Summary: This is an overview of the book of Jonah in which the emphasis is on the futility of escaping God’s will, and the compassion that God has for all mankind.
The Preacher Who Sorrowed When Sinners Were Saved
Aim: To show through Jonah the compassion of God for all men, Jew & Gentile, young & old.
Text: Jonah 3:5-4:1
Introduction: This morning we are encounter to a man whom most people are familiar with. Even the unsaved can largely recount the story of Jonah and the whale. Jonah is a strange book for a prophet, in that it contains no prophecy, unless you count his prediction that Nineveh would be destroyed in forty days – which it wasn’t. So Jonah is really more of a history book, than a prophecy book. Yet here this book is situated in the heart the prophetic writings. Now lest we think that Jonah’s only prophecy related to Nineveh, we had better clear something up. Jonah was a prophet in Israel, who lived during the reign of king Jeroboam II. You may remember that name, because we referred to it two books back when we spoke of Amos. So Amos and Jonah ministered around the same time, as indeed did Hosea.
Now the thing about Jonah is that people only know him for the events recorded in this book. That is we always associate him with disobedience, and of course for being swallowed by the whale. But what most people do not realise is that Jonah made other prophecies, and one of this prophecies and itrs fulfilment is recorded for us in 2Kings 14:25 where we read, “He (Jeroboam II) restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gathhepher.”
Unlike all the other prophets Jonah was sent to a Gentile nation, to the Assyrians and the city of Nineveh. Of course, we saw last Sunday that Obadiah prophesied judgment on Edom, but he did this from the relative safety of Judah. Jonah on the other hand had to predict judgment on Nineveh, and this he was to do, not from afar, but on her streets, within earshot and reach of her people. So we say the Jonah is God’s foreign missionary of the Old Testament. He is proof in fact, that though God chose Israel, He was not indifferent to the need of the Gentiles and desired to show His compassion upon them.
So what do we discover about this O.T. missionary.
I. He was Sent – 1:1-3
A, Let’s understand that when Jonah was called to go to Nineveh he was already a practicing prophet.
1. He wasn’t called out of the blue.
2. As we have seen he was already ministering in Israel and had successfully prophesied the expansion of her borders.
3. So, he wasn’t a novice when he was called. He was someone of experience whose message was taken seriously within the boundaries of Israel.
B. So Jonah received a call, a commission from God detailing his next task.
1. He was to go to Nineveh, which is described here as “that great city”, it was one of the chief cities of Assyria, and Assyria was the rising power of the ancient world at the time.
2. In fact, Nineveh, much like Stoke wasn’t just one city, but was, if you like a conurbation of several towns, or four component cities.
3. And a 100 ft high wall, that covered a distance of sixty miles around, surrounded these cities, hence it was said to be a ‘three day journey’ around it.
4. These walls were so broad they could drive chariots three abreast upon them, and they were fortified with some 1500 towers, each 200 feet in height.
5. Quite a spectacle, I’m sure you would agree.
6. Within these walls lived up to 1 million people, and the area included not just the urban but also gardens, orchards and even pastures, hence Jonah speaks about the cattle in Nineveh.
C. But when Jonah got this call to go Nineveh, he immediately rebelled.
1. You see, this was the last place he wanted to go to, and the last people he wanted to be spared.
2. Now there are all kinds of reasons suggested as to why Jonah didn’t want to go, and to be honest I think Jonah is maligned by many of these.
a. He was a coward.
a. You see Nineveh was a pretty fearsome place, and the Assyrians an extremely cruel people. History records how they would, upon vanquishing a peiople all but slaughter them before taking their leaders and torturing them. One monument from the time shows onlookers gloating as a man has his tongue physically torn out of his mouth. History records how they would take men, stake them out and flay them alive, hanging their skins over city walls as a warning to others. Or how they would drive a pole through the lower part of a man’s chest before erecting it, leaving their victim helplessly writhing aloft, much to the delight of spectators – see Nahum 3:1-4; 2:12 & 3:19