"Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message that I give you."
Jonah's prediction, we say, was not fulfilled. But was it not, in a very true sense? The city was not overthrown in one sense, but it was in another. A moral revolution took place, but it was a revolution. Nineveh was overthrown by the preaching of Jonah, as long afterwards the world was said to be turned upside down by that of the apostles. This, of course, was not what Jonah had in mind. It was not that the city was destroyed, in Jonah's sense. The inhabitants repented, and by so doing occasioned God Himself to repent of His purpose in relation to them. There is, then, such a thing as repentance, not only on the part of human beings, but also on that of the Divine Being.
1. Not the message of our own imagination.
2. Not what me, desire and what will be palatable to them.
3. But what God bids. To the messenger he gives the message - from his Word; by his Spirit.
His gospel - not altered, not added to, not diminished - is to be preached "to every creature." With faithfulness, simplicity, persistence - whether men hear or whether men forbear. Like Luther, "I can do no other; God help me!" - G.T.C.
And God repented of the evil that He had said that He would do unto them,
There are certain passages of holy Scripture which assert in the strongest way that God cannot repent, and that He never does. There are certain other passages which assert, just as strongly, and with as little qualification, that He can repent, and that, in fact, He has often done so. Here is an apparent contradiction. The ordinary method of interpretation applied to such texts is, to my mind, eminently unsatisfactory, and in fact involves erroneous and pernicious views of the Divine nature. We are told that the passages which speak of God's repentance are simply forms of speech to indicate a change of outward procedure, but do not imply any change whatever of interior feeling. This theory, in order to exempt God frown those imperfections which are connected with the exercise of the affections and passions among men, virtually denies to Him the possession of any affections at all. It makes Him simply a Being of pure thought and unrelenting will. What a stupendous inroad is thus made on the fulness and beauty of "the glorious Gospel of the blessed God!" I take the words to mean what we naturally understand by them — that God did really repent — i.e.
, changed His mind, which is the meaning of repentance. When He sent the prophet He meant destruction. When the city was humbled, He changed His mind, and waved the destroying angel home. There was a condition involved in the threat, and understood. God knew that the city would repent. Yes, but He also knew that the city would repent under commination. Why should it be incredible that God "repents" or changes? Would it not be more incredible if it were asserted that He never does? Are we to suppose that what constitutes a special perfection in the moral character of a man is an imperfection in God? God morally regards us at any one moment just as we are.
As to what Jonah adds, that God was led to repent, it is a mode of speaking that ought to be sufficiently known to us. Strictly speaking, no repentance can belong to God; and it ought not to be ascribed to His secret and hidden counsel. God, then, is in Himself ever the same, and consistent with Himself, but He is said to repent when a regard is had to the comprehension of men; for as we conceive God to be angry whenever He summons us to His tribunal, and shows us our sins, so also we conceive Him to be placable when He offers the hope of pardon. But it is according to our perceptions that there is any change when God forgets His wrath, as though He had put on a new character. As then we cannot otherwise be terrified, that we may be humbled before God and repent, except He sets forth before us His wrath, the Scripture accommodates itself to the grossness of our understanding. But, on the other hand, we cannot call confidently on God unless we feel assured that He is placable. We hence see that some kind of change appears to us, whenever God either threatens or gives hopes of pardon and reconciliation; and to this must be referred this mode of speaking which Jonah adopts when he says that God repented. There is a twofold view of God — as He sets Himself forth in His word, and as He is in His hidden counsel. With regard to His secret counsel, God is always like Himself, and is subject to none of our feelings; but with regard to the teaching of His Word, He is accommodated to our capacities. God is now angry with us, and then, as though He were pacified, He offers pardon, and is propitious to us. Such is the repentance of God. Let us remember, then, that it proceeds from His Word that God is said to repent.
I. THE REPENTANCE OF THE NINEVITES.
1. It was a sincere repentance. "God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way." This settles the matter. It was impossible for them to deceive God. There is in our fallen nature a tendency to the hateful sin of hypocrisy, and there are two kinds of hypocrisy — the hypocrisy which affects holiness; and the hypocrisy which affects penitence. The latter is the more artful, as it is the more heinous.
2. It was occasioned by their faith ill God. "The people of Nineveh believed in God." Faith in God is certain to produce repentance. A man cannot repent without repenting of his unbelief in God, and in God's Son.
3. It was universal. They seem to have turned every one from his evil way. It is probable that the case of Nineveh is unique in this respect. It was an earnest of the universal repentance of mankind.
4. It was exceedingly prompt. There was a necessity for promptitude, seeing that a time-limit had been fixed. Delay in such a case meant destruction.
5. It originated at the summit of society, and spread downwards to its base. But the repentance of the Ninevites, sincere and effectual as it was, did not prevent their descendants from doing all manner of evil, and incurring the destruction of their city.
II. REPENTANCE AS ASCRIBED TO GOD. There is a doctrinal difficulty here. Some passages of Scripture attribute repentance to the Most High, and some other passages deny that He ever does repent. Truth may sometimes be formulated most conveniently by a paradox. God may be said to be, "unchangeably changeable." Illustrate from the thermometer or from the tides. As often as a change bakes place in a human being from loyalty to disloyalty, or vice versa, a corresponding change in God occurs in relation to that person. This change takes place in the Most High, not because He is changeable, but because He is unchangeable. See Jeremiah 18:7-10. That gives the changeless principle of God's government, and it explains all the changes in His attitude towards nations and persons. God has Often changed in the manner thus described, and that for the simple and sufficient reason that He is unchangeable. If there is one who knows only too well that he is regarded by the Supreme Being with deserved displeasure, let such an one know that a change on his part towards God will result in a corresponding change on God's part towards himself.
()The dealings of God with men have ever been characterised by judgment and mercy. God always deals with man according to his works; but the moral character of those works is determined by the state of the heart, and by the motives from which they spring. God deals with man according to his works. To the penitent God shows mercy; to the obedient, favour; to the rebellious and impenitent, judgment. The conduct of God towards the repentant Ninevites was in accordance with these general principles of His moral government.
I. GOD'S REPENTANCE. Repentance in man is change of mind and purpose, issuing in change of conduct; but repentance in God is only change of operation or administration, according as man's conduct agrees with, or violates, the requirements of the Divine law. With the Ninevites God was justly angry. Their aggravated sins cried aloud for vengeance, and He determined to destroy them; but when they turned away from their sins He graciously withheld His avenging hand. This change in God's dealings, or threatened dealings, with the Ninevites, was not a change of principle or a change of mind, but simply a change of dispensation, arising out of their altered circumstances. Repentance in man always produces a corresponding change in God's administrations towards him. (Jeremiah 18:7-10.) This gives to the denunciations of God a conditional character. Some times the condition is expressed in the terms of the threatening, and sometimes it is understood. It is as much a principle of God's gracious government to suspend the execution of a threatened punishment on man's sincere repentance as it is to execute it in the case of obstinate and continued sin. Erroneous notions have been adopted with respect to the immutability of God. God is unchangeable in His being, perfections, and principles of moral government. But in His actual dispensations with man He deals with him according to the state of his heart and life.
II. THE EFFECTS OF GOD'S REPENTANCE ON JONAH. Such an act of grace and forbearance On the part of God ought to have excited the devout thankfulness of the prophet. But Jonah heard of the reprieve and pardon not only without joy, but with angry displeasure. The reason of his inhuman displeasure was a fear for his own fame. Jonah's unreasonable anger will account for his unseemly and censurable prayer.
III. GOD'S REPROOF OF JONAH, AND VINDICATION OF HIMSELF. God's dealings with Jonah place His own character in the most gracious and amiable light, and in the most affecting contrast with that of the prophet. Jonah appears to have been a man of strong passions, and easily excited. Means had been found, in connection with the booth, the gourd, and the worm, to arouse conviction in Jonah's mind, and now God proceeds to make more direct application. He approaches Jonah with mild and dispassionate language — "Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?" How great the patience that bore with Jonah's petulance! "Thou hast had pity on the gourd; and should not I spare Nineveh?" Whether this appeal of God had any salutary effect on Jonah's mind, and led to any improvement in his conduct or not, is wholly unknown. We lose sight of Jonah under circumstances extremely disadvantageous to him. He drops out of history in a bad temper; and we have little to recall him to our remembrance but his sin, his punishment, and his petulance.
TopicsArise, Bid, Message, Nineveh, Nin'eveh, Preach, Preaching, Proclaim, Proclamation, Rise, Speaking, Town
Outline1. Jonah, sent again, preaches to the Ninevites.
5. Upon their repentance,
10. God relents.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJonah 3:2
6628 conversion, God's demand
7949 mission, of Israel
7740 missionaries, call
7758 preachers, call
8031 trust, importance
4926 delay, human
1431 prophecy, OT methods
1055 God, grace and mercy
7757 preaching, effects
8479 self-examination, examples
'And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, 2. Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. 3. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey. 4. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall he overthrown. 5. So the people of Ninoveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Who Can Tell?
With this by way of preface, I shall now somewhat turn aside from the narrative, to address myself to those who are trembling on account of sin and who are in the same position as the men of Nineveh, and like them anxiously desiring mercy. I shall notice briefly this morning three things. First, the miserable plight in which the men of Nineveh found themselves; secondly, the scanty reasons which they had for hope; and then, thirdly, I shall observe that we have stronger reasons to compel us to pray, …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 5: 1859
Of the Public Fast.
A public fast is when, by the authority of the magistrate (Jonah iii. 7; 2 Chron. xx. 3; Ezra viii. 21), either the whole church within his dominion, or some special congregation, whom it concerneth, assemble themselves together, to perform the fore-mentioned duties of humiliation; either for the removing of some public calamity threatened or already inflicted upon them, as the sword, invasion, famine, pestilence, or other fearful sickness (1 Sam. vii. 5, 6; Joel ii. 15; 2 Chron. xx.; Jonah iii. …
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety
Whether it is Lawful for Religious to Wear Coarser Clothes than Others?
Objection 1: It would seem unlawful for religious to wear coarser clothes than others. For according to the Apostle (1 Thess. 5:22) we ought to "refrain from all appearance of evil." Now coarseness of clothes has an appearance of evil; for our Lord said (Mat. 7:15): "Beware of false prophets who come to you in the clothing of sheep": and a gloss on Apoc. 6:8, "Behold a pale horse," says: "The devil finding that he cannot succeed, neither by outward afflictions nor by manifest heresies, sends in advance …
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica
Whether Things Known or Declared Prophetically Can be False?
Objection 1: It would seem that things known or declared prophetically can be false. For prophecy is about future contingencies, as stated above (A ). Now future contingencies may possibly not happen; else they would happen of necessity. Therefore the matter of prophecy can be false. Objection 2: Further, Isaias prophesied to Ezechias saying (Is. 38:1): "Take order with thy house, for thou shalt surely die, and shalt not live," and yet fifteen years were added to his life (4 Kings 20:6). Again …
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica
Whether all are Bound to Keep the Fasts of the Church?
Objection 1: It would seem that all are bound to keep the fasts of the Church. For the commandments of the Church are binding even as the commandments of God, according to Lk. 10:16, "He that heareth you heareth Me." Now all are bound to keep the commandments of God. Therefore in like manner all are bound to keep the fasts appointed by the Church. Objection 2: Further, children especially are seemingly not exempt from fasting, on account of their age: for it is written (Joel 2:15): "Sanctify a fast," …
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica
Concerning the Sacrament of Penance
In this third part I shall speak of the sacrament of penance. By the tracts and disputations which I have published on this subject I have given offence to very many, and have amply expressed my own opinions. I must now briefly repeat these statements, in order to unveil the tyranny which attacks us on this point as unsparingly as in the sacrament of the bread. In these two sacraments gain and lucre find a place, and therefore the avarice of the shepherds has raged to an incredible extent against …
Martin Luther—First Principles of the Reformation
Use to be Made of the Doctrine of Providence.
Sections. 1. Summary of the doctrine of Divine Providence. 1. It embraces the future and the past. 2. It works by means, without means, and against means. 3. Mankind, and particularly the Church, the object of special care. 4. The mode of administration usually secret, but always just. This last point more fully considered. 2. The profane denial that the world is governed by the secret counsel of God, refuted by passages of Scripture. Salutary counsel. 3. This doctrine, as to the secret counsel of …
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Upon Our Lord's SermonOn the Mount
Discourse 7 "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: And thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." Matthew 6:16-18. 1. It has been the endeavour of Satan, from the beginning of the world, …
John Wesley—Sermons on Several Occasions
The Doctrines of Salvation A. Repentance. B. Faith. C. Regeneration. D. Justification. E. Adoption. F. Sanctification. G. Prayer.
THE DOCTRINES OF SALVATION. A. REPENTANCE. I. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE. II. THE NATURE OF REPENTANCE. 1. AS TOUCHING THE INTELLECT. 2. AFFECTING THE EMOTIONS. 3. WILL. a) Confess Sin. b) Forsake Sin. c) Turn to God. III. HOW REPENTANCE IS PRODUCED. 1. DIVINE SIDE. 2. HUMAN SIDE. 3. QUESTION OF MEANS. IV. RESULTS OF REPENTANCE. 1. GODWARD. 2. MANWARD. A. REPENTANCE. I. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE. The prominence given to the doctrine of Repentance in the Scriptures can hardly be overestimated. …
Rev. William Evans—The Great Doctrines of the Bible
Of a Private Fast.
That we may rightly perform a private fast, four things are to be observed:--First, The author; Secondly, The time and occasion; Thirdly, The manner; Fourthly, The ends of private fasting. 1. Of the Author. The first that ordained fasting was God himself in paradise; and it was the first law that God made, in commanding Adam to abstain from eating the forbidden fruit. God would not pronounce nor write his law without fasting (Lev. xxiii), and in his law commands all his people to fast. So does our …
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety
The Unchangeableness of God
The next attribute is God's unchangeableness. I am Jehovah, I change not.' Mal 3:3. I. God is unchangeable in his nature. II. In his decree. I. Unchangeable in his nature. 1. There is no eclipse of his brightness. 2. No period put to his being.  No eclipse of his brightness. His essence shines with a fixed lustre. With whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.' James 1:17. Thou art the same.' Psa 102:27. All created things are full of vicissitudes. Princes and emperors are subject to …
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity
The book of Jonah is, in some ways, the greatest in the Old Testament: there is no other which so bravely claims the whole world for the love of God, or presents its noble lessons with so winning or subtle an art. Jonah, a Hebrew prophet, is divinely commanded to preach to Nineveh, the capital of the great Assyrian empire of his day. To escape the unwelcome task of preaching to a heathen people, he takes ship for the distant west, only to be overtaken by a storm, and thrown into the sea, when, by …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
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