Tuesday

05 October 2010

"The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, 'Get up, go to Nineveh that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.'" (v.1-2)Background The story of Jonah started in yesterday's reading and it records God's call to the prophet, which had to be made twice. God did not give up on Jonah. Not only was Nineveh an unpleasant city in Jonah's eyes (it was the capital city of the much feared Assyrian Empire), it was enormous. It is difficult to imagine a city so large that it would take three days to walk across it. However, Jonah was three days in the belly of the large fish (Jonah 1:17). We are being told that it would have taken that long to traverse Nineveh, and Jonah might well have felt much the same about that journey as he felt in the fish. Jonah indicated his intention to pay to the Lord what belongs to the Lord (Jonah 2:9) and he did indeed set out for Nineveh, and when he got there he set out to walk across the city. God spoke to Jonah about the wickedness of the people of Nineveh (Jonah 1:2), and Jonah cried out to them that the city would be overthrown in 40 days. The number 40 appears quite often in the Bible. The great flood lasted for 40 days (Genesis 7:17); God's people wandered in the desert for 40 years after the escape from Egypt (Deuteronomy 8:2); Jesus spent 40 days in the desert after his baptism, being tempted (Mark 1:13). For the readers of the story of Jonah, 40 days is a reminder of God testing and renewing those being tested and challenged. But it didn't take 40 days though. The people listened to Jonah and they responded. Sackcloth and ashes have traditionally been linked with people showing great remorse. They are symbols of repentance, or turning round to God's way. Jesus referred to sackcloth and ashes when he was warning cities which did not repent (Matthew 11:20-21). This behaviour of the Ninevites caused a change in God's intention to destroy them. There are some other times when we read about such a change of God's mind, for example with regard to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18). To Ponder How do you feel about God's mind being changed? Do you think it was Jonah's behaviour, or the Ninevites', which caused that change of mind? Why? Bible notes author: Revd Stephen Burgess

Background

The story of Jonah started in yesterday's reading and it records God's call to the prophet, which had to be made twice. God did not give up on Jonah.

Not only was Nineveh an unpleasant city in Jonah's eyes (it was the capital city of the much feared Assyrian Empire), it was enormous. It is difficult to imagine a city so large that it would take three days to walk across it. However, Jonah was three days in the belly of the large fish (Jonah 1:17). We are being told that it would have taken that long to traverse Nineveh, and Jonah might well have felt much the same about that journey as he felt in the fish.

Jonah indicated his intention to pay to the Lord what belongs to the Lord (Jonah 2:9) and he did indeed set out for Nineveh, and when he got there he set out to walk across the city.

God spoke to Jonah about the wickedness of the people of Nineveh (Jonah 1:2), and Jonah cried out to them that the city would be overthrown in 40 days. The number 40 appears quite often in the Bible. The great flood lasted for 40 days (Genesis 7:17); God's people wandered in the desert for 40 years after the escape from Egypt (Deuteronomy 8:2); Jesus spent 40 days in the desert after his baptism, being tempted (Mark 1:13). For the readers of the story of Jonah, 40 days is a reminder of God testing and renewing those being tested and challenged.

But it didn't take 40 days though. The people listened to Jonah and they responded. Sackcloth and ashes have traditionally been linked with people showing great remorse. They are symbols of repentance, or turning round to God's way. Jesus referred to sackcloth and ashes when he was warning cities which did not repent (Matthew 11:20-21).

This behaviour of the Ninevites caused a change in God's intention to destroy them. There are some other times when we read about such a change of God's mind, for example with regard to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18).

To Ponder

How do you feel about God's mind being changed?

Do you think it was Jonah's behaviour, or the Ninevites', which caused that change of mind? Why?

Bible notes author: Revd Stephen Burgess

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