Sunday, August 6, 2017

Jonah Does the Unenvied (Part 1)

Sermon:               GM17-154

Series:                  Jonah: A Gospel of Grace

Subtitle:               Jonah Does the Unenvied (Part 1)

Scripture:            Jonah 3:1-10

Subject:               Jonah uses four illustrations of God’s grace to motivate his readers to repent of their sin

Scrutiny:              How does God demonstrate His grace?

Solution:              There are four ways in this passage that demonstrates the display of God’s grace

Sketch:                 1A     through the renewal of the commission (1-2) God gives                Jonah a second chance to obey him. Throughout Scripture                God is portrayed as a God of a second chance.                         

2A     through the response of the courier (3-4) Jonah obeys God’s call the second time. He travels to Nineveh as a living testimony of God’s grace. Jonah proclaims the Word of God to the Ninevites.

3A     through the repentance of the citizens (5-9) The citizens of Nineveh believe the Word of God proclaimed by Jonah. From the King to the lowest citizen they demonstrate their repentance by their attitude and their actions. Everyone, including the animals wear the outward signs of inward repentance.

4A     through the restraint of the creator (10) God observes the attitude and the actions of the Ninevites. God chooses to relent from performing His judgment upon the citizens and the city.

Scheme:               To provide examples of God’s grace as motivation to repent of sin in order to maintain a right relationship with God

Statement:           God is gracious


Jonah Does the Unenvied (Part 1)


Jonah 3:1-10 (Repeat)


Our theme for today is God is gracious


Timothy Paul Jones, the co-author of a book called Proof, tells a story about taking his adopted daughter to Disneyland as an illustration of what he calls “outrageous grace.” It is somewhat lengthy, but bear with me, I think it is worth the time to hear this. He begins with this statement:

I never dreamed that taking a child to Disney World could be so difficult — or that such a trip could teach me so much about God’s outrageous grace.

Our middle daughter had been previously adopted by another family. I [Timothy] am sure this couple had the best of intentions, but they never quite integrated the adopted child into their family of biological children. After a couple of rough years, they dissolved the adoption, and we ended up welcoming an eight-year-old girl into our home.

For one reason or another, whenever our daughter’s previous family vacationed at Disney World, they took their biological children with them, but they left their adopted daughter with a family friend. Usually — at least in the child’s mind — this happened because she did something wrong that precluded her presence on the trip.

And so, by the time we adopted our daughter, she had seen many pictures of Disney World and she had heard about the rides and the characters and the parades. But when it came to passing through the gates of the Magic Kingdom, she had always been the one left on the outside. Once I found out about this history, I made plans to take her to Disney World the next time a speaking engagement took our family to the southeastern United States.

I didn’t expect was that the prospect of visiting this dream world would produce a stream of downright devilish behavior in our newest daughter. In the month leading up to our trip to the Magic Kingdom, she stole food when a simple request would have gained her a snack. She lied when it would have been easier to tell the truth. She whispered insults that were carefully crafted to hurt her older sister as deeply as possible — and, as the days on the calendar moved closer to the trip, her mutinies multiplied.

A couple of days before our family headed to Florida, I pulled our daughter into my lap to talk through her latest escapade. “I know what you’re going to do,” she stated flatly. “You’re not going to take me to Disney World, are you?” The thought hadn’t actually crossed my mind, but her downward spiral suddenly started to make some sense. She knew she couldn’t earn her way into the Magic Kingdom — she had tried and failed that test several times before — so she was living in a way that placed her as far as possible from the most magical place on earth.

I asked her, “Is this trip something we’re doing as a family?”

She nodded, brown eyes wide and tear-rimmed.

“Are you part of this family?”

She nodded again.

“Then you’re going with us. Sure, there may be some consequences to help you remember what’s right and what’s wrong — but you’re part of our family, and we’re not leaving you behind.”

In our hotel room that evening, a very different child emerged. She was exhausted, pensive, and a little weepy at times, but her month-long facade of rebellion had faded. When bedtime rolled around, I prayed with her, held her, and asked, “So how was your first day at Disney World?”

She closed her eyes and snuggled down into her stuffed unicorn. After a few moments, she opened her eyes ever so slightly. “Daddy,” she said, “I finally got to go to Disney World. But it wasn’t because I was good; it’s because I’m yours.”

It wasn’t because I was good; it’s because I’m yours.

That’s the message of outrageous grace. 

Raise a Need

The Ninevites needed outrageous grace. Their sin had become so odious and obnoxious to God that He was going to destroy them and their city. The only thing that could spare them would be the outrageous grace of God.

We were no different than the Ninevites. Our sin was just as odious and obnoxious to God. We loved our sin, we loved darkness, and we hated the light that exposed our sin.

The problem that we must realize is that outrageous grace isn’t a favor you can achieve by being good; it’s the gift you receive by being God’s. Outrageous grace is God’s goodness that comes looking for you when you have nothing but a middle finger flipped in the face of God to offer in return.

Orient the Text

This morning, I want to speak to you about God’s outrageous grace.

God’s outrageous grace is almost impossible to conceive in our minds. But we have several examples of God’s outrageous grace in the Bible. What is God’s grace like?

It’s a farmer paying a full day’s wages to a crew of day laborers with only a single hour punched on their time cards (Matthew 20:1 – 16).

 It’s a man marrying an abandoned woman and then refusing to forsake his covenant with her when she turns out to be a whore (Ezekiel 16:8 – 63; Hosea 1:1 — 3:5).

It’s the insanity of a shepherd who puts ninety-nine sheep at risk to rescue the single lamb that’s won’t stay with the flock (Luke 15:1 – 7).

It’s the love of a father who hands over his finest rings and robes to a young man who has squandered his inheritance on drunken binges with his fair-weather friends (Luke 15:11 – 32)

It’s one-way love that calls you into the kingdom not because you’ve been good but because God has chosen you and made you his own. And now he is chasing you to the ends of the earth to keep you as his child, and nothing in heaven or hell can ever stop him…

 God commissioned Jonah, not once, but twice, to take a message of judgment to the citizens of Nineveh. God had determined to completely destroy the city and everything in it. So, he sent Jonah, after a temporary delay via the belly of a great fish, to inform the Ninevites that He was going to destroy them in forty (40) days.

But the Ninevites do something very unusual. They repent. They don’t try to bargain with God, earn God’s favor, or even plead with him. They repent. Their repentance results in God extending outrageous grace and relenting from destroying them. These people may have deserved to be destroyed as much or more than the people of Sodom or Gomorrah or all of the people on earth when God destroyed the earth by a universal flood.

But God was gracious. In this chapter we will see the outrageous grace of God. As a matter of fact, Jonah uses four illustrations of God’s grace to motivate his readers to repent of their sin.

And so, the question we have to ask ourselves is, “How does God demonstrate His grace?”

There are four ways in this passage that demonstrates the display of God’s grace; He demonstrates His outrageous grace…

1A     … through the renewal of the commission (1-2) God gives Jonah a second chance to obey Him. Throughout Scripture God is portrayed as a God of “a second chance.”

2A     …through the response of the courier (3-4) Jonah obeys God’s call the second time. He travels to Nineveh as a living testimony of God’s grace. Jonah proclaims the Word of God to the Ninevites.

3A     …through the repentance of the citizens (5-9) The citizens of Nineveh believe the Word of God proclaimed by Jonah. From the King to the lowest citizen they demonstrate their repentance by their attitude and their actions. Everyone, including the animals wear the outward signs of inward repentance.

4A     …through the restraint of the creator (10) God observes the attitude and the actions of the Ninevites. God relents from performing His judgment upon the citizens and the city.

And so, my purpose this morning is to use these examples of God’s grace as motivation in order for you to repent regularly of sin in order to maintain a right relationship with God at all times.

Our theme this morning is:      God is gracious

[To prove that God is gracious, let’s begin with the first way that demonstrates the outrageous grace of God, and that is…]

1A     …through the renewal of the commission (Vss. 1-2)

Throughout Scripture God is portrayed as a God of a second chance. God gives Jonah a second chance to obey him.

When we look closely at verses one and two we are able to clearly see two things; first…

1B     God gives Jonah a second chance (1)

                    “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time…”

It is amazing that Jonah is given a second chance by God to do His will. I think we would all agree that God was under no obligation or compulsion to grant Jonah a second opportunity to do God’s will. A second chance is purely a result of God’s unimaginable and indescribable grace.

God could have allowed Jonah to drown in the Mediterranean Sea. He could have allowed Jonah to be digested by the large fish that had swallowed him. Even though God had preserved Jonah and spared his life, he could have sent him back home and used another prophet. A prophet willing and eager to do God’s will.

But, Jonah has been made willing to be obedient. God has made Jonah willing to serve. Nearly drowning in the Mediterrean Sea and having been swallowed by a huge fish was enough for Jonah.

Jonah has been to school, he has graduated from the school of God’s grace. These first couple of verses show us just how gracious God really is. This second chance tells us a lot about God’s grace.

O. Palmer Robertson wrote, “God forgets, and never holds the thing against you. Think of how wonderful are the implications of that one fact for your life.

God simply does not hold grudges against people who humble themselves and ask his forgiveness through Jesus Christ.” [1]

Jonah was given a second chance. So many of God’s people are given second, third, tenth, or even seventy-seven chances. There doesn’t seem to a single word of rebuke or reproach mentioned for Jonah’s previous sinful disobedience.

[For example:]

Abraham was given a second chance when as he was travelling to the land God was going to show him and given him, he stopped short of the Promised Land in Haran. But God called him to go forward from Haran and go to the Promised Land.

Moses was given a second chance to serve God. Remember, he killed an Egyptian and fled into the desert. But God chose Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.

Peter was given another chance. He denied knowing Jesus and being associated with him not once, but three times. God certainly used Peter in more ways than one.

God had given to you and to me second chances and third chances and more. There is nothing more encouraging than to know that each time I sin, if I confess and repent of that sin, God is not only willing to forgive me, but God will continue to use me in his eternal plan and purpose.

Jonah was a “changed” man. Even though God hates sin, God will allow his children to at times fall into sin order to call us to repentance and when we have repented, we will have been made ready by God to eagerly and even joyfully serve him. 

[Well, God not only gave Jonah a second chance, but…]

                   2B     God Gives Jonah A Second Charge (2)

“…saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.”

1C     The Declaration of the Charge

This second charge is almost identical to the first charge that God have given to Jonah. It does appear however, that the content of this charge was going to be given to Jonah at a later time. Maybe, God would reveal it to him when he arrived at Nineveh.
First of all, we don’t need to think that God gave this second charge immediately after Jonah was delivered up on the bank by the fish. It wouldn’t be wrong or out of place to think that Jonah was given a little time of recuperation from this very physical ordeal. Jonah might have needed a little time to think through the spiritual ramifications of this very harrowing event.

Secondly, even though God does seem to be a God of second chances, we cannot presume upon the idea that we will always be entitled to a second chance.  Not everyone received a second chance. God may not give you a second chance to obey Him.

[For example:]

·        Moses did not get to enter the Promised Land after he struck the rock twice.

·        Saul did not get a second chance to remain as king after he invaded the office of the priesthood and sacrificed instead of waiting for Samuel

·        Ananias and Sapphira did not get a second chance after lying to the Holy Spirit or to give the portion of money they had kept for themselves.

God does not have to give anyone a second chance or second charge. We should carefully meditate on why God gave Jonah a second opportunity at all. Again, he could have used anyone else. And so, we cannot assume that if we choose to disobey God’s charge that even if we repent, that we will be given a second charge.

But Jonah was charged a second time to get up, stand up, rise up and travel to Nineveh and preach to it the sermon that God will give to him.

J. Baldwin observed, “He will not be frustrated by the effrontery of a prophet, nor has he allowed the prophet to wander indefinitely off course.” [2]

And, so the stress was placed on delivering God’s words, God’s message to the people in Nineveh.

The clause, “…that I tell you…” literally says, “which I am speaking (or about to speak) to you. We don’t know for sure if this was the same message Jonah was to preach or if God had any reason to alter it.

What we do know is that God promised to reveal to Jonah exactly what Jonah was to proclaim to the citizens of Nineveh. And that Jonah was commanded or charged to preach that exact message.

It may not have been a sermon, or a message as much as it was probably a proclamation or an announcement. The verb indicates it was probably a formal type of announcement. This may have been the type of announcement that an ambassador or official messenger delivers. Nevertheless, this is an extremely important announcement from the God of heaven.

[And so, we see this second chance and second charge declared to Jonah by God. We also see…]
                   2C     The Description of the City

“…go to Nineveh, that great city… Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three day journey in extent.”

Jonah interrupts the flow of his recommission by telling his readers something about Nineveh.

Jonah describes this city as great. Great in the world, and the verbiage implies that it was great to God.

First of all, Nineveh was actually destroyed in 612 BC. As a matter of fact it was so destroyed that Xenophon (Greek philosopher, historian, soldier and mercenary, and a student of Socrates) in 401 BC walked right by the site where Nineveh use to be and did not even realize it.

Second, a man named Diodorus Siculus recorded that the walls of the city were about 55 miles in circumference. Some believe this is an incorrect figure and place the walls about 3 ½ miles in circumference,

Third, the population was said to be 120,000.

Fourth, Nineveh was situated on the eastern riverbank of the Tigris River, close to the source of the river on Mt. Ararat. It was probably near the modern day city of Mosul, which is in northern Iraq.

Fifth, it was one of the first cities built after the universal flood and the earth had been repopulated. It was probably built by Nimrod (Gen 10:1-12)

Sixth, we have already mentioned that Nineveh was extremely cruel and abusive, particularly to its enemies and those it conquered. 

So, God displays His outrageous grace through renewing the commission to Jonah to be a part of His eternal plan. Remember, our theme for this morning, is God is gracious!

[God is gracious, let’s move to the second way that demonstrates the outrageous grace of God, and that is…]

2A     …through the response of the courier (3-4)

“So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh…”

1B     the Departure of Jonah

God appears to Jonah a second time and recommissions Jonah, and this time Jonah arises and his response is immediate. We don’t exactly how long after Jonah was spit up on the bank of the Mediterranean Sea he was visited by God, but when God did visit him, he got up and went to Nineveh.

Jonah probably followed the great caravan trail that went to the area of the upper Tigris River. If Jonah started his journey back in his home town he would have had to travel about 500 miles.

First and real quick, there is no reason to think that this narrative was written later than the life time of Jonah. Some want to make a big deal out of the verb “was” and determine that this narrative was written after 612 BC when the city was destroyed.

The Hebrew verb tenses are completely different than say Greek verb tenses. There are really no tenses in Hebrew, at least there is no real past tense verb in Hebrew. As far as Jonah was concerned, Nineveh was a very great city. 

2B     the Direction of Jehovah

          “…according to the Word of the LORD…”

Jonah complies with the will of God. There is a new willingness to be obedient to God and to do just as God commands. Jonah does not argue, dissent, complain, or question God’s second commission and charge. Jonah gets up and heads out the door – he points his nose toward Nineveh and off he goes.

Of course this is the way that each one of us should obey God. God is not going to speak to us directly or verbally. He speaks to us through His Word. Our response to be exactly the same – according to the Word of the LORD!

God does not leave room for our editorializing, altering, or rejecting His Word. God gave new directions, or at least repeated His original directions and Jonah apparently carried them out immediately.

3B     the Declaration of Jonah (4)

“And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”

Jonah certainly responded to God’s direction and commission.

·        First – Jonah got up and traveled to the city of Nineveh
·        Second – Jonah proclaimed God’s message to Nineveh

First, we need to understand that our text is not saying that Jonah completed a full day’s journey into the city before he began declaring or proclaiming God’s Word.

It seems to mean that Jonah began preaching or declaring God’s word at the beginning of his entrance into the city. Jonah probably wandered around the city from location to location preaching all around this large city. It may have taken three (3) to walk around the entire city and preach in every quarter or section of the city.

Second – Jonah’s message was extremely brief. In the Hebrew his message was just five (5) words. (I have never preached and will never preach a five (5) word message, so don’t get your hopes up!)

His message was brief, terse, and seemingly unrelenting.

His main point is that the city is going to be destroyed. The word destroyed was used to indicate overturned, destroyed from the very foundation.

According to Keil & Delitzsch the same Hebrew word was used for the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah. He stated that forty (40) days was the time frame.

This in itself I think is amazing. For three (3) this Jewish prophet is walking around this large Gentile city known for its absolute cruelty & debauchery.

Only by the grace of God was Jonah spared torture or death. There is no record of ridicule, rejection, or retribution. Jonah must have had a huge helping of grace and moxi from Jehovah, proving you and God are a majority.

John Calvin wrote, “He is not now moved in any degree by the greatness of the city, but resolutely follows where the LORD leads. We hence see that faith, when once it gains the ascendancy in our hearts, surmounts all obstacles, and despises all the greatness of the world.” [3]

Let’s stop for a minute and ask, ‘Why forty (40) days?” Most scholars assign the number forty (40) to a waiting period for God, a testing period.

[For example:]

·        The nation of Israel wandered in the desert or wilderness for 40 days
·        Jesus was tempted, tested in the wilderness for forty (40) days
·        Moses spent forty (40) days in prayer before God (Deut. 9:18)

I don’t know why God decreed and declared forty (40) days, but the interval was actually grace given by God. Here God again shows his outrageous grace!

Leslie C. Allen recorded this observation from a man named W. Zimmerli in an essay he had written,

“The tension-laden interval between the delivery of the message and is fulfilment was to be understood by the Ninevites listener as a time when it would be possible for him to bend himself to the will of the one who sends the message.” [4]

Here we have Jonah walking around a city, preaching a five (5) word message of doom and destruction. Allen also comments;

“Lost like a needle in a haystack inside this gigantic Vanity Fair, this Sodom of a city, the tiny figure feels he can go no further. He stops and shouts out the laconic message with which he has been entrusted.” [5]

And if you look at verse four (4) Jonah does not even call the Ninevites to repentance. It is possible Jonah preached this message hoping God would destroy the city. After all he didn’t want to be there in the first place.

[What do you say we wrap this up?]


Well, Jonah obeys God, travels some five hundred (500) miles to this huge, dangerous, sinful, and Gentile city. He walks around the city for three days preaching that in forty (40) days, God will overturn or destroy the city.

A reasonable time has been given to consider God’s message with the possibility of a response. 

We began by asking the question, “How does God demonstrate His grace?”

The answer was clear, in this passage there are four ways that demonstrate the display of God’s grace; first through the renewal of the commission (1-2) God gives Jonah a second chance to obey him. Throughout Scripture God is portrayed as a God of a second chance.

Second, through the response of the courier (3-4) Jonah obeys God’s call the second time. He travels to Nineveh as a living testimony of God’s grace. Jonah proclaims the Word of God to the Ninevites.

 Remember, our theme for this morning was God is gracious!

Next week, Lord willing, we will examine the Ninevites response to Jonah’s brief, brutal, and bold message of doom – we will examine, the repentance of the citizens.

Let’s pray! J

Father, please, help us today to realize that you are a God of a second chance. There may be many times we fail and we sin through disobedience, but you are always ready to forgive us. We are very thankful that you have recorded many people who have failed you and yet you forgave their sin and you continued to love them and even to use them.

Father, we are great full and we thank you for being so longsuffering, kind, loving, and so gracious even to sinners such as us. Thank you for delighting in giving us second chances.

Father, help us to follow Jonah’s example of responding to his great opportunity of his second chance. May you always remind us and enable us regardless of how dark, how desperate, or how devastating our failure may have been to always respond to your grace through immediate obedience.

Thank you for being so loving and so gracious to us! Thank you for giving Jonah a second chance.


[1] O. Palmer Robinson, Jonah: A Study in Compassion, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1990), p. 42
[2] J. Baldwin, Jonah: The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary), ed. T. E. McComiskey (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), , 2:576
[3] Calvin, The Minor Prophets, 3:93
[4] W. Zimmerli, in Essays on OT Hermeneutics, ed. C. Westerman (E. T. 1963) pp. 101f
[5] Allen, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah, 222

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