Ever been proven wrong? Well, if you are anything like me, this is more than a daily occurrence. Multiple times a day it seems as though I am told, shown, or it is brought to my attention that I was or am wrong. And truth be told…I hate it. Who likes to be told they are wrong? Who likes it to be brought to their attention that what they thought, said, or did was not right? Not many people enjoy being told they are wrong (if you are this type of person, yippee for you). However, it is not so much what we are wrong about that matters most in life, but how we respond to that revelation. And Jonah is the living example of this truth.
A man whose job (being the prophet that he was) depended on his obedience to God’s call and message, Jonah seemed to respond in all the wrong ways. God gave him a message to preach to Nineveh and what does he do? He runs the other way. He is given an opportunity to tell about the God of the universe and what does He do? Sleeps on the bottom of the boat. Over and over again Jonah showed that Resistance is Futile. But last week we saw Jonah exemplify that God is still in the business of rescuing, even if the Rescue is Fishy! Today we will see that while resisting God is futile and God’s ways of rescuing may be slightly abnormal, He still Favors Repentance. We will see this truth through a Recommissioning of God, a Repenting to God, and a Relenting God.
We find Jonah on a beach off the Mediterranean Sea, still covered in big fish gastric juices. Having just been spewed out by a very large fish (2:10), God recommissions Jonah. God’s word comes to Jonah a second time (3:1). We see God show grace yet again, despite the prejudice of His prophet. God is giving Jonah a second chance. God is not in the business of a one and done relationship. He keeps coming back to the prophet over and over and over again, He is relentless in His pursuit of Jonah and thus His pursuit of the people of Nineveh. God informs Jonah, once again, to go to Nineveh and preach the message He will provide (3:2). And this time, Jonah wises up and goes to Nineveh (3:3). As much as we may easily point the finger at Jonah for trying to run from God, he at least learned his lesson (seemingly) after just one disobedient response. It is here we get a bit of a hint of why Jonah may have ran as well, he had an unpopular message to preach from God (3:4; Prov. 12:7; Gen. 19:23-29). So God was Recommissioning Jonah by giving him a second chance to proclaim severe judgment. But the question is how will the people of Nineveh respond to the Jewish prophet?
As he comes into Nineveh, Jonah is preaching his unpopular message of repentance or judgment from God (3:4). Now one would expect the Ninevites to repel God and his prophet, but instead we see a miraculous response…Repenting to God (3:5). The people of Nineveh respond not just in word to their captive (remember Israel was enslaved by Assyria, which Nineveh was the capital city of) preaching against them but in action (3:5). They put on sackcloth and ashes and it was trans-social economic in extent as well. We find in verses 6-9 that everyone from the king to cattle are repenting. However, it is the king of Nineveh which gives us an example to follow of true repentance. First, he is humbled (3:6). The king takes himself off the throne, removes his royal clothing, puts on mourners clothing, and sits in ashes. All of these actions symbolize the humble heart that recognizes its own sin (James 4:6-10). Secondly, the king proclaims repentance to others (3:7-8). He is distressed and humbled so much about his sin before God, not one area of his life goes unaffected, he is preaching repentance, bearing fruit in repentance, and showing repentance in his actions (Luke 3:3, 7-14). Finally, the king hopes in God’s goodness (3:9). The king recognizes that God has every right and ability to utterly destroy him and Nineveh from off the face of the earth, but that there is a change God in His goodness and grace may relent from His judgment. So the Ninevites and their King all show Repentance toward God. But the question remains…what will God do?
It is in the very last verse of chapter 3 of Jonah that we see the Relenting of God. Here one sees God favor repentance and respond by relenting of His impending destruction of Nineveh. The Ninevites repented from their evil and God listened (Psalm 66:18-19). God reviewed the repentance and hearts of those in Nineveh and relented of His judgment. What God does here is give grace. Does this mean God does not follow through on His word? Is God not faithful to what He told Jonah? “Nineveh shall be overthrown”. Was that not God’s message for Jonah? Then how is Nineveh still permitted to remain? This dilemma is solved when investigating what God means by saying “overthrown”. Overthrown could mean destroyed or judged (which is how we have been dealing with it this entire time). But the word has an alternate meaning as well. “To overthrow” could mean that Nineveh would repent and turn from their sins to God. So God did overthrow Nineveh, but it happened to overthrowing their hearts, minds, and lives to see and appreciate His character and nature, shown through His grace (Luke 15:18-24).
So we see that God is a God of second chances and He offered Jonah a second chance Recommissioning him. But Jonah was recommissioned for the purpose to see Nineveh Repenting to God. And it was in this recommissioning and repenting that we see God Relenting of judgment. If we are honest we know that God has given us all numerous “second chances” and is constantly gracious and patient with us. All He asks of us is to repent of our sin and turn to Him. But truth be told our repenting and God’s recommissioning of us would never come without His relenting of judgment toward us.
But that relenting came at a great cost to God Himself, when He commissioned His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to come and take our sin and shame upon His body on the cross of Calvary (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24). It is only through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that you, I, or anyone can be recommissioned by God and that comes only through our repentance of our sins and recognition of Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.
Jonah shows us that Repentance is Favored, have you repented of your sins and trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? If not, don’t wait any longer. We are not promised tomorrow. In case you missed the beginning parts of this series you can find part 1: Resistance is Futile and part 2: Rescue is Fishy by following the links. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the fourth and final part of Jonah’s story next week.