We are in the third week of a series called “Jonah”, as we’re studying through the book of Jonah. Just to recap… Jonah was a prophet. God asked him to go to Ninevah and ask the people to repent. Jonah hated Ninevah because they were the enemies of Israel and had violently killed so many Israelites. Jonah hopped a ship in the opposite direction and then ended up being thrown off the ship. A big fish came and grabbed him up and spit him out on the shore. That’s where we pick up the story this week.
Let’s start in Jonah 3:1. Scripture says this. 1 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time. Circle those words “a second time”, if you will. The word of the Lord came to him again, a second time. The one who did not deserve a second chance got a second chance from God. A lot of people I know won’t give people a second chance. “Well, you mess me over, and I’m going to draw a line in the sand, and I’m going to write you off.” That’s the way a lot of us are, but God is a God of second chances. That’s the first thing I want you to know this morning.
I can’t tell you how many different times God came to me throughout the years. God is going to come to some of you a second chance. There are those of you that you have never, ever surrendered your life to God, and He is coming to you again, today, at this moment. Others of you, like Jonah, you’ve been in fellowship with God, but you’ve been disobedient. In the last chapter, Jonah said, “What I have vowed, I will make good.” And today, there will be those of you that you will say, “You know, I am coming back to God. I am going to do what He called me to do. God is coming to me a second time.”
As a child, I remember God coming to me many times, especially as a pastor’s kid. God came to me at VBS, I ignored him. God came to me on a youth retreat. I ignored him. God came to me at an Easter worship service, I was tempted, but I still said no. God came to me at a youth summer camp and he almost got into my heart, but I still turned him down in the end. Finally, after a series of unfortunate events God once again presented himself to me at a conference I was attending at a hotel and I knelt down and asked him to come take control of my life.
There are those of you, you will experience the grace of God today, much like … who knows what an etch-a-sketch is? Do you know what an etch-a-sketch is? It’s where you turn these little knobs and you can write these little things, and then you can shake it and it goes away. God gives you a second chance, clears the slate. None of us deserve the grace of God. The word of the Lord will come to you a second time.
Verse 2, 2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.
Circle the word “go”. Whenever God comes to you a second time, and gives you another chance, you go now. You say, “Yes, Lord. Immediately,” because if you don’t know go now, you may talk yourself out of what God wants you to do.
There are those of you that, if you will listen to the Spirit of God, you will recognize there is something that God wants you to do, to reach out to someone, or to apologize to someone, or to give something away, or to repent of some sin, or to make something right. Go now. Do it immediately. “Pick up everything and go now to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim the message that I give to you.”
Verse 3, Jonah got it right. 3Jonah obeyed the word of the Lordand went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.4Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
The Bible says “Jonah began by going.” Circle the word going and write this above it. Chalalbow. Very literally, in the Hebrew language means to untie or to loosen, so that you can go. Go now, and he chalalbow, he started. He had to let go of his own desires, chalalbow, so that he could do exactly what God had called him to do. Some of you are going to need to chalalbow. You are going to need to untie yourself, unravel yourself, and let go of something so you can do what God calls you to do. I don’t know what that would be for you. Could be that you are holding on to self-will. “I am going to do what I want to do no matter what.” It could be that you are holding on to your reputation, what other people think of you. “Well, if I do what I think God wants me to do, they’re going to think I’ve lost it,” and you have to let go.
In my world, in order for God to continue to expand, I have to let go of control, because I like to be in control.
Now, imagine this. Imagine him walking forward and he’s going, “Okay, I’m going to have to preach a message to these people, who are probably going to kill me.” That’s what had to be going through his mind. And he’s scared to death, walking in, and he preaches what God tells him to preach.
Scripture says this: “He proclaimed, forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” Forty more days. Eight words in English. It’s actually five words in the Hebrew language. This message was short. It was direct, and it was offensive. A lot of sermons in our country would probably be better if they were short, direct, and offensive.
Forty days, and you will be overturned. Forty days. Now, the word overturned in the Hebrew language, it’s a word that had a double meaning. For instance, like, you could say a bar. What is a bar? Well, it could be a bar of soap. It could be a bar where you get a drink. A bar has different meanings. This word, when he used it, he used it because God gave it to him. It is the word “hippock”. In forty days you will be hippock, and this word can either mean overturned and destroyed, or it can mean overturned and changed. The prophetic message from God: “Forty days and you will be either be destroyed or you will be forever changed. What’s it going to be?” Forty days. Notice, the time was ticking with the mercy of God. God’s mercy, you need to understand, is a limited time offer. You don’t have forever. You don’t even have a promise of tomorrow. There is no promise you will wake up tomorrow. The mercy of God is a limited time offer.
And then, verse 5 would have been one of the most difficult verses for anyone living in this time to even believe. Verse 5 says,5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
Notice, they didn’t even believe Jonah. They believed God. You need to understand, for a first-time reader to read this, they would have said, “No stinking way. No way.” They would have said, “I don’t believe that. There is no way, ever, the Ninevites would turn to God.” That would be like me saying to you, “Howard Stern is now in Christian radio, and he has a talk show about sexual purity.” You know, I don’t think so. It’d be like me saying, “Tom Cruse is now a Christian evangelist.” Okay? No, even more so, even more so, it would be like saying all of Hollywood are now followers of Jesus. That’s what it would be like saying, or like everybody on the strip at Vegas is now worshipping Jesus and they’ve turned all the casinos into houses of worship and places to give to the poor. That’s what we’re saying.
They fasted, which was a symbol of humility and repentance and a desire to see and to hear from God, and they put on sackcloth, which was actually made of goat’s hair. Okay? It was very bad material, okay? It would have been the most miserable, itchy, burlap type of stuff, and they’re saying, “We repent. We are not even worthy to be in normal clothes. We must ache and we must have a continual reminder, a physical reminder of our sin.”
Then look with me at verses 6 through verse 9. 6When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:“By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
Who knows? God might give us a second chance. God might have mercy on us.
We need to repent for our self-centered materialistic drive. Repent for our ungodliness. I wish God would speak through me prophetically, in a way. “Forty days and you’ll be overturned,” and I wish that our church would call urgently on God. Maybe it needs to start with me. I don’t know. Either Jesus is who He says He is, or this is all a big joke, and if He is who He says He is, which is Lord of all, and we should take up our crosses and we should follow Him, then let us be a people who do it, and if you don’t want to, stop coming to be entertained and just stay home. Don’t waste your time and don’t waste ours.
Jonah comes out preaching fire, and the Ninevites, the people who were farthest from God, said, “We are going to turn to God”. There are those of you right now that most people say you are so far from God you’d never come to God. And inside, you know you’re so close. Sometimes, those who appear the farthest are actually the closest. Let your heart break. The Ninevites repent and here we see the grace of God. Verse 1, God showed Jonah grace.
Verse 10, we see God show Nineveh grace, 10When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. God gave them a second chance, and I pray that God gives me a second chance, that the next ten years of my leadership would bear more spiritual fruit, not just people coming to Christ, but people growing up in Christ and becoming like Christ and that we will not just go to church, but we will be the church. God is coming to us a second time. God is giving us a second chance. If we repent and we turn to Him, watch as He does more than we could ever imagine.