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Bible Commentaries
Jonah 3

Ironside's Notes on Selected BooksIronside's Notes

Verses 1-10

Chapter 3

Death And Resurrection

It is of all importance, in studying the typical characters of the Old Testament, to distinguish between a man in his individual and in his official aspect. In other words, one may be a type of the Lord Jesus, if looked at officially, who, if viewed morally, may be a most marked failure. This is strikingly illustrated in the case of David. As the anointed of the Lord, he is preeminently a type of the true King, the Anointed of Jehovah, yet to be set upon the holy hill of Zion; but actually there is much in his life that is altogether opposed to the holiness and perfections of Him who was truly the Man after God’s own heart. In the present instance the same principle applies. Jonah’s history is, as we have seen, sad and sorrowful in the extreme; but grace delights to take up just such as he: and so we find the Divine Expositor Himself declaring that His own death and resurrection were set forth in symbol in the experience that the prophet from Galilee passed through. It is as the one who has thus tasted death, but triumphed over it, that Jonah becomes the bearer of Jehovah’s message to the Ninevites.

All his waywardness had not altered the thoughts of God as to his being sent to preach to these impious people. The servant might fail, but he is a servant still, as in the instances of Abraham and Job. The former was to intercede for Abimelech, “for he is a prophet,” though he had just denied his wife. The latter, restored in soul, no doubt, prays for his friends, though he had justified himself rather than God. There is a solemn and serious lesson here for those put in trust with the gospel, or who have a special ministry to the people of God. They are judged of the Lord, not merely as saints, but as servants. Nor does failure relieve them of responsibility to serve, but calls all the louder for self-judgment, that they may be in a right state of soul to minister in holy things. In so writing, I have no thought of countenancing clerical pretensions, or making of servants of Christ a special class who are supposed to be above the frailties common to men, and even to saints. But I only press what Scripture frequently insists on, that he who serves should do so because called of God to his particular ministry; and when so called, he has a most grave responsibility to walk accordingly. A one-man ministry is rightly rejected by many as unscriptural. An any-man ministry is equally so. He who runs unsent has failed even in his very start.

Jonah had been called of God to his mission. He is given the command the second time to “Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.” In response there is apparently no hesitation now, for we read, “So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.” His obedience now is as conspicuous as his former lack of it; but we know from the next chapter that he had not yet judged the point of departure from God. It is a serious thing to realize that people may become outwardly correct in their demeanor and zealous in the work of the Lord after a failure, so that none may realize that they are not yet restored in soul, while in reality the evil remains unjudged. The root of the matter is unreached. Certain acts may be confessed, and the confession may be real and genuine, so far as it goes; but the state of soul that led to these acts has not been faced in the presence of God. This was the great lack here, and a vital one. But God will have His own way of exposing the true state of His servant to himself, and of restoring his soul.

“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown,” is the burden of his message to the voluptuous city. The result is just as he had feared. For himself, he had gladly proven that “salvation is of the Lord.” The people of Nineveh shall prove the same; but so perverse is the human heart, even though it be the heart of a saint, that it fills Jonah with anger to see mercy going out to the repentant city. In a few graphic sentences the story of the great awakening is told. “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything: let them not feed, nor drink water: but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not?” (vers. 5-9).

It is an open question if all the annals of revival-history could furnish a scene to parallel this. From the greatest to the least, all are crying to God. It is noticeable that it is not to the Lord-that is, Jehovah-that they direct their prayers, nor of whom they speak. Here, as in all Old Testament Scripture, Elohim (God) and Jehovah are used with scrupulous exactness. Foolish men may stumble at the use of the two names: but it is because they are blinded by the god of this age, and thus they fail to see that Jehovah is the covenant name that links God with His people in known relationship, while Elohim speaks rather of sovereignty and Creatorship. Hence the sailors of chapter one rightly use the broader title, or name, until, instructed by the erring prophet, they cry to Jehovah not to hold them accountable for his blood. And so, too, these Ninevites address their petitions to Elohim; and, as a result, we are told that “God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented Him of the evil, that He had said He would do unto them; and He did it not” (ver. 10). Would any find a difficulty here? Let them know that He with whom judgment is a strange work is ever ready to repent Himself, and manifest His grace upon the least evidence of a breaking down before Him, and contrition of heart because of sin.

“His is love, ’tis love unbounded,-

Without measure, without end.

Human thought is here confounded,

is too vast to comprehend.”

Alas, that Jonah was in no condition of soul to enter into and enjoy such love and grace! His is the spirit of the elder son in the parable, as the next chapter makes manifest.

Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Jonah 3". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/isn/jonah-3.html. 1914.
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