“So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,
‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.’
So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.”
Reluctancy would be a good word to use for many portions of the book of Jonah, but that is not the case as we begin Chapter Three. Jonah had gone through a time in the sea in the belly of the great fish, and in that time cried out to God in a repentant spirit and great humility. Truly, though, the testing of his repentance would come after God showed him mercy.
By the way, notice that the mercy of God is one of the great themes of the book of Jonah. God showed mercy to the sailors on the boat headed to Tarshish; God showed mercy to Jonah in saving him from perishing in the belly of the fish; God led Jonah to show mercy to the Ninevites by calling them to repentance and by relenting from the promised judgment against them when they would later cry out to Him upon hearing Jonah’s call for repentance. This book may at times be read with a focus on Jonah, but the hero of the story is God and His kindness to pagans and pouting prophets.
We see in Jonah 2:10 the sovereignty of God once more over His creation. God spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Whenever God commands His creation to obey, it obeys; only those with minds and wills does he implore to obey, whereas nature and animals are made subject to His will in a reactive sense (He commands, they respond).
God’s word came to Jonah the second time and in doing so, He returned to his first command to go to Nineveh. This time, though, Jonah obeyed in immediacy much like the fish in vomiting him forth. Jonah did not protest the command of God, nor did he try to tailor God’s word to suit his pleasure. Repentance has come when we no longer try to barter with God over His terms, but rather are seized in the heart before Him, torn over our sins, and in agreement with His judgments and His righteous offer. The salvation God offers is never something that humanity can concoct on its own terms; our justification before God can only come in line within the parameters God has laid out, and given that His word makes it clear, we do have the responsibility of searching the Scriptures, studying them well, and placing ourselves under the authority it speaks over our lives.
Genuine repentance is shown, in part, by submissiveness to the Lordship of God, and in our time it would be better put, the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jonah displayed submission to God by hearing the command and promptly acting upon it as he was commanded without trying to negotiate the terms. Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Much like the progressive sanctification of a believer today, though, there would still be failures on the part of Jonah as the story progresses.
I am reminded in mentioning progressive sanctification that the trajectory of the believer ought never be assumed to be a straight ascent upwards. Much like a stock market graph, we know growth takes place over the long run when the “highs” get higher, and the “lows” get higher. The direction of the heart, though it has its many failures along the way, is set in the general trajectory of the glory of God.
It’s hard to see any point in the story of Jonah that isn’t teaching us something about God, even when Jonah has his worst moments. God is good and His mercy is relative to His determinate will towards whomever He chooses to bestow it upon, never as a result of their performance, but of His own free will and goodness. I, for one, am thankful for the grace, mercy, and love of God, all completely dependent upon a faithful God who keeps His word and blesses in accordance with His good pleasure. I hope you, too, can bask in the glory of God as shown in the beauty of the Gospel of grace and have claimed that grace through faith in Jesus Christ. There’s no gift greater than the gift of eternal life and no hope higher for the believer than the steady, patient hand of God guiding us along the way to meet Him one day in Heaven as glorified children of God.
Blessings to you-