Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17, NKJV)
A great fish swallowed Jonah. Jesus agreed, saying that Jonah being “three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish” typifies the Son of Man being “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40). But, something more than a fish was eating up Jonah. When God first commanded him to go to Nineveh, he tried to flee his God-given work (Jonah 1:2). After three days and nights in the dark belly of the fish he went to sinful Nineveh with the burning light of truth, preaching “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4). But, instead of punishing the evil city, God showed it mercy and spared the city when the people repented (Jonah 3:5-10). This “displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry” (Jonah 4:1). You see, Jonah was eaten up with an unmerciful heart of vengeance. He even seemed to complain to God about the Almighty’s gracious mercy to explain (justify) his ill-conceived flight to Tarshish (Jonah 4:2). Now, he had rather die than see Nineveh live (Jonah 4:3). God showed Jonah mercy time and again (first the fish, then the plant, Jonah 4:5-10). The prophet needed to learn to be merciful as God had shown him (and Nineveh) mercy (Jonah 4:9-11). While we are quick to receive God’s grace and mercy, we must empty our hearts of vengeance toward others who also need mercy. Truly, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7).
“A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed. (Matthew 16:4, NKJV)
Jesus had just feed “four thousand men, besides women and children,” from seven loaves of bread and a few fish, with seven large baskets full of leftovers (Matthew 15:32-38)! Then, the Pharisees and Sadducees came, testing Him and asking for a sign from heaven (Matthew 16:1). They fully rejected the signs Jesus had already given them. That is why His response in today’s verse is so sharp. We cannot refuse heaven’s evidence that evokes discernment that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and then demand a sign to prove it so (Matthew 16:2-3). Faith is not blind. It is not void of substantive evidence to sustain its case. Therefore, in addition to all the signs Jesus gave while He was on earth, His resurrection from the belly of the earth would be the crowning proof He is the Son of God (John 20:30-31; Romans 1:4). And, their rejection of Him (by refusing the evidence), would be their crowning act of rebellion. Let it not be that we refuse to discern who Jesus is.
2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” 3 But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:2–3, NKJV)
Jonah did not want to obey God. So, he tried to run away from God, like many today who do not wish to obey God’s commands. As events unfolded, it became obvious Jonah could not run away from God. Neither can we. Jonah even paid to fulfill his futile quest, buying passage on a ship to a far away land. Like Jonah, many pay great sums of money as they try to rid themselves of God. They pay for drugs and alcohol. They pay for pornography. They pay for the indulges of the flesh and the excesses of worldliness as they try to escape God and His will. But, they fail, too. Even as they pay with their own souls, they only succeed in hastening the day of their destruction (Matt. 16:26). The irony is that God’s salvation is obtained “without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1). Why do we pay for sin when God offers us the gift of salvation without cost to all who call on His name (Acts 2:21; 22:16). Run to God, not away from Him. Salvation is in His Son, not away from Him (Matt. 11:28-30; 28:19-20).
The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. (Luke 11:32, NKJV)
God warned Nineveh through the preaching of Jonah, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4) Jesus validates Jonah and his work, as well as the repentance of Nineveh. He said “they repented at the preaching of Jonah”. This incident teaches us what the Son of God regards as genuine repentance. The people of Nineveh “believed God” when they heard God’s word and proclaimed a fast, indicative of contrite hearts over their sins (Jonah 3:5). Their king led them in acts of remorse over their sins, commanding them to “cry mightily to God” and to “let everyone turn from his evil”, thereby appealing to God’s mercy to relent and spare the city (Jonah 3:6-9). “Then God saw their works, that they turned form their evil way; and God relented…” (Jonah 3:10). Repenting of sin is not reporting one’s sin. Repentance is an action of faith, produced by godly sorrow. It is the change of heart that leads one to change his or her life conform to the will of God. The pertinent question is, will you repent at the preaching of the apostles and prophets of Jesus? If you will not repent, wrath is certain (Rom. 2:5). If you will repent, forgiveness is given (Acts 2:38). Will you be condemned by the men of Nineveh in the judgment, or will you stand with them?