2 Nineveh “Repents” and Yahweh Changes His Verdict (Jonah 3:6 – 10) Quick Review of Week 14 ….Nineveh “Repents” and Yahweh Changes His Verdict (Jonah 3:6 – 10)
3 Jonah 3:6-96 The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, 8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”The king’s knowledge of the character of God is surprising here. What did he know about God and His nature?The King believed:in the existence of Israel’s God (v. 8)that this God could hear his prayers (v. 8)God expected true repentance from individuals for specific sins (v.8)God may relent and not bring about judgment as a result of the people’s repentance (v. 9)God had fierce anger as a result of the sins that the people had committed (v. 9)
4 Jonah as SignHe came to Nineveh as a man raised from the dead; his miraculous deliverance clothed his whole ministry with divine approval … Jonah was a man sent from GodThis God had demonstrated both his justice and his mercy in all that he had done with Jonah; therefore, before he ever uttered a word, Jonah was a sign and wonder among these peopleHe was a sign of the certain wrath of God against sin but also a sign that a sinner can be spared, as Jonah had been
5 Evidence that Ninevites Truly Repented Biblical repentance includes at least three vital elements, each of which appears to be present in the case of NinevehRepentance requires a sorrowful mourning over sinFalse repentance grieves only over the consequences of sin; true repentance grieves over the sin itselfWe see the Ninevites' sorrow for sin in three ways:They fasted – fasting has several biblical purposes, one of which is a public expression of penitenceWore sackcloth as expression lament, grief, and humiliationPublic display of self-humiliation when king took off his robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashesRepentance also requires an actual turning from sinRepentance is a change of mind issuing in a change of lifeNineveh was notorious for violence, so its king acknowledges the evil of their ways and calls the people to repudiate their chief and characteristic sin (“Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands”)Repentance culminates in a turning to God in renewed faithThe king summoned the people to pray to the God of Jonah for mercy (“let them call out mightily to God”)
6 In the light of what’s been said so far about Nineveh's repentance, it might seem difficult to deny that they came to believe in Israel's God and showed by their actions that their belief was genuineWhile such an understanding is possible, we must be cautious in drawing conclusions about the extent of Nineveh's repentanceWhile the vast majority of Biblical scholars view the Ninevites’ conversion as true and valid, there are some (including Reformed writers) who are more circumspect
7 Evidence that Ninevites’ Repentance Incomplete The message preached by Jonah did not contain the information necessary for such a change of heart … the Ninevites never hear the name Yahweh, Torah or monotheismNo language of forgiveness or pardon appears in the story; no hope or avenue of escape is offered – God relents, but the Ninevites' prior sins remain unpunishedThe city believed God's word through Jonah, and abandoned their violence and wickedness in the hope that God would spare them; this is a striking moral reform, but there is nothing that requires us to say it was more than thatWhile fasting, mourning, putting aside violence, and belief in God's word are evident, the Ninevites’ reform makes no mention of putting away their other godsThere is no mention of any fearing, honoring, worshiping or even recognizing Yahweh (in contrast to statements of converting pagans such as Ruth or Namaan)
8 Ninevite Response: Partial Repentance Further, it is clearly stated in 3:10 not that God saw their faith, nor that God saw that they sought Him with their whole heart, but rather, that God saw their worksWhile one cannot deny the importance of proper works as a major step in repentance, this does not indicate a full conversion to YahwehTheir repentance is similar to that of Ahab in 1 Kings 21:27 (“he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went about dejectedly”) … his actions were sufficient to gain only a postponement of judgmentJonah came to Nineveh in the decades before the fall of Israel; however, the Nineveh that repented under Jonah was very soon involved once again in the exercise of imperialistic violence, and that against Jonah’s very nation!Thus, Nineveh believed God, turned from her sin in some degree, but did not fully turn to God … her repentance was partial and incomplete
9 Introduction to Jonah 4In contrast to the first three chapters, Jonah 4 features a large amount of dialogueThis is intended to reveal climactically the character of both Jonah and Yahweh through their wordsJonah’s words and Yahweh’s words are split with mathematical precisionThey each get absolutely equal “air time” since each utters a total of 47 Hebrew words
10 Resenting GodHow is it possible to serve God and end up resenting Him?There is a particular darkness that sometimes comes to those who work hardest in the Lord’s serviceResentment towards God is the special temptation of mature believers who serve Him wellThe more you do for God, the easier it is to feel that God owes youSo if you stretch yourself in serving God, don’t be surprised when this strange darkness sneaks up on youYou will encounter this trial, and you need to know how to deal with it
12 Herman Melville, Moby Dick “All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby-Dick. He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it.”
13 SCENE 6Jonah 4:1-41 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?”It is possible that this includes all that happened in 3:5-10: the Ninevites’ believing God, performing acts of repentance, and turning from their evil, as well as God changing His verdictMost likely, however, it is the specific fact that God changed His verdict from destruction to the salvation of the NinevitesHow does Jonah’s reaction here compare to his response to God’s mercy in chapter 2?What does the difference between Jonah’s two responses show us about his heart?How does Jonah respond to God’s action in chapter 3?While not explicitly stated, how much time has passed since Jonah initially preached to the Ninevites?What infuriated Jonah so much?
14 Jonah 4:1“But it displeased (ra’ah) Jonah exceedingly (ra’ah gadol), and he was angry.”What does the expression “great evil” in this verse teach us about Jonah?It seems Jonah is more upset with Nineveh’s deliverance than was Yahweh with its sin!What does it teach us about ourselves?What is the only answer to the “great evils” that we commit and are committed against us?The first part of verse 1 literally says: “But it was evil to Jonah, great evil …”As we have seen in several previous lessons, forms of the Hebrew words ra’ah (evil) and gadol (great) occur frequently in the book of JonahHowever, the only time in the book that the two root words ra’ah and gadol occur together is in Jonah 4:1
15 Jonah 3:10Jonah 4:1“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way (ra’ah), God relented of the disaster (ra’ah) that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.“But it displeased (ra’ah) Jonah exceedingly (ra’ah gadol), and he was angry.”The irony here is that theNinevites turn away from their “evil”which in turns prompts Yahweh to change His verdict about the “evil” He had threatenedwhereupon double “evil” immediately comes upon Jonah!in fact his name is surrounded by “evil”
16 SCENE 6Jonah 4:1-41 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?”Have you undermined your repentance by offering up explanations of your sin? Do you find yourself blaming God for what had happened in your life?Have you found that the path of self-justification leads to anger against God?Jonah’s first recorded prayer was from the belly of the great fish; his second is from the depths of his burning angerNeither place is comfortable; in both instances he has been swallowed up – first by the great fish and now by his great angerVerse 2 is the first (and only) time in the book of Jonah that the prophet’s refusal to obey God’s original call to go to Nineveh is explained. What reason did Jonah give?Does this reason make sense to you?According to verse 2, how did Jonah communicate his anger to God?Is it a good thing to express anger to God in this way? Explain your answer
17 “So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt” Jonah 4:2a “And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish …” Exodus 14:12 “Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”How are these two verses similar?What are the complaints of Jonah in Nineveh and the Israelites in Egypt?Both reveal unwillingness of people to leave a previous place of securityBoth prefer negative past experience over moving into future planned by GodIsrael preferred death slavery in Egypt instead of what looked like coming deathJonah prefers death rather than life under the grace of God that welcomes even converted Gentiles
18 SCENE 6Jonah 4:1-41 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?”In Jonah’s complaint recorded in verse 2, how does he characterize the LORD?What does each mean?
19 1. Gracious GodThe first divine attribute Jonah mentions is that Yahweh is gracious (hannun), showing favor to othersThis adjective is exclusively applied to God in the OTAn illustration of its meaning is provided by a similar clause in Exodus 22:26-27:“If ever you take your neighbor's cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”(hannun)Yahweh hears the cry of the person who is cold; He is a God who is moved by simple human need
20 2. Merciful GodThe primary meaning of this word is “to be soft like a womb" … it is illustrated in the soft compassion of a mother for her child in the wombThe Ninevites (like the sailors) hoped what Jonah has known all along: God is mercifulThe sailors and the Ninevites are a sharp critique on the prophet who selfishly guards this knowledgeJonah 4:2 is the only time in the OT that Yahweh revealed himself as merciful by how he treated a nation other than IsraelNineveh is receiving from Yahweh the same mercy that previously He had shown only to Israel and that Jonah thinks should be shown only to Israel
21 3. Slow to AngerThe Hebrew expression is literally “long of two nostrils”This idiom means "forbear, continue long, be patient, postpone anger, tarry long"Proverbs 16:32 translates the phrase, "Better a patient man [one slow to anger] than a warrior."Jonah disagrees that Yahweh should be patient any longer
22 4. Abounding in Steadfast Love The Hebrew word translated here as steadfast love is hesedGod gave Hosea a marriage metaphor to illustrate this kind of abounding loveHe tells Hosea to marry a prostitute and to be faithful to her as an example of God's faithfulness to a faithless peopleJust as elsewhere in the OT Yahweh often changes his verdict about dispensing judgment against Israel on account of his hesed, so also he changes His verdict about leveling Nineveh according to His hesed
23 5. God Relents from Disaster We dealt with this attribute of God at the end of Jonah 3The Hebrew root verb nacham can mean “to relent,” “to pity,” “to feel grief,” or “to have compassion”Forms of nacham are often used in Old Testament texts that depict God threatening punishment but later relenting
24 Who Do You Know?3:9 “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” 4:2 “And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”Compare Jonah 4:2 to Jonah 3:9. What did Jonah know that the king of Nineveh did not know?Who knew the LORD better?In Jonah 4:2, Jonah is quoting God's words from Exodus 34 back to Him! Does Jonah not understand who God is, or does he not like who God is?Jonah’s sinful old man speaks and declares that Yahweh is a God who is soft on sin and weak on justice!
25 Angry with God about Grace Jonah had a problem with God … he felt that God was too slow to anger, too passive in dealing with evilSo he took up the great affirmation of grace given to Moses in Exodus 34, and turned it back to God as a complaintBut grace means that God may bless people who have wronged you, people from whose sins you have sufferedWhen that happen, you may find yourself asking, “Why doesn’t God give them what they deserve?”Have you ever thought/believed that God sometimes seems to bless the wrong people … that His grace seems mis-directed?One expression of our sinful pride is that we make so much of our own freedom and so little of God’sWe feel that we must be free to choose or reject Him, but we do not feel that He should be free to choose or reject us
26 The Grace of God Remarkably, Jonah understood God's grace He knew that God had brought the people of Nineveh to repentance, not through a general offer of common grace but through a specific intervention in their livesGod could easily have left these people under the judgment they so richly deserved. But no! God sent His Word through JonahEven then, when Jonah preached the Word, God could have allowed nature to take its course …left to themselves, the people of Nineveh would have rejected the Word, and Jonah's preaching would simply have confirmed them in their sinBut no! God's Spirit worked in their hearts, producing repentance and bringing them hope that God would not destroy themGod was under no obligation to do this … He had done it freely, and that was what was so galling to JonahWhy would God do such a thing? The more Jonah thought about God's grace, the more angry he became
27 SCENE 6Jonah 4:1-41 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?”What did the prophet ask the LORD to do in verse 3? Why?All of this talk of grace on Jonah’s part leads to his prayer that God take his life; this is odd since God’s grace delivers from death, not over to death!“Over my dead body” is Jonah’s vehement reaction to Yahweh’s graceHimself forgiven, he can’t accept that non-Israelites should be forgiven as wellThis is a conflict over the Gospel – who owns it, provides it, manages it, and delivers it … Jonah can’t bear that he is not in charge of the Gospel!How did the LORD answer Jonah? Why did He answer in this way?It is important to catch the note of challenge in Yahweh’s question to Jonah; God is implying that such anger is nonsensical and wrongHow do people today want God’s character to be different?Are there areas in which you, like Jonah, want God to be different?How might we expect God to respond?In judgment, Jonah might find himself back at the bottom of the sea, suffering in Sheol!
28 Justice Standing in Tension with Mercy Doesn’t Jonah have a point here?Should guilty people escape responsibility, especially if they have perpetrated evil and brought calamities upon others?Should repentance, even if genuine, remove punishment demanded by their atrocities?Where is the justice in letting the guilty escape the recompense due them?Who wants to live in a world devoid of justice, one in which evildoers can sin with impunity?
29 Laborers in the Vineyard (Matt 20:1-16) “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”What are the similarities between this parable & Jonah 4:1-4?How is the parable’s conclusion appropriate for Jonah?Which laborers were angry and why?How did the owner of the vineyard respond to their anger?Who do the landowner and the laborers represent? What does the vineyard represent?
30 Jonah 4: Jonah’s AngerWhile flight and descent are characteristic of Jonah’s responses to Yahweh in chapters 1 and 2, anger characterizes his response in chapter 4Anger occurs four times in the book, all in this chapter in reference to Jonah (4:1, 4, 9 [twice])Ironically, Jonah’s anger is a response to Yahweh being slow to anger … Jonah is angry because he cannot control the spread of the GospelJonah indicates that God is not angry, when He should be angry … this makes Jonah, well, angry!
31 You're angry: Let's talk about your rights Notice that when Jonah is angry, God raises the issue of rightsJonah had a problem with the justice of GodGod had a problem with the injustice of JonahGod had stepped into Jonah's life, in an extraordinary and unparalleled way, with the purpose and effect of saving himJonah's deliverance was the clearest possible example God doing for one man what He does not do for othersGod had exercised His freedom to shower mercy on Jonah and save him from imminent destructionAnd now, God had chosen to show the same mercy to the people of Nineveh
32 The Dark SideRecognize that the path of self-justification can only lead you to a dark abyssWe need to get back to the path of honest confession and repentance as we embrace again the mercy of God in Jesus ChristYou don't want to spend eternity in the company of those who are angry about God's grace
33 Amazing Grace Take a moment to reflect on God's grace in your life Think about the friends and members of your family circle who do not love Christ … some of them have the same background and similar gifts to youAsk this question: Why is it that you are in Christ and someone else in your family, workplace or group of friends is not?It's not because you're wiser than they are; it's not that you are a better person; and it's not enough to say that you made a better choiceWhy did you make a better choice?Here's why you believe: God has set His love on you. God's Holy Spirit awakened you. God drew you to Himself. He redeemed you. He gave you new life from above, and you did nothing to deserve it!That's grace, and it is amazing!