Jonah 3:1-10

Obeying God

2000, J.W. Carter
Scripture quotes from KJV


What will happen to you if you obey God’s call to be personally involved in God’s work, particularly in the area of missions? For many, this is a scary question. What are some reasonable and genuine fears that may precede a commitment to missions? (climate, culture, language, lack of conveniences, impact on children’s health and education, rejection, financial support, safety, prejudice, wildlife…) Some fears are real, others perceived. What is the solution for all of these fears? How do we strengthen our faith?

Romans 5:1.  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 4:13.  It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.

Our ability to respond in obedience to God’s call for apostleship comes from faith. How de we develop our faith to where our confidence in God is great enough to respond to Him in obedience?

Romans 10:17.  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Faith comes from one source: hearing the Word of God. We hear His Word in many ways: first through personal contact with the scriptures, through prayer, through circumstances, through nature, and through other Christians. Paul would have us to surrender our lives to obedience to Christ to where we view those things that create these fears as having no authority in our lives.

Phil. 3:7-11.  But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

I find it interesting that the word that is translated "rubbish" in verse 8 has several variants in the different translations. (New Living Bible: less than nothing; New Century Version: worthless; NASB, NKJV: rubbish; RSV: refuse; New Century: worthless trash. New Living Translation: garbage; Darby’s: filth, KJV: dung.) This is one of the few instances where the KJV has the most accurate rendering of the Greek word, in this case, kopria; from kopros (dung); a dunghill:—manure pile. The other translations are not variants of the word. In this case the editors are trying to soften the word, making it more palatable to our modern sensitivities.

Prior to turning his life over to the Lord, Paul was a very respected religious leader. He had the best of everything, the best lineage, the best education. He had everything that he could want. Then, when he met Jesus on the Damascus road, and for the first time saw who Jesus was, he found that all of those worldly things were of such little value that here he refers to them as a pile of manure. At least in their day manure had a couple of purposes, it could be used as fertilizer and burned as fuel. Paul’s statement is obvious. The fears that keep us from a commitment to God center around that worldly rubbish. It is when we study God’s Word, and surrender completely to Him that the radical change in attitude demonstrated by Paul takes place.


This is the third lesson in a four-part series on the entire book of Jonah. First we saw Jonah running from God in Chapter 1. He was called by God to carry a warning to the city of Nineveh requiring them to repent or be destroyed in the manner of Sodom. Jonah hated the Gentiles and did not want them to repent. He wanted to see them burn. Knowing that God would honor their repentance and save them, Jonah boarded a ship to sail as far from God as he could. The ship barely left harbor when God produced a supernatural storm that threatened to destroy the boat. Even at this time when the pagan sailors called upon their gods for help, Jonah refused to turn to God. Instead he told the sailors to throw him into the water, and the waves would subside. Jonah is then swallowed by a great fish, literally leviathan.

In chapter 2, Jonah records some of the prayers lifted to God from within the "belly of the beast," vowing to return to his call as a prophet and do what God had called him specifically to do. So, we pick up Jonah on the beach (or a short time thereafter.) After three days (Blockbuster days: most likely two nights) spent in the utter darkness and hot stench of the wandering leviathan’s body he finds himself safe back on shore; most likely severely in need of a bath and a change of clothes. We are now up to Chapter 3.

Jonah 3:1-2.

1Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 2"Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you."

Would you not think that, following the experience in the waters off of the Joppa seaport that Jonah would have run, not walked, to Nineveh? Why was it necessary for the work of the Lord to come a second time to Jonah? Jonah may have thought that his punishment removed from him the obligation that God placed on him. Perhaps he thought of himself as a failure, and God would send someone else who was more suited to the task.

A very special axiom applies here: neither the success or failure of any man or group of men can ever change God’s ultimate plan. God had a purpose for Jonah just as he has a purpose for each and every person who believes in Him. When Jonah failed, God gave him the time he needed to recover. Then God stepped back in and gave Jonah a second chance. The scriptures are filled with descriptions of how almost every person used of God failed at some point, and God never gave up on them. The only reference to God’s "giving up" is in the case of any person who absolutely refuses to believe in Him. God knocks on the door of your heart, he does not knock it down.

Rev. 3:20.  Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

God knocked at the door of Jonah’s heart again, and lifted him up, put him back on the task, and had the same expectations that he had in His original call upon him.

Note that God initiated reconciliation. He did not give up on Jonah. Jonah was pardoned for his sinful act. He was found guilty, sentenced to death, and given his liberty upon his good behavior.

  • When we experience trials what should we do upon our liberty from them?
  • What does this say about God’s forgiveness?
  • God’s making us of us is evidence of God’s being at peace with us.

What was God’s command to Jonah? (The same as before.) The Word of God is unchangeable.

  • At that time Nineveh was the greatest metropolis of the known world, comparable in size to metropolitan New York City.
  • Why did Jonah originally balk at delivering the message?
  • Note that Jonah was not given the complete revelation until he arrived at Nineveh. Like a ship captain at war, Jonah was not given his orders until he was "out to sea." At least in this case he was on dry land.