Thoughts on God's Will From the Book of Jonah - Part 4
Sunday, June 3, 2007 -
Jonah 3:1-10 - “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying,  "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you."  So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth.  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"  And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.  The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.  And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water,  but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.  Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish."  When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.”
1. GOD IS QUICK TO GIVE JONAH ANOTHER CHANCE - He doesn't cast him aside to get somebody else. This truth fits with the doctrine of chastening. God was calling Jonah, not ruining Jonah. He was preparing him, molding his character, sharpening his commitment. God never had it in His heart to cast Jonah aside.
2. EVEN AFTER YOU'VE BEEN DELIVERED FROM THE BELLY OF A FISH, GOD'S WILL IS STILL WAITING TO BE CARRIED OUT - Jonah discovered God's plans hadn't changed. God still required his obedience. There was still a job to be done. Very clearly, you can't avoid the command of God. You can run from it, but it will follow wherever you go. God did answer Jonah's prayer for deliverance. He did not change His mind about Jonah's assignment.
3. NOTICE THE IMPORTANCE OF ONE PERSON'S LIFE IN GOD'S PLAN - A whole city was won by Jonah's simple obedience. The lesson is very direct. God was right in His call of Jonah. There was potential to which Jonah had to be awakened. There is a high wisdom to God’s call. We are always able to do God’s will if we are willing to do it. God would not have commanded Jonah to go all alone to Nineveh unless He was prepared to reward Jonah's efforts.
You may feel inadequate for the job God is calling you to. In your own strength, you probably are. The important truth to remember is that God is never uninformed or inadequate. Look at 1 Thessalonians 5:24 - “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
4. THE STEPS TOWARD RENEWAL - Here we have recorded the way lives are made right with God. These steps have never changed. They are always fruit producing, though rarely easy:
First, people must hear what God is saving about their lives. Jonah had to give the message exactly as God had commanded. Then the people had to hear it. Let's be clear about this. There is no hope for personal renewal without hearing the message of the Bible. Everything starts with having hearing ears.
Second, the people believed the message. They received it with seriousness and faith. Our text says "the Ninevites believed God." They knew they weren't just listening to Jonah. They sensed the voice of God Himself.
Third, there was a genuine sorrow for sin. There was no passing the buck, no excuse making. They had a keen sense of their guilt and shame.
Fourth, they called out to God. It's one thing to feel guilty. It's another thing to take your guilt to God in earnest prayer. They didn't call on their false gods now. Unless you go to the God of the Bible you will have confession without cleansing. This may feel therapeutic but it will never bring peace with God.
Fifth, the people were willing to forsake their sins and did so immediately. The genuineness of this repentance is seen in the way they forsook their sins before God promised to spare them.
5. THE RESULTS OF REPENTANCE - Blessing always follows repentance. God doesn't give spiritual life to rebellious hearts. We must first respond to convicting grace by confessing our sins. Then God will bless and honor our contrite hearts.
The order is spelled out in passages like 2 Chronicles 7:14 - “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”