Debra Isenbletter, Pastor, Christian Assembly, Springfield, Missouri
Jonah 3:3, “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.” Jonah is again called by God to fulfill the responsibilities of a prophet of God and he answers that call faithfully.
His Obedience: “Jonah arose.” The first time Jonah “arose” it was in disobedience (Jon.1:3). He “arose” to run from the Will of God and from the Word of God. Now Jonah runs with the Word of God. What a difference! The word “arose” means to “stand up” and this is the first step. Jonah stands up to do exactly what God wants him to do. The wonderful truth attached to taking this first step, of standing up, is the provision and promise and the power that God gives to the one who does this. He will be “established,” he will be strengthened, but not until he first “stands up.” He will receive strength as he needs it, the moment he needs it. Jonah’s purpose will be “fixed” and that shows that the first step of faith enables us to take the next step of faith. Jonah will not change his mind, he will do what God asks him to do. Jonah arose knowing that he would be “proved” by God but at the same time he knew that he could “prove” God, and his God would meet his need, whatever it might be. There is nothing negative about being proven by God because the positive side is that we prove God and He is always there for us.
The other meanings for “arise” and “arose” show what happens when God proves us and we prove Him. He puts us to the test and we put Him to the test and there is a powerful result. We are able “to continue,” despite the obstacles, despite the suffering, despite the persecution, whatever it may be. We are able to “continue” because we walk not in our own strength but in the strength of the New Creation life. We walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, energized and enabled by the Spirit. As Jonah “continues,” he is able to “accomplish” all that God asks of him. It is not really the accomplishment of the flesh but what happens when the flesh submits to the Spirit of God and draws power from the Word of God. Jonah will accomplish something amazing, simply by being a yielded vessel. Finally, Jonah is able to be “fulfilled” simply by doing the task set before him. Jesus spoke often of doing His Father’s will, but behind that doing, behind that obedience was a wonderful fulfillment, a wonderful satisfaction. Jesus found joy and delight in doing His Father’s will. The final promise, which is a wonderful reward is “to become powerful.” As Jonah “arose” and went through all the steps of obedience that led to the conclusion of his ministry you see the power that was manifested. He was “more powerful” than when he started. All the trials and obstacles that a child of God faces as they obey the Will and Word of God, whatever the cost, result in spiritual growth and spiritual power. There is a cost and it may be a great cost, but there is a reward and it is a great reward.
Jonah arose in faith, he arose without fear, he arose and stood firm. His experience taught him the power of God and God’s Word was all he needed. The power of God disciplined him and afterward delivered him. Jonah arose in the power of a transformed life. It is a picture of resurrection life. It was an energized life, it was an enabled life, it was an empowered life. Jonah is a picture of walking in the power of Christ’s resurrection. Jonah also shows us that as we obey, we are established, and energized and we are able to overcome and be overcomers. The Lord may ask what seems to be the impossible but He can make it possible through our obedience.
His Objective: “and went unto Nineveh.” If the great fish left him in Joppa and he traveled to Nineveh from there, it would have been about 550 miles. If he traveled on a caravan, they traveled about 20-25 miles a day. If he did that, what an opportunity to witness. He could also have traveled alone, and spent time alone with the Lord. He could also have landed near Nineveh, we just do not know. What we see is that God chose the city for Jonah to preach to and it was a Gentile city and it was an ungodly city. Jonah going to Nineveh is a type of Israel’s true calling. They will one day be a light to the Gentiles, but only after they receive the light of the gospel. When they minister to the Gentiles, it will be Christ’s life and His light that those they preach to will see. (Isa.60:3). As the new creation, they will teach the nations about the Lord (Isa.2:3). This is God’s provision and purpose for His people. It was His promise in the Old Testament (Isa.42:6-7) and it was fulfilled in the New Testament in Jesus and His ministry (Luk.4:18) which was not just to the Jew but to all who were in need. Peter would go to the Gentiles, though he had to be persuaded by a vision but once he went, those in Jerusalem accepted this and acknowledged the fulfillment of prophecy. (Act.15:14-15). When the Apostle Paul began to preach and teach, though he went to the Jew first, he became the apostle to the Gentiles (Gal.2:7-9). He became that “light to the Gentiles” that Israel should have been (Act.9:15). He was not “disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Act.26:19). In Acts you can see in the Jews rejection of the Gentiles Jonah’s past attitude and in Paul’s acceptance of his ministry to the Gentiles, Jonah’s present attitude.
His Obligation: “according to the word of the Lord.” This is the testimony of Jonah’s changed attitude. He had disobeyed “the word of the Lord” but now he obeyed that word without question. This is the reason for Jonah’s successful ministry. He did everything according to the word of the Lord and he would say everything according to the word of the Lord. This was his obligation.
Nineveh’s Might: “Nineveh was an exceeding great city.” After Jonah answers God’s call, after he journeys to Nineveh, we see the challenge he faces. The city is not just a great city but an “exceeding great city.” It had a lot to boast in. It was an important city. It was the capital of Assyria. The greatness of the city is undeniable and Jonah had heard about this city, now he was about to see it. God did not see their greatness and Jonah will be looking at the city through God’s eyes. God saw something else that was great, the great need of that city. Jonah would show them how great God was.
Nineveh’s Magnitude: “of three days’ journey.” This is the size of Nineveh, it is how long it would take to walk straight across the middle of the city or around its perimeter. Most commentators say this would be about 60 miles and if you allowed 20 miles for one day’s journey, it would take Jonah three days to do this just one time. I thought about what a physical challenge this would be for Jonah. Walking through the gates, seeing its size, not knowing how long it would take to do this would have seemed like an impossible task. But once Jonah started, he did not stop until he completed that task. It would have been exhausting to walk the streets, day after day, to stop in each market place, to make sure he covered every part of the city, at least once and he could have done this more than one time. How exhausting the task was for Jonah reminds me of Paul and the physical toil of his ministry. Jonah might have labored “night and day” like Paul and he might have preached with “tears” (Acts 20:31). Like Paul, Jonah would have done this “by the grace of God” (1Co.15:10), that this grace was not bestowed in vain and that Jonah was not afraid to preach. It does not matter if the message is for sinner or saint, Preach the Word. Jonah did not hesitate did not turn back. He walked through the gates of that city by faith, empowered by the Spirit of God and was willing to preach all the Word of God.