Thrones and Ashes

We are exploring parts four and five of this teaching, looking specifically at Jonah chapter 3.

Episode 4
Aug 14, 2017
Play Episode
Show Notes

Jonah goes very much against his own desires to the ancient city of Nineveh. He utters a very strange five-word sermon, and the people of Nineveh have a very interesting response. Also, we discuss the meaning of the biblical word “repentance” and what it does and doesn’t mean.


Speaker in the audio file:

Tim Mackie

Tim: Hey everybody! I’m Tim Mackie, and this is my podcast, Exploring My Strange

Bible. I am a card-carrying, Bible, history, and language nerd who thinks that

Jesus of Nazareth is utterly amazing and worth following with everything that you


On this Podcast, I’m putting together the last ten years’ worth of lectures, and

sermons where I’ve been exploring this strange, and wonderful story of the Bible

and how it invites us into the mission of Jesus and the journey of faith. And I

hope this can be helpful for you too.

I also helped start this thing called, The Bible Project. We make animated videos,

and podcasts about all kinds of topics on Bible, and Theology. You can find those

resources at thebibleproject.com.

With all that said, let’s dive into the episode for this week.

Alright we’re diving into part 4 of 5 into this series of Exploring the Book of

Jonah. This is a Teaching Series I did back in 2013 when I was a teaching pastor at

Door of Hope. If you haven’t’ listened to parts 1, 2, 3 of this series in the previous

podcast, I’d recommend you doing that. In this teaching we’re diving in to Jonah

Chapter 3 which is the story of Jonah going very much against his own desires to

the city of his ancient enemies Nineveh, uttering a very strange five-word sermon

at which the people of Nineveh, his great enemies have a surprising response. It’s

a story that explores the meaning of the biblical word, repentance. What it does

mean, what it doesn’t mean. And a whole bunch of other things besides. I hope

this is helpful for you, let’s dive in.

We are cruising along this week 4 of our rescue effort to the Book of Jonah.

Remember we’re rescuing this really profound, sophisticated story of the Bible

from the children’s version of it that many of you were subjected to. And that

totally like vaccinated you from have this book having any power in your life as a

word from God and the scripture. And so this is part of our rescue effort. Week 4,

we follow this Jonah son of Amittai. Remember his name means Dove, son of

Faithfulness. Of course, he’s the most faithless person in the entire story, and

you’re supposed to laugh at that point. And that’s the entry point into the

strange nature of this story is that it has this comic, satire, crazy, extreme feel to


And so you have this religious prophet man of God but he’s an utter hypocrite

and he actually hates his God as we’re going to see next week, just chews them

out big time for being too nice. So he runs from Him. God invites him into life

and grace, and he runs from his own God and it leads him to become spiritually

sleepy, and literally sleepy, trace as he’s becoming a wrecking ball of the lives of

other people. And the situation, all his decisions caught up with him and brought

him to the bottom.

And so last week we explored how God leading Jonah to the bottom and actually

having a brush with death and encounter with the sea monster is actually God’s

sever mercy because this is the way that God brings Jonah to the end of himself

and wakes him up to the truth of who he is, and who God is. And so this is where

we’re picking up the story here is that God commanded the fish to vomit Jonah

on dry to dry land. Remember the Hebrew word for vomit? Qo. You’re supposed

to laugh. It’s Qa. Qa. You’re supposed to laugh, it’s qa. Alright it’s funny. Maybe

you don’t make that sound when you vomit. I don’t know. I don’t want to know

what sound you make but anyway I see those kind of like aa. The fish vomits him

up after this beautiful poem that he writes, and then here we are.

One thing I want to share with you among the stack of books I accumulated on

Jonah and different things I found interesting. Actually the most interesting one,

and I think one of the authors who gets what’s going on in the Book of Jonah

most is not a scholar or a commentator. He’s a poet. His name is Thomas Carlisle.

And this is in the late 1978, so you know it’s awesome. He wrote this little book, a

collection of poetry that’s a commentary on each chapter of Jonah, there’s a

section, a collection of poems on each chapter of the book. I want to share some

with you. If you’re kind of new of Door of Hope, and if you haven’t been here for

the rest of this year, this might not make much sense to you, but for the rest of

you, you’ll all get a kick out of it. So this is one of his poems about Jonah about

chapter 1, him running. Okay, so let’s cool it down. “I know a better way to

circumvent your silly streak of mixing love with righteous judgment,” this is Jonah

talking again. “All I need to do is take the next flight west beyond Your



This will give you time for sober, second thoughts to swear off this kick of simpleminded

kindness. Inside the monster I was as low as I could get when I

remembered God, odd, that my distress impressed me with His apparent absence

when his premised daily presence hadn’t meant a blessed thing. Finding myself in

that hole with my soul fainting and rolling with the swell of my swollen ego. It

was a good enough to kill me. Good. Instead, I saw stars in the dark and started

hum on a welcome water spout.” Good for ace, welcome fish. He’s not a whale,

you know he was never called a whale. He was called the great fish. It’s the sea


These next two are about chapters 3 and 4. Counselor to the almighty. This is

Jonah speaking again. “Think twice before you pardon. Men repent even in ashes.

But repent again of their repentance.” Right? That’s a good one. Repent again of

their repentance. “Take the wiser bias of my advice. Confine your charity to such

good neighbors as your humble servant.” This is the last one, diction.

“Consistently, Jonah chided his stupid and incredible creator for His addiction to

mercy as though it were some miracle drug. A deity that ought to be

dependently capricious, keep the natives in line. Decimating that over populated

slum would wipe out delinquency in hurry. Naturally, Nineveh would make a

perfect target. That is once he was safely outside.” Thomas Carlisle.

The book is so red, 1978 you guys. And he got his friend, I forget, his says his

name to make all of these original wood cut drawings of different scenes in the

Book of Jonah. It’s book of art and poetry. Isn’t that rad? It’s great. Anyway, he

gets it. This is not a children’s story is it? Children can grasp it, but to really grasp

what’s happening here, you very much have to get what’s going on. And so we

are going to pick up with Jonah again as he is caught out of the fish. He’s

vomited out, and we’re going to pick up our hypocritical prophet in chapter 3.

Let’s dive in.

“So we hear the Word of the LORD.” Remember LORD in all caps means Yahweh

in Hebrew. “So the Word of Yahweh came to Jonah, a second time. Go to that

great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message that I give you.” And there’s

almost the sense om which we’re kind of like, “Oh yeah, that story. Like, I forgot

about that whole thing.” This whole thing was framed as a story we read the first

line that this is a story about a God and Nineveh. But then it came a story about

God and His own prophet because His own prophet rebels and runs away and so

on so God has to follow that whole thing through. And now we’re back to the big

story line again which is about God in Nineveh. Now look at what… the wording

here is really interesting. It says, “Go to the great city of Nineveh, proclaim to it

the message I give you.” What message is that going to be? What is this message

about and so on, flip to page or look over the page to chapter 1. And remember,

what is this whole—how did the story begin?

“The word of Yahweh came to Jonah son of Amittai, go to the great city of

Nineveh and preach against it because its wickedness has come up before me.”

And so all of this is framed as a story that begins with God looking over His

world, and He sees this great cause of injustice, and oppression, and wickedness,

and so on. The Ninevites. So He’s dispatching His messenger. That’s what

prophets are, the messengers, to go confront the wickedness of Nineveh, and

preach against it. Now I’m guessing that some of the language and in this

passage and preach against the wickedness of this city and this whole thing

about God, his fierce angers, we might perish and so on. I’m guessing all of us are

feeling totally comfortable and our hearts are warmed by this language. So we

kind of struggle with these parts of the Bible that depict God as seriously ticked

off at that humans are doing, and bringing judgment. So part of it is that we

don’t get where Jonah and His people would be at in relationship to the

Ninevites. Let’s start there. So, the Ninevites—Nineveh is the capital city, we’ve

done this a couple of times, let me show you the map here. Remember of what

empire? Big, bad ancient empire, Assyria. In Assyria, there had been empires or

kind of petty state empires before this.


Assyria was the biggest, baddest empire that the ancient world had known up to

that point. And for a number of different reasons, even still today, people study

the military tactics of Assyrian Generals and so on because they were brilliant.

They were utterly brilliant at looking at territories that didn’t belong to them.

What are the strategic cities and roads they would decimate those cities and then

they were like the Borg of the ancient world? Just absorbing. And so they grew,

and grew, and grew by shear military expansion and conquering and so on. So

they were not only brilliant, however, militarily they were also notoriously brutal.

And this is just a fact of ancient history. They were the most brutal empire that

the world had yet seen.

And so they’ve done lots of archaeological digs, and so on in what is now known

as in the city of Nineveh, it’s in the region of Mosul in Iraq, and dug it up for a

150 years now. They keep digging there. But they found the walls of the city

which is a big 7-mile around oval which is gigantic for that. Some cities were

defined as settlement with walls around it. But they found the royal buildings, the

royal complex and so on, like the king’s palace. It’s a huge complex of buildings.

And when you go into it, they discovered lining the walls of the King’s complex

where all of these pictures that the kings of Assyria had hired, sculptures and

Artisans and so on, to draw stories. This was like you’d go into the halls of the

royal palace, and you would just be like movies playing in front of you, so to

speak. And just all of these stories and the stories are all about military exploits of

the kings of Assyria. So the whole point is, if you’re not an Assyrian. You’re in that

palace, you’re probably in trouble and you’re going to be quaking in your boots

as you go down these hallways. And so this is—most of them are preserved still

today in the British Museum in London. So in this particular hallway here, it’s the

story told of one of—the battle, one of the kings of Assyria fought with the

Israelites. This story tells of how one of these Assyrian kings conquered the

Israelite city of Lachish. And that story is also told in the Bible. It’s said in second

Kings chapter 18. And it’s one of the most detailed depictions of an ancient city

being besieged and what the Assyrians would do over the course of the months

that the siege went on. So the picture of an ancient ramped tower, so they had

the forefront of technology of making this huge defendage, shielded, wield

structures that would be the same height as the city wall. They built a huge siege

ramp and rolled it up to it. And then these other pictures are depicting what the

Assyrian soldiers would do to capture Israelites who had like fallen off the walls or

they had broken into parts of the city. So what’s happening in the upper left here,

this is Assyrian soldiers stripping naked and grabbing the legs of these Assyrians.

And if you would look close, you can see they have knives, they are about to skin

these people alive in the side of the city walls.

And what would they would also do, is then they would capture soldiers or

whatever, they would cut down trees from the region around and would sharpen

the tips into you know, big spears, and then they would just impale people on the

big spears and then set them at the hills around the cities. So when Israelites

soldier still on the city would look out, they would just see their dead colleagues

hanging on the hills and so on. And so this is how they roll. This is what the

Assyrians do. They’re brilliant and brutal. And so –you need to just understand

the deep emotion that would come into an Israelites’ minds when they heard

about the Ninevites, when they heard about the Assyrians. The idea of God

sending his prophet to confront the injustice and the oppression of Nineveh. And

Israelites readers would be like, “Yes, yes. Finally! Go get them Jonah. Go! Let

them fry.” That’s the idea here. God’s not being a jerk. He’s confronting one of

the most exceptional instances of human injustice that the world had seen up to

that point. And so he goes on his mission. That’s the backstory here. So let’s see

how Jonah responds. Look at verse 3.

We hear that Jonah, he obeyed the word of Yahweh, he’s clearly a new concept

for him that he’s doing it. Some of you have, he went according to the word of

the Lord. The point is, he’s now going not on his own terms, but on Yahweh’s

terms. Called him. And so he went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city.

And some of your translations might have very important city. The word is just

huge. But it can mean hugely significant or huge in size. Both are true because it

was a huge, significant city because it took three days to go through it. Big 7

miles around. And I think it’s one of the more comic elements of the book

because even if you’re just walking ten to twelve miles a day, it’s depicting the

city as if it’s way bigger than it actually was.


But the point is its significance was gigantic in the ancient world. And so, it took

three days to go through it, and Jonah began by going one day’s journey into the

city proclaiming, and here’s his message: haphak Nineveh yom arbaim od. Those

are five words in Hebrew. That’s the five-word sermon which I’m incapable of

giving. So five-word sermon, and how many in English? It’s eight, and I’m

incapable of doing that too. I’m already in many hundreds of words. So you have

a five-word message. Now I hope that strikes you as strange because first of all,

what is he saying? He gives a time, 40 days. And then an event, Nineveh will be

overthrown. Now, just by reading what God said he was supposed to go do, “Go

to the great city of Nineveh, preach against it because of its wickedness,” you

already have an idea. Well he’s probably going to say something about God and

their wickedness, and how they should stop, and how it’s wrong, so on. But do we

get any of that in Jonah’s five-word sermon?

Jonah’s five-word sermon is one of the most intriguing parts of the whole book.

What kinds of things are missing here? All kinds of things are missing, right. So

40 more days and Nineveh will be overthrown by whom? So is this the Sodom

and Gomorrah story you know, about the fire and brimstone. Is this, we’ll be

overthrown by another nation or something? And they were. They were

overthrown by Babylon eventually. So nothing about who. We do know when,

40 days. Do we know why? Why will Nineveh be overthrown? And you can

imagine people, not everybody in Nineveh, it’s a big city like served in the army

and so you have like a blacksmith or a goat herder. Well first I’ve hear

overthrown, what for? I don’t know why. I just work in here every day. Why? What

would be the reasons that they are going to face this destruction. What can they

do anything about it? Can they do anything to avert it? The prophets always

included some chance to turn back to Yahweh or something, repent, and so on,

but nothing of this from Jonah. We don’t know if it’s possible to avoid this


And the most growing absence is, Jonah is there to represent what God—he’s a

messenger on behalf of Yahweh, and whom does he not mention once? So this is

very strange. This should make you go like, “What? Something’s fishy here,” pun

intended, right? Something is very strange here. But this is really strange. You

know, you read a stack of books and throughout history, there’s two ways people

have understood the strangeness of Jonah’s five-word sermon.

One could be, this could be another extreme, crazy, comic element in the story.

No one behaves according to their stereotype. This is sin city so to speak. This is

Vegas or something like that. You have the people of Vegas, and the ruler of

Vegas, the ruler, the mayor or something, I don’t know. Anyway, so to me it’s a

made up analogy. But you know you have the most notoriously brutal, violent

people that the world knows, and they’re going to repent and turn back to God.

They’re going to stumble over themselves to repent after one day’s bad

preaching on Jonah’s part, right. Essentially crazy, you know. Like what will it take

to get Jonah to repent? God had to go through hell and high water to get Jonah

to soften his heart. But the worst people on Earth, they’re just so ready, just like

the sailors to repent and turn to God and he just gets five words out of his

mouth. He’s just there.

So it could be another one of these crazy turn of events comic elements in the

story. It’s just whoa. It could be something totally different though. It could be

that Jonah is engaging in a bit of prophetic sabotage, it’s called. So, does Jonah

want the Ninevites to find the repentance that leads to life? Does he want this to

happen? Why did he run from God in the first place? Remember, not because

he’s afraid of going into the king’s palace, It’s because he hates Ninevites. And he

thinks that the world is much better off without them existing at all. Though

could it be that this is Jonah—yes he’s physically obeying by going to Nineveh,

but verbally he’s giving us little information as possible to ensure that they won’t

be able to repent and find forgiveness and grace. Would this be consistent with

Jonah’s character? Absolutely. So could it be that he’s—now we’ll talk more about

it this week because there’s all these layers of irony and so on in his sermon, but

we don’t have time to go into it now. We will next week. I personally think the

second option is more likely. But the author doesn’t make it clear. This is another

one of these things about Jonah’s character, he just—does he mean this or does

he mean that? I don’t know. And you’re drawn into the story, and into

contemplating his motives and so on.

Regardless of sabotage or not, it works despite himself. Look at verse 5, what’s

the Ninevites’ response? He says, “The Ninevites believed,” this is good, “The

Ninevites believed him.” Now that’s weird because Jonah didn’t say anything

about God, did he?


You would think he would say, the Ninevites believed Jonah. But no, they

believed in God. Their hearts are so attuned with what’s going on here. They’re

filling in all of the gaps just themselves. They’re so ready. And so the Ninevites

believe God. And a fast was proclaimed. And all of them, greatest to the least, the

whole city, they put on sack cloth. So fasting, it’s probably familiar to you, it’s a

way of engaging, it’s like symbolic body language. You abstain from food or even

some kinds of liquid and sack cloth just straight up putting burlap on. Like it’s

made up of goat hair, it’s itchy, it’s uncomfortable. And so the point is, you’re

ridding your life of all distractions, and you’re showing God that you been

business, that you’re serious. So fasting and prayer and putting on sack cloth.

I mean this is crazy, it’s insane. This is sin city for goodness sakes and they’re

doing this. Now, just a quick observation about what’s happening here in verse 5.

Look at the language that’s used. So we hear this, they have this fast and they put

on sack cloth and so on. They’re super earnest before God and the first words of

verse 5 are just a commentary on what’s happening here. What’s happening is

they do this. Well this is an expression of belief. They believe God and how deep

you know, how did they express that belief, you know. They did these actions,

these active responses. They may seem to you kind of simple, but I actually think

it’s pretty profound so it’s important for us to hear as westerners because

especially in English, when we hear the word belief or faith, we primarily think of

a mental… something happens in your brain. I believe that. I believe this guy is

blue. I believe the Beatles are the best band ever. Something like that. You

believe it’s a mental activity. Yup, believe that. Yup, believe it. Done. Okay cool,

moving on. And so we take that mental idea of that’s what belief is and we

impose that unto the Bible. The scriptures are trying to tell us, kind of redefined

this whole concept for us. And so how do you know that the Ninevites, what do

they believe God about? So again, in theory they’re filling in gaps that Jonah

perhaps intentionally left out. They believe all of a sudden, God’s rendering a

judgment on them. They think they’re just fine. They think it’s just fine to be a

part of an empire, and to support and be a part of this thing that’s growing

through brilliance and brutality. And now all of a sudden they’re confronted with

this judgment that what they thought was good and fine is actually wrong. And

so then you’re put into a situation of trust. We can believe our own definition of

good and evil, this is all just fine what we’re doing or we can accept this new

judgment on good and evil and what we’re doing and we have made something

that is evil into good. And so they believe. And when they believe it’s joined and

expressed solely by this life response of like, “Oh my gosh, what do we need to

change course? We need to…” And so in the Bible, believe is this other side of the

coin of this active response of your life that shows what you believe. I think this is

important just for us to hear as Westerners because we often—we’ve created this

culture in which, do you believe in Jesus? Sure. Totally. Yup. Believe. Totally. Yup.

Believe. Died and rose for me. Yup, check. Said that magic prayer, double check.

You know I did it a few times actually. So you do that thing, and then you’re

good. I believe in Jesus. Sure, yeah. Totally. But then like it creates this situation

where if you have that like box that you’ve checked, but there may not be a shred

of evidence in your life at all that you like care about Jesus or that you really think

things through. You think your decisions through and like over the fact he died

for you. You’re recognizing like, “Whoa, these areas in my life that I used to

thought was totally—I used to think is okay, now I realize, whoa, that’s not cool. I

need to work on this.” There’s all kinds of people who believe that they’re

Christians because they’ve had some mental ascent or they have some

connection culturally to church or Christianity or something. But there’s not a

shred of evidence in their life. And so the scriptures just come alongside us, and

sometimes gently, sometimes not so gently say, if there’s not a shred of any like

going on inside of you, you don’t believe. And it’s not a slam. It’s actually I think

pretty helpful for us. No one’s doing anybody any favors by letting you think

you’re a Christian if you’re actually not, you know. I mean let’s just be honest

here. And so if you’re not, that’s great. Welcome to Door of Hope, we’re stoked

that you’re here. But we don’t want to lead you along.

Belief is this much more holistic life response. They believe, and they express that

belief through action showing that there’s something going on inside their

hearts. This very profound and we’ll come back to this again as we continue on

with the Ninevites’ response. So that’s the people of the city’s response what is

the king’s response? The mayor of Las Vegas. Can’t believe I said that. That’s

ridiculous. So here’s the king. It says verse 6, “When Jonah’s warning reached the

king of Nineveh,” Now, just look at that.


Jonah didn’t reach the king of Nineveh. He made a one day in the city with five

words. So Jonah didn’t go into the royal palace. But somehow his message went

viral without YouTube, and made it there. Made it to the king. “Jonah’s warning

reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne,” and if you just stopped

there you would think like, Oh, this is not good. This is the most powerful man on

the planet, the most powerful empire on the planet known for violence and

brutality. This is not going to end well for Jonah. But it doesn’t stop there. “-he

rose from his throne, he took off his royal robes, he covered himself with

sackcloth.” He identifies himself with the sin and injustice of his people and he

went one more step than anybody else. He sits down in the dust. A symbolic

image of regret, and remorse, and repentance. Like lowering yourself to the

lowest place you can go. “This is the proclamation then issued in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles: Don’t let people or animals, or herds,

or flocks taste anything; don’t let them eat or drink. Let people and animals be

covered with sackcloth.”

Now, there is a laugh track cued right here. You’re supposed to laugh at that,

right? So that’s crazy. This is totally crazy. This is not only like the leader of the

Assyrian Empire. Who is he forcing into repentance as well along with all the

humans? The animals. He’s making the animals repent for goodness sakes, you

know. And so you’re just kind of lead to wonder, “What on Earth for?” I guess the

cows made the milk that nurtured the soldiers or something like that. I have no

idea, but it’s this comic element of the story, this is so… an intense change of

heart that they want to cover all their bases. Let’s make even Old Bessy repent

too in case she ever did something wrong or something. I mean it’s crazy. You’re

supposed to laugh, just like you did. You’re supposed to laugh. This is crazy. And

now that all the animals, and people are in sackcloth and ashes, let everyone call

urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows?

Maybe God will relent. And with compassion, turn from His fierce anger so that

we won’t perish. So you have this crazy change of heart here. And actually the

word that he uses to describe what he’s calling everyone to do is a key concept

linked with belief and faith in the Bible.

Look at Verse 8. And you’ll see that up here on the screens too. The New

International Version, NIV, have translated as, “Let everyone give up their evil

ways.” Some of your translations like English Standard version have, “Let them

turn from their evil ways.” And the Hebrew word that’s used here, it’s super

common in the prophets especially, is this Hebrew word, shoov. Why don’t you

guys say it with me? Shoov. If you see it spelled, it looks like, Shev, like the junior

highers shooving. But it’s actually pronounced shoov. So shoov literally is just the

image from walking. And so you’re going a certain way and a judgment is

rendered that you are going the wrong way. And so that reaches you, and you’re

like, oh, serious. Wow. Or maybe you knew that it was the wrong way and you

want to go that way. Anyway, whatever. One way or another, it pointed out to

you, like, “Dude, that’s the wrong way.” And so shooving is just doing this. And

then you go this way. That’s shoov. And so it’s just the image from like walking

day to day life.

The prophets picked up this word and turned it into this powerful metaphor for

how we relate to God. It’s developed all this metaphor that we’re all on a journey,

life is like a journey. And so we go down certain roads in life and the prophet’s

job is to speak God’s words to His people and to say, “Dude, that’s the wrong

way. That way doesn’t lead to life, that way leads to ruin for yourself and for

others, and you need to shoov.” And the right response to that judgment

rendered on your decision is like, “Oh, okay. Yes.” There we go. Shoov. And you

turn. So that’s what he’s calling the people to do. So it’s again, one of these

things they they believe God, check. How do you know they believe God?

Because he’s calling on them to not just believe something about God, but to

actually change and go a different direction. That’s the language that’s used here.

Now, here’s what I’m guessing is, there are other issues going on inside of us

when we read a passage like this. Now granted these are the most violent people

that the world had known up to that point. But I’m guessing verse 9 is not going

to make it like as magnet on your fridge or something like that. “God may relent

and with his compassion, He may turn from his fierce anger, so that we don’t

perish.” That’s a great idea about God that I like to think about. He’s fiercely

angry at me and I might perish. So think in our culture especially, we wrestle with

this language about God. His wrath, his anger, his judgment.


We struggle with it deeply. You know, we’re like, “Oh… I don’t know about that

verse. I need to go read something in the New Testament now.” That’s how we

respond here. So I want to camp out on this because that’s what this passage is

about. This passage is about God’s judgment on human behavior declaring that

it’s wrong and that people need to shoov and to turn around. And so I think most

of us—certainly this is not a popular idea. Like you want to make new friends

from the party, like you know, grab a drink, go stand in the middle of the living

room area and start talking about divine judgment and repentance. No one’s

going to want to talk to you, right? So just in our culture at large, these are not

popular ideas. But I even think even for Christians ourselves, many of us struggle

with this because, what do you mean? That God’s a judge, that his fierce anger,

right? People are going to perish, this is crazy. So, I think of it this way. And this

has been a way that is helpful for me to put this together. What we’re struggling

with is how to balance or connect different attributes of God, different parts of

God’s character. And so there’s lots of passages like this especially in the

prophets that declare that God is a God who renders judgment on our behavior.

So, He’s a God of judgment.

He sends his prophets with His words, with the scriptures or whatever and there

are things that we all think are just fine, and they are good and all of a sudden we

hear this word of judgment that says, actually this is wrong and you need to turn.

So we struggle with language like this about God because we hold this other

conviction namely from Jesus and a lot of really powerful passages in the New

Testament that speak of a God of love says in First John, “God is love.” God loves

the world. And so we struggle with how to put this together. And to be honest, I

think what happens to most of us, is we just kind of pick one, and screen out the

other one. In our culture, at least people my age, being raised in this culture, we

really like this one, makes us feel good about ourselves so we just kind of don’t

read these parts of the Bible, we wring our hands when we do. And for those of

us who have tried to maybe hold these together in some way—usually one

trumps the other. If God is a God of judgment, but eventually His level win out in

the end. We don’t know how to talk about this or put this together.

And I think the biggest trap we fall into is thinking these are opposites of each

other. It’s not a loving thing to judge, we’re taking down someone’s behavior. A

loving God wouldn’t do that, wouldn’t render judgment like that. We somehow

think that these are opposites. I’m going to camp out here and let this passage

guide our thinking because we really have to think this through. And this will

seriously—this is your view of who God is. Who God is to you. A lot of this, I really

just think is sloppy thinking that I have exposed in my own heart and mind. And I

personally had figured out and wrestled how to work all of this out. And so just

think this through with me. What am I really saying when I say that a loving God

wouldn’t judge and condemn human behavior or condemn people. Think that

through for a second. What’s underneath that is the assumption, if God looks out

on our world and our world—you don’t have to have a religious bone in your

body to recognize that the world is seriously, seriously messed up, Amen. If you

don’t have a religious bone in your body, you wouldn’t say Amen. You would just

say, I believe that’s true or something, I think that’s correct. Why is the world

seriously messed up?

It doesn’t just happen to be that way. It’s messed up because we are messed up.

Nearly seven billion human beings on the planet, making seven billion small and

large decisions that are completely self-oriented makes the world what it is. And

so if God exists, and he looks out on our world, and all of the horrible, large and

small things that we do and think about each other. And if his response is, “Oh

those humans, you know, God love them. A misguided bunch, but I sure love

them. So I’ll overlook this.” Is that a loving thing to do? Is that a loving God who

simply overlooks the mess that we’ve made of His world and the way that we

vandalize people made in His image by how we treat each other. Is that a loving

thing to do? And I would argue that it is not only not loving, but the opposite of

judgment is not love. The opposite of judgment is apathy, and not caring how

people behave and treat each other and just walking by. Think of it this way,

you’re walking down, maybe live near a school or something. You’re walking by a

playground and you see this scene, you see a bunch of sixth grade boys

surrounding a little second grader, you know he’s got his lunch pail, not the

babies or something. And so he has his lunch pail and they’re pushing him

around there, slapping him around, they’re calling him names, they’re going to

take all his stuff, right. And you’re the only adult, you’re walking by on the

sidewalk. If you say to yourself, “Ah kids will be kids, misguided, but you know,

they’ll work it out, they’re kids.” And you keep on going. Is that a loving or caring

thing to do?


Absolutely not. Definitely not. It’s the apathetic thing to do. What is the loving

thing to do? It’s to render a judgment on that behavior. These kids think that’s a

good thing to do. That’s a wrong thing to do. It needs to be stopped, they need

to be held accountable. How are you going to do that, sixth graders? Grab them

by their colors or something like that? Get into a school security or something,

right? So they’re held accountable. That’s the loving thing to do. To make a

judgment. Judgment is not the opposite of love. It’s an expression of love. You’re

loving the victim, the second grader, you’re loving your neighborhood, right? By

not allowing this to set up precedent this kind of thing can happen around here.

You’re loving the six graders themselves by making a statement to them that this

is not okay behavior. You’re going to ruin your life if you keep doing stuff like this

to people. Judgment is the loving thing to do, are you guys with me? And we just

somehow in our mind as we are so sloppy into thinking about this. And actually

in just a second, I think actually just really two-face and duplicitous about how

screwed up we are. Though somehow we have made this into opposites of each

other. You guys, the world’s not okay. You don’t have to be religious to think

that. We can all agree on that. The world’s not okay, and it’s not okay because

we’re not okay. And what we’re doing to each other is not okay. That is a

judgment. And for God to love the people made in His image, to protect the

goodness and the beauty of this world, if He does not render judgment, I would

argue that He’s not caring and He’s not loving. He’s apathetic and God does not

worthy of worship in my opinion. And so love and judgment aren’t opposites of

each other. They are two sides of the same coin. They’re in harmony with one


Now here’s where it gets us. I may have convinced some of you, but this is where

this leads me, is that you and I actually—if we really think about it. We want a

world where there is justice and we want there to be a God who will hold human

beings accountable for our decisions. If there is not a God of judgment who’s

higher than any human to define what we do as good or as evil or good and not

good. If there’s not a God of judgment, I would argue there’s no hope for our

world. Because if that God doesn’t exist or if it’s some other God who doesn’t care

how we treat each other or whatever, there’s no hope for our world. It doesn’t

matter how you behave. There’s nobody you’re accountable to except yourself

and your culture. But here’s the thing, it’s like, do you really want to make

yourself and your culture the one you defines good and evil. How has that gone

for most of human history? You end up with things like the Assyrian empire.

That’s what you end up with. It might mix ride.

If we don’t believe in a God of judgment, there’s not hope for our world, for

wrong being made right. If you cherish the hope of the story of the scriptures of

a world made right, of a restored creation where all wrongs are made right, you

cherish the hope of a judgment of all that’s been done wrong, being named,

dealt with, and made right, and evaluate and judge. If there is no God of

judgment, there is no hope for the world. But flip it over. This is a big dilemma for

us because if there is a God of judgment, there may be hope for the world. But

there is no hope for me or for you because you and are I notoriously two-faced

and duplicitous when it comes to justice, right? So someone cuts you off, you’re

driving down on I 84, and you’re driving okay or something. Someone just

blatantly just cuts you right off intentionally or whatever. All of a sudden your real

passionate about justice. You know what I mean. You’re like, “Yeah, did anyone

see. Look at what’s happening.” That’s me right. So there’s certain things that’s

happen in the world, especially when they impinged on our own personal security

or comfort, and we’re like, “What? This is injustice, this is wrong, you know. Who’s

going to make this right, you know.” We think about this. “Does everyone see

how wrong this is,” right? But all of a sudden when the spotlight of justice, which

of God’s judgment which is impartial, then shines that spotlight on me, then I get

ticked off. And I’m like, it’s not loving to judge. What do you mean? I didn’t mean

anything, you know, by it. it’s not—I didn’t do it all the time. You know what I

mean. We get all defensive about it. So case in point. And you guys, one silly

example and then a serious example back to Jonah. So I have so many driving

metaphors, but partially because driving just reveals our true character. You know

what I’m saying? So here’s the thing about driving in East Portland. There’s a lot

of these rally narrow arteries and it seems like the size of the street and the

timing of the street lights was like meant to match the population of the city two

decades ago. And so you would be able to get these really narrow arteries

through East Portland here. They have these left turn signals that lasts like three

seconds. It’s ridiculously short left turn signals. So ten cars will pile up, how many

cars get through three second left turn signal? Three cars or something. And so

it’s developed this practice in East Portland. And you probably know about if if

you’ve driven in East Portland which is the orange light.


And so because if you’re turning left, you know there’s three cars that would

make it through the green. And what you do if you’re the last car and the car

ahead of you is making the green, you ride the bumper of the next one so that by

the time it turns from yellow to red, it’s orange, right? That zone. It turns red, but

you’re out in the middle of the intersection. You’re like, “Look everybody, what

am I supposed to do? Clearly I just have to go through,” you know what I’m

talking about? You’ve been that person before. Okay, now here’s the next


The next category is the person who rides the bumper of that person, right? And

so what they’ve done is they’ve just have their nose of their car like three feet

over the cross lost part. So then it straight up turns red. But they’re like, “Look

everybody, my nose is out, I have to reverse, I can’t. that person is behind me.”

And so they go through too. You know what I mean? And so what happens is, the

light fully turns green and here’s this guy, like he’s just fully turning in when it

turns green. And so maybe you’ve been the person at the green light facing

traffic and what do you do? So you rev up, you maybe make a little four-foot

advance to make a statement to everybody, “Look at this guy, he’s turning right

here.” I’ve done this to people. And I know you have too.

This is the odd thing. Okay. So two weeks ago, I’m driving on 20th and I get to the

short left turn signal off 20th, on to Burnside and it lasts like four seconds. And it

was traffic time and I have somewhere very important to go. My wife and I, two

tiny kids don’t get on dates too often right now in this season of life, so we had a

happy hour to make. It’s busy, kind of going home, traffic, so on, and so you

know I’m really mindful there are three cars that get through on those four

seconds, there’s the guys who goes through on the orange, and I’m right there

with him. And so, here we go. I’m just… I’m going through on the red, full red.

And there’s a guy in a white 80s Econoline van just—and he clearly, I mean on a

hot day, the windows are down. So he just revs right there in Jessica’s face, you

know. Basically, as we’re turning by, he’s just cussing us up and down, “What do

you think you’re doing?” Okay, guess that’s not quite what he said. But here’s the

whole point you guys, guess what’s going on inside of me as that’s happening?

What’s going on inside of me is not, “Ah, he’s right,” you know I mean. Like he’s

right, I look at this, you know. I don’t like other people to do it, but I am totally

doing that right now, and I’m totally breaking the law, and I know it, but it’s not.

What happens in me? This self-defensive posture of like, no what, who is this guy

think he is? What do you mean, I have somewhere to go? I don’t get to go on

dates very often. So here we are, I got to make this light or whatever and I’m sure

this guy’s never done it before, you know. And all of these things are going on in

your head. And so here you go, that’s exactly it. This is exactly it.

We’re really passionate about justice when it impinges on my convenience or

something, and my comfort. But the moment that the spotlight is turned on me,

and I don’t any longer get to define good and not good in ways that

conveniently excuse my misbehavior, then I’m ticked off. And then I’m like, who is

this guy to judge me. You know what I mean. And so here’s the thing. I actually

think for many of us, we have this kind of theological issue with God’s character

that we have to work at. And I think that’s true for some of us. I don’t think that’s

the core issue. At least I know it’s not for me. The core issue is this, is if there is a

God of judgment, I’m not it. If there is a God who defines good and evil, then it

means that I don’t get to do that in ways that excuse my misbehavior. And you

know that that’s the core issue when you say you believe all that. I believe that it’s

good to forgive people. I believe it’s good to be generous. Meanwhile, I spend all

my money on myself and I have three relational bridges burned of somebody I

will not forget. And you’re just like, really? And when that gets exposed, you’re

like, “What? Don’t judge me. That’s not loving to judge me.” And it’s like, which

way do you want it? We’re so two-faced about this.

And so I think really the issue is just that we’re not God, and then when God

renders the judgment on our behavior, it exposes stuff inside of us. We don’t like

that, it challenges us. Things that we thought were totally fine and that we’re

good, all of a sudden declared not good. And it ticks us off. We don’t like that.

And you guys, I am a child of this culture as much as you are. What’s happening

with the Ninevites? This is so significant because human cultures were so bad at

defining good and evil. Over time we can begin to slowly, you know, human

behaviors, things that are not good. Things that don’t lead us to life, but a whole

culture can come to believe like that’s totally good. Go for it. And so God’s

judgment comes as very unwelcome to us. And I’ll be perfectly honest with you.

There are areas about Christianity that are difficult for me to accept God’s

judgment. That’s why it’s an act of belief or faith when I’m choosing to believe

that God’s judgment of what is good and not good is superior to my own. And so

even though it doesn’t resonate with me to say that that’s not good, that’s

wrong, my faith, trust, someone above myself because what am I?


I’m the two-faced driver that’s what I am. So I’m going to trust myself. And so

that’s what I think this comes down to. And essentially then it’s asking, well what

does God do with His judgment? It’s an expression of his love. But what’s it for?

What’s the goal of judgment? Is it to smash us, just show us, make us miserable

to wallow in the ashes and be like, I don’t know if God is going to forgive us,

what horrible people we are. Look at the goal of God’s judgment.

Look at verse 10. And this is the last verse in the chapter. It says, “When God saw

what they did and how they turned, shoovd, from their evil ways, he relented. He

did not bring on them the destruction He had threatened.” And so right here

when God’s judgment is an expression of his love for the Israelites, for the

Ninevites themselves, and so on. He renders the judgment on their behavior, was

not good. They shoovd, and when they shoovd, what did they find?? We have a

wonderful word to describe what’s happening in Verse 10. And it’s the word

grace. This is the goal of God’s judgment. Out of His love, he renders a judgment

on our behaviors so that we’ll be like, “Dude, that’s not the right way. Oh my

gosh, shoov.” And the moment that I shoov, what do I find? I find grace. So God’s

not out to destroy us. He’s out to show us that we’re going the wrong way, so

that that we can turn and find grace, and new life.

God’s judgment is a good thing. It’s an expression of his love. It’s aimed at

restoring people to relationship with Himself. And so you end with this, reading a

story like Jonah 3 and you’re like, this repentance, this is a beautiful word. It’s how

human beings get reborn, and restored, and renewed, when we realize that we’re

not God. What this king does is he gets off his throne, look back at verse 6 with

me. Let’s camp out on this and kind of conclude.

Verse 6 becomes this beautiful image then of the goal and illustration of what

God’s judgment is aimed at doing. You have this man, verse 6, this king, the

warning of God’s judgment that reaches him. He rose from this throne and we’re

thinking, “Oh no.? Like that’s His problem. He’s exalted himself into God’s place

to define as good, all of these things that are actually bad. But instead what does

he do? He takes off these symbols of his autonomy, and his power, is royal robes,

and he puts them aside. He intentionally puts aside the very thing that give him

the authority to define good and evil for himself. He lowers himself. He shoovs

not by going, turning around. He shoovs by instead of going up, by lowering

himself and by going down.

Now, if Jonah was just a three-chapter story according to one of the children’s

books on my shelf, it is. I have a children’s book that just leaves out chapter 4

altogether. Which is very strange. It becomes a different story altogether. If the

story ended right here, happy ending? Yes, it’s a great ending, right? So Jonah

repented, and you know, did this thing, and the Ninevites repented, you’re like,

“Yehey, everyone’s happy.” Except, think this through. Is there any guarantee that

this king is going to stay off of his throne for very long? Is there any guarantee

that the next King of Nineveh will also hear the story about God’s judgment and

turn and discover God’s grace? Is there any guarantee? There is no guarantee

that he will stay off his throne. I mean what’s your personal record for staying off

the throne? You know what I’m saying? So here we are, we want to define good

and evil in ways that are most convenient for us, and the judgment is rendered

on that. You’re wrong. That’s not right. And so here we have a chance to respond,

and to shoov, and to turn to God’s grace. But here’s the thing, and this is the way

Thomas Carlisle put it in that poem at the beginning. “Men repent in dust and

ashes, but they repent again of their repentance.” We’re so screwed up, we can’t

even repent right. We can’t even shoov right. Because you know like a week goes

by, there’s so many areas of our lives we define, we’re on the throne, define that

it is good, we here the judgment as not good. Then we shoov, we get off. Week

1, doing good. Week 2, we’re like, “God is a God of love and grace, right” And so

we end up separating these from his judgment, and we’ll be like, “Well He’ll

probably forgive me. So, you know, I’ll just get back on the throne for 30

minutes.” And then by Week 3, we’re back on. And some of you are thinking,

three weeks? One week, you know. Whatever. We just keep crawling back up to

this addiction to our ego, to our desire for autonomy, to define good and evil for

ourselves. And so this dilemma, is there good news for people who can’t even

repent right? Is there good news for people who can’t even repent right?


Dude, yeah, right. So Right. Yes. So more than one of you should respond after

ten seconds, you know what I’m saying? No, I’m completely serious. You should

respond immediately, yes. There is good news. Absolutely there’s good news.

We’re a community of Jesus for goodness sake. What is the good news? The

good news is all wrapped up right at the heart of this. The good news is, there’s a

story about a king who oversees his good world, and he sees that people in his

world are ruining each other, they’re ruining themselves and out of his love, he

renders judgment, “That’s not right, that has to be dealt with.” But the good news

is that this king renders and brings about his judgment in a way that no one else

expected because he also gets up off of his thrown, he also takes off his robes,

and he comes in the language of Philippians 2. He humbled himself becoming

human, taking on the status of a slave, of a servant. He wallowed in the ashes of

human existence. And on the cross he absorbs his own judgment into himself on

our behalf. He absorbs our selfishness, our self-deception, our pain, the tragedy

of who we are, takes in to himself, it kills him. But because His love is stronger

than death, is stronger than our sins and selfishness in Jesus’ resurrection from

the grave, it makes possible this new way for those who will grab on to Him in

belief and accept his judgment on us that we’re screwed up and that there’s no

hope for us beyond His commitment to us. And when we turn to Jesus, the risen

Lord, we find grace. I mean the cross as a Christian, the cross is where all of these

attributes of God come together in perfect harmony. The cross is a statement of

God’s love, and his judgment, and the it creates an opportunity for grace. And it’s

precisely because of what Jesus did.

Fact is, you and I are going to be crawling on and off of those thrones probably

for the rest of our lives. Lord willing, we make progress. And any progress that we

do make is purely by His grace. It’s changing us, it’s changing our hearts. But Day

1 of becoming a Christian, is hearing of God’s judgment on me turning and

responding to His grace that’s made possible through His love shown on the

cross. Day 2 is exactly the same process. Day 3… Day 4… and you get the point.

As we continue to humble ourselves like this king, you began to find all of a

sudden you resonate more with that judgment and you began to see like, “Dude,

that was so screwed up the way I used to think, the way I used to treat people,

the way I used to spend all my money on myself, the way you all of a sudden

slowly begin to realize that His judgment is actually trying to give you life.” And

so this is the power of this picture of repentance in Jonah 3, it’s beautiful. It’s

aimed at restoring us, not smashing us into pieces.

And so, as always big room, lots of different stories. I have no idea what the

thrones, plural, in your life are. And I maybe have an inkling of what they are in

mind. There’s probably all kinds of other ones that I’m not even ready for yet, but

hopefully by the time I’m 50 or something, I will be, right. There you go, I don’t

know what yours are. You know the ways that you crawl back on the throne, you

refine good and evil and ways to excuse things that you know Jesus in the

scriptures, they are not the way to life. What are you going to do with that

judgment? God’s inviting you to turn to Himself. And so in the time that remains,

you know. Some of us, we might be doing this in a new way. For the first time

we’re actually accepting this judgment and turning to find grace. For many of us,

it’s coming for the 78th time off that throne and doing it again. And that’s the

whole point. And so we’re going to as always, transition into a time for reflection,

for music, for prayer, and I just encourage you, don’t miss the moment. If you

sense the Lord’s doing something inside of you, you’re on a struggle to believe

and accept God’s judgment, like pay attention to that. Don’t let that go inside of


Hey guys. Thanks again for listening to Exploring My Strange Bible Podcast.

Dude, the Bible is strange, and beautiful, and amazing. And I hope this has been

helpful for you. We’ll have the next episode up very soon. The last of five parts of

the last part in the series Exploring the Book of Jonah, so we’ll see you again next

time. Thanks for listening.

[End of transcription 55:16]

For advanced bible reading tools:
Login  or  Join
Which language would you like?