Jonah 3:1-5 & John 1:43-51

God had to speak Jonah a second time because he did not listen to God a first time. God said, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you” in 3:2. Here we can learn another important lesson. We must “GO” to the people in order to speak God’s Words. Well, we don’t have to go since there are many other ways to communicate today. We can make a phone call, send an email, fax, face time, text message, twit, or Instagram . . . etc.

I understand the importance of embracing our modern culture and technology. I am trying to learn and use them more in my personal life as well as in my ministry. Many colleges and universities in today’s world offer “Online Classes” so that the students do not have to go to their schools. Although I appreciate all of these technologies, I still think that it is important for us go to meet people. You may say that I am an old style, but I still enjoy meeting and visiting people so that I can talk with them face to face. I am sure that in Jonah’s time, none of these modern technologies were available. Otherwise, Jonah could simply send an e-mail or text message to the Ninevites instead of running away from presence of God. He could just stay where he was and share God’s message instead of going through all the drama.
But God told Jonah to “go” twice. In chapter 1, God said, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me” (v.2). God said again in chapter 3, “Get up, go to Nineveh that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you” (v.2). Jesus our risen Lord also said to his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .” (Matthew 28:19). So I want us to go to meet people diligently.

To whom should we go? God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. Nineveh was the capitol of Assyria. Assyrians were the enemies of the Israelites. They were known as the cruelest people in the world at that time. No wonder why Jonah didn’t want to go. As a matter of fact, Jonah became angry when God changed his mind and decided not to punish them (4:1). I hope we don’t think nor act like Jonah. God has called us to go and share his words with everyone, whether they are our friends/neighbors or someone we don’t like. Jonah thought that the people in Nineveh would not repent their sins. Jonah wished that the Ninevites to be punished by God. That’s why he said, “That’s why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in love and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live” (4:2-3). I hope that you don’t have anyone whom you hate this much!

To teach a lesson, God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head. Jonah was very happy about the bush. Then God destroyed the shade by making a worm to destroy the bush. God also made the sun beat down on the head of Jonah. Jonah felt so hot and complained to God again. Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush? . . . You are concerned about the bush for which you did not labor and which you did not grow . . . Should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” (4:10-11).

The Apostle Paul said in 1 Timothy 2:3, “This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior who desires everyone to be saved.” So let us also go to the people in our community whether you like them or not. Let us not assume that they would never accept the Good News. That’s not our job. Our job is to go and share God’s Words since we are the messengers! God has called us as “the ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). We know what ambassadors do. They represent their government. They say and do what they heard from their government. We are Christ’s ambassadors. We go wherever Christ tells us to go. We say whatever Christ tells us to say. We demonstrate our royalty to the One who has called us. This is the right way. In fact, this is the only way to become good ambassadors for Christ. That’s why God told Jonah, “Proclaim to it the message I tell you.” You and I are called to speak the message we heard from God.

Although Jonah tried to run away from God and ignore his calling before, he obeyed this time. Verse 3 says, “So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the Word of the Lord.” He learned a lesson after spending three days in the fish belly. He did not like staying there. Nineveh was a big city. It takes three days to walk across the city, about 60 miles. As soon as Jonah arrived the city, he began to cry out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” It was the message of God’s warning as well as the message of hope.” It was a warning since God would punish them in forty days. But it was also a message of hope since they were given 40 more days. Why forty days? Why did God give the Nineveh forty more days?

Number 40 is a significant in our Bible. Moses spent 40 years in the Median desert until God called him out of a burning bush. Moses spent 40 days with God on top of Mt. Horeb before he had received the Ten Commandments. God caused to rain 40 days and 40 nights in Noah’s time. The Israelites spies the land of Canaan for 40 days. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. Goliath taunted Saul’s army for 40 days before David arrived to slay him (1 Samuel 17:16). When Elijah fled from Jezebel, he traveled 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19:8). Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness and was tempted by the devil. The season of Lent begins on Ash Wed and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday. Without counting Sundays during Lent, they are 40 days (Feb. 14 – March 30, 2018).

Of course, God gave the people in Nineveh for 40 more days. Why? Why didn’t God just punish these wicked people right away? Why did God give them 40 more days? It is obvious. The goal of God’s warning was not to destroy them. God sent Jonah to proclaim his message so that the Ninevite would repent and be saved. That was what exactly happened. Every person in the City of Nineveh believed God and fasted after hearing Jonah’s message; “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” King of Nineveh repented his sins, put on sackcloth and sat in ashes. He told every person in his kingdom to fast, cry out to God for mercy and to turn away from their evil ways. It was nationwide revival and spiritual awakening! He said, “Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish” (3:9). Their repentance was genuine. God saw their broken hearts and effort to change their lifestyles. King David prayed like in Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me . . . The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart. O God, you will not despise.”

Guess what? God changed his mind and decided not to punish the people in Nineveh. So in 40 days, what would you and I need to repent? For what, our hearts should be broken? Jonah said, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” Please do not think that this is the warning against the Nineveh only. This message—God’s message Jonah did not want to speak can be the message we need to hear. Both John the Baptist and Jesus spoke same message when they began their ministries, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven has come near!” It was their very first message.

Forty days can be a symbolic. We do not know how soon when Jesus said, “for the Kingdom of God has come near.” But one thing we know for sure is that we must repent. And the Day of Judgment will come and it is getting closer! Both Sodom and Gomorah as well as Nineveh were given warning and time to repent. But Sodom and Gomorah were perished while Nineveh was spared. What made the difference? It was their response that made this significant difference. How will we respond to God’s warning? When God calls us to speak his words, how will we respond? Are we going to run away from God or try to ignore Him or respond to God with “Yes, Lord Yes?”

Andrew followed Jesus immediately. Andrew told his brother Simon Peter, “We have found the Messiah.” Then he took Simon to Jesus.
The Next day, Jesus said to Philip, “Come with me!” He followed Jesus immediately. When Philip found Nathanel and told him, “We have found the one whom Moses wrote abut in the book of the Law and whom the prophets also wrote about. He is Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanel asked to Philip, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said, “Come and see.”

Like Andrew and Philip, let us also respond to God’s call immediately!
Like Andrew and Philip, let us also lead others to Christ!

Amen.