Read Jonah 3-4
It Is The Message, Not The Messenger, That Saves
When he was called to preach a message of repentance to Nineveh, the prophet Jonah tried to run away. While he likely understood that he could not escape God’s presence, perhaps he believed he could abdicate his responsibility as God’s spokesman to deliver a message of mercy to Israel’s foes. Whatever the case, Jonah quickly realized that he could not escape God’s presence nor His calling. The prophet reluctantly went to Nineveh.
Most of the prophetic books contain intense figurative language, but the book of Jonah is more of a narrative. The sum of Jonah’s message is found in only eight words: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). Did he call upon the people to repent? Did he explain God’s grace and mercy? Or did he just hatefully spew out this prediction of hopelessness as he walked through the great city?
Whatever the case may be, the citizens of Nineveh heeded Jonah’s words and quickly sought to make right with the Almighty. Even the king “arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes” (Jonah 3:6). Nineveh repented. “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10).
Jonah’s reaction to Nineveh’s repentance and God’s mercy was disappointing. “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry” (Jonah 4:1). He did not want to see these evil people spared, but the prophet knew of God’s grace and mercy, that He was “slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness” (Jonah 4:2). Jonah knew that if the people heard God’s message, they would change.
Do we ever present the truth in such a way that we are trying to offend the hearers? This is not God’s desire. Paul urged the Ephesians that they should be “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), and he told Timothy to develop “longsuffering” in his presentation of the gospel (2 Timothy 4:2). We must exercise “the wisdom that is from above” as we teach, exemplifying the qualities James describes in James 3:17. But understand that the power to convict is in the Word itself, not in the one proclaiming it!