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Preach the Gospel and Do Justice

October 27, 2019

Scripture: Jonah 3

I. People need the church to preach the Gospel.

A. Jonah 3:1-2 is almost an exact repeat of the words that God spoke to Jonah in chapter 1 at the beginning of Jonah’s story. God is offering Jonah a fresh beginning here after his initial disobedience. The message God gave him to speak is in verse 4: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” This is one of the shortest evangelistic messages in world history. This is a message about the wrath of God. And Jonah wanted God’s wrath to fall on Israel’s enemies: the people of Nineveh.

B. But a funny thing happened to the people of Nineveh on their way to being judged in 40 days like Jonah preached about. It didn’t happen. Jonah knew that if the people of Nineveh would turn from their sin in repentance and faith, God would save them. And this is exactly what happened. What was their response to Jonah’s preaching according to verse 5? “And the people of Nineveh believed God.” They believed that God was about to judge them. They knew it was true. So, what did they do? They took immediate action. They had no time to waste. They repented.

C. Four times in verses 8 through 10 we see the word “turn” used to show the people of Nineveh turning away from sin in repentance. How important it was then for Jonah to go and preach the Gospel to them. If he had not done so, the people of Nineveh would have been destroyed. We have also been told to go to others with the Gospel in Matthew 28:19-20: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

II. People need the church to do justice.

A. How do we see the call to justice in the book of Jonah? First, notice that Jonah is not so much calling the people of Nineveh to conversion – to worship Yahweh, the one true God of all the earth. God was instead asking the people of this city to repent of social injustice. Jonah’s message to the people to repent was a message about changing their ways (vs. 10). When the king of Nineveh heard about Jonah’s words, he understood according to vs. 8 that God was telling the people of the city to “turn from his evil way and from the violence in his hands.”

B. Seeking justice means seeking equal treatment for all people. We see the Bible speak to this issue of justice in Proverbs 31:8-9: Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Seeking justice then means speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves. In this verse in Proverbs it means speaking up on behalf of the poor. It means radical generosity. And in the rest of the Old Testament it means particularly helping three classes of people: the widow, the orphan and the foreigner. All of the Old Testament prophets like Amos (see Amos 5:24) and Jonah make it clear that God’s people need to be equally committed to preaching the Gospel of sin and salvation and to doing the works of justice that care for the poor and voiceless and marginalized in our society. It is not either/or. It is both/and.

The church must both preach the Gospel and do justice to bring good to heaven and earth.

The book of Jonah
Commentaries on Jonah by Desmond Alexander and Timothy Keller