Compared to any city or town in Israel, Nineveh is a huge city. It is an “exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent” (Jonah 3:3).
Read Jonah 3:1-10. What is the response of this wicked place? What lessons can we take from this story for ourselves in our attempts to witness to others?
While walking the city, Jonah proclaims God’s message: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4). The message is right to the point. Though the details are not given, it becomes clear that the message falls on receptive ears, and the people of Nineveh (collectively!) believe Jonah’s words of warning.
In a typical near eastern manner, a decree is declared by the king of Nineveh in order to demonstrate a change of heart. Everyone — including animals — has to fast and mourn (how animals mourn, the text doesn’t say). The king steps down from his throne and sits in the dust of the ground, a very important symbolic act.
Read Jonah 3:6-9. Compare it with Jeremiah 25:5, Ezekiel 14:6, and Revelation 2:5. What elements were involved in the king’s speech, which show that he understands what true repentance is all about?
The sermon was short, to the point, but filled with correct theology regarding true repentance. While Jonah had been preaching, the Holy Spirit must have been hard at work in the hearts of the Ninevites.
The Ninevites did not have the benefit of all the stories of God’s tender leading that the Israelites had, and yet, they still responded to Him in a positive manner. They are saying in effect, “Let’s throw ourselves on God’s mercy, not on our own accomplishments! Let’s rely completely on His goodness and grace.”
Strangely, Jonah, who has experienced God’s grace for himself personally firsthand, seems to think that God’s grace is something so exclusive that only some may have opportunity to rest in it.
|Why is repentance such a crucial part of the Christian experience? What does it mean truly to repent of our sins, especially the sins that we commit over and over again?|