Explanations: Jonah, fish and gourd

Preaching against Nineveh? 
Announcing judgment? 
That meant that the Lord wanted to warn the inhabitants, in order that they would repent and judgment would no longer be necessary. 
That was not what Jonah liked. The people in Nineveh were good for nothing. Let them be judged! So Jonah turned and went down to Joppe in order to flee to Tarshish.

A prophecy of no more than one sentence.

Several books in the Old Testament have the name of a prophet. But the book of Jonah is different. 
The books of the prophets let us know what the message of the prophet was. The prophecy of Jonah however consisted of only some words: "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown". Nothing more. 
But the book of Jonah no doubt has something more to tell us. 

In 2 Kings 14:25 Jonah has been mentioned as a prophet: "He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of his servant Jonah, the son of Amithai, the prophet, which was of Gath hepher".So Jonah has prophesied more than the threatening words he had to say in Nineveh. He was a known prophet and no doubt the Lord had spoken through him more than once. But we do not know more about it than what has been written in 2 Kings and in Jonah. It might be, that with all he has had to preach quite a volume could have been filled, as voluminous as the book of Isaiah. 
Te prophecy in the book of Jonah however does not say more than that short sentence. 
What then are mainly the contents of the book? 
The answer is: The report of an episode in his active life. 
Then that must contain what the Lord has to say to us with this book.

Two prophetic books about one city?

There is another remarkable characteristic. The book of Jonah is one of the two prophetic books in Holy Scripture relating entirely to one town, Nineveh, the book Jonah and the prophecy of Nahum. That cannot be without purpose, for no other book is entirely dedicated to one town. 
It also is striking, that the Lord Jesus compared the prophet Jonah, who was sent to Nineveh, with Himself, and his appearance and his return out of the fish with his own appearance and resurrection. He then pointed to the inhabitants of Nineveh as an example of how they ought to have received and believed Him: And when the people were gathered thick together, He began to say, "This is an evil generation. They seek a sign, and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonah the prophet. 
30 For as Jonah was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of Man be to this generation. 
31The queen of the South shall rise up in the Judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is here. 
32 The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the Judgment with this generation and shall condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, a greater than Jonah is here. (Luke 11:29-32).

That the Lord meant his resurrection with "the sign of Jonah" is clear from Matthew 12:39-40: But He answered and said unto them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah. 
40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 

It is one of the rare occasions in which the Lord pointed to someone, mentioned in the Old Testament, as an image of Himself. 
So Jonah is an image of Christ. 
Then Nineveh must be an image of the world in which Christ did come, like Jonah came to Nineveh as a Prophet sent by God. If the Spirit of God judged it necessary to use a whole book in order to give us that image, it will no doubt be worthwhile to consider how that image is speaking to us.

The prophet Jonah and his commission.

1 Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying
2 Arise go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. 

His name means dove. God wanted him to go to the great and wicked town of Nineveh. And like a bird coming down out of heaven the prophet was sent from God in heaven to Nineveh. The Ninevites had not asked for a prophet, did no worry about God and lived in so wicked a way, that their wickedness had come up before God. But though they did not think of God, He thought of them. 

Nineveh was very suited indeed as an image of the world. People in general do not bother about God and what they do is growing as a mountain of unrighteousness before God. Alas, we are accustomed to it and often do not see half of it. But the Lord sees it all. 
People do not think of God. 
But God thought of them. 
And He sent his Son from heaven.

A history with a prophetic message.

That brings us to the conclusion that the history of Jonah and Nineveh and the book that has been written about it, is meant by the Spirit of God as a prophetic sketch of the coming of Jesus Christ in this world, of the purpose of God with it and the compassion in the heart of God, even when He does announce judgment. 
The book of Jonah so gets a second meaning. It not only is a report of what God has done in past time with and by Jonah, but at the same time is a far reaching prophecy of the greater Prophet He would send ( and who has come) and the purpose of God in sending his Son. So the book is throwing its peculiar light upon the Lord Jesus and his work and lets us taste something of the wisdom and mercy of God, who did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:17).

The disobedient servant and the obedient One.

3 But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppe; and he found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare thereof and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

Jonah had to cry "against" Nineveh, a hard and severe message we read in chapter 3:4: Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown!
Arise, go to Nineveh, God had said. So Jonah rose up, but not in order to go to Nineveh in the east. He went in the opposite direction, the west, unto Tarshish, from the presence of the lord. So the Bible says. 

In that Jonah is not an image of Christ. He has been obedient to God in al things. Jonah was disobedient. In that respect Jonah sooner is an image of Israel and the church. 
Israel had to bring Gods Words to the world, but failed. Then the Lord called the church, to be Gods messenger in the world, but she did not fail less. The greater part of them that call themselves Christians have turned very far away from God. Not so our Lord Jesus Christ. 
He fully did the will of God.

Away from God, that has its price.

But the history of Jonah has something more to tell us. Any Christian turning away from God has to pay the price of it, for nobody can turn his back to God cheaply, like Jonah, who had to pay the fare for the journey to the west. 
No, though there is a difference between de the way of Christ and the way of Jonah, there is a similarity as well. For his way of obedience brought Christ finally into a position of someone with whom God could not be in communication. The big difference of course is, that Jonah came in that position by disobedience. 
Properly speaking Jonah chose a way on which the inhabitants of Nineveh walked as well, away from God. He consequently had to face what anyone, turning away from God, has to face, judgment, exactly the thing he had to preach to Nineveh The judgment of God, what Nineveh could expect, happened to Jonah, and what we could expect, Gods judgment, happened to Christ. Why? Because He loves us.

Away from God, an impossibility.

4 But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was likely to be broken. 
5 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea to lighten it of them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner parts of the ship, and he lay and was fast asleep. 
There came a mighty tempest in the sea.
The mariners with whom Jonah had launched did not know God. It was no wrong or exceptional thing that they intended to sail to Tarshish. Nothing wrong with it.
But Jonah knew the Lord. He too wanted to sail to Tarshish, like the mariners, but what a difference! He ought to go to Nineveh. His going to Tarshish was fragrant disobedience to God.
Whosoever is believing in God cannot run away out of Gods sight and can expect that God will interfere.
That was the case with Jonah, quite different from the mariners, who did their job. They were not consciously disobedient to a commission of God, but Jonah was.
How could God stop Jonah if everything furthered his intentions? Had he not found a ship bound to the west, just what he needed? The God however who had spoken to Jonah could not only order a prophet. He also is the commanding Ruler of wind and waves. And He sent a great wind. 
A great wind only. That was sufficient.
The mariners did not know what to do.
They cried every man unto his god. But those gods could not command wind and waves. So they threw the cargo overboard. It gave the ship a lighter weight indeed, but did not calm down the heavy tempest.
And Jonah was sleeping.

Away from God, the road to judgment.

The way of Jonah is the way of anyone, a flight away from God on a road of our own choice. 
Millions are going that way, around us as well, where formerly so many at least reckoned with God. That has decreased and many any longer hardly hear the call of God or ignore it. And spiritual leaders go on ahead in that respect. They made clear that we should not take the call in the Bible too seriously, taking the words in that old book with a pinch of salt themselves and leading many astray on a way to Tarshish, away from God. 

How great a mistake, how great the disaster! 
Away from God is a way unto judgment. It may seem sure, even till a high age, that one can without harm go on in a way of ones choice. Perhaps Jonah thought during many sea miles that he would reach the destination of his choice. He at least slept as one who is quite peaceful. 
You possibly do what Jonah did and are sleeping. Then listen. God sent his tempest and then it became clear that away from God means unto judgment. 
In due course that will happen to anyone who is still going his own way and does not take to heart the call of God. You have been warned now. And you know judgment would be the right thing for you. Or do you pretend that you are no sinner, a human being without mistakes, failures, indifference, egoism, sin etc.? Your Creator has full right to a listening ear and obedience. Do you suppose that you can ignore Him? 
Jonah thought so, but discovered that he was wrong.

Jonah, how can you be sleeping?

6 So the shipmaster came to him and said unto him, "What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God, if it so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not." 
7 And they said every one to his fellow, "Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us." So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. 

Jonah had been very busy and taken much pains to find a way to escape. But he had slept all the time. 
Yes, he obviously had been sleeping, for how could he suppose it to be possible to run away from God? Spiritually he was sleeping, for he knew quite well, that in vain he tried to escape. And on the ship he slept as well, and very fast. Sometimes that seems to be the best you can do, for then you need not think and can shut your eyes for the reality. 

The shipmaster however thought it strange that he slept fast.

Jonah sacrificed himself. So did Christ, for us.

8 Then said they unto him, "Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us: What is thine occupation? And from whence comest thou? What is thy country? And of what people art thou?"
9 And he said unto them, "I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who hath made the sea and the dry land."
 When questioned Jonah let them know that he was the cause that God had sent the tempest. 
10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, "Why hast thou done this?" For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. 
11 Then said they unto him, "What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us?" For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 
12 And he said unto them, "Take me up and cast me forth into the sea. So shall the sea be calm unto you, for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you." 
13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not, for the sea was wrought up and was tempestuous against them. 

Take me up and cast me forth into the sea, then the storm will calm down for you, he said. A mariner will not do such a thing easily. But at last they had no choice
14 Therefore they cried unto the LORD and said, "We beseech Thee, O LORD, we beseech Thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood! For Thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased Thee." 
15 So they took up Jonah and cast him forth into the sea, and the sea ceased from her raging. 
16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD and made vows.

The sea ceased from her raging. 
The mariners were saved, because Jonah sacrificed himself. 
Jonah walked the same path as the inhabitants of Nineveh and he found to his cost that that path brought him into judgment and deep waters. Death opened wide its mouth in the form of a huge fish that swallowed him up. 
17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

So Jesus Christ sacrificed himself. God had to judge men because of their sins, but Christ sacrificed himself and took charge of their guilt. Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts; all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me, He Complained in psalm 42:8. And in psalm 69:2 and 3 He cried: Save me, o God, for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.

Jonah was guilty. 
Jesus Christ was not guilty. 
But He took our guilt to his own account and accepted the consequence of it, the judgment of God. So our wrong ways brought Him into judgment and death. 

Jonah has been in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. What a distress that must have been for him. 
So Christ has been in death and in the tomb three days and nights

In his trouble Jonah prayed
1 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly, 
2 and said: "I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and He heard me. Out of the belly of hell cried I, and Thou heardest my voice. 
3 For Thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas, and the floods compassed me about; all Thy billows and Thy waves passed over me. 
4 Then I said, `I am cast out of Thy sight; yet I will look again toward Thy holy temple.' 
5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul; the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. 
6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever; yet hast Thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. 
7 "When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD; and my prayer came in unto Thee, into Thine holy temple. 
8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy, 
9 but I will sacrifice unto Thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that which I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD." 

That prayer resembles utterances of the Lord in his suffering, recorded prophetically in the psalms: Let my prayer come before Thee; incline Thine ear unto my cry. 
3 For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. 
4 I am counted with them that go down into the pit; I am as a man that hath no strength, 
5 cast among the dead like the slain that lie in the grave, whom Thou rememberest no more, and who are cut off from Thy hand. 6 Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. 7 Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and Thou hast afflicted me with all Thy waves. Selah 
8 Thou hast put away mine acquaintances far from me; Thou hast made me an abomination unto them. I am shut up, and I cannot come forth; (Psalm 88:2-8). 
3 My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, "Where is thy God?" 
4 When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me, for I had gone with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday. 
5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance. (Psalm 42:3-5) 
25 For He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath He hid His face from Him, but when He cried unto Him, He heard. 
26 My praise shall be of Thee in the great congregation; I will pay My vows before them that fear Him. (Psalm 22:25 and 26).

The distress of Jonah in the fish cannot be compared with the sufferings of Christ, bearing our sins, when He came in the judgment of God and in death. 
Why has He done that? 
Because He is full of graciousness and compassion like the Father who sent Him. 
Jonah did not want mercy for the sinners in Nineveh and came in great distress owing to his disobedience. Christ wanted mercy for sinners and came in still deeper sufferings owing to his obedience in the way to save us. 

  U zocht geen oordeel, maar erbarmen, 
zoals de Vader had gezegd, 
en hebt voor schuldigen en armen
uw leven afgelegd. 
Zo kwam U in de waterstromen
van Godes toorn, een oordeelsvloed. 
toen U mijn plaats hebt ingenomen, 
ten koste van uw bloed
Wat kan ik U, mijn Redder, geven? 
Mijn hart, mijn liefde en mijn leven. 

You wanted no judgment, but mercy, 
as the Father had said, 
and you gave your life
for guilty people. 
So you came in the waves and waterspouts
of Gods wrath, a flood of judgment, 
filling my place in it
to the price of your blood. 
What can I give you, my Saviour? 
My heart, my love, my life. 

(Do you have someone who is able to translate my poem or make a new one? I only can give an English translation.)

Salvation is of the Lord.

10 And the LORD spoke unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. That is food for thinking. 
The Lord spoke unto Jonah, but he was not obedient. 
The Lord spoke unto the wind and a tempest came. 
The Lord spoke unto the wind again and the sea calmed down. 
The Lord spoke unto the fish and he vomited out Jonah. 
Jonah cried to God and the Lord heard and showed mercy. 
Would Jonah have thought this way? 
Let us do it anyway. 
It will perhaps be good to replace the name of Jonah by our own name. Or not? 

Jonah experienced the mercy of God for a guilty one, for he himself was the one. 
A precious thing, Gods mercy. Would Jonah have confirmed that, if we had told him that? Probably so. 
Jonah had said "salvation is of the Lord". Well said, Jonah. And what is the foundation of that salvation? 
The mercy of God for a guilty one. 

Salvation by mercy. 
That still is the only way to salvation. 
Our sins call for judgment. And God executed his judgment. But not the sinner has been visited by that judgment, but a Substitute, an innocent One, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself, voluntarily, as a sacrifice for us
In order to be able to be merciful and to save sinners. 
Does that speak to you? 

Jonah was saved, though he needed to go through the belly of a fish. Christ too has been delivered. Not from sin, for He knew no sin. 
He has been delivered from death and the tomb, because the judgment of death as wages for sin does not apply to Him. He died our death, as a substitute. But He has been resurrected and has been seen of many with the signs of his sufferings on the cross in his hands and his side.

  Uw kruis, uw kruis o Heer, 
uw handen en uw zijde met die wonden, 
dat alles moest U lijden door mijn zonden, 
zonder verweer. 

U had mij lief, o Heer. 
Het kruis, Gods toorn, de dood hebt U verdragen, 
en U wilt slechts geloof en liefde vragen
voor U, mijn Heer. 

Your cross, your cross, o Lord, 
Your hands and your side, 
You had to suffer it all owing to my sins, 
Without defence. 

You loved me, Lord, 
The cross, Gods wrath and death you suffered, 
And you only ask faith and love
For you, my Lord. 

(Can someone translate?)

A new commission.

1 And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, 
2 "Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee." 
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. 

The disobedience of Jonah could not overthrow or change Gods intentions. Jonah had had a severe lesson indeed. He now knew what the consequence is when we run away from God and he had experienced the mercy of God. So he got again the commission to go to Nineveh and to preach against her. 
Was it absolutely necessary to preach there? 
What was the message he had to give? 
He had to preach what God told him.

The contents of his message.

4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried and said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown."

So that was what the Lord wanted him to preach. 
A message of judgment. 
Not a message pleasant to hear. It resembles what some call "preaching hell and damnation". Some get nervous by such a message and therefore abhor it. 
They obviously forget that the message is not the judgment, on the contrary. The message is a warning in order people will be spared the predicted judgment. Why people are so vehemently against it? Is it because they feel that the message is truth? They ought to be grateful. To be warned in time is a condition to escape a disaster. 

The gospel is no message of judgment, but "good news", the message that redemption has been prepared through Jesus Christ. But that message implies that redemption is necessary, because otherwise….. judgment will come.

Why judgment?

We read of Nineveh that her wickedness was come up before God. The king of Nineveh himself said: And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing; let them not feed nor drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth , and cry mightily unto God; yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. (3:7 and 8). So he knew quite well that the sins of Nineveh were great indeed. 
The prophet Nahum has written about Nineveh: 
12 The lion tore in pieces enough for his whelps and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey and his dens with rapine. 
13 "Behold, I am against thee," saith the LORD of hosts, "and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions; and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard." 
1 Woe to the bloody city! It is all full of lies and robbery; the prey departeth not. (Nahum 2:12-3:1). 
the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavored harlot, the mistress of witchcraft, that selleth nations through her whore-dom, and families through her witchcraft. (3:4). 
And finally: There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous. All that hear the report of thee shall clap the hands over thee. For upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually? (3:19). 
This is a threefold witness of the wickedness of Nineveh, by God, by the king of the city and by the prophet Nahum. And because that wickedness had come up before God, He had to judge. 

The Christian too has a commission of God to preach: And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. (Marc 16:15). Have we done like Jonah and not been obedient? It is only a question. 
Why is it necessary to preach? 
Because the unrighteousness of men is coming up before God. It is not difficult to see that. Read a daily newspaper, take note of what is going on in the world. In the last century we have had two great world wars and we were convinced that something like that would never happen again. But since then there have been more wars than ever before. Crime is shooting up, corruption to the left and the right, unborn life in the womb of the mother is not safe any more, the aged fear to be noted for euthanasia as useless. 
Perhaps you could mention people in your neighbourhood with whom something is wrong. Divorce, living together, sexual abuse of children, impudence of youngsters without morals, the use of drugs, pornography. 
But we need not look around. Looking into a mirror will do. 

Nothing wrong? 
Though some may think so of you, you know better yourself. That's why judgment will come. 
It seems that God does not see nor hear. Everyone can live according to his own will and lust and nobody is interfering. But not always so. 
People in Nineveh thought they could go on undisturbed, but God said: The end of my patience has come, judgment is coming. 
So a judgment for the world will come. 

Why does God tell us so in the Bible? 
In order to warn, just like Nineveh. 
And what is your reaction?

The result of the preaching in Nineveh.

5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. 

What a result of preaching judgment. 
But really not incomprehensible. 
He message had been very plausible, in view of the mass wickedness in the city, which was best known by its inhabitants. The preacher himself moreover was the proof of the truth of his message. He had run away from his commission and from God, across the sea, but God had called him back in a drastic way. He even had been in the belly of a big fish, which had vomited him on the shore. It was no fable, for you could see it in the face of the man. 

Can you too believe that judgment will come? 
There are many who shake their head and more or less desperate ask "What will become of this world?" Those who speak so are not all of them Christians! 

What the future will bring? First a development from bad to worse and worse still, till judgment will fall. 
And judgment surely comes. The sign we have to confirm it, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He, the Man with the wounds in his hands, will judge. He can do it righteously. 
He knows what life on earth is, He lived here Himself. He knows to judge men righteously. The sorrows and difficulties of human life He knows better than anyone. 

He moreover has the right to judge, for though He only did good to all, they unrighteously nailed Him to a cross. He stood as an innocent victim before the judges and they judged Him, though knowing that He was innocent. He therefore will be the Judge and people will be judged by Him. 
What will be the sentence in your case?

He that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. 
7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, "Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, nor drink water. 
8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth and cry mightily unto God. Yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. 
9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not?" 

The king of Nineveh realised, that the announcement of judgment was the truth. And he was the first one to humble himself. That was not nothing. 
Nineveh was mighty and big and the king of Nineveh had more power than all kings in the surrounding countries. But however powerful, that great King sat down in sackcloth and ashes, And he commanded his subjects to humble themselves likewise. 
But he went further. He commanded them to cry unto God and to turn from their evil ways and their unrighteousness and violence. 

To humble oneself before God is good. But judging your own evil ways and behaviour proves the reality of it. Without that humbling will be an empty word. 
And they should cry unto God. 
That is meaningful only if we are convinced that God is willing to hear. The king obviously was convinced of it, considering his words in verse 9. He expected that God would hear and would have mercy if they turned from sin and would not send the judgment. That was faith. 
He was a heathen, serving idols. But he was convinced that God would be willing to hear the supplication of anyone converting and crying unto God. 
Do you believe it too? And have you turned to God and cried? 

The king probably considered, that the fact that God let warn them, meant that He hoped to bring about a change and consequently meant to be merciful. If God had decided to judge anyway, He would not have sent a prophet to preach. 
His thoughts about God proved to be right. Chapter 3:10 makes it clear. 

The answer of God to repentance. 10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way. And God repented of the evil that He had said that He would do unto them, and He did it not. 

That is why God wants us to preach the gospel. Not because God is well pleased in judging, but because He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9). So there is no reason whatever to grumble about a sermon in which the judgment of God is announced. We should sooner be grateful. Unless someone does not want to be disturbed during his dream that no judgment will ever be. 

God had seen that their sins were heavy and many. He saw too that they turned from their evil way. Of course He heard their crying as well. But their turning from the evil way proved, that their crying was a heart-reality. 
What is it, turning from an evil way? 
Is it "never do wrong after a certain date"? 
No, it is not. 
Solomon said: If they sin against Thee (for there is no man who sinneth not)…….(2 Chronicles 6:36). It is rejecting the evil ways with whole your heart and not go on in them as before. 

We do not read that the Ninevites turned from the idols to the living God, nor that they were saved for eternity. No, the judgment and destroying of Nineveh only was cancelled. It did not mean to be saved from eternal perdition. It was grace, but restricted to life on earth. (Whether many of them have been saved through real faith is not what we have to decide.) 

If a sinner wants to be saved, a sinner in Nineveh included, he should not only turn from evil ways, but at the same timeturn toward God, as is said about the Thessalonians: For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Turning to God means to believe in Him. For us, who hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, it means to receive Him (believe in Him) as Son of God, the Saviour. 

How merciful is our God! 
He let the prophet Nahum prophesy about Nineveh as well. The judgment Jonah had to announce, has been turned away, because the turned from evil ways. The prophecy of Nahum foretold a judgment that has not been turned away. He said what the final judgment of Nineveh would be and mentioned no date or term like Jonah. But that the Lord let it know beforehand had the character of a warning also, though that judgment would not be postponed. It might however be that some would still repent and turn to God. 

In that prophecy the verses 2 and 3 and verses 6 and 7 in chapter 1 are remarkable, standing in the midst of an announcement of judgment, but speaking of Gods goodness and his being slow to anger. They are more or less an assurance for anyone who wants to hear, that he will not in vain cry to God and plead his mercy: 2 God is jealous, and the LORD avengeth; the LORD avengeth and is furious. The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserveth wrath for His enemies. 
3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked. The LORD hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet. 
6 Who can stand before His indignation? And who can abide in the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him. 
7 The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him. 
That is an encouragement indeed to confess ones guilt and at the same time to plead mercy and receive Jesus Christ, whom God declares to be the Saviour. 

But the mercy of God had been evident in Gods answer to wicked Ahab's humbling himself. Of that man Scripture says: And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all who were before him. 
31 And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took for a wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. 
32 And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. 
33 And Ahab made an Asherah pole; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. (1 Kings 16:30-33).
 And in 1 Kings 21:25 and 26 we read of him: 25 But there was none like unto Ahab, who sold himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. 
26 And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel. 

A very godless man, Ahab. But what does 1 Kings 21:27-29 say? 27 And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about dispiritedly. 
28 And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 
29 "Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before Me? Because he humbleth himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days; but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house." 
Did Ahab turn to God? 
We did not read that. 
He humbled himself after being given notice of Gods answer to his murdering Naboth in order to get his vineyard. Ahab understood that he had done wrong and kindled Gods wrath. 
But what did God say? 
I will not bring the evil in his days. We probably would say "Let it become sure, that his humbling is a reality and see how deep he has humbled himself". But God showed mercy without delay. 
It does not say, that Ahab was a converted sinner, nor that he was saved for eternity. No, it concerned punishment on earth and not salvation of a sinner. Nevertheless we see how soon God is willing to show mercy. He is the God who declared of Himself: 6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 
7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children unto the third and to the fourth generation." (Exodus 34:6 and 7).

Precious, wonderful and lovely is that loving kindness of God, so much greater than all that can be said about Him. Hear what the psalmist in 36:5-7 said about it: 5 Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens, and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. 
6 Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; Thy judgments are a great deep; O LORD, Thou preservest man and beast.
7 How excellent is Thy lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings. 

The righteousness of God is like the mountains. 
His faithfulness reaches higher, to the clouds. 
But his loving kindness is the highest: in the heavens. 

That loving kindness is ready for you, if you believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, of Him, who rose from the dead and let hear his message in the gospel, not willing that any should perish, but all should come to repentance.

The reaction of Jonah to Gods mercy.

1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. 
2 And he prayed unto the LORD and said, "I pray Thee, O LORD, was not this what I said when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish; for I knew that Thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and repentest of the evil. 
3 Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech Thee, my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live." 

Then finally the truth came out. Jonah knew quite well, that God is full of grace and loving kindness. He had considered why he had to preach in Nineveh. If God decided to judge the city, He could do that without warning before. The sole reason to preach must be, that God wanted to warn in order to be able to spare. 
Jonah was not against Gods loving kindness. Provided it was not loving kindness toward godless idolaters, moreover enemies of Israel. Gods mercy, very well toward Jonah and others fearing God, but not toward such sinners. 

What is worse, that someone not knowing God, is an idolater and so disobedient to God, or that someone knowing God very well, even his prophet, is disobedient to God? 
Indeed, we are very zealous in seeing evil in other people, but seem to be blind for evil in our own behaviour and heart. God however sees all things as they are and does not look through our coloured glasses. 

Perhaps Jonah considered as well, that a judgment he had to announce, needs must come. He was a prophet of God. When a prophet announced something and it did not come, he would seem to be a false prophet. 

We too have our expectations and convictions of how things ought to go. We regularly discover that God does not act as we thought He ought do. Do we expect disaster, illnesses, setbacks? No, we do not. Nor terrorism, war, hunger, or persecution. And when those things come, we have a problem, for we do not understand God. 
Are we not astonished whenever believing Christians do not understand us in things quite clear or obvious? Do we understand it when we are left by our nearest friends or are wronged? And why does God not bless our preaching the gospel? And many questions and disappointments more. 

Are we willing to say "Thy will be done"? and "As for God, His way is perfect" (2 Samuel 22:31). We can only say that by faith, unconditional faith, in Gods wisdom and goodness too. The problem is not in the problems, but in the fact that our faith is very small. Happily the Lord is true and full of love despite our spiritual feebleness.

Gods first question to Jonah.

To the prayer of Jonah God answered: 
4 Then said the Lord: Doest thou well to be angry? Those words must have been a reason for Jonah to think earnestly. Did not God show him mercy when he was disobedient and on the way to Tarshish? It is telling, that Jonah gave no answer to Gods question. Perhaps he did not know what to answer in order to prove his right. Then you better keep silent, unless you admit to be wrong. But that point Jonah obviously had not yet reached. 

Indeed it is not sensible to dispute with God. 
Are we wiser? Do we know everything? 
We sometimes can tell exactly how things ought to go and possibly we would be right, if there would be nothing more than we can mention. But we cannot mention everything, because we do not know. 

We better could ask what we, human beings, do know. 
Of the future? Nothing. 
Of the inner self of other people? Nothing. 
Of Gods plans? Nearly nothing. 
Of our own inner self? Not much. 
Of what is best for us? Nothing. 
Of the result of this or that? Not much. 
Therefore let God reign, it is wisdom what He does. 
But that Jonah did not yet acknowledge. 

Jonah's second reason to be angry.

5 So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city, and there made himself a booth and sat under it in the shadow till he might see what would become of the city. 
6 And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad for the gourd. 
7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd so that it withered. 
8 And it came to pass, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, so that he grew faint and wished in himself to die, and said, "It is better for me to die than to live." 

First God had used a great tempest and a fish to put Jonah in his place. 
Here the Lord used other things. He helped him by making a gourd to come up over him. That was what he liked. But then the Lord did what Jonahs choice was: destroy, judge, kill by making the gourd wither. 
Was that what Jonah preferred indeed? 
O no. Not at all. For in this case he was involved himself. That gourd ought to have been spared. 

Gods second question.

9 And God said to Jonah, "Doest thou well to be angry over the gourd?" 
His answer was "I do well to be angry, even unto death." 
The Lord did not destroy Nineveh and Jonah was angry
The Lord destroyed the gourd and Jonah was angry again. 
What was wrong with Jonah? 
That he knew no mercy, except for himself. 
But if we do not know mercy, we obviously did not understand well enough, that we too, we who believe, have been saved exclusively by Gods grace and mercy. 

Do we remember the parable of the man who owed his king thousands of talents? 
23 "Therefore is the Kingdom of Heaven likened unto a certain king who would settle accounts with his servants. 
24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him who owed him ten thousand talents. 
25 But inasmuch as he could not pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 
26 The servant therefore fell down and besought him, saying, `Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.' 
27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him and forgave him the debt. 
28 But the same servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred pence. And he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, `Pay me what thou owest.' 
29 And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, `Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.' 
30 And he would not, but went and cast him into prison until he should pay the debt. 
31 So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after he had called him, said unto him, `O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me. 
33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?' (Matthew 18:23-33). 

We learn from it, that the grace we encountered must be our teacher, as has been written in Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. Many people think that the law is our teacher. That is a mistake. Grace and not the law is our teacher. God teached Jonah the necessary lesson by it:

Gods last word an admonition to be merciful.

10 Then said the LORD, "Thou hast had pity on the gourd for which thou hast not labored, neither madest it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 
11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand, and also many cattle?" 

The law! Some say. Right is right. Whosoever deserves judgment, let him be punished. 
God says: Grace where it is possible, grace if anyone humbles himself. And to us He says: "Let yourself be teached by the abundant grace I have shown you and be merciful". 

No sin and no wrong teaching. We ought to reject that. But let us not rejoice in judging but in showing mercy. 
What an example God has given us! He thought about little children and even cattle. He liked to be able to spare them. May we learn the lesson!

How could Nineveh have been spared?

Worthwhile to think about. 
Because a prophet had preached, who had been in the belly of a fish for three days. He was like someone returned from death. 

How is it possible that the world has not yet been judged, whereas for many centuries has been said that judgment will come? 
Because a Prophet has come, who has been in death for three days, but has been resurrected, Jesus Christ. 
Owing to the work of Jonah there was grace for the city and postponement of judgment. 
Owing to the work of Jesus Christ there still is mercy and postponement of the judgment of the world. 

In Athens Paul has said: The times of this ignorance God overlooked, but now He commandeth all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He hath appointed a Day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained. Of this He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31).
Was Paul speaking of Jonah? 
No. He meant Jesus Christ and his resurrection. 
But the risen Saviour is a sign for Israel (and the world) indeed, like Jonah has been for the Ninevites. Those inhabitants of Nineveh therefore were wiser than many in our time, for they repented at the preaching of Jonas, who had come out of a fish, whereas many do not repent who hear the preaching of the Man who came back from the dead. In Luke 11:30 the Lord has said, that as Jonah was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of Man be to this generation. 

But now the anger of Jonas has something more to tell us. For like he was angry, because Nineveh was not judged, so many in our time say: "Why does God not interfere with judgment"? They are convinced that it is high time for judgment. They cannot understand that God is waiting so long. 
How can God wait so long? 
Because the great Preacher has come, who rose from the dead. If He had not come, God certainly would have judged long ago. 
By the preaching of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, many repented in the course of ages and still many in our time believe in Him and are saved. That is why God has not yet judged, like with Nineveh. He will have all men to be saved and come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4), and The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) 
For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 
18 "He that believeth in Him is not condemned". 

Be therefore grateful that till now God did not yet judge the world; perhaps someone you love did not yet come and believe in Him and is still a lost sinner. 
Judgment will come, that is quite sure. We see it in the book of Nahum.

J. Ph. Buddingh