Some preachers supply an abundance of information over an extended period of time! As one pastor quipped, “Some people accuse me of being long-winded. I may be long, but I’m never winded.”
As ‘the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time,’ he was instructed to Go… and proclaim.” Proclaim what? “…the message I give you.” To whom? “….to the great city of Nineveh…” The mandate seems clear. This ‘servant of the LORD’ (2 Kings 14) is now given an opportunity to be the ‘speaker for the LORD.’ Is there any greater privilege and responsibility than to speak, as I Peter 4:10,11 states, “as one speaking the very words of God?”
Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. So far, so good. Obedience should always be encouraged in the right direction. Disobedience is disastrous for those who claim Jesus Christ is their Master, the LORD God as their King, yet continue to to march to their own drumbeat.
Jonah began… He is NOT responsible for the outcome. He IS responsible to preach. The ‘sermon’ is only 5 words in Hebrew, 8 in English. The length of the sermon is not the issue, when God has directed it to be spoken. Many words, feigned fervour, and other preaching ‘techniques’ will not guarantee results.
“Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed.” By whom? Jonah doesn’t say. For what reason? The Ninevites seem to know. It’s the Spirit of God who has arranged this juncture of 120,000 responsive hearts for 5 intelligible words. The Ninevites believed God.
I’ve done my share of preaching in a variety of contexts. I enjoy solid, Biblical preaching and have heard a wide range of God’s servants. Had Jonah penned a book on homiletics – the art/science of preaching, or had he been interviewed on a ‘preacher’s podcast,’ or were he invited to testify at a ministers fraternal, I think he would have claimed this message (in Hebrew) were ‘the 5 hardest words I ever preached.’
Why? He didn’t want to preach the message. He worshiped the LORD, the God of heaven, who not only made the sea and the dry land. (Jonah 1:9), but who is God of compassion, of merciful grace for rebels. In fact, as I’ve been studying Genesis 12 for a future sermon, I’ve been reminded that God intended through Abram and his offspring to bring blessing to all the families of the earth.
Somehow Israel forgot Abram’s call. Somehow Jonah, in his personal ‘theological’ studies discovered the LORD’s compassion, and this almost drove him mad. He obeyed the LORD, but reluctantly, grudgingly–you name the adverb to describe his conduct–as he gave out the 5 hardest words he ever preached.