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Jonah Preaches (Part 3 of 3)

Jonah Preaches

Part 3 of 3


We continue in this article to look at Jonah’s ministry at Nineveh and his fulfilment of the great commission given to him recorded in Jonah chapter 3.

I’ll like us to observe several things about verses 5 and 6.

First, notice who it was that the people of Nineveh believed. It doesn’t say that the people believed in Jonah. Rather, it says that the people of Nineveh believed God. Jonah was merely the instrument. The Ninevites recognised that. They received the word that he preached as the word that came to them from Almighty God Himself. 

In the end, the success of Jonah’s ministry was not found in his eloquence or persuasive speech or skills as an orator. No, the success of his ministry was found in the awesome power of God unleashed through the faithful proclamation of His word. The power of God’s truth pierced their hearts and drove them to true repentance and faith.

Here is a reminder to all preachers and teachers of God’s word. Our goal is not to get people to believe us. Instead, our goal is that they believe God. And our reliance must not be on ourselves – our abilities or persuasive powers. Our reliance must be on God and God alone. And when God works, wonderful things happen. 

We read in verses 6-9,—

“For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? For word came unto the king of Nineveh…”

What word came to the king of Nineveh that caused him to do what he did and say what he said? Not the word of his servants or advisors. Not even the word of Jonah the prophet. Only the word of the Lord God Himself could have had such a powerful and immediate effect on him. Even the powerful king of Nineveh was overcome and overpowered by the powerful word of the Lord.

In Jeremiah 1 verses 9-10, we see something of the power of God’s word:

“Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”

What kind of power can root out and pull down, and destroy and throw down and build and plant? What kind of power can do that to great kingdoms and nations? Only the power of His inspired word. 

And so in Jonah chapter 3 we’ve seen the word of the Lord coming to Jonah a second time and Jonah obeying that word and going to Nineveh, where he preached a simple but powerful message of God’s judgment to come. The result of his ministry was that the whole city of Nineveh responded in faith and repentance.

I’ll like to draw our attention to two things as we conclude.

First, consider again the grace of God in second chances. Jonah would not have gone to Nineveh, Abram would not have gone to Canaan, Moses would not have been Israel’s deliverer and Peter would not have been an apostle if the God whom they served was not the gracious God of second chances. 

And if we are all honest with ourselves, none of us would be His people if the LORD has not dealt graciously with us again and again for we have all failed many times over. There is only one who has never failed, not even once. He is the One who is greater than Jonah, and Solomon, and David, and Moses, and Abram.

We read in John chapter 8 verses 28-29:

“Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.”

And again in John 6:38, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”

The Lord Jesus Christ is the only Man who has no need of any second chance. He did it right the first time and He did it right every time. And because of His perfect obedience, God can deal graciously with us despite our many faults and sins. Had He not always done what pleases the heavenly Father, we will never be accepted by Him and pleasing in His sight.  

O brethren, let us be ever grateful to Jesus Christ our perfect and faultless Saviour. And let us follow in His footsteps and remember to be forgiving and gracious and kind to those who do not always get it right the first time round. 

As parents, one of the dangers that we must watch out for is the tendency to demand and expect from our children flawless perfection. Not only will we provoke them to wrath, but we will misrepresent our gracious God and Saviour to them. O how we need the wisdom and patience of our Lord in our homes and in our parenting!

But the same is true in our dealings with other people as well, whether in our family or church or workplace or school or on the road or in the lift or in the supermarket or any other place where we come into contact with others. 

But a word to any of my unbelieving friends who may be reading this – may you take heed to the warning of Jonah, namely, that after a season of trial or testing, God’s judgment will surely fall upon you if you do not repent of your sins and believe in Jesus Christ.

There will be no second chance for those who are outside of Christ. Once you come to the end of your life and leave this world, the door of salvation will be shut tight forever and ever. O do not wait till it is too late!

“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” In a relatively short time, all of us will reach the end of our lives. At that time, may we be found safe in the arms of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has promised never to leave or forsake us.   

But the second thing, I’ll like to draw our attention to as we close is the great power and blessing of God’s word. Jonah brought an important message from God to Nineveh, and that message powerfully and radically transformed the people there.

The preaching of the word fell on good ground there and it brought forth much good fruit. May this be an encouragement to us to be involved in the work of spreading the good news to people and nations around us through all ways and means available but especially through preaching. We have a story to tell to the nations. And our story has far greater potential to help troubled people living in a troubled world than all the ideas and proposals of mere men, even if they be great politicians and gurus.

The story of Jonah is a great one and it has captured the imagination of many people over the years. But the story that we have been entrusted to tell the world is a story about One greater than Jonah. Indeed, greater than the story of Jonah is the story of Jesus. May we be found to be faithful witnesses to that great story.

I’ll end with the words of Jesus Himself to His disciples shortly before He ascended up on high. Listen to them and see if they do not wonderfully summarise something of what we’ve seen in this third chapter of Jonah:

“And (Jesus) said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things” (Lk 24:46-48).

Amen.

—Linus Chua

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