Forty more days

by LA UBF   04/26/2005     0 reads




Jonah 3:1-10 

Key Verse 3:4

On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned."

Our God is the God of mercy. He is a compassionate God. He is diligently working even now for His redeeming work with a broken heart. This is the theme which is flowing inside of the book of Jonah. Today’s passage teaches us how God is fulfilling His redemptive work in the life of Jonah and in the lives of the people of Nineveh. May the Lord help us to receive one word of God from today’s passage. Let’s study this passage in two parts:


Look at Verse 1. Let’s read Verse 1 together. “[1] Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: Here, chapter 3:1 is exactly the same with chapter 1:1 except that the word, “Then, and “a second time” were added. As we studied last week in chapter 2, Jonah ran away from the Word of the Lord in the first place. But because of the greatness of God's mercy through his divine training, the Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time. In fact, the moment Jonah was swallowed up by a great fish, it seemed that Jonah failed completely and irrevocably. But for God’s plan, it was only a divine process of fulfilling His will and purpose in Jonah’s life as well as for the people in Nineveh. Indeed, God was humbling Jonah to hear & receive the Word and obey it. Once Jonah got disciplined by God, a new wave of spirit came on him and he was ready to be used as a powerful messenger of God’s judgment. 

How many of you responded to the Word of God the first time it was given to you? How many of you have never experienced making a mistake or a failure while you were serving the Lord and His flock? I doubt that any of us are confident about this question. Probably, we would not have even responded the second or the third time. Perhaps, there have been numerous times, if not hundreds, that we failed to hear the Word of God because of our sins or desires for the world. It was the long-suffering of God toward us in delivering his Word that He finally brought us back!


To be honest, in our pride, we all like to think that we choose to do the right things all the time in our life. Yet as we take a close look within, we discover that many times in life, perhaps even most of the time, we do not choose immediately to obey the Word of God. We have a track record of sins and disobedience. For this reason, we probably find ourselves identifying with Jonah. Yet we may rationalize and say, 'I'm glad that I did not disobey God in something as big as what Jonah did! Or say ‘I know that I falter and disobey, but not quite as bad as Jonah.' But the reality of our Jonah-like disobedience and the need for divine restoration, is just as big as that of Jonah. 


Philip.1:6 “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” This truth helps to sustain us in times of faltering and weakness. It is true that He who saved us will not let us go; that He will not stop working in us until He completes His Work! For here, we see the evidence that the same Lord who began a good work in Jonah’s life continued His work in spite of Jonah. I believe that the same Lord who began a good work in each of your lives will continue His work even in spite of you! I believe that the same Lord who began a good work in James Park’s life will continue His work in spite of James Park. Thank God! Our God is the God of ‘second chances’. Our God is the God ‘restoration’. Therefore, we should not be discouraged by looking at our own weaknesses. We need to look to God who is the God of ‘second chances.’! Then the Lord God will continually lead us to see the truth that He disciplines us to hear & obey His Word and accomplishes what He desires to accomplish in each one of our lives! 

Look at Verse 2-3. Please read these verses together. “[2] Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” [3] Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city--a visit required three days.” 

When the Word of the Lord was given to Jonah ‘a second time’, Jonah attentively heard God’s Word and obeyed it! You know, there occurs a new level of attentiveness, a new capacity of hearing the Word of God in our lives when we go through God’s divine discipline. We call this ‘fruit of discipline’ or ‘spiritual growth’. The first time the Word of the Lord came to Jonah, he ran away. But now, “Jonah obeyed the Word of the Lord and went to Nineveh”. He heard very clearly what God had commanded. Though he had ignored God's voice before, he would now listen with a new level of attention and obedience.


In our own experience, there has certainly been competition between what God said to us and all  the noises of the world, our pride, personal desires, selfish ambition, and fear of obedience. All such things have cluttered the pathway for us to submissively hear the Word of God. But, when God afflicted us with His divine discipline, we could tune out the other noises that have been competing for our attention.  Through this divine discipline, we learn to hear what God says and are able to curb our pride in joyful obedience to Him. 

Have you ever had this kind of experience? Have you ever experienced that you felt that you were closer to God when you were in affliction or distress than when you were in good times? I have! The Psalmist agreed with this point. Psalm 119:71 reads, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” Another translation says, “My punishment was good for me, because it made me learn your commands.” What a heavenly revelation! If we wish to carry out God’s messages and be used as a useful servant of God, then we should learn to hear the word of God and obey it! The more our Lord transforms us into His likeness by whatever means he chooses, the more we will find ourselves hearing and obeying the word of the Lord. May the Lord bless us to have hearing ears and obedient hearts!


Let’s read Verse 3a again. “Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh”. At this time, Jonah had made his mind up to obey the word of the Lord. No more fleeing. No more hiding. Most of all, no more sleeping. Just obedience. Here we can see that in Jonah’s life, obedience to the will of the Lord became more important than his personal feelings or desires. Moreover, he was no longer a reluctant prophet. He was now changed into an uncompromising messenger who came with God’s message of judgment! That is when we know that the work of God’s divine discipline has accomplished its purpose. 

It is obvious that so many young college students tend to live according to their own emotions and desires these days. Because of this shallow life-style, they fail to attain to a new level of attentiveness; a new capacity of hearing the Word of God and obeying it.

You know, in our lives, when faced with any decisions or choices, we operate from one of these three components; faith, reason, or emotion. 

Faith says in the face of the situation, “This is what God says.” (Because you say so….)

Reason says, “This is what I think and what seems right to me.” 

Emotion says, “This is how I feel right now and I’m going to go with my feelings.”

These three components are all related, of course. But what we should pay attention to in dealing with the devil in our practical life is the fact that the devil never appeals to our faith. He only appeals to our reason and emotions. Moreover, he attempts at all times to break the harmony of these three components. You see, when we listen and obey God in a certain situation, God works to bring our reason and emotions in line with our faith. So, when we fully obey God’s Word and his commands, we experiences great joy. But when we listen to and obey the devil, we become confused and fragmented because there is no harmony between these three components. In counseling terminology, they call it, ‘incongruence’. There occurs an ‘incongruence’ between the ‘self’ and the ‘experience’. Then man starts to show maladaptive behaviors and becomes disorganized and unwholesome. That’s why we see so many people suffering from one problem after another. It is because they live in a lowly level of life which is only commanded by their emotions and fallen desires! 

Then what is the solution? Look at Verse 3a again. “Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh”. At this time Jonah gave up his personal emotions toward the enemy nation and he obeyed the Word of the Lord! Obedience to the Word of God! That’s the solution! When we rely on our human emotions or ability to reason, we deceive ourselves. Furthermore, God is not pleased with that! And the devil is delighted any time we ignore God or fail to experience God’s best. Faith and obedience is the only way for us to know God personally and attain His best! So don’t live by your emotions. Live by faith and obedience! The Biblical view on most issues of life is almost always simple, straightforward, and easy to understand. The problem is not that we don’t’ know God’s opinion or obey what God says. 

So let’s pray for young college students to overcome their emotions and live by faith and obedience so that many powerful and spiritual men and women of God may be established in this great city of Los Angeles and in its surrounding area! Let’s pray that the Lord may humble us at all times and make us grow to be a Jonah-like messenger who received an uncompromising spirit and power through his obedience! 


Please take a look at Verses 4-9. Please read these verses responsively. 


[4] "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." [5] “The Ninevites believed God. God’s message for the Nineveh was the message of judgment. And it’s very short! It has only one sentence! Yet the immediate and collective response to the message of this simple and impending judgment was unbelievable! “The Ninevites believed God”! According to my study, Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, one of the great enemies of the Nation of Israel in the Bible. The ancient site of Nineveh is part of Mosul, the second largest city in modern Iraq. Jonah (4:11) also gives us a clue to believe that Nineveh had more than a hundred and twenty thousand people lived there in those days. That means Jonah was gloriously used by God to help 120,000 people to repent with this simple and powerful message of judgment! Even to Jonah, it must have been unbelievable. 

[4] "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." [5] The Ninevites believed God. You see, when we examine this passage very closely, this great work of God arose from their faith in God and sincere repentance. Obviously they had no bible teacher or 1:1 shepherds at all. They had no Sunday or Wednesday service like this, to have a chance to hear the Word of God. Perhaps they didn’t even know how to pray. Yet surprisingly enough, when they heard “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned”, they believed God. What does “believed God” mean? It means they accepted the message as God’s message, and they believed that this message came from God! Some people never believe God even though they come to church and hear God’s message all the time. But the Ninevites believed God by just listening to a one-sentence message!  Wow! What's more, they declared a fast from the greatest to the least and put on sackcloth. Then they took action as a fruit of their genuine repentance by giving up their evil ways and their violence. Then they sought God’s mercy. Let’s read Verse 9 again. “Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish."   

When I read through this passage and see the great example of repentance movement from the people of Nineveh, two things came to my mind.

Firstly, Repentance comes from the fear of the Lord. "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." This is an unambiguous announcement of God’s judgment. The people of Nineveh took this message very seriously. On the contrary, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, the son-in-laws of Lot were most likely given the same message. Yet they thought it was a joke. Through this, we see that the fear of the Lord comes from the faith that our God is the ultimate judge. He is the one who has power to save us or to throw us into hell. Luke 12:4-5 "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. [5] But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” 

Most people wouldn’t even give a single thought to God until they begin to feel the flame of divine judgment leaping toward them. They have heard the Word of God over and over again, yet never attentively hear it and much less obey it. Just as God determined to judge Nineveh, he likewise determines to judge those who stubbornly remain ignorant or unrepentant, whether its individual people and or a whole nation!

America today seems no better than the city of Nineveh or Sodom and Gomorrah. It seems that America has no fear of the Lord. It is obvious that God’s impending judgment is approaching when we hear on news about America’s perversion and rebellion against God! Surely its wickedness has come up before God! Billy Graham once said "If the Lord does not judge the United States, He owes Sodom & Gomorrah an apology ...” Jesus also said in Matthew (12:39-41), “A wicked and adulterous generation….. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here!”    

The heart of the message is that our God detests our sins. Our righteous God is going to judge every sin in the lives of each individual, city, and nation! He will either reward us or punish us according to what we have done while we are in the body. This message is very consistent in the Bible. Therefore we should pray for America. Let’s us pray that a great repentance movement may occur on each of our respective campuses so that America may be used as a source of blessing for all nations! Let us pray for ourselves also so that we may take God’s message as God’s message and repent of our sins and turn to God! That is the true wisdom by which we can truly be blessed by God!

Secondly, The urgency of God’s judgment. "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." "Forty days" passes by on the calendar very quickly. To me, it seems like one week is just like a day these days. It goes by very fast! Indeed, time flies like an arrow! It is obvious that the people in Nineveh realized that God was very serious about his message and the forty days of counting had just kicked off; Tic-Tic-Tic……. That’s why they responded to God message so quickly and they all repented. 

Let me ask you a question? How many days do you think you have? If Nineveh had forty days, and it was extraordinarily wicked, how many more days of trying the patience of God do you think you have based on your own evaluation of yourself? You might say, “I'm young; I have plenty of time to consider spiritual things; my whole life is ahead of me”; Or you may say, “I don't want anyone telling me that I must do something. I'm my own person, leave me alone”. 

However, today’s passage has a different attitude at the urgent message of the prophet. In fact, if we do not heed the urgency of this message, then we are demonstrating that we do not believe God in a real sense. Basically how do we know that we have tomorrow to deal with our soul? How do we know that tomorrow we will even be interested in spiritual matters? James 4:14 “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” 

Jonah proclaimed, "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." It teaches me that I need to take God’s message seriously with a sense of urgency, repent of my sins daily, and devote myself to the work of God. As you know, God blessed my family to start pioneering Cal. Poly Pomona last year. Faith and I diligently visited the campus and prayed to God that He would bless us to be a source of blessing and to be fruitful and increase in number. We were excited about several students’ response and faithfulness 1:1 bible studies. Especially I remember we had a lot of rain last winter. Yet, regardless of rain or shine, I visited the campus and some brothers’ houses faithfully after work.  I enjoyed the privilege of being used as a Bible teacher as a lay missionary. However, in the midst of this blessing, Satan got zealous and gave us a heart-breaking experience as one of our coworkers became mentally ill and spiritually broken. Through this event, God helped me to realize that our daily life in Jesus is really a spiritual battle which is a fight against the evil forces in the spiritual realm. It also gave me a huge repentance topic in that I didn’t pray for her as much as I should. Through preparing this message, I learned that it is time that I sincerely kneel down before God in prayer and ask for His mercy and help! I thank God for shep. Terry’s family recently to call for emergent prayer meeting in our common life house so that we can pray together for God’s flock with these urgent prayer topics! Despite many tough challenges, we will not shrink back, but rather by crying out to God, we will continually fight against the power of darkness for many suffering souls and lead them to Jesus’ sheep-pen. We are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness (1 Thes. 5:5). Since we belong to the day, I pray that my family may continually devote ourselves to the work of the Lord, and serve God’s flock with a sense of urgency, until the day ends and Jesus’ returns to judge the whole earth! Please pray for me that I may grow and put myself into the heightened level of discipline, spirit and power so that I may be used as a messenger of God’s judgment like Jonah. Please pray for Cal. Poly Pomona so that God may establish one Abraham and one Sarah of faith within this year and fully pioneer this campus with the message of God! 

Look at Verse 10. “[10] When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.” Here, we see that in His great mercy and compassion, God changed his plan!. He did not bring upon them certain destruction, but rather he saved them and redeemed them!

You see, throughout the time of the Old Testament prophets, they declared the impending judgment of God. Hosea exposes the spiritual adultery of Israel. Joel demonstrates the wickedness of the nation. Amos named one sin after another to show Israel her spiritual condition. 

Yet all of these messages came with a window of God’s divine mercy and the call to repentance. The fact that the prophets exposed their sin demonstrated God’s righteousness and His heart to show mercy on them if they would repent and turn to him. 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Praise God!

In conclusion, our God is the God of mercy! He is a merciful God. His heart is compassionate, long-suffering, and committed to our salvation! Praise God who bears our weaknesses and gives us a second chance! Praise God who blesses us to have a wonderful fellowship and mission in Jesus through His mercy and grace! May the Lord help us to repent of our sins and shape our faith. 

One Word: Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned!