Read Jonah 3
Jonah Goes to Nineveh
3 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. 4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
What an incredible turn of events today! We see God’s sovereignty and mercy on display here in Jonah 3. What stands out in this short chapter are verses 9 and 10: “‘Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.’ When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.”
The primary observation here is that God relents when we repent. Psalm 51:17 prays that “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” We must first recognize our sin in light of a Holy God and turn from our sinful ways. The word repent, in Hebrew, means to rue or express sorrow over one’s sin. There is also an action element implied, where we turn from our sin. We recognize our need to repent and turn from sin. That recognition leads us to brokenness over our own sin––a broken and contrite heart, as the psalmist says. We can look over our time in the Bible this year and see how God has been faithful to relent on impending judgment when those who would receive the judgment are repentant.
The word that is translated as “God” in our English translation is actually the Hebrew word “Elohim” here in chapter 3. This word is different than what was used in chapters 1 and 2, “Yahweh.” The reason for that? Jonah appeals to the Ninevites in a way that will make sense to them, as they were a pagan nation that worshiped many different gods. By using the name of “Elohim,” Jonah was able to effectively communicate to his audience the supreme might and power of his God. Jonah experienced this power first-hand, as he was swallowed by the great fish that God sent. Nothing will prevent God from carrying out his intended plan and purpose. His ways are higher than our ways (Is. 55:8).
Repentance is a heart posture and not a formula to follow for pursuing the heart of God. Again, it is a broken and contrite heart that God honors. The Ninevites demonstrated this for us by putting on sackcloth and ashes and mourning their sin.
1. What stands out to you about God’s mercy in this passage?
2. How has your life been marked by repentance? How have you seen God work through your own repentant heart?
3. What does it mean to truly mourn over your sin? What’s the balance between grieving our sin and knowing that God gives us grace time and time again?
“It is amazing that God brought the whole city to faith (in what Jonah said) and repentance through the preaching of a man who did not love the people to whom he preached. Ultimately salvation is of the LORD (2:9). It is not dependent on the attitudes and actions of His servants, though our attitudes and actions affect our condition as we carry out the will of God.”–Dr. Thomas Constable
Leave a Comment Below
Join the Team
Interested in writing for the Bible Reading Plan? Email email@example.com.