Limitless Compassion, “Jonah 3:1-10”

Jonah 3:1, “1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying,”

  • Isn’t that good news, “The word of the Lord comes to Jonah a second time?” Sometimes our culture today will tell us that the God of Scripture in the Old Testament is cruel, blood thirsty, vengeful, but in the life of Jonah we see the God of Scripture is full of limitless compassion, and the “word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.”

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

  • Does verse 2 sound familiar? Do you remember chapter 1? Chapter 1 starts off, “Jonah, get up, go, and cry out to the people of Nineveh?” Jonah tries to flee from the presence of the Lord, but because the God of Scripture is full of limitless compassion we Jonah chapter 3, second verse, same as the first.

Jonah 3:3, “3 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.

  • Just a little context; at this point in history Nineveh is a great city, capital city of Assyria, about 600,000 people, and they are known for being a violent people.  You can visit the British Museum in London today and see that archeologist have discovered monuments in Nineveh of Assyria boasting of violence, and because the God of Scripture is full of limitless compassion He sends Jonah.

Jonah 3:4, “4 Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

  • The key words of the message are, “40 days” and “Overthrown.” Circle those words, “40 days and Overthrown.” 40 days gives a sense of urgency, and the word “Overthrown” means destroyed and demolished.
  • At first glance, we might think to ourselves, “But 40 days, warning of judgment sounds like a message of gloom and doom?”  No, a message of gloom and doom would be, “Today Nineveh will be overthrown,” or never sending a messenger, but Jonah gives the warning of “40 days.”

Jonah 3:5, “5 Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.

  • This might be the most understated verse in all of Scripture, “The people of Nineveh believed in God!” If you were reading Jonah 3 on your own you would get to verse 4 and think, “Poor Jonah! Bless his heart. Surely nobody will listen. Well, at least Jonah is trying.”
  • But, instead, we get to verse 5, and we see the 600,000 men, women, and children of Nineveh who have no interest in the God of Scripture are actually admitting their wickedness, turning from their wickedness and believing in the God of Scripture. C’mon!

Jonah 3:6, “6 When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes.”  

  • In verses 5 and 6 we see the people of Nineveh hear the word of the Lord, believe in the word of the Lord, and from the greatest to the least responding to the word of the Lord.

Jonah 3:7-9, “7 He issued a proclamation and it said, “In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. 8 But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. 9 Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.”

  • In verses 7-9 we see not only Jonah proclaiming the word of the Lord, but the king begins to proclaim the word of the Lord to the people of Nineveh, and we see people of Nineveh responding to the word of the Lord with patterns of prayer, patterns of sacrifice, patterns of humility, and patterns of admitting their guilt before the Lord. Do you see it in verse 9, “Who knows, God may turn and relent, so that we will not perish.”
  • The people of Nineveh are not simply turning to the God of Scripture trying to avoid judgment, but the people of Nineveh are in awe of His glory, and they are throwing themselves on the mercy of God, and even if the God of Scripture doesn’t relent in His judgment, He is still worthy to be praised. Isn’t that amazing?

Matthew 12:38-41, “38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40 for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”

  • In Matthew 12 Jesus is standing before another “evil and adulterous generation,” and Jesus is pointing the people of Matthew 12 to His death on a cross, and His resurrection on the third day, and in verse 41 Jesus says, “Something greater than Jonah is here.”
  • Just as Jonah extended biblical compassion to call out the wickedness of Nineveh, so is Jesus extending biblical compassion to call out the wickedness of humanity, but unlike Jonah, something greater than Jonah is here, and Jesus is going to take the judgment that we deserve upon Himself at the cross. C’mon!

This is the gospel. This is good news. The injustice of humanity will not go on for eternity. There is an account, and the God of Scripture has come to take the account of our offenses upon Himself.  It is why the Apostle Peter refers to Jesus as the “just and the justifier.” He is just, there is an account, and He is the justifier.

Therefore, we all need to ask ourselves, “Have we received the warning of Jesus in your life this morning? Are we not just hearing the warning, but responding to the warning with repentance as we turn from death and turn to life?”

He is being patient. He is waiting. He is enduring the offenses of our world, but please do not mistake His patience for indifference. We can either believe that Jesus has taken the judgment we deserve on the cross, or we will take that judgment upon ourselves.

The second question we need to ask is, “Are we proclaiming the warning of Jesus? Are we proclaiming the message of Jonah, the message of Peter and Paul? Are we inviting men, women, and children to respond to the Word of God?”