Expository Sermon on the Book of the Prophet Jonah | Jonah’s Journey | Jonah 3:1-5, 10

Jonah’s Journey (Jonah 3:1-5, 10)

In 2004, Tammy’s parents took their children, in-laws, and grandchildren to Disney World; they wanted to enjoy their grandchildren in that magical place.

On the plane to Orlando, RJ and I sat together. Immediately in front of us was another boy of about 6 with his father who happened to be about 45 with gray hair. As we began our descent into Orlando, RJ leaned up to this boy and said, “Are you going to Disney World with your grandfather, too?” Other than RJ’s big mouth, that was a wonderful trip, and when Tammy’s dad died, our boys both shared memories of GranGran at Disney World.

Have you ever taken a memorable trip? Have you taken the whole family on a vacation? Have you taken your dream trip to the Grand Canyon or to Europe or Japan or some other exotic location? Have you taken a cruise and enjoyed being out on the water and away from all your troubles?

But did you ever make a trip you didn’t want to make? Maybe you traveled some distance for the funeral of a loved one. Maybe you traveled to the doctor’s office for test results that frightened you. Maybe you traveled to school because your child was in some trouble. Maybe you traveled to pick up your last paycheck because you’d just been fired or laid off.

Jonah made a journey he didn’t want to make. God had trouble getting Jonah to go to Nineveh; this morning’s passage picks up Jonah’s story after he was vomited out of the great fish. We learn an important lesson here: “Repentance prevents disaster.

Scripture (Jonah 3:1-5, 10)

verses 1-3:

God’s word worked powerfully with Jonah and the people of Nineveh. The phrase “the word of the LORD” appears twice. Also, when God spoke to Jonah, he told the prophet to tell the Ninevites “the message that I tell you.” That’s important, for the people of Nineveh repented because they heard God’s word.

verse 4:

When Jonah arrived in Nineveh, he traveled a day’s journey, and he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Jonah’s message was simple: Nineveh’s destruction; “overthrown” is the same Hebrew verb used for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Implied in Jonah’s divine message is hope: If they turned from their sins, they would not face destruction.

verse 5:

“The people of Nineveh believed God.” The people didn’t believe Jonah; they believed God. The emphasis is on the word of God, not the messenger.

“They called for a fast and put on sackcloth.” People in that day fasted and wore sackcloth to show mourning. Furthermore, penitent sinners in Jonah’s day would wear sackcloth.

“From the greatest of them to the least of them.” The text says that the king and his nobles repented, but so, too, did the lowliest peasants. Every resident of Nineveh heard God’s word, believed God’s word, and acted on God’s word.

verse 10:

God saw that the people “turned from their evil way” and did not bring disaster upon them.


Repentance prevents disaster.” God intended to destroy Nineveh; however, he relented from that disaster when the people repented.

Disaster comes on the unrepentant Christian: Hebrews 10:26-27. Notice the author said, “If we go on sinning.” The author spoke, not of a Christian who sins from time to time, but a Christian who lives in sin.

I do not know your heart. I do not know what sin you hide from others. I don’t know the evil that lurks in the recesses of your heart. But I know this, if you do not repent of whatever sin is in your life, all that remains for you is “a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire.”

I also know that I’m speaking to the people of God this morning, and I do not believe you’re persisting in sin. But you do still sin: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8). Although you do sin, I don’t believe a one of you wants to sin. So the question comes down to “How can I repent of sin?” The Ninevites provided a marvelous example.

You must demonstrate Realizing Repentance.

The Ninevites realized repentance was necessary when Jonah preached God’s word to them. “The word of the LORD” convinced them they had sinned.

The word of the Lord will also show you your sin: “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Therefore, spend regular time in the word so that the truth can pierce your heart.

You must demonstrate Reckoning Repentance.

The Ninevites reckoned God was right and they were wrong.

You must also believe God. I don’t simply mean here that you need to believe that there is a God; instead, when you come to a text which calls you a sinner, you don’t need to twist that text or justify your sin. Instead, you need to repent.

You need to repent because if there’s any disagreement between you and God, God is always right: “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true” (Ps 18:30).

You must demonstrate Regretful Repentance.

The Ninevites demonstrated Regretful Repentance when they showed sorrow for their sin. They called for a fast and wore sackcloth to show their sorrow.

You must demonstrate sorrow for your sin. While repentance is more than simply being sorry, repentance starts with sorrow: “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret” (2 Cor 7:10). Godly grief is not sorrow you got caught; instead, it’s sorrow you have violated the will of a holy God.

How do you get godly grief?

  • Understand your sin breaks God’s heart. “The LORD God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. . . , and it grieved him to his heart” (Gen 6:5-6). Understand that when you sin, the heart of God Almighty, who created you and gave his Son to die for you, breaks. Why would you want to break God’s heart?
  • Understand your sin caused the death of Jesus. “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom 5:6). “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3). Jesus suffered and died at Golgotha because of your sin. How can you think about Jesus’s agony at the cross and think lightly of sin?

You must demonstrate Reversing Repentance

The Ninevites demonstrated Reversing Repentance when they reversed course and changed their lives. Why did God not bring disaster upon them? “God saw what they did [and] how they turned from their evil way” (Jon 3:10). The people’s repentance was not complete until “they turned from their evil way.”

You must demonstrate Reversing Repentance and change your life. When Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, he told her, “Go, and from now on sin no more” (Jn 8:11). “You . . . must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:11). You cannot live however you want; you belong to Christ; you must live as he desires.

Do you need to repent this morning and begin living as Christ desires?

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.

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