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Jonah's Message and God's Mercy

(Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 4:1-5, 11)

Lesson 13 -- first quarter 2002
February 24, 2002

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2001, Christian Light Publications

How often must you be told?

Some people don't obey right away. Maybe they didn't hear the first time. Maybe their busyness and preoccupation with something else caused them to forget. Maybe they figure if it's important enough they will be told again. Maybe they have some other thing they would rather do instead. Maybe they just don't want to obey, period.

How about you? How about me? How often must we be told something before we follow through on it? We need to beware of the Jonah Syndrome. (Would it help if we thought of it as a Sin-drome?) It wasn't till "the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time" (Jonah 3:1) that Jonah obeyed.

It seems too easy for us to categorize God's commands according to importance, as we determine importance. We need to beware of the sneaky mentality that determines the importance of a command according to the number of times God put it in the Scriptures. God does not speak His will just for the anyhow! Whether He gives a command one time or fourteen times, God means for us to obey. Nowhere does He say anything like, "The more often I say something, the more important it is to obey it."

OK, so we understand that concept when it comes to God's Word. But what about the other authorities God has placed in our lives? When your parents tell you to do something, don't wait to be told any further times. Obey! When your church leaders present a sound Biblical application, don't act as though it doesn't apply to you. Do it! Be prompt to obey. Don't be like Jonah or Peter (Acts 10:15) in that you have to be told more than once.

According to the Word of the Lord

Jonah finally got it right! He "arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD" (Jonah 3:3). When we set out to do God's will, we need carefully do it precisely as He has said it should be done. We have a cloud of witnesses to follow in this business of dependable obedience.

Noah -- "Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he" (Genesis 6:22).

Abraham -- "So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him" (Genesis 12:4).

Israel -- "According to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so the children of Israel made all the work" (Exodus 39:42).

Moses -- "Thus did Moses: according to all that the LORD commanded him, so did he" (Exodus 40:16).

Gideon -- "Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the LORD had said unto him" (Judges 6:27).

Jesus -- "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (John 17:4).

You and I? -- "All the words which the LORD hath said will we do" (Exodus 24:3).


We should all consider what causes us to feel displeased (exceedingly) and angry (very). Then we should take personally God's blunt, probing question for Jonah: "Doest thou well to be angry?" (4:4). Finally we should remember that God is slow to wrath and that He expects His children to be likewise (James 1:9).

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