According to the Word of the Lord

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. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. 4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. . . .

      10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. (Jonah 3:1–5, 10)


It was Dr. Martin Luther who had asked the question, “Who would believe this story and not regard it a lie and a fairy tale if it were not recorded in Scripture?” (LW 19, p68).

The account of Jonah preaching a message of repentance to the Ninevites is indeed recorded in the Holy Bible, and yet, many do indeed take it as “a lie and a fairy tale.”  They believe neither God nor His Word.  They wish neither to hear nor repent of their sins.  Yet these will have to answer for their denial and disbelief at the time appointed by our Lord.

Unlike those of today who remain secure in their smugness and consider themselves theologians extraordinaire (though in actuality they know little at all about God and His Word), the Ninevites, upon hearing the very Word of God–repented.

Note that they recognized what we in our “advanced” age fail to see.  In the hearing of the prophet Jonah’s words, they truly recognized the origin of those words–not Jonah, but God Himself.  Acknowledging such words as God’s, they genuinely humbled themselves, believed them, took them to heart, and changed their ways.  They didn’t question or entertain excuses about God’s Word that was preached to them.  They didn’t call into question Jonah’s credentials, the way that he preached, or his character.  They didn’t even complain about how he preached what he preached.

The people of Nineveh rather recognized that Jonah’s words were true.  God’s Law had hit home, and instead of resisting it or calling it into question, they accepted it’s full force, even accepting the possible consequences to follow.  They were at the Lord’s mercy.  There was nothing that they could do to change the verdict.  They were helpless and without hope.

However, instead of trying to reconcile with God by their own doing, they simply believed the Word of God preached by Jonah.  They believed God, and whether or not God would keep His Word of judgment, they put no confidence in their own flesh but waited upon the Lord and His righteous judgment.

Waiting upon the Lord is what believers in God do.  They cannot save themselves.  Thus do they wait on the Lord to speak the final word.  And the final Word God does speak.

The Psalmist writes, “For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him” and “As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:11, 13).

Those who fear the Lord, writes the Psalmist, have God’s mercy.  They have His pity.  This is not because they now become appealing to God because of their own penitent heart.  Rather, they are appealing to God because of His love unto them (in Christ).  And this they not only acknowledge, but believe.

In contrast to the way of the world, which seeks to benefit from self-chosen works and self-idealized grandeur, the one who truly benefits from the Lord’s Word and promise is the one who claims no works or grandeur of his own, but only seeks to receive what God gives.  This is what is properly called faith.

Such faith doesn’t argue or contend about the way God bestows His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Such faith does not question the voracity of the Word preached.  It rather simply believes what God gives.  It judges not according to appearance, but only according to what God makes known through His Holy Word, for upon such Word, true faith confidently and unshakably rests.

Had the Ninevites left unheeded the preaching of Jonah, God’s Word they would have forsaken.  They would not have repented, and they would truly have been destroyed along with the city.  May we, like them, also heed the Word preached, that we not forsake the Word of the Lord!  Thus shall we, believing God’s promise of forgiveness in Jesus, rejoice in the Lord for His undeserved mercy!  And thus shall we also all the more give thanks for the Lord’s bountiful goodness!  Amen.

Jonah3.1-5,10, Epiphany3, 2012B, Outline&Notes


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