God sends Jonah into Nineveh with words to save and this points the reader forward to when God will send His living Word into the world to save. The evidence of Chapter 3 reveals that Jonah’s words are powerful because God’s spirit goes before them preparing fields to be planted.
The seed clearly goes down and sprouts up quickly, but nothing about Jonah leads us to believe he is capable of such a feat. His words have a power quite above himself. It says in Jonah 3:3 that it’s a three day journey across Nineveh and yet in verse 4 it says Jonah went one day’s journey and his word goes before him throughout Nineveh like a wildfire.
Jonah’s speaks a meager 8 words, only having traveled a third the way through the city and we have one of the greatest revivals in history. This is a rare instance where one Prophet’s words are effective instantaneously. Jonah doesn’t even need to be present, but the mere report of his proclamation is enough. It is too miraculous to attribute to Jonah or his words alone. It points forward to a prophet, Jesus, whose word is spoken with real authority and is operative instantly.
Jonah’s words of immense power point forward to the powerful Living Word of God. Consider as an example, the power of Jesus’ words in
Matthew 8:1-3 “And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
Later, in verse 13 and to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. Jesus doesn’t even need to be present. Where ever He wills His word to go, it goes and it does not come back empty.
God’s word is powerful and goes before us to prepare a way for our words. Do you believe that? Do you heed the command of God that says go and disciple the nations? Do you believe that all power in heaven and earth are His? Do you labor knowing that He goes before you with a powerful word that pierces bone and marrow? Do you fear the feeble sound of your own voice? Do what God calls you to do and you will speak the words God has given you because you are indwelled by the spirit of the living God. When it comes to evangelism we worry too much about having the right answers and doctrinal formulations at the expense of relationship. We need to worry more about being present in people’s lives and leave the words to God. Now as a teacher of doctrine, of course, we need to know our doctrine and study the word, but we are so ridiculously imbalanced. We need to worry less about the right words and our own intellect and much more about relationships.
Matthew 10:19-20 “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
Jesus encourages the disciples not to be anxious because the same Spirit who has guided and empowered Jesus will speak through his disciples amid their most difficult challenges. I know he is warning about persecution. But we do not experience that terror. We have a different context. When confronted with the challenge of counseling someone or the difficulty of evangelism I have a great deal of fear. It is easier to go about my life and not try to speak into other people’s lives because I fear men and not God. I would venture that most of us are the same. We need to focus on being present in people’s lives and let God worry about the words. God needed Jonah’s presence in Nineveh. How would they believe unless someone preached to them? But it was God that moved in the hearts of Nineveh. I was God that gave power to Jonah’s words and it was God who gave the growth. We need to focus on being present, with building relationship. God will give you words. God gives the growth.
This sign is a testimony to the powerful unseen work of God in our words. It is a sign that points to God’s powerful Word Jesus Christ. Stand firm in the word of God. In Him you will triumph.