And the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,…
We see Jonah entering here on the second stage of his strange career. And it is adjusted logically to the first. His recent experiences and their resulting sentiments form an obvious preparation for the duty next to hand. He has sinned and suffered and repented. He has deserted, and been captured and surrendered unconditionally. He has prayed, and been forgiven and set free. And it is natural that duty should be faced from a different standpoint henceforward. He is in another mind now, and ready for a new departure in personal effort and official tactics. And the opportunity to make it is promptly furnished.
I. THE SPIRITUAL DESERTER'S RETURN IS FOLLOWED BY HIS RE-ENGAGEMENT. Jonah had discarded much and been stripped of more. He had refused to act, and had ipso facto forfeited his commission. Now with a return to his right mind there is reinstatement in his lost calling, and re-employment in his forsaken work. We account for this on the principle that:
1. There is forgiveness with God, that he may be feared. There is a forgiveness that only encourages transgression. Such is weak forgiveness, implying a want of firmness in the forgiver, on which there is the temptation to make further aggressions. Such is careless forgiveness, that takes no hostages for the future, nor even makes terms. Such is inequitable forgiveness, in which principle is ignored, and the offence hushed up without regard to the claims of justice. But the Divine "more excellent way" of pardon is at once equitable and defined and strong. Amends for the past and amendment for the future are both exacted sternly. God forgives when he has punished, and on the unbending condition that the offence cease. Then punishment is mingled with so much of mercy, and requirement is sweetened by such]promise of grace, that gratitude mates with reverence, and obedience is the firstborn issue of the happy tie. The insubordinate, mutinous Jonahs having been ironed and subdued, are at length released, that in after action they may exemplify obedience unquestioning and without a semblance of the old self-will.
2. Spitual office attaches to existing spiritual relation. The Divine government is paternal God's officers are first, of all his children. Their fitness for the discharge of spiritual functions is due to their previous endowment, with spiritual gifts. If unspiritual men and whilst unspiritual they may be formally in office, but are incapable of spiritual work. When Jonah fell for the time being out of the spiritual connection, he ceased to be a prophet of God. He could not be at once a recruiter and a deserter, an ambassador and a rebel. Now he has come back, and in resumed spiritual relations he finds the condition of restored religious functions. He may again speak for God now that again he is on God's side. No man goes legitimately on God's errand who cannot do it con amore. Spiritual officers are to be sought exclusively by promotion from the spiritual ranks. Every true shepherd has been first of all a sheep in God's fold, and to each relation has come in by Christ, the Door.
II. GOD'S PROGRAMME IS STEREOTYPED, WHATEVER ELSE MAY CHANGE. (Ver. 2.) God has not changed, although Jonah has. The prophet's mutinous outbreak has not moved him a hairbreadth from his purpose. What he meant at first he means still, and will have. So the prophet is brought back exactly to the point at which he had broken away, and told to begin where he had left off.
1. God is moved still by the same compassion for the doomed. "That great city." The repetition of these words on each occasion of the mention of Nineveh is significant. It shows that God had regard to the tact of its size; that all through the arrangement of measures for its warning he was moved by the thought of its teeming population given over to death. Hence it is styled in ver. 3 "a great city to God," i.e. in his estimation, and in Jonah 4:11 the Divine compunction is directly connected with the existence of its hundred and twenty thousand children, not yet responsible, but bound to perish with it. The Divine compassion is a glorious factor in human life. Its attitude is catholic. It embraces in wide paternal arms the heathen that knows not God, the infant that could not know him if revealed. Its outflow is unstinted, averting myriad evils altogether, softening the inevitable, indemnifying the past by the amends of rich compensatory good. Believe in God's pity. It is a splendid fact. It is hunger's provision, and pain's anaesthetic, and misery's comforter, and humanity's good Samaritan in the darkest reaches of its Jericho journey, and the most calamitous experiences by the way.
2. God's prescribed step remains the fitting one to take. What other methods it was within the resources of Divine omnipotence to use for the conversion of the Ninevites, we cannot tell. What we know is that the proclamation of the truth was the ordinary method, and that God keeps to it. "The sword of the Spirit," with which he pierces the soul and kills its sin, is the "Word of God." "The foolishness of preaching" is that special presentment of the Word by which in all ages it has pleased God to save them that believe. And there is, if we could see it, the perfection of fitness in this ordinance. Truth is light revealing things as they are and as they ought to be. Truth is motive, presenting considerations that move intelligence to seek that better state. Truth is force, conveying to the soul and constituting in it the Divine omnipotent energy in the strength of which the new man arises, and the new life is lived. Truth is comfort, unfolding the soul rest and joy of the free which climb the throne of being when the new regime of righteousness begins. Then truth preached with the living voice and personal element is all this and more. To the influence proper to the abstract truth is added its influence as concreted in a human life. As light it is intensified by the added ray of an illustrative experience. As power it is reinforced by the impulse of a cooperant human will. As comfort it is at once confirmed and sweetened by personal testimony and fellow feeling. There is no conceivable substitute in the enginery of grace for the personal preaching to sinners of the word of life.
3. Repentance is best proved by obedience in the matter at which there was stumbling before. Jonah had passed through a severe discipline for the conquest of his self-will. Whether or not it was really overcome, this reiterated commission would test. And there was a needs be that the point should be settled. All judgment is "unto righteousness;" to bring us to it if afar from it, to restore us to it if we have strayed. And it is this not in the general, but in the particular. It is to check particular faults and produce the opposite virtues. In this object God will see that it succeeds... He cannot fail as men fail. His chains must bind. He gives no disputable instructions, nor moves to their observance by futile action. In tow of his disciplinary privataeers when they return to port, will be formal, as a prize of war, every skulking craft that had been trying to do the enemy's work. The proof that his measures have not been nugatory is the circumstantial realization of their purpose. The iniquity he visits with the rod he must see put away. The forsworn task he enforces with the strong arm he must see done. "God looks upon men when he has afflicted them and has delivered them out of their affliction, to see whether they will mend of that fault particularly for which they were corrected; and therefore in that thing we are concerned to see to it that we receive not the grace of God in vain" (Matthew Henry).
III. THE DISCIPLINED SERVANT IS AN IMPROVED SERVANT. (Ver. 3.) The stern discipline has done its work at last. The rebellious fit is over, and the unruly servant is pliant to his Master's will. What evils of terror and pain and agony he might have escaped if he had only done this at first! But God bends all things to his purpose, and Jonah's rebellious freak among the rest. His message to Nineveh is not only done, but better done than it could possibly have been at first.
1. Jonah is better prepared for it than he was. He has sinned and been forgiven, has suffered and been delivered, has prayed and received an answer. And each experience is of the nature of a qualification for the better doing of his work. "Rejoicing in the sweetness of a fresh and full reconciliation; lightened in spirit by tasting in God a mercy larger than he could formerly have thought of; cleansed from the darkness that brooded over his soul, and the countless images of terror and of evil which rose up before him while be was fleeing from his God in rebellion, and his God was pursuing him in wrath" (Martin), he would approach his Master's work as never before. Reverence for a God so great and good, and gratitude to a God so merciful and kind, would spring together and work together the new mind and way. Affliction, moreover, had left its mark on him. He was subdued and chastened. He knew experimentally his impotence and God's omnipotence. He could speak by book of the terrors of the Lord, and the fatuity of hoping to defy him and escape. And his preaching would have a reality and vividness about it attainable only by way of his late experience. Then "he had called upon the Lord in circumstances almost fitted to shut out the possibility of hope." If there be a case on record pre-eminently fitted to confirm the declaration, "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint," it is his. Would he not resume his post with livelier loyalty and implicit sense of duty, when he could resume it with the blessed protestation, "I love the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplication: because he hath inclined his ear unto me, I will call upon him as long as I live"? (Martin).
2. He does it implicitly. (Ver. 3.) "So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh: Submission is now as thorough as at first self-will was resolute. The change is excellent, and its occurrence a vindication of the treatment that has brought it about. An infinitely wise and holy will is God's. The ideal of a man's life is to believe in that will, and will it, and find his joy in doing it. From irreconcilable variance to absolute harmony with that ideal is Jonah's change, a change that means his spiritual readjustment. It will mean no less to us all "The felicity of heaven greatly consists in perfect submission in all things to the government of Jehovah the Saviour. The misery of this world is the want of that temper of mind; the very end and desert of grace is to restore us to it; and so far as we are under the influence of the grace of life, we are brought back to it; the more grace the more submission; and grace will not cease its operation in the saints till every thought is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (Jones). A man following absolutely the lines of the infinitely perfect will; a man moving thereon with fullest faith and sympathy and zest; a man starting therein as a child starts for the haven of a mother's arms; a man incapable of other thought than following them to the highest good, and till his life's end; - that is a man in the highest sense, and to the highest spiritual effect.
3. He goes closely by his instructions. (Ver. 3.) According to the word of the Lord. This terse record is instinct with suggestiveness. He went because he was told, and where he was told, and when he was told, and as he was told, and to do the thing he was told, and in the way he was told. His conduct now was exemplary as before it was intolerable. And his case is typical. His instructions were the preacher's instructions for all lands and times. "Preach the preaching that I bid thee." It was this Moses preached (Deuteronomy 18:18), and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:7), and Paul (1 Corinthians 11:23), and Christ himself (John 7:16; John 12:50). It is this we must preach. What else is worth preaching, or can or dare be preached? As to the substance of his message, the preacher has no discretionary power. He is not to preach science, nor philosophy, nor sentiment, nor his own notions, nor human knowledge. He is rightly to divide the Word of life. That is all, "There is not the greatest minister, not the most learned or acute, But must observe this rule; not James, not John, not Peter, not all the troop of the apostles, my once vary from this: he who shall bring other doctrine, let him be accursed by us; he who speaketh of himself, let him be refused by us; howsoever godly or holy he do pretend himself, yet if he decline that word which should be his direction, let him be declined by us" (Abbot). Here is an admirable maxim for universal use, "according to the Word of the Lord." It is good, and wise, and true, and pertinent to every case, the key to every puzzle of life. Are you a sinner? there is salvation for you, full, and free, and present, and "according to the Word of the Lord." Are you a seeker? expect to find, for salvation is in Christ, and of those that come to him there are none cast out, "according to the Word of the Lord." Are you a saint? then fight and persist and hope; for that you are "kept by the power of God," and will yet "reap if you faint not," is "according to the Word of the Lord." - J.E.H.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying,