Jonah 3:4-6 (New International Version)
Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.
Imagine being in the crowd that day. You have heard that a prophet has arrived to deliver an important message. You wait in the heat, and you finally catch a glimpse of the man. He clears his throat… and says: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
Then he steps down and walks away.
Is this really the message that Jonah fought so hard with God about having to deliver? It’s just five short words in Hebrew! It couldn’t have taken ten seconds to shout out that message. According to The New Interpreter’s Bible, “Jonah’s response is at best ‘giving in,’ resignation to the inevitable. At worst it is another way of resisting: to oppose through external obedience; to say yes but mean ‘no.’”
Even though Jonah has technically done what God commanded, he has done the absolute minimum necessary to cross it off his “to do” list.
Get up? Check!! Go to Nineveh? Check!
Proclaim? Oh… well… ummm. Check.
When have you resigned yourself to doing something you didn’t really want to do? What was that like for you?
Jonah has been given a second chance to be obedient to God’s command. But he responds like a stubborn child, dragging himself along to do a required task without haste, enthusiasm, or eagerness. Have you ever witnessed a child perform a chore with this attitude? Have you ever felt that way yourself?