the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
Charles Spurgeon's "Morning & Evening"
“A greater than Jonas is here.”
This was a gracious sign that the Lord had forgiven his servant’s disobedience, but it showed also that the Lord would not alter his purpose to please the whim of man, nor change his servant’s work because he quarrelled with it. Jonah was forced to go to Nineveh after all; his rebellion had been of no avail.
This time there was no delay and no demur. Five hundred miles was not too long a march, nor were rivers and deserts any impediment; the prophet had learned obedience by the things which he had suffered.
How startled must the people have been as they saw the strange, stern man, and heard his monotonous warning cry. The news ran through the city; and the people crowded to hear the terrible voice which declared to them their speedy doom.
The kings of Assyria assumed the air of gods, and were adored by their people, yet the great potentate then reigning reverenced the divine message. It might have been concluded that he would strike off the prophet’s head, but a sacred awe withheld him, and a sense of terror led him to become a suppliant. Faint was the hope of respite for the doomed capital, yet on that hope they ventured to try the effect of repentance. “Who can tell?” was all they could say, and the fierce messenger who warned them gave them no encouragement. Shall these men rise up in judgment against us? They had only the law, and yet sought mercy; shall we remain impenitent when the gospel is daily preached to us? They had neither promise nor invitation, we have both in abundance; shall we refuse to come to that banquet of grace to which they so eagerly pressed? They made even their children and their cattle feel the bitterness of sin and repentance, and shall we make mirth for ourselves upon the brink of eternal perdition? Woe unto us if it should be more tolerable for the men of Nineveh than for us at the last great day.
If threatenings will suffice, judgment shall be averted. God tries words before he comes to blows.
The Lord Jesus made mention of the repentance of the Ninevites when he addressed the unbelievers of his own day. Let us read the passage in Matthew 12:38.
“Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry.”
His reputation as a prophet was everything in his eyes, and how would it be maintained now that the city would be spared? Besides, he abhorred the idolatrous people, and thought it absurd to spare them: they we’re in his eyes only fit to be destroyed.
We cannot love Jonah when we see him so peevish; but we must remember that he is the writer of this description of himself, and therefore we must admire the fidelity with which he paints his own portrait in the blackest colours, and offers no excuse or extenuation for his moroseness. He was a man of stern integrity, and extremely sensitive as to his personal character for truthfulness, and therefore fearing that his repute would be marred, he fell into a grievously bad temper, and sulked as a good man should not have done.
A question which we may reprovingly ask of ourselves if we are soon angry, often angry, long angry, or bitterly angry. How could it be right of Jonah to be angry because a million lives were spared?
Possibly he still expected to see his prophecy fulfilled; at least he lingered with a forlorn and horrible hope that, to save his reputation, a great city would be destroyed.
Being sensitive and nervous, the great heat distressed him, and the cool shade which the leafy shelter yielded him was a great comfort to him.
The God who prepared a whale prepared a gourd, and then prepared a worm to destroy it, and all with the view of preparing Jonah to submit to the divine will.
How like to Elijah is Jonah in his weak points. One inclines to believe the tradition which makes him to have been the son of the widow of Sarepta and the scholar of Elijah.
Poor Jonah, how bitterly he spoke even to his God! Surely he had forgotten the whale’s belly.
Jonah 4:10 , Jonah 4:11
This was a convincing argument, and doubtless led the prophet to shake himself clear of petulance. If he would spare a gourd, how much more should the Lord spare a vast city, with so great a host of children in it? Perhaps some one of us may be inclined to selfishness, or may be unduly sensitive and peevish, let us resort to the Lord Jesus for instruction, and take his yoke upon us, for he is meek and lowly of heart. Never can we find rest till the demon of selfwill is utterly cast out.
Alas! how often I complain,
Imagine ills, and fret at pain,
E’en ask for death with peevish heart,
Because selfwill is made to smart.
Now, Lord, rebuked my spirit stands,
My times are ever in thy hands,
Here all my will I now submit,
And cast my pride beneath thy feet