead of rebelling against God, he instead chose to do, “according to the word of the Lord.”
It’s obvious that Jonah had learned his lesson well, though he had to learn it the hard way. He had learned that rebellion was not the best way when it comes to walking with God – in fact, it was never even an option. He had experienced first-hand how rebellion against God, not only affected his own life, but it also had ripple effects on the lives of others around him. Not only did Jonah suffer three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish, but he had also put the mariners through untold misery, and also caused the loss of cargo from the ship – cargo that perhaps belonged to other people.
Let’s take a look at ourselves as The Church-at-large. How have we responded to the Great Commission by Jesus? Looking back, The Church responded rather well initially and went about doing just that – making disciples. But over time the vision changed and disciple-making took a back seat and eventually even got forgotten and the consequences are there for all to see – The Church on the decline in many countries.
Over the years in history, the Lord has done, or permitted several things to wake The Church up to its calling and vision, and oftentimes, there have been awakenings and revivals. At the moment we are in one such awakening with this global pandemic. Once again, it’s only those who see the hand of the Lord in this and hear the message of the Lord to The Church, who will wake up and return to the God-ordained purpose for The Church, while the rest will continue on, oblivious to the message of the Lord to The Church through this pandemic. It’s to those who’ve woken up that these words will resonate – “So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.” Let’s each of us arise and get about doing what the Lord has called us as individuals in The Church to do, and before long we’ll find a huge Church-wide, world-wide revival taking place.
“Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent.”
The above sentence gives us a glimpse, not just about the city of Nineveh, but also the extent to which Jonah’s mission to preach would extend – three days. It says that Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, and understandably so, as it was the capital of the Assyrian empire at the time. It had a population of a hundred and twenty thousand people, and as it says in the verse, it took three days to travel across it. That would seem much bigger than any of our present-day cities, which we could traverse in less than three days, even if it were on foot.
When you look at the words, “three day journey in extent,” it tells us that Jonah’s mission would have only have lasted three days had he obeyed the Lord the first time, but instead he put himself and others through so much turmoil, and eventually had to spend the same number of days and nights in the belly of the great fish before he actually obeyed the Lord.
Looking at ourselves The Church, it seems like our mission to make disciples of all nations would have been a rather easy task if every one of us got busy doing just that and if we did that consistently over time. We might have reached and discipled our world centuries ago. But sadly, we have failed to do so, and we got side-tracked a great deal. We are now very far from fulfilling our task, and in the process, many generations have been hurt, and even lost as a result. But it’s never too late to repent and obey the Lord – He’s gracious, merciful, and faithful to reconcile back to Himself and to our calling.
“And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
As we discovered in our first devotion, Nineveh was not anywhere near the coast of the Mediterranean Sea – it was to the East of it. We have no idea of the actual location where the big fish vomited Jonah out on dry land, but what is mentioned is that from that spot it was on the first day itself that he began to enter the city of Nineveh. No sooner Jonah entered the city, he began preaching – he was not delaying any longer; he had wasted enough time. His message was simply what the Lord had told him to say – “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” This did not in any way seem like a call to repent from their wicked ways but was rather a message of impending doom. There didn’t seem to be anything they needed to do but to wait for God’s wrath to come upon them – there was no call to action. As hard as it was for Jonah to pronounce those words over and over as he walked through the city, pronounce them he did, in obedience to the Lord.
We, The Church need to remember that the message we are called to proclaim is about both inviting people into a love relationship with the God of the Universe, and it’s also a warning about judgment on those who reject God and His gift of eternal life. Rejecting God’s gift of life is choosing death instead.
The message is also a message of warning to us The Church who fail to carry out what God desires for us to in and through our lives. If after we’ve been saved by God’s grace, we are not concerned for those around us, then we are pronouncing judgment on ourselves because we care nothing for perishing souls around us. Very often we find ourselves coming down hard on unbelievers in our messages to them, and being soft on ourselves, The Church, when in fact, we need to be soft and inviting to unbelievers and judge ourselves, so we don’t fall into condemnation because of our negligence towards God and His call on our lives.
Our message has the power to transform people’s lives inside out. They will receive forgiveness of sin, freedom from sin, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Their perspective on life, death, money, knowledge, identity, purpose, and everything else, will be changed forever.
There is a flip side though, that we should not forget – those who believe are saved by God, and those who do not believe are condemning themselves. Jesus, while talking with Nicodemus said so in John 3:18 - “He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Jesus was referring to Himself as the Son of God in no uncertain terms there. While Jonah had been told by the Lord the actual number of days after which the Lord would destroy Nineveh, we have not been told when The Judge Jesus will return. No one knows that but God Himself. Sadly instead of this creating a sense of urgency in us, The Church, we’ve grown to become careless and negligent in fulfilling our God-given responsibility of taking His Word to the world and making disciples of all nations. We’ve begun to take God’s patience for granted and no longer take God’s word seriously. Let’s never forget that just because we’ve forgotten or chosen to not remember God’s plan for us The Church, God has never, and will never forget His plans for us. He’ll do anything to bring us back on track.
We need to take this message of Salvation through faith in Jesus to the world and then to help disciple them into this new life. If we as individuals have rebelled against the call of God to take His word to the world, let’s not waste another moment and get going with accomplishing God’s commission for our lives. If, on the contrary, we have been busy fulfilling the great commission consistently, then let’s continue to do so, and not give up, knowing that our labour in the Lord is not in vain.
Let’s be led by the Spirit of God – there’s no better life than being led by God’s Holy Spirit. He knows the hearts and minds of the people He would have us serve, He knows what He wants each one of us to do, He’s given us the spiritual gifts to accomplish what He will have us accomplish and He gives us the power to do it as well. We need just listen and follow implicitly and we will see the results God desires to see. It’s not about what we want to see happen through us, but it’s really what God desires to see happen through us that matters.
God bless you and have a great day or night.