Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”
This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all.
Having received the miraculous expulsion from the fish Jonah finds himself on dry land. There is no mention of how he was feeling or what he looked like. Did Jonah expect things to go this way? How long did it take for him to compose himself? The Jonah narrative does not answer any of these question but we can surmise that there would have been a brief period where Jonah sought to regain his senses.
At the end of Jonah’s prayer in chapter two Jonah shouts ‘Salvation comes only from the Lord’ – This is the central verse of the book of Jonah. If someone is saved it is wholly of God’s doing. No one else’s. What is ironic about this statement is that as we look at the second half of the book we soon learn that Jonah has not grasped grace as deeply as we think he has. Jonah is released from the fish yet his repentance is only partial. Yet God still works with Jonah, even though he is flawed and thoughtless. What a picture we have here. I know that as a pastor I find comfort in that. I don’t always get it right but God will still use me to build his kingdom. The same applies to you – God will use you. The question we have to answer is do we need to go through the belly of the fish experience for us to say yes to God?
What does God’s willingness to use Jonah teach us about his character?
Why does God give Jonah a second chance?
What second chance is God giving you today?
Jonah is a book that is divided into two halves, chapter 3 marks the beginning of the second half. Chapter one and chapter three both begin with an almost identical call to Jonah from God. Get up and go to the city of Nineveh. After his experience in the belly of the fish Jonah repented, was washed ashore and went to Nineveh to preach. God, full of mercy, offers Jonah a second chance. Jonah was back where he began. There is no mention of reproach for Jonahs disobedience. God simply repeats his command. In the bible not everyone is given a second chance (Genesis 3, Numbers 20:12, 1 Kings 13:26). This text however should give us all a sense of thanksgiving. The events of verse one point to God’s sovereignty and his insistence on the accomplishment of his will. God is not frustrated at Jonah, nor has he allowed him to go too far off course.
How do you think Jonah felt about having a second chance?
Has Jonah truly repented? Why?
Jonah recognised God’s voice, how did he know God was speaking to him again? How do you know when God is speaking to you?
Arise, go and proclaim. The call from God in 3:2 is almost identical to the one Jonah received in 1:2. In 1:2 the reason for Jonah’s mission is given, to go to Nineveh and tell them how evil they are. In 3:2 the stress on the call from God is to Jonah to delver God’s words. Jonah is told where to go and what the source of the message will be. The message does not come from Jonah. It’s not about him, it’s about God. Jonah’s job was just to deliver it. Not critique it or revise it. This is a perfect example of why God leads us one step at a time. When God told Jonah what he needed to say, Jonah ran. God often tells us only what we can handle at the time.
Do you ever get frustrated with not getting a clear answer/direction from God? How do you process that?
Why do you think Jonah was quick to obey the second time God spoke?
Serving God and going to Nineveh was a much better place for Jonah to be than in the belly of a fish. In the life of a church we often talk about burn out. It happens to a group of people or an individual who spends countless hours serving at a church without any benefit or reward. If you have been around church world it may have happened to you. It is something that I am constantly thinking about as a pastor. How can I make sure the saints don’t burn out? But the story of Jonah has an interesting little twist to this. Running from God caused Jonah’s “burnout”. He came to the realisation that serving God in the violent city of Nineveh was safer. Serving God can be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding things we do, it gives us drive, determination and purpose. But that doesn’t mean we don’t get tired, disinterested and disheartened. Jonah was called to proclaim God’s goodness and sometimes that is all we can do when we feel like the world is against us – Salvation comes from the Lord.
How can you claim God’s goodness when life is tough?
Write down the blessings you are thankful for.
Where are you willing to serve to build God’s kingdom?
In Acts 10:5-6 Peter revives a vision to enter the realm of the ceremonially unclean and take the gospel to the gentiles. The location for this dream was Joppa. The same Joppa Jonah fled to when he was called to tell gentiles in Nineveh about God. In Jonah 3:3 he finally arrives in Nineveh. Depending upon Jonah’s starting place, the trip to Nineveh would have been approximately five hundred land miles. According to the usual manner of transport (camel or donkey caravan), it would have taken approximately one month to traverse this distance. Going by foot would have taken even longer. Spoiler alert but a major theme in the book of Jonah is that God’s inclusive mercy is for everyone. Even those who have hurt or harmed you in the past.
Why did God give Nineveh a chance to repent?
What can we learn about God through the story of Jonah so far?
Reflect on where you have seen God this week. What have you learnt about him? . What has God shown you that you need to do, but you haven’t yet done? What will you do to obey God immediately?