Eject! Eject! Jonah’s hitchhiking days were over, and my guess is that he was probably much cuter the first time he entered the world than this second time. (I’m just wondering how much ceremonial cleansing and sacrificing he had to do. I’m thinking back over Levitical law, and I don’t remember anything about how many days you’d be considered unclean or which sacrifices you’d have to offer if you’d been swallowed by a fish. Not much legal precedent on that one.)
With his “rebirth” came a re-commissioning of the original commission. And this time, Jonah didn’t hesitate to get up and go. Wise choice. Some people just have to learn things the hard way, and many times, they are the ones who most passionately warn people not to go down the road they traveled.
Was this the case with Jonah? Did he have compassion on the Ninevites and wanted to warn them to repent so they wouldn’t suffer dire consequences just like he had?
Um, I’m thinking—not, and if you’ve read the rest of Jonah’s story, you can probably see the evidence for that in chapter 4. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
First of all, it wouldn’t surprise me if Jonah had thought this whole itinerant preaching gig was an exercise in futility. While there were a few examples of “righteous Gentiles” in Israel’s history, you didn’t generally see large groups—whole cities—of pagans basically repenting of their entire way of life and turning to the one true God. Generally, what you see in Old Testament history is God commanding the total obliteration of pagan nations. So, with history on his side, Jonah may have assumed that his warnings of God’s overthrow of Ninevehwould not be heeded.
Along those same lines, it might have been difficult for Jonah to wrap his mind around the idea of God’s desire for the Ninevites to know Him. Israel was God’s chosen people, after all. In their minds, they had cornered the market on God, and the unclean Gentiles had no business with Him. (There were, however, examples, of Gentiles coming to know the Lord—for instance: Exodus 12:48, Ruth 1:4, 16—so this shouldn’t have been a totally foreign concept.)
Finally, as mentioned in earlier lessons, Assyria (with Nineveh as its capital) had attacked and harassed Israel in the past, so even though Jonah was now being obedient to God’s command to preach His warning to the Ninevites, it’s doubtful Jonah had any special love for them. He may have even been a little resentful that God was giving them the opportunity to repent.
But, despite Jonah’s probable misgivings, preach, he did:
“Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown!”
And that was the beginning of the good news for you and for me. The call to repent and believe the Gospel is available to all. It doesn’t matter who you are, your nationality, or where you were born. God doesn’t play favorites. He desires that all come to know Him.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish,
but have eternal life. John 3:16
Read Acts 10:1-35. Compare Peter’s attitude towards the Gentiles to Jonah’s. What were some similarities? Differences?
Has there ever been someone on whom you would rather have had God’s judgment fall than for the person to repent and experience God’s grace? Why? What did that say about your heart? What do Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11, and II Peter 3:9 say about God’s heart?
Repent: of any time you have preferred judgment over repentance and grace for someone.
Request: that God will give you a burden for the salvation of those who are in rebellion against Him.
Seek God: for ways you can see sinners through His eyes and love them as He does—with the desire that they come to Him in repentance and faith.