Jonah had been called to go to a large city full of wickedness and call out God’s coming judgement. Imagine that for a moment. Really think about what that would look like for you or I today. One minute you’re praying piously and studying fascinating truths about God in a temple haven. The next God tells you to leave your padded pew and godly friar friends to become a herald of doom and gloom. And your hearers all belong in Alcatraz – no telling how they might take the bad news. You’ll likely be labeled a mad man and institutionalized or murdered by a mob. I sincerely doubt it would be fun. Or easy. Or desirable in any way.
This was Jonah’s lot. Little wonder why he ran away. But God had patience with Jonah’s unwillingness and fear. He asked Jonah a second time to go and preach to Nineveh.
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God.They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. ~Jonah 3:1-5
It’s interesting that God brought Jonah to a place where he had to repent before he went to call others to repentance. Humility always precedes ministry.
After Jonah repented, God fully forgave. He didn’t put Jonah on the “not ready to serve me yet” burner. He didn’t give him a sabbatical waiting for him to get his spiritual pride built back up. God didn’t relegate Jonah to some spiritually inferior carnal Jew category No. God immediately called him to the task he had sinfully refused. God isn’t in the business of lowering standards to boost confidence or permit lethargic faithlessness. God is in the business of calling us to obedience repeatedly until we learn to willingly submit.
And willingly submit in obedience is just what Jonah did…the second time he’s called to preach tot he people he had no preference for.
The city was huge. The text says it took him three days to go through it with his message. It’s estimated that Jonah walked twenty miles a day for three days calling out God’s impending judgement. Forget 26.2 with added security marathoning friends. This guy was called to an ultra-marathon in the heart of the worst ghetto in history…alone. No one should say God doesn’t call us to work when we believe. Does work save us? No. Are we called to work diligently in obedience? Always.
And the people of Nineveh believed God.They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. ~Jonah 3:5
The Ninevites didn’t lock Jonah up in the psych ward. They didn’t murder or make fun of him. The people of Nineveh believed God. God’s amazing grace is seen when his people obey in faith against all odds and obstacles.
God calls us to serve our families, our churches, our friendly neighbors, and even our surburbian friends, but believe it, he calls us all to serve the lost, too. And serving lost souls is not easy. It’s not usually comfortable, fun, or even desirable. Many times it’s risky, sacrificial, painful, and humiliating. But that didn’t stop Jesus. Don’t let it stop you.