Liam Goligher on Jonah 3

Liam Goligher on Jonah 3 April 7, 2009

There are two miracles. One is God using Jonah. The second is God working in the city. Jonah has already seen God at work in saving himself, and the sailors have also been saved. Tomorrow we will see him at work in Jonah himself.

There is a “giant test motive” everything in this book is on a grand scale. Huge task. The fear was great. The storm was overwelming and the city was humungous. The repentance was total. Its beyond our comprehension. It communicates that our sin is big, God’s mercy is big and the mission is huge! We will look at the surprising mercy of God that he should choose Jonah, use Jonah, and save Ninevah.

God choose Jonah
Word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time. It’s a remarkable reminder of the surprising grace of God that takes the initiative in reaching out to broken people. We live in a dysfunctional world, and we are all dysfunctional in some way. Sin means we are all right at one level, but other layers that you are only beginning to quarry. God gives a second chance. Not too many chances in the secular world. A whole career can end on one mistake. This is not the way God deals with us. Instead the steadfast love of the lord never comes to an end. When we are faithless, he is faithful. Even if you have stumbled and fallen in a major way and you cannot enjoy the presence of God, the word of God is coming to you a second, third, forth, ninety ninth time. God wants to come to you again with a refreshing embrace of God. We are to live for him and enjoy him forever. He stoops to those who have rejected him. Undeserved acceptance given to an unworthy person. Jesus tells us “I died that you may live” There is a second look from the savior to rebels. It is surprising that God would choose someone like Jonah and someone like you and me. God had not spoken to Jonah since that first time.

God chose to use Jonah
He still has a task for him to do. The message is the same as the first time, “arise, go!” There is a history of God using people who don’t follow God perfectly – Abraham who lies, Moses who kills, David who commits adultery and murder, Peter who denies the Lord repeatedly with curses.

He discovered three principles – rebellion led to chastisement, to brokeness, but then rehabilitation into God’s service. The Word reveals our rebellion against God. God does not show us all of our sin all at once. God never gives up on us.

God saved Ninevah
It was great to God. Its significance and importance was more than its political, social and cultural significance. God cared about it. Its an evil city, and its surely the last place you would expect to see an outbreak of God’s grace. There is no apparent consolation or comfort in Jonah’s message. He may have said more than this. Jonah may have just been going through the routine. It may have been that he spoke about his own experience. The people of Ninevah are described as receiving the sign of Jonah. Where would they have heard that Jonah had experienced what he did except from Jonah? Through the proclamation of Jonah the light goes on in their head. The people of Ninevah believed God.

How did this miracle happen? It is the Word of God that is driving this story. God does things through words. God spoke to the fish and Jonah was vomitted to the land. God’s word accomplishes power. It brings forth. We must set forth the Word of God and proclaim it but that Word is full of his power. It is Spirit and life. When in Acts we hear of the church growing, it is said that the Word spread. Life is found in God, located in Christ and mediated by his Word. It is powerful in its effects.

Faith comes by hearing. God uses the breath of a human being as they speak his Word to create life in the hearts of men and women. God has shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. God has power to accomplish his will. It was always God’s plan to bring revival to Ninevah, and he uses Jonah as the vehicle to do this. Calvin speaks about “verbum externum” the word of God comes from outside of us, has to be given to us. But also the word has a power in it.

God uses the speaking of his Word to accomplish great things. They heard Jonah, but they believed God. They received his words as the Word of God. There was a surprising work of God. Even the King removed his robe. There was a genuine sorrow. They seek the pardoning grace of God. Who knows, they say, maybe God might be merciful to us. God relented of the disaster that he was going to do. God pardoned them freely. He did not do what he said what he would do. Does this make God arbitrary and indecisive? How can he relent and still expect us to think he is unchanging? This whole question has led to the idea of the “openness of God” they argue that God does not know the future, is acting without a script, that he has no purpose, that he changes his mind in response to surprising events. They argue that his is waiting for us to act. But the Bible teaches us that he is unchanging in his being. He is changeless in his essential nature.

God is dependable, and can be relied on. There is a mystery though, as he does change in response to God’s people. In 1st Samuel 15:11 God says “I regret…” in verse 29 he says “I will not lie or have regret” These two things are put together. There is always an emotional aspect to the word – sorrow or regret. We can only know God as he reveals himself to us. He uses language that we understand. When God pronounced his judgment it was a wicked city. When God refused to judge Ninevah it was a changed city. They had changed. For God to be consistent to his own character, he had to keep his word. Jeremiah tells us that if people repent, God will refrain from judgment. If God was always planning to judge Nineveh, then why did he bother to call Jonah? It was all so unnecessary. God only sent Jonah because he intended to use him as a vehicle through which people would hear, respond and believe. This is not God changing in the way the Open Theists say, it is God being true to his character. We have changed. We are no alive to God, and our relationship with him has changed. God calls us to repentance and the judgement will not come if we will hear his voice and repent.

The message to the Christian is to get the word out. Get on with the work of sharing the gospel. The fallen Christian can hear the word of God a second time. Take the mercy of God you are offered. God is sincere and offers to an unbelieving world that his wrath is coming, but he says “turn to me and be saved all the ends of the earth, for I am God there is none other”


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