The narrative of Jonah is ablaze with light for us who stand on the threshold of the last judgments.  Judgment truth had grasped Jonah with a grip of iron: he was God’s ambassador to announce doom, and he knew it: he was all alive to the awful justice of God, the frightful iniquity of sin, and the appalling collision between the two which will wreck a universe.  Cowardice had been buried in the disgorging whale: with his life in his hand, through those immense crowds - probably not less than a million, for 120,000 infants are named - and through its enormous areas - Nineveh was ninety miles in circumference - a strange, wild figure, clothed in rough skins, and himself risen, literally, from the Gates of the Grave, marched, announcing doom.  It is an overwhelming fact that we, to-day, through all the cities of the continents, have been commissioned of God, in mercy to mankind and at the peril of popularity, reputation, and even life, to announce the worse doom, not ,of a single city, but of an entire world.






Now the whole narrative of Jonah is throughout a revelation concerning the preaching of judgment unparalleled in the Bible.  The critical truth it states is this:- Prophecy of evil is delivered to defeat itself; destruction is foretold that it may never fall; Hell is disclosed in order that no man may ever enter it: if judgment were all, the supreme weapon would be silence.  A sand-glass of forty days:- had God wanted the destruction of Nineveh, He would have drowned Jonah, not delivered him: Nineveh’s dead-sure doom would have lain in a silent forty days.  The real peril to the world’s cities in all ages is when no prophets tread their streets: a thing indescribably awful in God is His silence.  For what actually happened?  The rousing appeal, ringing through the awed and silent streets, brought a million souls to God; one of the mightiest cities of the ancient world, “from the least unto the greatest,” fell on its knees; and, above all, the prophecy was dead.  And God” – the glorious heart of our God – “repented of the evil, which He said He would do unto them; AND HE DID IT NOT” (Jonah 3: 10).  Wrapt up in the heart of the prophecy, as was wrapt up in the heart of God – unnamed, unrevealed, but there because God is God – was mercy, lisping the accents of wrath.






Now comes our peril, so acute, yet so concealed in apparent goodness, that a whole Book of the Bible is reserved for its disclosure.  Jonah’s mission had been successful beyond all conceivable dreams: he had reached the heart of wickedness, and cured it: he had postponed Nineveh’s doom for two hundred years.  It is hardly excessive to call it the Pentecost of the Old Testament.  But how does God’s prophet regard it?  It displeased Jonah exceedingly” - literally, it was to, Jonah a great evil – “and he was angry” (Jonah 4: 1); and in extreme bitterness of spirit, he prays for death.  Jonah’s own words prove that it was God’s mercy which angered him.  I knew,” he cries, long ere ever I came to Assyria, “that Thou art a gracious God, and full of compassion” (Jonah 4: 2):  I suspected all along that the thunderbolts would never fall.  Why did You choose me as a prophet of judgment if You meant vast mercy instead?  I am a disappointed man.  Give me my rest.  It is the supreme example in the Bible of mortified vanity.  His self-importance was so, wounded; he so feared the laughter of his critics over his collapsed prophecy, and his injured reputation as a prophet; his mind (to put it at the best) was so exclusively filled with Nineveh’s wickedness, and with the love of sheer justice - that if Nineveh escapes he wishes to die; if Nineveh perishes, he is willing to live.  The very thing the absence of which is the heart-break of most who speak for God - no sobbing crowds - is a despair to Jonah so keen that he hates his life: pride makes his spirit so stiff and unbending that he prefers to snap rather than to melt.  What a contrast to Him who, over the City that was about to murder Him, Wept!  Or, to take a lower parallel better within our reach:- Jonah, on the heights outside Nineveh, prays for its doom; Abraham, on the heights outside still wickeder Sodom, intercedes passionately that it may be saved.


This man-trap at our feet, like the leaf-covered pit that ensnares elephants, deadly yet concealed, is so critically dangerous that, to expose its peril, let us express it in the light the most favourable possible for Jonah.  Jonah might have expressed it thus:- the prophecy God gave me was absolute - no condition, no mitigation, no possibility of postponement or annulment, was attached: there was no summons to repentance - it was a pure announcement of doom: God’s Word, therefore, is utterly pledged; and if Nineveh is un-destroyed, the Divine honour is impugned, God’s prophet is stultified, and Nineveh itself will never believe God’s Word again.  Moreover, it is right that it should be fulfilled: does not Nahum describe Nineveh as the “bloody city, all full of lies and robbery,” and Zephaniah, as “filthy and polluted”?  The iniquity of Nineveh (it is true) so stank in the face of Heaven that not forty years, like Jerusalem, but only forty days were given, before final lightning or earthquake-shock.  Moreover, this mightiest metropolis of the world was simply the world: whereas mercy, favour, love, bliss (so Jonah might argue) are for the People of God alone; and the People of God are never named throughout the Book: therefore judgment, for every reason, ought to fall.  So Jonah goes to an eminence outside the City, “till he might see what would become of the city” (Jonah 4: 5), saying, even to God, “I do well to be angry.”  Had Jonah been armed with the lightnings of Elijah, or with the fires James and John asked from Christ, Nineveh had been ashes.  In that pitiful figure waiting for thunderbolts behold the peril of the Advent Church!






Now follows the incomparably valuable lesson of how God Himself deals with the situation.  It has been said that Leviticus is a fifth Gospel: I am not sure that the Book of Jonah is not a sixth.  Puncture the Book in any vein, and it bleeds mercy.  The mariners are saved from the storm; Jonah is delivered from Sheol; vast Nineveh is spared its doom: and as though that were not enough, mercy is pleaded by Jehovah Himself, by question, by argument, by parable, by sweet reasonableness, by love.  Jonah, sitting, watching for a huge city’s death-stroke, nevertheless was not unmindful of his own comfort - he “was exceeding glad because of the gourd”: alas, there are keen Second Advent Christians to-day, watching for a world’s doom, as devoted to amassing wealth as most worldlings.  So God raises the gourd; then he raises the worm; then he raises the wind: thus to Jonah, now bared himself before the judgment-blast, He says:- On the transient, soulless, perishable plant you never made - springing in a night, and dying in a night - you had pity; on vast Nineveh, with its six score thousand infants, and innocent cattle - for even the lowing of kine can be a supplication in heaven - all my handiwork and my care - your only desire is an opening pit as under Korah.  You never made the gourd; it does not belong to you; no energy of yours shot it up in a night or blighted it in a night - yet you pity it; but the poor vast world with Heaven over it and Hell under it, the teeming millions of the lost - flesh and blood like yourself, with all their human smiles and tears - they are nothing to you.  Should I not have pity on Nineveh, that great city?” (Jonah 4: 11): is not pity according to the principles of My government and universe, the very law and foundation of My nature and life?  Misanthropy is Satanic, never Divine.  ALL PROPHECY OF EVIL IS MADE) IF POSSIBLE, AND SO LONG AS GRACE LASTS, TO DEFEAT ITSELF.  So the peril of the whole body of prophetic students at the end is lest we become an embodied Jonah, so absorbed in judgment, so blind to mercy, that we miss the heart of God; and lest, as on Jonah so on us, the curtain rings down sharply and finally on a futile and abortive prophet.






So now we arrive at the exact mind of God, and the critical embassage vital to the tremendous modern need.  It is a combination rare and lovely and solemn beyond expression.  It is a prophet so gripped and grasped by the terrors of judgment, created by the frightful wickedness of sin, that the vast crowds are met without fear, and without flight: irremediable, and possibly instantaneous, destruction, proclaimed without condition, without mitigation, without end - on all unrepentant sin: no Heaven without Hell, no salvation without damnation, no escape without Blood.  But - behind it all, a heart that is a sob over Hell, and that flings wide the Gates of Heaven; an election of grace beyond our dreams; a work of the Holy Ghost yet to be beyond precedent, beyond imagination; a God that willeth not the death of one sinner.  No city stands more for the entire world-merchants multiplied above the stars of heaven, kings as locusts, field-marshals as grasshoppers (Nahum 3: 16) - than does Nineveh; and, most remarkably, within a few years of Jonah and this Old Testament Pentecost, Joel poured forth his amazing forecast of the Holy Ghost’s descent in the days of vast judgments.  So, therefore, every intensest activity in every direction of truth is the divine vigil with which to confront impending judgment; and it is our very success, our own activity, which will falsify some of our darkest forecasts.  We preach hell to people heaven.


For there’s grace enough for thousands

Of new worlds as great as this;

There is room for fresh creations

In that upper room of bliss.