Contend Earnestly: Jonah Pt. 7; A City's Response

Friday, December 22, 2006

Jonah Pt. 7; A City's Response

Jonah had been reminded that the severe limit of a prophet's words are to "proclaim...the proclamation which (God) tells (him)". With this clarified mission, "Jonah arose and went to Nineveh".

We are told of the greatness of this city. This, in no way, refers to its virtue as we will see at the end of chapter 3. It is great, not only in geographical size, but also with a large amount of inhabitants. Souls who are about to fall under God's terrible wrath. But in His mercy, He sends a warning. The text tells us in verse 3 that it will take Jonah three days to simply walk the territory of the city. But notice the immediacy of the people's response:

vss 4-5:
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." Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.

On the first day of his proclamation, the people respond. The rapidity with which the word spread through the city indicates that the people themselves took up the message and proclaimed the proclamation to others. All people were affected; "the greatest to the least of them". And they all were terrified and responded in repentance, as they called a fast and put on sackcloth. Some critics have seen reason to doubt the historicity of this account because of the quick, repentance of the people. There are two truths in this passage that would teach us that the speed of response is not a reason to doubt the truth of these words, but in actuality serve as a rebuke to the easy believism so popular in ministry today. Need we be reminded that it is by the living and active word of God that people are opened and "laid bare" (Heb 4:12-13)? It is His word that produces the good work of repentance!

2 Tim 2:24-25
"The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth"

2 Cor 7:10
"For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation"

But also note that Jonah does not say that the destruction will begin in 40 days, he says the city will be overthrown in (or by the end of) 40 days. The destruction could begin at any time. And so from both the human and Divine perspective, it is fitting and right for a rapid response. It is indeed amazing that in such a few words, God turns a city to Himself. Oh the power of the word of God!

Ps 29:5
"The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; Yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. "

In our next installment we will focus on the King, as he will have much to teach us in regards to examining repentance. As we see the response of this man, we will learn, as the Apostle Paul’s commands, how to test ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2 Cor 13:5).


Anonymous said...

Yes, I think Jonah gets the prize for the shortest sermon in history: 5 words! I think this is evidence of his continued disobedience. He obeys the letter of God's law to him (preach to Niniveh), but does not hold to the spirit at all (preach a message of repentance and compassion). The power of God is shown in that 5 words is sufficient if the Holy Spirit will work. This is a good lesson perhaps, to those who think that longer (or shorter) is better: it really has nothing to do with it. The Holy Spirit is everything.

Justin Evans said...

The aspect of the work of the Holy Spirit has been so neglected in conservative circles because of our worry of association with the charismatics. This is unfortunate, because through this trend we cut ourselves off from knowing more about Him.

In terms of the work of the Spirit related to the length of the sermon, I agree. It is not our length, brevity, clarity or oratory skills. From our human standpoint, however, I believe that if we truly believe that we feed on every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Father (Matt 4:4), then we are called to an expository ministry. Because of this, I believe that most of our messages will be longer rather than shorter (of course there are times where the Spirit will lead us or our circumstances differently).

Steve Lawson commented that to properly deal with a text of Scripture (introduction, background, context, exposition, transitions, conclusion and application) we cannot do this in a "short" amount of time. I would not be willing to place a minute figure on this, but I think the concept is valid. For most of our messages, I believe this is an important consideration in terms of what the length should be.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree, Justin. We do not want to put any obstacles in the way of the preaching, like Jonah was trying to do (not give enough information for them to really understand).

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