Paul asked the question: what does this story point to?
- Very relevant question
- The text of Scripture always points to a deeper truth
- In Gospel of John, he calls the miracles of Jesus as signs
- In other words, the focus was not to on the miracles themselves, but what they point to
- Not the finger, but the finger that points to the moon
- Every story in the Bible points to something beyond itself
Our knowledge is like small islands in a vast ocean
- What we know is just a little part compared to the vastness of the ocean
- Stories in the Bible shed a glimpse into that broader ocean
- Little by little, our island grows
- But it will always be an island, never complete
What people do is get scared by the vastness of that ocean
- Take what little knowledge we have, build systems of knowledge and belief
- We feel safe in that
- Everything then gets filtered through that system of knowledge and belief
- It helps us make sense of the world
But stories of Bible reveal something different:
- Instead of fitting built up systems of knowledge and belief, they are stories of how those systems are broken down
- They reveal greater reality of God
- A greater reality that breaks systems of belief and knowledge
Jesus himself came to break down systems of belief that were built up
- Returned to the essence of God’s reality
In Bible study, if we read it from our own existing systems of belief and knowledge, it might feel safer and more certain, but that is not that path to God’s greater reality, which is always much vaster than ours
- Our posture must be one of humility, awe and openness to the vastness of God’s universe and God’s ways
- When we come before the Scripture with openness and humility to God’s much greater reality, then our own thinking gets changed, our eyes are opened, and our hearts expand
- That is what we’re trying to do here – be transformed by and into God’s greater reality
- We have this wonderful gift of Scripture that was written, collected and passed down through centuries
Background Info on Nineveh
Last week Paul asked: is this story real or fictional? And does it matter?
- Related to what I said above, I think the more important thing is what this story points to
- In terms of historical accuracy, no one can say for sure.
- In 1 Kings there is a reference to a prophet named Jonah, son of Amittai
- It is just a reference, there is no story associated with him in the historical books of the Bible
- Likely there was a prophet of such a name
- And it’s possible that he had some ministry related to Nineveh
Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria
- Assyria was the first major empire in the middle east region
- It dominated the whole area for some time
- Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel
- Policy: assimilation via intermarriage of populations
- So Nineveh represented the forces that destroyed Israel
- How do you think Jonah might have felt toward Nineveh?
- This question will become more relevant next week
Nineveh was the largest city in the known world at the time, but it was not a three days’ walk across.
- I think the writer wanted to convey that God thought Jonah’s work was very important
- DP asked a question about whether our calling can have a massive impact on others.
- What a massive impact is can be subjective
- The point, though, is that going to Nineveh was Jonah’s unique calling, and to God it was a very important calling
- We too have our unique calling – a unique life we’re supposed to live
- Each will have a different impact, but to God, it is an important impact
Rockey asked questions about v.1 – “second time”
- I think this is a very important thing to reflect on
What was different about this “second time” compared with the first?
What is this second chance really about? It’s a second chance to do what?
If the story ended in chapter 2, then it would be a nice story: a story of redemption
- Jonah refuses calling, goes down to depths, is rescued by God, commits to live differently
- End of story, nice
- But story continues and begins with second time
What does this second chance say about salvation? Is salvation only about being saved from the bottom depths like in chapter 2?
Repentance of Ninevites
Jonah had a very simple message: “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
- Context: Nineveh being overthrown would have grave consequences
- Many enemies and subjects who would take revenge
- Basically, would wipe out
- No hope, no mercy, no way out
- It’s a simple declaration
- In Bible, time of great trials
- Great trials, difficult times, hardships
- But also times of becoming new
- Noah and the flood
- Moses spending 40 years in Midian
- Israelites 40 years in the wilderness
- Jesus’ 40 days of temptations
Sackcloth: why did they cover themselves in this?
Did they believe in God? What is the prerequisite or criteria for repentance?
What did the Ninevites’ repentance look like? (DP: they didn’t do anything extra. So what did they do?) Was it genuine or performative?
What is repentance? What’s the difference between repentance and guilt?
God Changed His Mind
What changed God’s mind?
- What is it that moves God?
Sodom and Gomorrah comparison
- Was God willing to change his mind? If so, on what basis?
- What’s difference between them and the Ninevites?
Why didn’t the Ninevites repent before? Why did it take Jonah for them to repent?