Jonah: Running From God 3
Jonah 3: Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time:
2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.
Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.
4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming,
“Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
[I don’t think that’s all Jonah said; verse 4 says that he began by saying that, and he said that only 1/3 of the way into the city. He probably preached throughout much of the city, and he probably said many things in his message from God, just as other Old Testament prophets had much to say, and many specific things to say from the LORD to the people.
Tough message to deliver; imagine how we would react if we were told by a foreigner that the US would be overthrown in 40 days because of our sinfulness.
By the grace of God, the king of Ninevah understands that Ninevah’s situation—
about to be overthrown—is not at the hands of another country or king,
but at the hands of the King of kings, the ultimate ruler of all nations.]
5 The Ninevites believed God.
[They didn’t argue with God, roll their eyes, deny, blame or ignore;
they agreed with God, they believed Him that He’d follow thru with His verdict
and they agreed they deserved His verdict.
Only the LORD can give us true sight like this.]
A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne,
took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust
[Sackcloth: rough, itchy material symbolizing mourning/repentance (Illustrated Dictionary of Bible p. 933). Outer show of discomfort/misery to show the inner discomfort/misery over our sin.
Ashes/dust: powdery residue of burned material. Leftover particles of a destroyed object, often an animal sacrificed for sin. Symbolic of mourning/repentance. The Messiah would give “beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3)(ibid, p. 109).
The king of Ninevah’s response is a perfect illustration of what happens when a person receives the Lord Jesus as their Savior; there is a sense in which the Holy Spirit enables us to realize that we have been trying to sit on the throne of our lives, being our own boss, guide, monarch, god.
The Christian realizes this & is appalled by it: we see our own robes of good deeds not as royal robes but wretched rags, and we long for the true robes of righteousness that only the Lord Jesus can give us.
And though we will struggle to stay off God’s throne for the rest of our lives on earth in different ways, like 2 year olds we will want to do things our way, we realize we do not belong there, and we turn to God with our dirty hands & empty pockets, unable to pay for our cosmic treason and unable to keep ourselves from going back to sit on the throne again & again, like a “dog that returns to its vomit” as Proverbs says.
And so we regularly approach the LORD’s throne of grace & Truth, not to sit on it,
but to kneel before it to receive His compassion & willing & sacrificial mercy
through Jesus Christ, and receive it by grace alone through faith alone.
Hebrews 4:16: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Back to Jonah:
7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything;
do not let them eat or drink.
8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth.
[The fasting & sackcloth & ashes was not them doing “penance” for their sins,
was not them paying for their sins by doing acts of sacrifice.
These outward acts revealed the inward realization of their hearts:
they realized the Truth of their spiritual condition—sinful—
and they were grieved at/deeply sorry
for both their general sinfulness and their specific sins.
They agreed with God’s verdict/diagnosis and they had genuine remorse.
The response of the Ninevites & their king is seen elsewhere in the Bible:
Isaiah 6:5: “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips,
and I live among a people of unclean lips,
and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Luke 5:8-10: When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said,
“Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!…
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”
Luke 18:13-14: “But the tax collector stood at a distance.
He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said,
‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.
For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled,
and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
This is also for Christians! James 4:7-10: “Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.
Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
9 Grieve, mourn and wail.
Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.
10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
This passage is meant for Christians, JONAHS, not just Ninevites.
We need God’s help to recover a holy disgust for our sin
& thus a holy delight in our Savior.
Don’t be discouraged by this, my friends—
Jesus the Messiah gives “beauty for ashes”:
Isaiah 61:1-3: The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
YES! Repentance to Jesus leads to THAT!!! 🙂
Back to Jonah:
Let everyone call urgently on God.
This is not just belief in the LORD, but also repentance—
taking responsibility, crying out for mercy.
- I may believe a person on death row can appeal to the governor for pardon/clemency, but since I don’t think I’m on death row, I don’t act on that belief by actually appealing to the governor myself.
- But a person who knows they are on death row and believes that the governor has the power to grant an undeserved pardon, that criminal acts on their belief by taking responsibility for their crime and asking for mercy.
THAT is what the king of Ninevah is calling on the people to do.
Hebrews 6:18: “God did this so that, by two unchangeable things
in which it is impossible for God to lie,
we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us
may be greatly encouraged.”
Psalm 32:1-7: “For day and night your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
6 Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.
7 You are my hiding place…
2 Corinthians 6:1-2: “As God’s co-workers we urge you
not to receive God’s grace in vain.
2 For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
This isn’t turning over a new leaf to improve our behavior,
it’s going to the Lord Jesus Who was nailed to the tree to be our Savior.]
Back to Jonah:
Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.
9 Who knows?
God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger
so that we will not perish.”
10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways,
and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
Jonah chapter 3 is a perfect lead in to celebrating the Lord’s Supper/communion.
God the Father sent His Son—greater than Jonah—
to Ninevites like us to both proclaim our disease & provide the cure—Himself…
2 Samuel 23:8-39: King David’s mighty men: the Navy Seals of ancient Israel. Best of the best warriors, constantly risked their lives for David, sacrificed much, took on the toughest challenges. David was almost certainly close to these men, they were probably part of his personal bodyguard.
Remember how David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then he arranged to have her husband Uriah killed in battle? 2 Samuel 23:39 says that Uriah the Hittite was one of David’s mighty men. Wow. Staggering. It would have been horrific for David to do what he did if Uriah had been a stranger…but Uriah wasn’t a stranger. He was part of the group of courageous men who risked their lives for David.
Why do I bring this up as we reflect on the cross of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice to pay for sinners like us? Because even in light of the horrific thing David did, he was still called “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). By the grace of God, David repented of his sin & called on the LORD for mercy…and he received it based on the future sacrifice of Christ.
We too can be forgiven & cleansed & be men & women after God’s own heart through repentance and faith in the past sacrifice of Christ. His blood could forgive David, and it can also forgive us…let’s reflect on this now…
1 Corinthians 11 NIV
“23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you:
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,
24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said,
“This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
“25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood;
do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup,
you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Labor: “physical or mental work,
especially of a hard or fatiguing kind; toil.”
Today, tomorrow & everyday,
let’s remember & trust in & celebrate & proclaim
the most amazing act of labor:
the Son of God dying on the cross (& rising again!)
to pay the sin-debt of any who repent & believe—
even Jonah, even Ninevites, even us!!!
Please don’t be discouraged by repentance, sackcloth, ashes—
it is the love of God that brings us low & then lifts us up!
Jeremiah 31:18-20: “I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning:
‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf, and I have been disciplined.
Restore me, and I will return, because you are the Lord my God.
19 After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast.
I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’
20 Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him, I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,”
declares the Lord.
Be encouraged, my friends!
Repentance at Jesus’ nail-scarred feet leads to joy,
to being lifted up by His compassionate nail-scarred hands!
We no longer bear the dis-grace of our sins—
we trust that He has taken our dis-grace upon Himself
& given us His-grace! The Gospel!