Turn or Burn
Jonah/Yonah the Reluctant Prophet
"The word of Adonai came to Yonah the son of Amitai:
Set out for the great city of Ninveh, and proclaim to it that their
wickedness has come to my attention."
Yonah 1:1-2 (CJB)
(Complete Jewish Bible)
God told Jonah to go to Ninevah, the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Many of Jonah's countrymen had experienced the atrocities of those ungodly people.
Let's just imagine a Jewish man in New York during World War II hearing God say, "I'm going to bring terrible judgment on Germany. Go to Berlin and tell Nazi Germany to repent." Instead, the Jewish man heads to California and hops a ship to Hawaii!
His response would have been just like Jonah's!
Jonah hated Nineveh, and so he responded with anger and indifference. Jonah had yet to learn that God loves all people. Through Jonah, God reminded Israel of their missionary purpose. We all know the story how God persuaded Jonah to complete his mission to Ninevah. It's a whale of a tail! (sorry, too good to pass up!)
"So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent. And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
Jonah was told to go into Ninevah and shout, "Forty days and Ninevah will be overthrown." (Turn or Burn!) Jonah emphasized to the people of Nineveh what would happen if they did not repent - the city would be overthrown in judgment. So, the Ninevites repented of their sins, and were not judged/overthrown!
Here is the biggest miracle! Not that Jonah was swallowed by a 'Big Fish', but the entire city responded to Jonah's preaching! The people of Nineveh fasted, mourned as if for the dead, and they did it from the highest to the lowest, from the greatest to the least of them.
How many evangelist/preachers today would love to have that kind of response?
Why was Jonah angry that God spared Nineveh?
Jonathan Swift wrote some verse that expresses Jonah’s frame of mind:
We are God's chosen few,
All others will be damned;
There is no place in heaven for you,
We can't have heaven crammed.
God doesn't lie, yet He told Jonah to do something that didn't happen!
Some people might struggle with this conflict in the Book of Jonah and asked these questions, "I thought God couldn't lie. Then why did He say one thing and do other?"Overthrown...'Haphak'
The answer to these questions are found when we look deeper into the original Hebrew. The word which we read as overthrown, is the Hebrew "haphak."
Haphak does mean overthrown, but is also means converted and changed. Jonah was shouting a message that could be taken two ways, Ninevah would be 'overthrown' or...
Ninevah would be converted, changed, become totally new.
Everyone took it to mean judgment, but God chose the Hebrew word that had multiple meanings.
(Awesome is this God we serve!)
This brings to mind the Scripture in Hebrews 4:11,
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword..."
The Word of God can cut both ways..."haphak!"
Sometimes we want to help God pass judgment on wicked people, demanding immediate punishment. But, oh the mercies of God are more than we can comprehend! Oh, the compassion of our Lord for sinners!
We want to judge, and He has devised a plan to save!
"And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus,
and by the Spirit of our God."
1 Corinthians 6:11
In His Love
Blue Letter Bible
Complete Jewish Bible
David Guzik at www.enduringword.com