The point is not simply that we should strive to be moral persons, but, that we should strive to be moral in the way God commands us to. It is not self-prescribed morality, but, submission to the moral authority of God over our lives.
#1: Jonah Preaching (v1-4)
Preaching is authorized by God. Preaching is the standard and authoritative means of communication from God to man. Verse 1 says the Word of the LORD came to Jonah. That means God spoke to Jonah. And God sent Jonah. To preach. To preach the message God gave to be delivered to the Ninevites. This is why verse 5 does not say the Ninevites believed Jonah, it says they believed “God”. They knew that what Jonah said didn’t come from Jonah but that it came from God. Jonah was simply the mouthpiece.
How much do we value the preaching of God’s word?
Think about this: when we hear the preaching of God’s word it is both God’s patience with us and His initiative with us. Preaching is an expression of God’s patience with us because rather than justly removing us instantly from this life and brushing us into an eternity of condemnation away from Him He instead sends people to preach His word to us. To give us the chance to respond and repent. Because He is patient, “God is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). He holds back judgment, which He would be entirely just in so doing. But, as Psalm 103:8-10 says, “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”
But when the word of God is preached it is also the God’s Initiative with us. God instigates our salvation. Not us. Romans 3:11, “there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away.” God’s initiative with the Ninevites was to send a preacher – to dispatch someone to go and tell them. How has God taken the initiative with you? How have you been told the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
God gives the Command to Go. Verse 2: “Go to the the Great City Nineveh”… Verse 3: “Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went….” Verse 4: “On the first day Jonah started into the city….” “Go!” is the recurring command in the Bible: “Go to Pharaoh and tell Him to let my people go” (Ex. 3:10). “Go into all the world, preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
Preaching Must Warn about God’s Judgment. “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” We don’t do the counting thing with our kids, but, if we did, we would base it on God’s patience in the Bible. He’s counting to 40. Jesus warned the 7 churches in Revelation they would be judged and their “lamp” would be snuffed out if they didn’t change in the ways He commanded them to. The whole OT history of Israel is one long series of the same theme: God sending prophets to the nation to warn them of God’s judgment, call them to repentance and turning back to God. Every great revival in history was based on men of God faithfully warning of God’s judgment. George Whitefield was the preaching force behind the greatest revival perhaps in Church history. Quote 122, 123, 132
Judgment is a fact. It must be faithfully preached as a part of the “whole counsel of God’s word”. It also is a must to tell in evangelism. When you and I go to the lost or even when I preach to you here I must tell you of God’s judgment. Where God speaks does He permit me to be silent? Here are several quick reasons why warning people about God’s judgment is so important:
First, because God is really going to judge the world and people need to know that
Second, the fact that He will judge impresses people with a sense of God’s holiness, justice and authority over their lives.
Third, it crystallizes the fact that as moral beings our morality ultimately matters and God will judge us for it. The point is not simply that we should strive to be moral persons, but, that we should strive to be moral in the way God commands us to. It is not self-prescribed morality, but, submission to the moral authority of God over our lives. Everyone will stand before the Judgment seat of Christ.
Fourth, none of us grasps the love, mercy and grace of God until we have first understood His rightful anger towards our sin. In other words, prophets and preachers proclaim God’s judgment to make people flee to God’s mercy.
Fifth, when we are warned about God’s judgment it humbles us. We begin to realize our lives are accountable to someone higher and holier than ourselves.
Sixth, it awakens a most fitting fear in our heart.
Last, we cannot be saved unless we are told about Judgment. Jesus died to save us from being judged for our sins.
So Jonah is in Nineveh and Jonah is preaching judgment.
#2: Nineveh Repenting (v5-9)
The repentance of Nineveh is legendary. Jesus even cites it in Matthew 12. I want you to see that when Jonah comes to them with a message the Ninevites have a decision to make: Will we believe this message or will we doubt it? Will they be like Pharaoh who scoffed at Moses and reacted with burning anger? Pharaoh, who asked, “Who is the Lord that I should obey Him?” Doubting, sneering, puffing himself up with pride.
Will this be Nineveh? No! It says “And the Ninevites believed God.” Now I noticed that: they believed God. Jonah was speaking, but, they knew what Jonah was saying was coming from God. And they believed God. Question: What did they believe? Answer: that they were going to be destroyed by God in 40 days.
Faith is seen when someone believes what they’re given. Noah was told a Flood was coming. He believed God and he showed that by building the ark. Abraham was told his descendents would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and Genesis 15:6 says he believed God. Moses was told he would lead the people out of Egypt and so he believed God and went to Pharaoh. The Ninevites were told by God (through His prophet Jonah) that they would be destroyed for their evil and violent ways. And it says they believed God.
And here’s the thing: that belief changed them. Let’s look at what their belief caused in them:
- Their belief resulted in them stopping their evil and violent behavior.
- Their belief produced a fear of God.
- Their belief created a remorse for their sins.
- Their belief made them humble before God
- Their belief compelled them to call on God for mercy
Nineveh’s repentance is legendary, and, it is a model for all sinners to follow.
#3: God Relenting (v10)
Finally we see the glorious relenting of God. Read verse 10. His relenting might be pictured in the scene of chapter 1. The sea was all stirred up into anger and on the verge of destroying the boat and everyone on it. But, then God relented and calmed the sea after Jonah was discharged from the boat. Now, Nineveh has discharged their evil ways and called upon the God of Jonah, He has heard and seen their repentance and relented from destroying them.
This relenting is what God enjoys. God will judge for His glory, but, not for His pleasure. He will judge for His glory in that He will uphold His Holy Name, and, so that He will be acknowledged as Holy by everyone – in life or in Judgment. But God does not take pleasure in destroying the wicked. Ezekiel 33:11 He says, “As surely as I live, declares the Soverign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?”
we must see that God does not want to destroy, and, that rather He wants to save. He wants people to turn from their sin and turn to Him and be saved. Turn to some passages with me to see that God’s delight is in relenting:
Psalm 103…Amos 7:6…Jeremiah 18:8….Joel 2:13….
Glorious preaching is followed by glorious repenting and that is followed by a glorious relenting.