Jonah Goes to Nineveh
1Then 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.”
3Jonah 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. 4Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
6When 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. 7This 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. 8But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9Who 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.
3:1-4 God employs Jonah again in His service. His making use of us is an evidence of His being at peace with us. Jonah was not disobedient, as he had been. He neither endeavored to avoid hearing the command, nor declined to obey it. See here the nature of repentance; it is the change of our mind and way, and a return to our work and duty.
Also, the benefit of affliction; it brings those back to their place who had deserted it. See the power of Divine Grace, for affliction of itself would rather drive men from God, than draw them to Him. God's servants must go where He sends them, come when He calls them, and do what He bids them; we must do whatever the Word of the Lord commands.
Jonah faithfully and boldly delivered His errand. Whether Jonah said more, to show the Anger of God against them, or whether he only repeated these words again and again, is not certain, but this was the purport of his message. Forty days is a long time for a righteous God to delay judgments, yet it is but a little time for an unrighteous people to repent and reform in.
3:5-10 There was a wonder of Divine Grace in the repentance and reformation of Nineveh. It condemns the men of the Gospel generation, Matthew 12:41. A very small degree of light may convince men that humbling themselves before God, confessing their sins with prayer, and turning from sin, are means of escaping wrath and obtaining mercy.
The people followed the example of the king. It became a national act, and it was necessary it should be so, when it was to prevent a national ruin. In prayer we must cry with fixedness of thought, firmness of faith, and devout affections. It concerns us in prayer to stir up all that is within us. It is not enough to fast for sin, but we must fast from sin; and, in order to the success of our prayers, we must no more regard iniquity in our hearts, Psalm 66:18.
The work of a fast-day is not done with the day. The Ninevites hoped that God would turn from His fierce Anger; and that thus their ruin would be prevented. They could not be so confident of finding mercy upon their repentance, as we may be, who have the death and merits of Christ, to which we may trust for pardon upon repentance. They dared not presume, but they did not despair. Hope of mercy is the great encouragement to repentance and reformation. Let us boldly cast ourselves down at the footstool of free Grace, and God will look upon us with compassion. God sees who turn from their evil ways, and who do not. Thus He spared Nineveh.
We read of no sacrifices offered to God to make atonement for sin; but a broken and a contrite heart, such as the Ninevites then had, He will not despise.