Debra Isenbletter, PastorChristian AssemblySpringfield, Missouri
Jonah 3:2 “Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.”
When that word came unto him, we see his responsibility as a prophet has been reaffirmed. It is his responsibility to preach that message. There is one command in this verse but it has two parts. If he fails the first part, he cannot fulfill the second part.
First Command: “Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city.” Jonah must “rise up,” he must “get up,” he must “stand up.” It means that he is willing not only to “go” but to take a stand, and to not weaken or waver in that stand. It means he is willing to take a stand by faith. He is about to enter into the unknown, he is about to face his past fear of that unknown, of not knowing how they will react with renewed faith. “Arise” can also mean “to be established” and “fixed.” The first step forward in faith may be a little unsure, but once that step is taken the Lord enters in and establishes the prophet and once the prophet is established his purpose becomes fixed. Jonah’s heart is committed to the journey and to the course set before him.
“Arise” can also mean “to endure” or “to be proven.” In that meaning you can see that there yet may be hardship ahead, that the journey and the task may not be easy. This shows that once he was tested and passed that test, once he is committed to the course and begins the journey that he will be tested again. In that “enduring” there is a “proving” of his commitment. “Arise” can also mean “to accomplish reward for taking this first step of faith, and continuing forward by faith. Jonah will be able to accomplish the task the Lord has given him and will find fulfillment in that obedience and his life is more powerful. Jonah receives added power by simply doing the Will of God and believing the Word of God. The Lord helps us in the same way, He helps us to do whatever He asks us to do. He fills us up and He fulfills us. He empowers us and He does this the moment we “rise up.” That is all He needs for us to do, to take the first step and once we do that, He takes over and He does the rest.
There is a wonderful progression of power in Jonah’s life that comes from his obedience. As he rises up, he stands and he takes a stand. As he stands, he becomes established. As he is established, his purpose of heart is fixed. As his purpose is fixed, he is willing to endure. As he endures, he is proven. As he is proven, he is fulfilled. As he is fulfilled, he is more powerful. This is the provision and the promise for all that are willing to surrender to the Will of God in their lives. This is the power of an obedient testimony, where the Word of God is seen in our lives. The Word is not only verbal, it is visible.
After Jonah “arises” he is to “go.” He goes forward in faith. The word “go” means “to depart,” and he does it without delay. To “go” means “to carry,” Jonah is carrying a message that is a burden and not a blessing, it is a message of judgment. To “go” means to “walk” and it is a walk of faith. To “go” means to “run” and it is to run with patience. We sit in heavenly places (Eph.2:6) then we stand fast (1Co.16:13), we walk by faith (2Co.5:7) and we run with patience (Heb.12:1).
Where was Jonah to go? He was to go “unto Nineveh that great city.” The capital of the Assyrian Empire, called “the bloody city” (Nah.3:1) and it was. It is called a “great city” four times in Jonah (1:2; 3:2,3; 4:11). It was great in that it was old in age. It was large in its magnificence, in its beauty, in its buildings. It was large in its population. Its rulers and armies had done great things, fought great battles, had great victories. The city was great but Jonah’s God was greater and God’s Word was greater and Jonah’s commission was greater. Jonah could see the greatness of the city but he also saw the greatness of their sin and how great was God’s judgment. What he had yet to see was how great was God’s grace.
Second Command: “and preach,” to “proclaim,” to “cry out,” to “call by name.” He did not cry unto specific individuals, he cried out “unto it, to the entire city. All were guilty. Did he name their sins one by one? Did he hold up the holiness of God in contrast to their unholiness? Did he declare God’s righteousness in contrast to their unrighteousness? He may have done all these things. Jonah was to preach “the preaching that I bid thee,” literally “proclaim the proclamation.” He is to preach all of the Word. This is the Lord’s command to every prophet. It is to preach because I command you and it is to preach what I command you. Every true preacher must do this by faith and do this faithfully.
The Lord commanded every one He called to speak only what He tells them. It does not matter if they stand before Pharaoh (Exo.7:2). It does not matter if they stand before kings, princes and priests (Jer.1:7). The obedient servant says: Speak and I will hear, he says, speak and I will speak for you. Samuel when he was little was taught this for he said, “Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth.” (1Sa.3:9-10). When the Lord spoke, Samuel did not hold back the fullness of God’s message, though he was afraid. When Eli said, “hide it not from me” (1Sa.3:17), Samuel “told him everything and hid nothing from him.” (1Sa.3:18).
This is the lesson Jonah learned, to preach the message God gave him. It was a message about their wickedness (Jonah 1:2) and about judgment (Jonah 3:4). Other than these two things, we do not know the exact details of the message. For some reason they repented (3:6-9). Why? I believe it was because they feared God and they believed that the judgment would happen. But why did they feel they could repent and stop judgment? Jonah’s message did not seem to include repentance, but somehow, they knew they could repent. Jonah knew that God would show kindness (Jonah 4:2). How did they know? One translation is: “and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you” (NAS). The message may have been more than: “You are wicked” and “You will be judged.” There may have been further details concerning their sins. There may have been further details concerning their judgment. There may have been a hint that they could repent. We do not know.
Jonah was faithful and he preached what God wanted him to preach. Like Jeremiah, he did not fear rejection or persecution. (Jer.1:17-18). Like Ezekiel, he would speak even if he knew they would not hear. (Ezek.2:7). Despite the greatness of the city, despite not knowing his reception or their reaction, despite everything Jonah was faithful. Charles Spurgeon: “There is no preaching like that which God bids us. The preaching that comes out of our own heads will never go into other men’s hearts. If we will keep to the preaching that the Lord bids us, we shall not fail in our ministry.” Jonah did not fail and because he was faithful to preach the message he was given, something wonderful happened as a result.
Continued in next issue.