Summary: After Jonah survived being swallowed by a great fish, God graciously came to him a second time revealing His plan for Nineveh. God could have abandoned Jonah for his disobedience, and yet He was patient and faithful.
Sovereign Grace in Nineveh (Part 1)
Jonah 3: 1-10
The harrowing ordeal for Jonah, being within the belly of the great fish for three days, had finally ended. He found himself alive and well, standing on dry ground. Following his miraculous deliverance, Jonah was again confronted by the Lord. He learned the hard way that is was impossible to escape the presence of God.
As we look at this third chapter of Jonah, we are again reminded of the central theme within the book – the absolute sovereignty of God, in particular, His sovereignty in dealing with humanity. God had a plan for Jonah that also involved His plans for Nineveh. Jonah had endured a horrific ordeal, but he had been unable to escape the call of God.
Our text today reveals the undeniable and incomprehensible mercy and grace of God toward those who were undeserving. Jonah had rebelled and deserved to face punishment for his rebellion. The Assyrians were barbaric idolaters, having no desire for the true, and living God. The Lord could have judged Jonah and Nineveh, and would have been just and right in His actions. Rather then dealing with them as they deserved, God chose to extend mercy and grace.
This Old Testament book ought to remind us of the mercy and grace of God for all humanity, in light of His absolute sovereignty. I am thankful the Lord had a plan to redeem mankind, and He was determined to see it through. For many God’s sovereignty is difficult to embrace, but I rest in a sovereign Lord who stands in absolute control of my life and eternal existence!
As we begin to discuss chapter three of Jonah, I want to examine the observations revealed in the text as we consider: Sovereign Grace in Nineveh.
I. A Conversation with God (1-2) – This chapter opens with a conversation between Jonah and the Lord. Through their conversation, we discover:
A. Grace was Extended (1) – And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time. Looking at this statement apart from its context would not be that significant. However, when it is considered in light of everything we’ve discussed thus far in Jonah, it is quite remarkable. God had spoken to Jonah previously, calling him to go to Nineveh and preach against their wickedness. Likely motivated by resentment and fear, Jonah chose to ignore the Lord’s call, and flee unto Tarshish.
Through God’s patience, coming to Jonah a second time, we see His marvelous grace extended. God was in no way obligated to Jonah. He had already provided more than Jonah deserved. God could have allowed him to perish in the sea, or abandoned him after delivering him from the belly of the whale. However, God continued to deal with Jonah in grace. He again came to Jonah, revealing His will for Nineveh and Jonah’s involvement in His plan.
Aren’t you thankful that the Lord is not a “once and done” kind of God? How many times have we experienced similar grace? No doubt the Lord has spoken to us about His will, and like Jonah, we chose a different path. He would be just in allowing us to have our way, but He graciously comes again to us, revealing His plans for our lives. Such grace is revealed throughout Scripture, and God continues to patiently deal with us according to His sovereign plan.
B. Obedience was Expected (2) – Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. Surely Jonah was much more receptive to the voice of the Lord than he had been prior to his encounter in the sea. However, not unlike the first time Jonah was approached, God expected obedience. This was not a conversation to see how Jonah felt about the Lord’s proposition. God had not spoken for mere consideration; He fully expected obedient compliance. God had determined to extend grace to Nineveh, calling them to repent of their sin, and Jonah was the man He had chosen to deliver the message. There were not several options for Jonah; he was expected to respond in obedience.
Often those who do embrace God’s sovereignty, do so selectively. They readily embrace sovereignty when it relates to blessing and provision; but when it deals with God giving specific instructions, many question whether they must comply. I am thankful for the Lord’s provision and guidance in my life. I dread the thought of where my journey would have been had it not been for the Lord’s sovereign direction. Like Jonah, sooner or later, we must come to the conclusion that God expects complete obedience. His Word and guidance for our lives are not mere suggestions – they are given with the expectation of obedience.
C. Competence was Provided (2) – Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. There is no doubt that Jonah cared little for Nineveh. In fact, he utterly despised them. God knew how Jonah felt about the Assyrians, and He did not expect Jonah to preach to them of his own accord. The Lord would provide everything Jonah needed, including the words he would proclaim within the city. God would sustain Jonah in this endeavor.