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Feb 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 5, 2017 – Jonah 3:1-3

“Once More, From the Top”

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time . . . Jonah 3:1

Intro: The chapter begins with the word “Now,” which acts like a reset button

The first three verses return to three verses at the beginning of the story
– and there it starts over
• as the plot unfolds, we may get a sense of deja vu
• we revisit elements of chapter 1, but with different characters
– note in verses 1 and 3, the interaction is between Jonah and Yahweh
Yahweh is the name of the God of Israel
◦ for the rest of the chapter, the impersonal, generic title is used Elohim (God)
• this demonstrates the basic difference between Israel and the other nations
• Nineveh responded to a God whose name they did not know

V. 1, God gives Jonah a second chance

The word of the LORD is one of big concepts in Old Testament theology
– it is more than mere speech; it is something living that carries divine energy
• the word of Yahweh communicates more than a message
◦ God’s Spirit accompanies his Word

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
And by the breath [ruach, spirit] of His mouth all their host (Ps. 33:6)

• by his Word, God created the universe
◦ and with his word he makes things happen

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it (Is. 55:11)

– how did prophets receive God’s Word? Did they hear an audible voice?
• that is never clarified in the Scriptures,
• but when God wanted them to know it was his Word, they they received, they knew

The words are the same in this verse as in verse 1 of chapter 1
– the first deviation is that instead of reading to Jonah the son of Amitai
• we read to Jonah the second time
• but we do not really need the reminder
– what is the purpose for adding the second time?
• it leads our thoughts in a specific direction
◦ we are wondering, What Jonah will do this time?
• it builds suspense as we wait to see if he will run again

Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you. Jonah 3:2

God’s call is the same as before

Like verse 1, the words that begin this verse are identical to Jonah 1:2
– but after those words, the differences are noticeable
• rather than cry against it, this time God says, proclaim the proclamation
◦ the first time, Jonah was sent without a script
◦ he simply told to cry against Nineveh and that their wickedness come up before God
• it is possible that the similarities with Sodom were enough for Jonah to ad lib
– now Jonah will be given a script, a proclamation
• only God doesn’t hand it to him just yet (cf. Mt. 10:19)
◦ I get the feeling God did not trust Jonah with the proclamation
• before, in chapter 1, the emphasis was on Nineveh and its evil doing
◦ here it is on Jonah’s mission

So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk. Jonah 3:3

This verse also starts like 1:3, but with the biggest difference so far

Both times, after receiving the call Jonah rose up (arose is the same Hebrew word)
– but the first time, his getting up was followed by a contradiction

But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.

• this time we read, so he arose and went to Nineveh
– in fact, the storyteller emphasizes Jonah’s cooperation with the words,

according to the word of the LORD

• reading in Exodus 39-40 this week, I was struck again by the repetition of the statement,

just as LORD had commanded Moses

◦ eighteen times in these two chapters by my count
• Jonah was now moving according to Yahweh’s word
◦ he had been conformed to God’s will

Mid-verse the word Now is used again
– this time the reset button indicates a scene change
• twice already we have been told that Nineveh was the great city
◦ here its great size is elaborated: exceedingly great
• the Hebrew text literally reads, great to God, as if to say, “all the way up to God”
◦ in other words, Nineveh boasted a God-size greatness
◦ this sort of exaggeration occurs in the Old Testament to add emphasis
three day’s walk may also be an exaggeration
• ruins of Nineveh’s walls that can still be traced in Mosul are about seven miles

Hebrew scholar, Uriel Simon says that three days refers to “. . . not duration required to cross the city in a straight line but to the period needed to traverse its streets and byways . . . .”

◦ another option: the storyteller has “greater Nineveh” in mind (like “greater LA area”)

Peter Craigie, “This large area, as archaeological surveys have shown, spread out in a circle from the city proper, with a circumference of something like sixty miles . . .”

• it is also possible that the three days corresponds to the time Jonah spent in the fish
◦ he was not told he had a choice:
either three days in Nineveh or three days in a fish and then another three in Nineveh

Not everyone gets a second chance
– and no one gets a second chance every time
• so when God hands us a do-over, it reveals his love and mercy
– but that is not the thought I want to press home

Conc: I said earlier that Jonah was conformed to God’s will

But he was not yet transformed by it
– a rebellious Jonah was thrown into the sea
• a compliant Jonah emerged and did as he was told
• Phillip Cary referred to this as Jonah’s “baptism”
◦ my initial reaction to reading that was, “If that is so, his baptism didn’t take”
◦ baptism is about transformation (Ro. 6:1-14)

– Jonah’s heart was still hanging on to the old prejudice
• his body went to Nineveh, but his heart and soul were elsewhere
• but then I wonder, “Did my baptism take?”
◦ it has never become everything Paul described
◦ I am still far from completely transformed

Phillip Cary, “… we Christians should know this from our own experience–that the reborn self still contains much of the old Adam who was to be drowned in baptism. The story of sin and redemption does not end with rebirth.”

A goal of Christian spirituality is union with God
– a surrender that leads to a fusion of our will with his will
• the big surprise is that we do not usually reach union by a smooth process of God’s grace
◦ instead, like Jonah, we struggle with God, we resist his will
• this is a normal pattern of spiritual progress
◦ God throws something at us and we struggle with it
– Jesus’ parable of the two sons in Matthew 21

But what do you think? A man had two sons and he came to the first and said, “Son, go work today in the vineyard.” And he answered, “I will not”; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and sad the same thing; and he answered, “I will, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?(Mt. 21:28-31)

• the answer is, the one who struggled with his father’s will at first, but then came around
◦ it is normal and it is alright that we struggle

Abbot John Chapman, “It is not an imperfection to find it painful to submit to God’s will. Our Lord showed us that, by His Agony in the garden.”

• I don’t have to like what God tells me to do
◦ but I need to bring attention to that fact, to my resistance, and investigate it
◦ it may reveal to me new dimensions of myself — that need attention or have potential for good

God does not win a victory if all he ends up with is a defeated person
– what he wants is a redeemed person, a transformed person
• bringing our struggle into focus, we may begin to see differently
◦ see into the mysteries that shimmer all around us
◦ see God at work with us in the here and now

And seeing differently may take us one step further in our transformation

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