1Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.
With these words, Jonah’s story continues in the direction God chose for him from the beginning. These verses are almost an exact duplicate of Jonah’s call before he chose to escape God’s plan. Now, he has been taken into the deep, to the very gates of hell, as it were, and brought back from certain destruction. While his return is rather ignominious, he is indeed back on dry ground and apparently ready to be obedient. His role as whale puke has softened his resolve to run from God’s call. Verse 2 says it all. So Jonah arose and went . . . “
Before we travel further into this story, we’re going to examine a time in the history of Judah, when God issues a similar call on the life of the prophet Jeremiah. He is told to go to Jerusalem and warn the people, just as God directs Jonah to do with Nineveh. What we will find is that while that call is same, the responses are very different and thus so is the out-come.
Jeremiah 36 (selected verses)
1In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2“Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today. 3 It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.”
4 Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the Lord that he had spoken to him. 5 . . . on a day of fasting in the hearing of all the people in the Lord’s house you shall read the words of the Lord from the scroll that you have written at my dictation. You shall read them also in the hearing of all the men of Judah who come out of their cities. 7 It may be that their plea for mercy will come before the Lord, and that every one will turn from his evil way, for great is the anger and wrath that the Lord has pronounced against this people.”
11 When [the temple prophets] 21 . . . went into the court to the king, having put the scroll in the chamber of Elishama the secretary, and they reported all the words to the king. 21 Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it from the chamber of Elishama the secretary. And Jehudi read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside the king. 22 It was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before him. 23 As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot. 24 Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments.
29 And concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you [the prophet] shall say, ‘Thus says the Lord, You have burned this scroll, saying, “Why have you written in it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and will cut off from it man and beast?” 30 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. 31 And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the people of Judah all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, but they would not hear.’”
Jeremiah gives a direct warning to the king of Judah, who promptly disregards that warning by burning the scroll upon which it is written, page by page. In 587bc, his hard heart earns his people 70 years of captivity as the Babylonians are used by God to mete out His judgment. As we will read in the coming days, Nineveh’s king does a better job and they are spared. As we can see, God acts with equity when dealing with both Jew and Gentile. So while Jonah is obedient and does indeed share God’s message with the people, he is personally affronted by God’s grace for people who are not like himself. As we will see, God doesn’t care about nor is He moved by our bigoted sensibilities. Instead, God cares about people – all people.