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.” (Jonah 3:1-2)
The Longsuffering Of God
Jonah the son of Amittai was a special messenger of the Lord to the Gentile population of Nineveh. This great city was filled with wickedness and the mercy of God would grant them an opportunity to change their ways or be destroyed. The Lord instructs Jonah to preach to Nineveh but the preacher chooses to run away from his responsibility and secures a ship to Tarshish. It seems incredulous a man of God would think he could vanish from the eyes of the Lord but Jonah made a valiant effort. Thwarted by God Jonah is sent a second time to preach to Nineveh and he obeys the Lord. There were many men that could have gone to the Assyrian capital but the Lord wanted Jonah to go. He was a powerful spokesman for righteousness. Nineveh was an exceedingly great city requiring three days to walk its breadth. Warning that destruction would come from the power of God in forty days, Jonah persuaded the city to believe in God and brought the king to cover himself in sackcloth and ashes. It was a revival of huge proportions unmatched in evangelistic stories. One lesson missed in the story of Jonah and the big fish is the longsuffering of the Lord toward a man and a city.
God called Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach the good news of salvation. Jonah refused. For many who rebuffed the word of the Lord death was swift and certain. Not in the case of Jonah. The Lord knew his heart and from the mercy of God Jonah was spared. He was punished with three days in the belly of the fish which would become a type of the Son of God in the tomb three days. After Jonah was released from the fish God called Jonah a second time to go to Nineveh and the preacher obeyed. It is difficult to fully understand the longsuffering of the Lord. He knows the heart of all men and with that knowledge chooses to show His mercy as He sees fit. Jonah’s refusal was bold. Trying to run away from God was an impossible task and yet the Lord did not strike him dead. His disobedience was a blatant and purposed but the Lord spared his life. It is significant to see that the Lord gave him a second chance.
The mercy of the Lord is also seen toward the city of Nineveh. This was not a town of Israelite’s who were keeping the Law of Moses. They were a Gentile population filled with wickedness and evil. Why would God send a Jewish preacher to this great city to preach repentance? The Lord saw in the heart of the people a responsive chord that could change. His longsuffering toward the city of Nineveh was a powerful example of the grace and mercy of God. Jonah was a powerful preacher and was able by the word of God to change the hearts of the city. Men could not have seen that but God did. After Jonah preached to the city and they repented, he became angry that the Lord would spare them. The story ends abruptly without knowing what became of Jonah. Could he not see the longsuffering of God in his own life and how that by God’s grace the people of Nineveh were spared? There are important lessons that take our hearts to the throne of God and learn about His love.
Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost. He established the church that would make up the body of the saved. The world is in desperate need of the message of salvation. God’s longsuffering is toward His people who struggle in their lives and challenged in their faith. Like Jonah, we fail to obey the word of the Lord. He called Jonah for a reason and Jonah refused. How many times have we taken a ship to Tarshish trying to flee our responsibilities to the Lord? God’s grace gently weaves its love into our hearts and we are brought back to His loving arms. Sadly, we do this often and with each journey the longsuffering of the Lord overshadows our lives. Sin is like Jonah fleeing the presence of the Lord. Forgiveness is found in the one who spent three days in the tomb and arose to give us hope. God’s longsuffering is patient. Jonah obeyed the Lord the second time and we should always be thankful the Lord gives us a second chance.
The city of Nineveh is a lesson of how the Lord desires all men to be saved. His longsuffering is allowing the world to stand. Life is the testimony of the grace of God given to all those who can come to Him for salvation. While breath remains in the spirit of man there is hope because God suffers long showing His love and His mercy. There are no boundaries of His longsuffering. After the flood of Noah’s day God gave man a second chance. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead confirmed that all men have the opportunity to seek the Lord and find Him. When Jonah preached repentance to the people of Nineveh they all obeyed the Lord including the king. What a difference this world would be if the spirit of Nineveh pervaded the hearts of men at the preaching of Jesus Christ. Come the Father. He is longsuffering and is a God of second chances.