Happy first day of July! On Sabbath, we continued our series on Jonah and encountered an unexpected revival in chapter 3.
What’s clear about the book of Jonah is that it’s not just about Nineveh and its wickedness, but about Jonah and his. There are times when God calls you to do something difficult for others because it’s the only way He can save you. And that’s exactly why God called Jonah to go to Nineveh. As a prophet, Jonah was a mess. The good news is that “you serve a God who specializes in taking what cannot be and making it everything it should be by the might of His power and the work of the Holy Ghost” (Henry Wright). He makes a message out of your mess.
After a 3-day time out in the belly of the fish, Jonah was vomited onto dry land at God’s command. Rewind to Jonah 3:1-2 for what comes next. “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Notice how, in calling Jonah a second time, Yahweh graciously makes no reference to the prophet’s previous failure. It’s as if Jonah’s rebellion had never happened. Our Lord is not an “I-told-you-so” God. He’s an “I’m-telling-you-now” God. (Compare Micah 7:18, 19; 1 Cor. 13:5; Heb. 4:7.) You may have ignored God’s voice 10,000 times before, but today is the accepted time. Today is what counts. What is God saying to you today?
So how does Jonah respond to this second chance? The first time “Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish” (1:3). This time, “Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh” (3:3). Chapter one finds Jonah running from God, Chapter two Jonah runs to God. And now in chapter three Jonah runs with God. When we get on the same page with the Creator and start following His divine GPS so that we turn where He tells us to turn, and stop when He tells us to stop, and go where He tells us to go—that’s when revival happens.
Conversely, when you are not running with God you are a stumbling block to Him and are doing the works of satan. (See Mark 16:23; John 13:8.) Despite the many glaring failures of the disciples, during those ten days of prayer and repentance after Jesus’ ascension they align with heaven and the Holy Ghost falls. The entire book of Acts records the results of what happens when the broken are filled with the spirit and begin running with God. They turned the world upside down. When you run with God the impossible becomes possible! “As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 333).
In chapter 3:4-5 we see Jonah’s simple, but blunt, message: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” We also see the totally unexpected response to the message: “The Ninevites believed God.” No one in a million years, especially Jonah, would have expected this response. Nineveh experienced an unexpected revival resulting in unprecedented repentance through an unrepentant and unloving prophet. This revival had nothing to do with the power of the prophet, but everything to do with the power of God’s word.
The belief of the Ninevites led to immediate and wholehearted action. Biblical belief is more than accepting mental truth. Belief is an action of trust resulting from an experience of God’s deliverance. It is a fundamental life commitment arising out of an experience which is unshakeably true. Belief that doesn’t lead to wholehearted repentance and corresponding actions is demonic. (See James 2:19; 3:14-16.)
Finally, in verse 10, following the Ninevite’s actions, God did for the Ninevites what He had done for Jonah. He had mercy on them. Present truth for the Ninevites was God’s readiness to be merciful. This is good news for Nineveh, but not so much for Jonah.
Despite himself, Jonah was the greatest evangelist of all time. An entire city won for God! You’d think he’d be happy. But for Jonah there’s more work to be done. Perhaps one of the most wonderful truths lying at the heart of the book of Jonah is that “God turns to those who turn to him. Even more wonderful is the truth that he does not turn away from those who, like Jonah, turn away from him.”
This is a God you can believe in. One who is faithful to His Word and faithful to you—even when you are not faithful to Him. Are you ready to run with God today? –Pastor Randy