Scripture reading – Jonah 3; Jonah 4

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Our brief study of the Book of Jonah concludes with a biography of that reluctant, disobedient prophet. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian nation and an enemy of Israel in Jonah’s day. The city was some 500 miles northeast of Israel and had a population of 120,000. In the words of the Scripture, Nineveh was a great and wicked city (Jonah 1:2). 

 

Jonah 3

 

Jonah Recommissioned to Nineveh (Jonah 3:1-2)

Having been delivered from the belly of the great fish, we read, “and the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, 2Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee” (Jonah 3:1-2). Despite his disobedience and half-hearted reluctance, Jonah was once again called and tasked with urging Nineveh to repent of their wickedness.

Jonah’s Message to Nineveh (Jonah 3:3-4)

Jonah’s Message to Nineveh (Jonah 3:3-4)

 

Though not a perfect man, there is no doubt Jonah was a changed man. Without hesitation, “Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD” (Jonah 3:3). The city was so vast that it was described as “an exceeding great city of three days’ journey” (perhaps a reference to its circumference, Jonah 3:3b).

Some speculate the prophet’s physical appearance was dramatically changed. Perhaps his skin and hair were bleached white by the acid of the fish’s belly. If so, Jonah was quite a sight as he entered Nineveh and began preaching (Jonah 3:4a). His message was simple and direct: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4).

 

Nineveh’s Faith, Repentance, and God’s Grace (Jonah 3:5-10)

Remarkably, the people of that wicked city “believed God” and repented (Jonah 3:5). “For [when the] word came unto the king of Nineveh…he arose…laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.” (Jonah 3:6). The king proclaimed a fast for all, from the richest to the poorest, even their flocks and herds were not to eat or drink water (Jonah 3:7). 120,000 souls called on the LORD, and He was moved with compassion, repented, and set aside His judgment (Jonah 3:10).

 

Jonah 4

 

Jonah’s Resentment and the LORD’s Tender Reproof (Jonah 4:1-3)

Incredibly, Jonah was upset and angry that the LORD spared the city known to be Israel’s enemy. Out of a bitter heart, he prayed:

 

“O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country [Israel]? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful [full of compassion], slow [longsuffering] to anger, and of great [abundant] kindness [mercy], and repentest thee of the evil [judgment]” (Jonah 4:2).

Jonah was so embittered that he prayed, “Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life [soul; person]from me; for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:3). Nevertheless, the LORD, with patience and compassion, reasoned with Jonah, and said, “Doest thou well [good; right] to be angry [incensed]?” (Jonah 4:4)

Jonah: The Portrait of a Self-centered Minister (Jonah 4:6-8)

Jonah’s Displeasure (Jonah 4:5)

“So Jonah went out of the city, and sat [remained] on the east side of the city, and there made [fashioned] him a booth [temporary shelter], and sat under it in the shadow [shade], till he might see what would become of the city” (Jonah 4:5). Unfortunately, the prophet held out hope the LORD might still destroy Nineveh!

 

Jonah: The Portrait of a Self-centered Minister (Jonah 4:6-8)

Sadly, Jonah typifies the character of some whom God calls to serve Him but then abandons their call for other pursuits.  Jonah was more interested in his temporal comfort than he was in the lost souls of Nineveh (4:6). 

Jonah’s temporal, “Me-First” attitude on life was exposed when the LORD “prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow [shade] over his head…So Jonah was exceeding glad [rejoicing; joyful; cheered up] of the gourd.”

The LORD then sent a worm that destroyed the gourd and its leafy vine (Jonah 4:7), and “the sun beat [smite]upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted [exhausted; swooned], and wished [asked; desired] in himself [soul; life; mind] to die, and said, It is better [good; well] for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:8).

 

Jonah, Tenderly Rebuked by the LORD (Jonah 4:9-11)

“And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry [burn with anger] for the gourd?” (Jonah 4:9). Jonah then dared to answer, “I do well to be angry, even unto death” (Jonah 4:9).

The LORD’s response to Jonah’s sulking reminds us that He is longsuffering. Rather than fall upon Jonah in His wrath, the LORD observed, “Thou hast had pity [compassion] on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night” (Jonah 4:10).

 

Closing thoughts

Jonah’s story ends abruptly, leaving Jonah and readers with a question: “Should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand [120,000] persons that cannot discern [understand] between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:11) 

I wonder if the conclusion was intended to cause the readers of this small book to ponder the spiritual dilemma of lost sinners. Without God’s Law and Commandments, our neighbors, community, city, and nation are ignorant of right and wrong. Without us sharing, teaching, and preaching the Word of the LORD, sinners do not know the LORD is gracious and willing to save sinners who repent (2 Peter 3:9).

Perhaps some reading this devotional have drifted from the LORD and forsaken His call on your life. Ask yourself if you are on a ship to “Tarshish” trying to escape His presence. Maybe your “gourd” of comfort has dried up under the heat of trials. Tell the LORD, “I have sinned,” and turn your heart to Him.

Remember: The LORD is gracious and longsuffering. 

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith 

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