Intro: Jonah series reminds us what church is to be, do. Lessons: Motivated
by God's mercy, we call people to repent. Guard our hearts from sin. Wake up to
powerlessness of world under God's judgment. Listening is most effective strategy
for witnessing. Cross necessary for God to forgive sinners. When you see how great
God's grace is, you can't help but thank Him! Last week, learned God's grace doesn't
change some of sin's consequences, but it does change our relationship to Him!
Review: Jonah ran away; God used a storm, a fish to turn him around. Jonah obeys
God's re-call, takes God's message to Nineveh! Today, face the questions: Is it
easy or difficult for a person to turn from their sin? What are some signs that
God's Spirit is working in a person's heart?
An Important City! (Read Jonah 3:3.) Nineveh: "Very important city"? Heb: Great to
God." (General: great even by God's standards! Specific meaning harder to determine!)
Big city? Not necessarily. Jerusalem, Gibeon only two other cities in OT described
this way; both small! Nineveh had 120,000 people (4:11), large, not huge!
"Great to the gods." Major polytheistic center! If so, stressing Jonah's challenge?
Most likely: "Great to God" = Important to God! Concerned about Nineveh, God mercifully
sends Jonah with His message!
Next phrase is also hard to translate: "visit required three days." Meaning? Some:
"it took three days to walk across," estimating 50 miles. Probably not best translation.
Other: Takes three days to preach throughout city, (at multiple sites.) Better:
"it takes three days to see everything!" Another likely possibility "an official
visit took three days." Day 1, go in, make arrangements. Day 2, actually meet the
official person you want to meet. Day 3, go through all the official goodbyes.
So what can we say about Nineveh? City was great to God and a visit required three
days. 120,000 people. Many different religions. Important political and cultural
center. City full of busy, important, desperate, violent people. Tempted to look
at city and despair! "Is it worth it? Jonah can preach and preach. But they won't
get it !"
A Reluctant Preacher! (Read Jonah 3:4.) We'll find out soon Jonah doesn't want Nineveh
to repent. Understandable Jewish hostility! Obeying God reluctantly; he's learned
cost of disobedience. On his first day into Nineveh, Jonah proclaims the exact message
God has given him: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." In Bible, 40
symbolizes a time of testing. "Overturned" is same verb Bible uses to describe Sodom
and Gomorrah's destruction! Jonah declares: "After 40 days, you're going to get
it!" One man, a foreigner, a reluctant preacher, in an important city, proclaiming
an unpopular message. Tempted to look at this and despair! They're not going to get
An Unexpected Response! (Read Jonah 3:5-9.) People of Nineveh's response? Ignore Jonah;
mock him, throw him into prison? No. Surprise! "The Ninevites believed God!" They
got it! What is the result of their belief? It takes a peculiar form: 1) Everyone
involved, from king down to lowest person, even animals involved! 2) Fast! Going
without food and water! 3) Sackcloth! Rough, burlap-like material; uncomfortable! That's
the point! 4) Call urgently on God! Desperate prayers for mercy! 5) Refrain from
wickedness! "Evil ways and violence" (image of things always close at hand, cell
phone?) "Give them up!" 6) "Who knows?" No presumption, demanding, manipulating
or coercing God; humility! Despite everything that should have kept them from doing
so, the Ninevites got it! They believed God's warning. They turned from their sins!
Application: A Miraculous Repentance! Repentance? A mourning / hatred of
sin which comes from a change of heart. Easy or difficult for a person to repent?
Look at Nineveh. No reason for them to react the way they did! (Read Matthew 19:25-26.) Jesus: Exercising repentance and faith
are impossible apart from God changing a person's heart! Some signs that
Holy Spirit is at work in your heart? 2 sided coin of belief and repentance! Repentance
shows you understand the serious situation: Your sin provokes God's wrath. Repentance
is turning away from your sins, giving them up. Faith is turning to Christ, trusting
Him to save you from sin and God's wrath. If you claim to believe in Jesus, but
haven't experienced some period of time when you felt heaviness, conviction, regret
over their sins, should reexamine your claim to be a Christian.
Believing God! Repenting of their sins! As impossible as it sounds, the people of
Nineveh got it! Have you?
Next Time: Why did God not follow through on the judgment He promised Nineveh?
When God told Jonah that Nineveh's destruction was coming soon, was He commanding
Jonah to lie? What should we do when it seems like the Bible contradicts itself?