Scripture printed text: Jonah 3:1-10
Jonah, personal name meaning “dove.” Jonah ben Amittai was a prophet of Israel from Gath Hepher, a village near Nazareth. He prophesied during the time of Jeroboam II (793–753 B.C.). God had earlier given Jonah the privilege of delivering the good news that Israel would experience a time of safety and prosperity (II Kings 14:25). According to the book of Jonah, God also used him against his will to deliver a warning to the pagans in Nineveh.
Jonah was not pleased when God commanded him to go to Nineveh and preach repentance. Because of Assyrian cruelty towards his native people. The Assyrians worshipped the vicious god Ashur and a multitude of other gods and goddesses. Assyrian brutality and cruelty were legendary. The Assyrians were known to impale their enemies on stakes in front of their towns and hang their heads from trees in the king’s gardens, among other horrible acts they committed.
Chapter three of the book of Jonah begins with God speaking to the prophet, giving him a second chance to obey His commands to go to Nineveh and preach repentance. But, in chapter one, God called His prophet to go and cry out against the city of Nineveh, but he disobeyed God and attempted to run away from God’s presence. God prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah, and there he remained for three days and nights to teach him a lesson. God not only delivered Jonah from death by grace, saved his life and restored his position as a prophet. Although Jonah failed God, God did not give up on him. God had a job that He wanted Jonah to do, and Jonah’s failure did not disqualify him for the mission. Understanding God’s mercy helps to humble us in our service for God. He still chooses to use us, even after we have rebelled against Him.
After God dealt with Jonah’s rebellion, placed him in the belly of a great fish and saved his life, and placed him on dry land, now he’s ready to carry out God’s work.
Jonah enters the city and began preaching, saying forty days Nineveh shall be overthrown. The people believed God and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Even the king arose from his throne, laid his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. This represents that the people repented and turned from the sins. As a result, God averted His judgment upon the people.
This lesson covers three areas:
- A) God’s forgiveness, B) Prayers to God and C) God Relents.
After Jonah’s experience on the boat and in the belly of the fish, he was finally ready to submit to God’s will. God gave the reluctant prophet a second chance to complete His original command to go and preach to the people of Nineveh. God forgave the prophet, and His forgiveness is available to us. At the moment people repent and turn from their sins and turn to God, He forgives and restores us back in right fellowship with Him. The prophet immediately began to proclaim the message of God’s judgment to the inhabitants.
Secondly, the people before the prophet completed one day’s journey, the people of Nineveh heard, believed and repented of their sins. The people demonstrated their faith by their actions reflective of repentance. They fasted, covered their head with sackcloth which was a sign of contrition and humility. Genuine repentance is not simply apologizing for sins, a sense of remorse, but having a changed mind about sin. The idea here is giving another chance, would not commit the same sin.
Thirdly, the people repentance resulted in God relents from His judgment against them. God does not change His mind, but He does change His methods. Although the people of Nineveh repented, their repentance was short lived. Later, they would return from God and to their sinful ways, resulting in God’s wrath upon them.
The book of Jonah is unique among the prophets in that it is almost entirely narrative. It recounts how Jonah learned that God was much bigger than he had thought, especially in the extent of His power and His compassion. So it is with us, God is a merciful God slow to anger and rich in mercy to forgive us each time we repent and turn to Him.