Jonah Project 40

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. ~Jonah 3:10


This Jonah Project reflects upon one verse per week from the Book of Jonah. The past ten weeks have been focused upon Jonah chapter three, following Jonah into the great city of Nineveh. Here are a few highlights from Jonah chapter three from the past ten weeks. 

1.      Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.

I believe in a God of second chances. Like Jonah, at some time in our life, we have all failed in our at some life endeavor, including those important life tasks given to us by God. To be human, in part, is to fall short of our ideals, and to fall short of God’s glory. To be God is to offer second chances, coming once again with grace after failure. To be truly human, we accept the gift of a second chance, get up and journey onward by faith, hope and love.

2.      “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

God calls us to go and proclaim God’s gift of a message. We have choices to make. Where will we go? What will we say? What message does your life speak to others right now? What message has God given you to speak to the people of planet Earth? How will we share God’s gift with others?

3.      Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.

The real question behind the call to obedience is who is calling, and can that person be trusted and loved. Most people today have no problem with the concept of a young child obeying her parents, of a football player obeying his coach, or of soldiers obeying their commanding officer. We just have a problem of laying down our will to obey, including obeying God. When we begin to see the greatness of God’s love and compassion for all, we can take steps of obedience to go and love others with God’s great love.

4.      Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

Bottom line: God truly loves all of us rotten, ungrateful children, including the brutal Assyrians. This is the heartbeat of the Book of Jonah. The challenge is getting God’s rotten, ungrateful children to learn to love each other. This is also the heartbeat of the Book of Jonah. Lub-dub, lub-dub. God is love. God calls us to love.

5.      The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

Try a 24 hour fast. Begin your fast after dinner one evening. Fast for the next 24 hours, giving up all food during this time. Drink plenty of water or clear fruit juice, such as apple juice. At normal breakfast time and lunch time, sit in your normal place for those meals, and instead, open your Bible and read aloud from a chapter of Jonah, or a chapter from one of the Gospels. Break your fast the following evening, at dinner with a simple, non-spicy meal, offering a prayer of thanks for all God’s gifts, especially for God’s gift of compassion. If you are diabetic, pregnant, or have nutritional concerns, better to try other approaches to fasting besides abstaining from food.

6.      When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.

Four royal steps: First, get down off your throne. All of us have a personal throne where we love to sit and hold court. Stepping down from that position of arrogance or self-inflation is anything but easy. Letting go of power is hard. The Bible calls this step humility. Second, get naked. Strip off your false self, shed your old skin, and get down to your birthday suit, to that core person you are by God’s gift at birth, whether that be your birth into this world, or your spiritual birth into life with Christ. Third, get a new wardrobe. Put on the down-to-earth clothes of repentance, humility, poverty of spirit, authenticity, vulnerability, compassion. Try putting on the clothes of beggars. Try asking for help rather than trying to control yourself, others and the rest of the universe. Hold out an empty hand, and ask for gifts of forgiveness, grace, love, and forgiveness. Finally, get real. Sit down in a new seat. Go outside and sit in the dirt for an hour. Get real by getting literally “down-to-earth.” Dig your fingers into the earth filling your nails with dirt. See where your body is heading when you die. Reflect for a minute or perhaps for a week that you are mortal and you too will someday become ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

7.      This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink.

When we fast, we discover a new Center by living out the good instructions of our wise King of kings, removing the little gods of pleasure, position, power, passion, politics, perfectionism, and a whole host of other idols. We begin to make room within our hearts for eternity, allowing God’s love to move into the middle, a Center which truly will hold our lives together when “things fall apart.”

8.      But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.

Giving up, waving the white surrender flag, opening our lives to God for the healing, cleansing, forgiving, renewing work of God’s Spirit deep within our souls, this is the true purpose of fasting. As a result, we begin to live with less violence, less selfishness, less corruption, and thus make room in our soul to live with more kindness, more selflessness, and more compassion to those around us, even if those around us are our enemies.

9.      Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

If you’re gambling with your life, I’m guessing you’ll put more of your money on compassion than on wrath. Fortunately, this ninth verse of chapter three in the Book of Jonah is not the only sentence in the Bible on God’s compassion and anger. Though there are verses on the wrath of God sprinkled here and there, there is a literal flood of hundreds of verses in the Bible reminding us of God’s amazing compassion towards humans.

10.  When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

God is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love towards all who turn to God for help. God warns because God loves. No matter if you’ve been knocked off your horse by a lightning bolt, or under sniper fire on a tropical island. God sees. God hears. God loves to rescue. 
 Mount Rainier reflected in Aurora Lake along the Wonderland Trail. 
Photo taken by David Robinson, August 26, 2014.