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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources
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"Should I Not Pity Nineveh?" -- Jonah 4:1-11

Sermons on the Minor Prophets -- The Book of Jonah (4)

What pleased God (the repentance of Nineveh), only made Jonah mad – a rather ironic sentiment from someone called to be YHWH’s prophet.  Why was Jonah so upset that YHWH brought salvation to pagan Ninevites?  Jonah, you’ll recall sought to flee YHWH’s call to preach in Nineveh, but YHWH took him on an unexpected detour–a great storm arises, Jonah is thrown overboard and then spends three days and nights in the belly of a great fish.  But Jonah eventually fulfilled his prophetic calling, and preached to the Ninevites.  The result of his preaching?  Many Ninevites believed Jonah’s message.  Even their king believed Jonah’s warning, and he ordered a time of mourning and fasting, even exhorting his people to call upon God and cease their violent behavior.  But as we read in chapter 4 of his prophecy, Jonah is angry with God.  The prophet is perplexed by the fact that the Ninevites were spared from YHWH’s judgment even as his own beloved people, Israel, are about to come under God’s covenant curse.  In the closing chapter of Jonah, we find the prophet right back where he was when first called to preach.  His disdain for the Ninevites surfaces again.  “Why was Nineveh spared when Israel will not be?”  As his prophecy concludes, Jonah is given yet another lesson in God’s mercy.

With this sermon, we conclude our study of the book of Jonah.  As we work our way through the final chapter, once again we discover that in the Book of Jonah, irony seems to jump off every page.  You would think that YHWH’s chosen prophet would be thrilled to witness huge numbers of people believe in YHWH and spared from judgment, through his own preaching.  Yes, pride is a sin, but there is a certain allowable sense of satisfaction about witnessing people come to faith, repent of their sin, and then amend their ways.  Jonah should have been thrilled to witness what God has done in Nineveh–extend salvation to countless Gentiles beyond the confines of his covenant with Israel.  But as we have come to expect in the Book of Jonah, the ironic becomes the norm.

The closing scene in Jonah chapter four takes place after Jonah has completed his mission of passing through the city of Nineveh and proclaiming YHWH’s call to repent with remarkable success.  But instead of being thrilled to be YHWH’s agent in bringing the Ninevites to repentance, the opening verse of chapter 4 reveals that Jonah is angry.  Why?  What has happened?  Why is he back where he started, angry that the people of Nineveh repented?  Irony appears again–God relented in his anger toward Nineveh, while Jonah renews his anger towards the Ninevites.  Why would the same evil that YHWH attributed to the Ninevites (the Hebrew text of Jonah 1:2) now be attributed to Jonah (4:1).  The  Hebrew text literally reads “it [the repentance of Ninveveh] was evil to Jonah with great evil.”  The ESV translates the passage as “but it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry,” trying to capture the raw emotion Jonah felt at what the prophet perceived as a divine injustice.  Jonah hated what YHWH had done.  It is hard to imagine a great evangelist preaching to a huge crowd, seeing many of them respond in faith, and then getting mad at God because people actually responded–but this is the scene in Jonah 4.

To read the rest of this sermon:  Click Here

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