Session 36: Jonah, Micah, and Nahum
"The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him…" Nahum 1:7
Jonah 2:9; 4:11; Micah 4:1-5; 6:1-8; Nahum 1:7; Key verse: Micah 6:8
Key personalities: Jonah, Micah, and Nahum
Timeline: About 740-612 B.C. This is during the event leading to the Divided Kingdom, Israel the northern kingdom is conquered by the Assyrians, and the Babylonians are at the gate, as the areas were ruled by the Assyrians and the Babylonians who fought with each other.
Prophets were to speak to the people and to kings for God. Prophets were to declare His will, decrees, give out the Truth and point out errors and even warn of judgment if they do not heed to God. After all, He is LORD and Creator, and we are to live to know and serve Him. A prophet will face opposition from the sin of pride and will of men. God’s people will weep over sin, while the prideful will engage in it and seek to destroy those who are faithful. Yet, the faithful prophet will stand the ground and preach and persevere; one will run away.
The Book of Jonah, Eighth century B.C. Takes place in 2 Kings 14, where Jeroboam II restores the borders of Israel because the conquerors backed away--the Assyrians, whose capital was called Nineveh--and Israel received a reprieve of being conquered for a generation. The time to repent was not taken. This Book has the theme of God’s embracing love and infinite mercy for all people, even pagan evil nations, and beckons us to come to Him and share in His mercy, yet most people are reluctant to do so and still God pursues. God chooses the Israelites to share Him to the world, and here the world is pursued. This is also about how God pursues and works in His servants, even those who disobey and refuse their call. God gives ample time and mercy and shows that the work will be done, if not by them, by someone else. As Jonah refused to preach to the people of Nineveh, and ran from God, he eventually got there and ran with God and did it. Jonah is more about how God is dealing with his prophet and less about evangelism. He wants His leaders obedient, focused upon Him and to be serious about our trust and obedience. This Book points to Christ’s death and Resurrection.
The Book of Micah, Eighth century B.C. Micah is a contemporary of Isaiah, who ministered in Judah during the time when conditions were getting worse into sin as Israel, the northern kingdom, did; he spoke like Amos did in the north with the same message--God’s certain judgment of repent or else. Because both kingdoms dealt with the same sins, both are denounced in the same God-leading direct, indignant, and convicting language. Micah also challenges the people that our relationship with God must show the results of how we are and treat one another. While Micah was challenging sin, he also gave hope and that God will bring deliverance through the Messiah, and even accurately predicts His place of birth.
The Book of Nahum, Seventh century B.C. He comes a century after Jonah and challenges Nineveh, whose repentance under Jonah has faulted back to sin, heartless, and wickedness. This time, they did not repent, and they were judged. This book warned of the breakdown of Nineveh (which is Assyria) with vivid descriptions to one of the most hostile ancient nations. Assyria broke the peace and was harassing God’s people and thus God comforts them that these cruel and oppressing people would soon meet the just vengeance and judgments at God’s hand.
Key Happenings: God IS Sovereign! He will judge and He is good and asks us to be good, too!
Jonah, whose name means dove (as in stillness and loyalty), lived and worked in the northern kingdom of Israel in the eighth century B.C. and passionately pleaded for the people to get right with God; the kings were evil and refused to repent, and the kingdom fell into captivity a hundred and fifty years prior to Judah. Well, that was what Jonah was supposed to do. Jonah can be called God’s prodigal prophet, as he spends as much time fighting and running away from God and His call than he does to do it. When he does follow God, he complains and frets his way through it. This is a picture of many of us in ministry struggling, fretting, and often fighting with God while we forget who and what we are to do.
Jonah’s point is that God pursues. As Jonah makes an epic getaway, fleeing in the opposite direction of his call, God cares enough to confront, proceed, and restore his call and work. Perhaps he suffered from depression! We are given one of the most dramatic instances of revival in the Bible when an entire county, about to be judged by God, recognized their sin, were convicted, and they fasted and repented.
A whale of a tail? Jonah was called to preach to Nineveh. Jonah knew of the wickedness of the people of Nineveh, and he also knew of God's grace. He also knew they were going to invade and be God’s instrument of Judgment. He knew if he got over his fears and went to Nineveh and preached to them, they could possibly repent, and he, for whatever reasons (personal hurt, frustration that God is not working the way he wanted, or maybe prejudices), did not want them to be saved. So, Jonah ran. God caused a storm as Jonah tried to escape by ship; the sailors tossed him overboard as soon as they discovered that Jonah was the cause. God ironically showed His mercy to Jonah--who was running--because God is merciful. God sent a whale to rescue Jonah; the whale is the principal deity of the people of Nineveh—very ironic. Jonah submitted, with some more grumbling, and went to Nineveh. He preached and the people turned to God, and His judgment was delayed (Matt. 12:39-41; Luke 11:29-32).
Are we running to God or running from God, or running with God or running against God? Jonah had to learn God was in control and He is in control of salvation. The narrative of Jonah is a story about the power of God at work, both to help recognize our sin and to spur on repentance and the place of fasting. We can learn that we need not fear God, as He is all knowing, and He knows our sin. So, what is stopping us from telling God what He already knows? Our pride! What do we learn from Jonah? Release your pride and you will find wonders as you are able to grow closer to Him! You will be unable to do this unless you "smash" your sin. Sin is anything that takes us away from drawing closer to God, or creates a counterfeit or replacement of God. Repentance surrenders your will as you smash (not letting them come back) and throw out (not letting others take their place) your sins; only then are you able to refocus on Christ as the Lord of your life (Isaiah 58:6-11).
Nineveh, was over 500 miles northeast from Gath-hepher where Jonah lived. It was the Assyrian Empire capital city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River. They were harassing Juda, and they will eventually get judged by God and conquered by Babalyon in 600 B.C. When they repented 100 years prior under Jonah, it was a wakeup call to Israel. However, they ignored it and decided to sleep in.
God saved Nineveh, one of the wickedest of the ancient cultures, in order to show the Israelites what could be done, or to show them up (Jonah 1:15-16; 4:10-11).
Ironically, the Jewish leaders feared Nineveh's repentance, as it might condemn an unrepentant Israel. The result, under Jonah, was that Nineveh became strong in the Lord as well as in power, and invaded the Northern Jewish Kingdom which fell apostate. Perhaps they should have used their energies to educate and preach God to the people rather than engaging in hate-mongering toward Jonah and the rest of the Prophets (Nahum 2:8; 3:1-7).
Rebuke/ denounce are very strong words conveying justified indignation. This is called a "judgment oracle." It was common of O.T. Prophets to condemn evil cities whose people had rejected God. No one has an excuse. Even in the wickedest of cities, the righteous people testified on behalf of God. God showed mercy upon mercy, until there was no hope for their repentance (Book of Jeremiah; Amos 3:2; Jonah. 4:11; Matt. 12:41; 23:13; Luke 12:47-48; Rom. 1:20-2:16).
Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, who warned Judah to have mercy to others or prepare for impending doom, unless they repent. His teaching emphasized true spirituality--our relationship with God must have a result that transitions to our thinking, ethics and behavior, so we act justly to one another and not live in our selfishness and pride. Spirituality is NOT an empty ritual has no meaning to God or others. If we are prideful, then God does not have a hold on us. Do we care for the poor and downtrodden? If not, God is not honored. Unlike Jeramiah, whose words were ignored, Micah’s challenge was heard and helped stave off a premature exile for a couple of generations (Micah 1:1; 6:8, 13-16; 7:18).
Hear now what the Lord is saying! In Micah 6:8, we are asked how will we live, "What does the Lord require of us?" The essence of the passage is what God calls for--love and fruit--as it is in the operational parameters of all of the work and function in life that we are to do. Jesus sums up this passage, "... There is no other commandment greater..." This sums up the law as a positive command instead of a list of negatives (Rom. 13:8-10; Micah 6:1-8; 1 Cor. 13).
Meekness is not self-abasement; it is strength under control. The Jewish leaders added greatly to God's Law and over-burdened the people, distracting them from knowing the real God. Micah, 7:6, describes the terrible tribulations to come and that the evils in the land will lead to untrusting relations and conflict. Micah, 7:7, shows us our Hope!
Nahum means "consolation" or "comfort,". Little else is known. Nahum’s purpose was to comfort his people. He was a contemporary of Jeramiah and preached faith; he pleaded with the kings and people in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. to repent or fall and lose everything to Babylon. He challenged the worst kings, like Manasseh--the worst of the Bad, and had a role in his repentance. Nahum then challenged Amon, who was Bad. Nahum kept in check Josiah, who became king at age 8 and helped him when he was 15, to focus and trust in God. Nahum challenged Jehoahaz, who reigned 3 months, and he was taken prisoner to Egypt. But that foundation of repentance has eroded and now the Babylonians were at the gate; destruction was eminent as God’s message was not headed.
Nahum challenges us to appeal to God to hear us and have mercy. Our call is to show respect for His holiness. God promises us He will come to our rescue, but it will not always be when and what we hoped for. His plan is best, even when we do not see it. We can have confidence in God. Even though it seems our prayers are not being heard or responded to, the Lord has set apart the godly for His purpose and plan, and He will answer us in His time (Psalm 25:4-5; Isa. 45:13; Jer. 23:6).
Where is my Hope in this? Times will improve; but even if they do not, I will trust in God. I know He smiles upon me and loves me; therefore, He is my joy even when my situation is not joyful. I have peace and security even when others come against me. My God will keep me safe in Him!
We can have an outlook of enjoyment and real, authentic happiness–even in distress and uncertainty. Our trying circumstances will threaten our contentment and ability to persevere, such as pain, suffering, or loss. In these times our Lord is our Refuge. We have a call to seek God, place Him first, think through our situation, and plan accordingly to do what is best and what honors God. We can Trust in the LORD. We must place our faith in God so we have conviction and commitment to know Him and rely on Him (Ex. 14:32; Psalm 4; 37:3; Prov. 3:5; Jer. 39:18; Nahum 1:2-9; Acts 14:23).
Key Takeaway: Real repentance will entail full, genuine confession, restitution, and the will to turn to Christ, not just as Savior, but also as Lord. In order to do the work of God, we must be the people of God! God's desire is for us to draw near to Him. He paves the way for our sanctification; it is up to us to make that journey. He will not force it on us. Fasting is a venue to help make it happen with real, authentic devotion and sacrifice (Neh. 9:1; Jer. 36:9; Dan. 9:3; Joel 2:12).
We can choose the ways of adultery or relationship empowerment, with impure thoughts and lives, or we can make the decision to be eager for kingdom living and God's glory that will lead us to a purposeful and triumphant life versus a life of bitterness and utter failure (Micah 3:8; Acts 2:4; Acts 13:52; Gal. 5; 2 Pet. 1-10).
The foreshadow of Jesus Christ? Jonah was at the door of death, and God kept him alive with a miracle that also referred to our Lord's resurrection to come. The sign of Jonah referred to our Lord's coming suffering and death and resurrection for their ultimate forgiveness and redemption to come. Christ Himself alludes to Jonah when speaking of His own death and Resurrection (Matt. 12:39; 16: 1-12; Luke 11:29-32; Acts 2:22-36). Micah predicts Jesus’ place of birth in a small insignificant village of Bethlehem and His righteous reign (Micah 2:12-13; 4:1-8; 5:1-5).
Questions to Ponder
- Do you feel God is distant and does not care about you, your situation, or your concerns?
- Have you felt some personal hurt from other Christian or frustration that God is not working the way you wanted?
- What does it mean to you to have a life filled with purpose and distinction? What happens when you do not?
- Why would the Jewish leaders have feared Nineveh's repentance?
- God sees the humble as the real wise ones, whereas the world looks to pride and arrogance, which God hates. How can this understanding help you grow in your faith and wisdom?
- What does it mean to you to have fear and awe for God? How do you practice this?
- Have you ever considered that you are God’s representative and ambassador when you model and embody Christ; thus, what is done to you is also done to Him? How does this make you feel?
- How does confidence in that God is at work and in control give you strength and perseverance?
- How are you an evidence of God’s work? How do your devotion and obedience please Christ? How do they not? How can they do so more? What are you going to do about it?
- When we say we are a Christian, but do not honor or obey Christ, even though it may not be required, what good are we? Why do some Christians do this?
- What do you need to do better to walk justly?
- What do you need to do to get over personal hurt and frustration that God is not working the way you wanted?
© 2014 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org