Jonah 3:6–9 (MEV): When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself in sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he made a proclamation in Nineveh:
“By decree of the king and his nobles:
No man or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not eat or drink water. Both man and animals shall cover themselves with sackcloth and cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change His mind. He may turn from His fierce anger, so that we will not perish.”
Jonah continues in his service to God. As the people’s hearts changed, word eventually came to their leader. Can you imagine any of our political leaders in the US covering themselves in ashes, in repentance of the their own proclivities and those of the people they lead?
It is an interesting picture to ponder in your mind.
Consider the decree of the king that went forth. It was a national fast from food and water, even to the extent of not feeding and watering animals. People afflicting themselves with no food and water have a choice in how to react, an animal doesn’t. The crying mightily from the people would also be punctuated by that of the animals who had no choice.
We aren’t given much on what Jonah preached to Nineveh. I think we can glean some ideas from the proclamation. As a prophet he surely spoke the truth, “In forty days’ time, Nineveh would be overthrown.” The judgment of God was coming. Perhaps this is another example of Jonah’s reluctance in his preaching. Was there any good news?
Who knows. Perhaps God may see our acknowledgement and repent (change His mind.)
The Bible tells us the wages of sin is death. The folks in Nineveh were given a respite of that debt. They were also given a preacher. They availed themselves of his words to them, and turned from their evil ways on the chance that God might relent… And He did.
Jonah 3:10 (MEV): When God saw their actions, that they turned from their evil ways, He changed His mind about the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
Nineveh was saved from destruction by a merciful God.
Jonah 4:1–2 (MEV): Now this greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is this not what I said while I was still in my own land? This is the reason that I fled before to Tarshish, because I knew that You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in faithfulness, and ready to relent from punishment.
Maybe in Jonah’s reluctance to proclaim what he knew God to be… Gracious, merciful and slow to anger… He neglected that part of the message.
Jonah serves as a reminder to us. Some of us are more than willing to proclaim the destruction coming upon people as a result of sin. We must be careful that doesn’t become the gist of our message.
God is gracious. He’s waiting for each of us humans to come to Him.