Wednesday, January 4, 2017

TheStoryOfJonah : A Man of Simple Words 3:3b-4

I found it helpful to do a bit of research on Nineveh to gain a better understanding of perhaps why Jonah was so reluctant to go there. Wiersbe writes in his Old Testament Commentary:

'Nineveh was great in sin, for the Assyrians were known far and wide for their violence, showing no mercy to their enemies. They impaled live victims on sharp poles, leaving them to roast to death in the desert sun; they beheaded people by the thousands and stacked their skulls up in piles by the city gates; and they even skinned people alive. They respected neither age nor sex and followed a policy of killing babies and young children so they wouldn’t have to care for them (Nah. 3:10).'

Was this the reason why Jonah didn't want the job of being sent to Nineveh? Perhaps. One thought occurred to me as I read these few verses, though, that maybe there was a hesitation on Jonah's part as he might have thought he would be one of those who would be 'impaled live on sharp poles...beheaded...skinned alive'. Maybe. But truly it is a privilege to receive a call from the LORD to go - and now we see that Jonah, despite what may have happened to him, went trusting the LORD. Dare I say, where are our Nineveh's today?

Look at his message. How simple can you get?! Jonah says, 'Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.'I discovered another interesting bit of information from Wiersbe regarding this: 

'Throughout Scripture, the number forty seems to be identified with testing or judgment. During the time of Noah, it rained forty days and forty nights (Gen. 7:4, 12, 17). The Jewish spies explored Canaan forty days (Num. 14:34), and the nation of Israel was tested in the wilderness forty years (Deut. 2:7). The giant Goliath taunted the army of Israel forty days (1 Sam. 17:16), and the Lord gave the people of Nineveh forty days to repent and turn from their wickedness.'

Jonah, being a prophet, knew all about this city and about God's judgment on it (and other cities, for that matter). But I'd like to go back a few words to the 'second calling' the LORD had on Jonah's life. He fled from the first calling, and, as we've looked at it, it was pure grace that the LORD still considered Jonah worthy of this calling. Yet note what God says to Jonah: Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you (3:2). We don't read anywhere after this that Jonah and God had an additional chat. We don't read anywhere where God taps him on the shoulder and says, specifically, what He desires Jonah to say. This reminds me of Jesus' call to His disciples: ' not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you' (Matt. 10:19, 20).

Was Jonah depending on God when he said these eight words to these people? I'm not sure. But the outcome is sure, because Jonah's obedience is sure:  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 (vs. 5)

Again, we are thrust into considering the amazing grace of our LORD who, knowing what Jonah would say, decided to use Jonah, frail and disobedient as he was, anyway. This man of simple words went. He risked a day into the great city of Nineveh and the people listened. And the LORD was glorified.

Some have argued that it might have been Jonah's state of mind (and physical attributes) as to why he stated something so simple, being still rather bleached from the whale for three days, that convinced the people to listen. I do liken this to Moses coming down off the mountain, after being in the presence of God, his face shone. Jonah's face was shining of a different sort, but I do see the co-relation. Yet I would argue that it was more than a physical characteristic of  Jonah that caused the people to listen. This was the LORD in action. 

The LORD knew that He could use Jonah. Jonah, still, clearly didn't quite understand, so he used what little words he could. But even in the little words, God can be proclaimed. This reminds me of the loaves and fishes. What little we offer, but with God, how much He does with our little offering!

May we, today, share truth, even if it's small, little nuggets. The LORD is with us and can make great change to people around us, if we just simply trust in Him, with what little we have.

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