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Relevant Messages or Powerful Author? June 23, 2005

Posted by mjtilley in Uncategorized.
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Few messages are more cryptic and potentially confusing than Jonah’s to Nineveh. All the Bible records of it is: “Yet 40 days and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”

While it’s not unreasonable to think that more was said, God isn’t deliberately hiding important parts of the message. In other words, whatever the exact and complete words of Jonah were to the people of Nineveh, the gist of it remains – “Yet 40 days and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”

Assuming that the people even understood this foreign man’s Hebrew tongue, what’s amazing is what isn’t said. There’s no mention of the source of the message, no indication of what to do because of it, and no apparent way to avoid it. Maybe it was put in this way because of Jonah’s foul attitude toward the people. That is, maybe he was just following the exact orders given (note Jonah 3:2) and not saying a word more or less, in hopes that the people would be confused and ignore him.

Maybe. . . but that takes nothing away from the results reported immediately in Jonah 3:3: “So the people of Nineveh believed God . . .”

Why? How?

At least part of the explanation can be seen in Jesus’ commentary on Jonah in Luke 11:30. He notes that Jonah himself was a sign to the people of Nineveh. While his words, being God’s message, were certainly important, his own life played a significant role as well. It was likely that the story spread fast of this man who ran from God, was swallowed by a big fish and re-deposited on the beach.

Finally, no matter how cryptic the message or unwilling the messenger, the intent and author of the message holds the most weight. God’s will – to turn the city to God – was going to be accomplished in spite of an rebellious prophet and a language barrier.

PREVIEW: This coming Sunday, we’ll consider the implications of this story of repentance — both for Jonah and the city — to us today. Is revival possible? If so, how? If it doesn’t happen, who’s to blame?

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