As we continue our study of Jonah chapter 3 (“Jonah’s Preaching”), I’m reminded of the statement by the American humorist Will Rogers (I think) who said, “I refuse to accept my religion from anyone who earns his living only by the sweat of his jaw!” The three elements of a calling, an audience, and a message are given to Jonah. Now it was his choice to go . . . and sweat!
We receive a few details about the city of Nineveh. It is called “a very large city” and that it took three days to go through it. I wonder what that felt like for Jonah, a Jew, to walk into the capital city of Assyria, a nation that would enslave Jonah’s own people within several decades!
And his message was not some positive-thinking, your-best-life-today sermon! His message was a brief eight words: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” Forty days. Forty more days! Although the text doesn’t tell us, I suspect that the only words in Assyrian that Jonah learned were those eight words. It is very clear from his reaction in chapter four that he did not want the Ninevites to repent.
If people came up to him and began asking him questions, “Forty days from right now?! What do you mean, ‘overthrown’?, What can we do? How do we avoid such a judgment?”, I think Jonah had no answers in their language. He just wanted them judged!
The Bible says that judgment is God’s “strange work” (Is. 28:21 KJV). John 3 says that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through [Jesus].” (v. 17). God prefers to save. And, aren’t you and I glad? (to be continued)