“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time” (John 3:1). I can honestly say I am grateful that God is merciful and patient. I cannot count the times in my life where I knew God wanted me to do a certain “thing” and I didn’t do it. Yet, he pursued me again to do so. There is a big downside to being disobedient. You often do what you should do, but only after some discomfort in your life. For Jonah, his discomfort was in the belly of a fish, and it seems that made him a little more apt to hear.
We learn too often by disobedience. One would think we would get it after a time or two. God’s message to Jonah had not changed or been altered to fit what he desired: “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you” (Jonah 3:2).
“So Jonah arose and went” (Jonah 3:3). It seems he heard and obeyed this time. Being in the belly of a fish might do that to a man. The question arises for us today, will you obey now or later? What will it take for you to be obedient to the Lord’s commands? You will not escape God’s will for your life. You can run, but you can’t hide.
What Was His Message?
Obviously, God had given Jonah specific instructions to carry out. He spoke of judgment. In Matthew, John the Baptist came preaching “repent for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt 3:2). John didn’t alter the message. Jonah didn’t alter the message either but proclaimed what God had said. This raises the question for us today, why don’t we proclaim what the Scriptures say? Why do some feel a need to culturally alter the words of Scripture?
It’s important today to not deviate from the message of Scripture. Too many are doing this in the pulpit. Jonah’s second opportunity to do what God commanded, demonstrated his obedience to tell exactly what God had said: “Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4).
His message wasn’t weak; it was the declaration of judgement. God was going to judge this city. Today, why do men think compromising the message of Scripture is beneficial? Whatever the reason, there is no excuse to change what God has clearly stated in the text to make it more acceptable to a culture that doesn’t know God. An altered message won’t present a true gospel message. It will lead people to a false sense of salvation that’s based upon something they have done or will do. What happened when Jonah proclaimed God’s message?
What Was The Response?
“Then the people of Nineveh believed in God” (Jonah 3:5). The conjunction “then” signifies they believed after they heard the truth from God’s Word. The king would proclaim for men to repent. What a wonderful story of conversion. The fear of judgement struck the hearts of the entire city, “and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands” (Jonah 3:8).
When the Word of the Lord is proclaimed, it will produce true repentance. Although Jonah’s message was short and somewhat out of “have to” than “want to,” God’s Word didn’t return void. It seems to me that if men will preach what God says, he will do the work. It is only God who can turn a man’s heart to repentance. It is the preaching of his Word that brings about a turning, as in the case of the people of Nineveh.
Our case for proclaiming the gospel is clear, preach what God says. In the case of Jonah, he did just that. What’s comforting to me is that God’s Word will be powerful no matter how I speak it. If I stumble in my voice or I am short in my message, he still uses it.