Reflections on Scripture

by Wayne Bandy

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ENTERED: July 29, 2015
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Scripture Passage

        Jonah - Chapter 03 (Contemporary English Version)
      1. Once again the LORD told Jonah
      2. to go to that great city of Nineveh and preach his message of doom.
      3. Jonah obeyed the LORD and went to Nineveh. The city was so big that it took three days just to walk through it.
      4. After walking for a day, Jonah warned the people, "Forty days from now, Nineveh will be destroyed!"
      5. They believed God's message and set a time when they would go without eating to show their sorrow. Then everyone in the city, no matter who they were, dressed in sackcloth.
      6. When the king of Nineveh heard what was happening, he also dressed in sackcloth; he left the royal palace and sat in dust.
      7. Then he and his officials sent out an order for everyone in the city to obey. It said: None of you or your animals may eat or drink a thing. Each of you must wear sackcloth, and you must even put sackcloth on your animals. You must also pray to the LORD God with all your heart and stop being sinful and cruel. Maybe God will change his mind and have mercy on us, so we won't be destroyed.
      8. (SEE 3:7)
      9. (SEE 3:7)
      10. When God saw that the people had stopped doing evil things, he had pity and did not destroy them as he had planned.


Jonah - Chapter 03

Entered: July 29, 2015

God had rescued Jonah from the fish for a purpose. This purpose was not to return to his old life but to the task God had given him. So, having been rescued from the belly of the fish where Jonah renewed his vows to the Lord, God again gave him the message to "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach the message that I tell you." (3:2) This time, Jonah obeyed and went to Nineveh.

Preaching to the people of Nineveh was a rather daunting task due to its size. It was a three-day walk simply to cross the city. But Jonah entered the city and began proclaiming as he went that, "In 40 days Nineveh will be overthrown!" One cannot help but wonder if Jonah had gone to Nineveh when God first told him to whether the city would have had more time to repent before being overthrown. But, of course, we have no way of knowing, so the question remains unanswered. As it turns out, the people of Nineveh didn't need even 40 days to repent. Nor did it take three days for them to begin responding to Jonah's message. They responded immediately to the message.

Word evidently spread rapidly once Jonah began his walk through the city proclaiming as he went. Verse 5 says that "the men of Nineveh believed in God." The impression is given by this that it was a wide-spread acceptance of God, including everyone and not just a few. Enough momentum of belief was begun that a fast was proclaimed along with a show of repentance by dressing in sackcloth. This fasting and repentance was observed by all, from the "greatest of them to the least."

Giving evidence that the fasting and repentance was observed by all, from the greatest to the least, verse 6 tells about the king observing it and then issuing a decree ordering all Ninevites to observe the fast and to wear sackcloth. This was to include the animals as well as the people. But the king's decree went further. This was not to be a purely ritualistic observance. The people were to call out to God in earnest and were to turn from their evil ways.

The king and the people had believed Jonah's message of pending doom. Jonah was a stranger who had shown up at Nineveh unannounced and began preaching his message of doom. Why should they have believed him? In response we must first acknowledge that God had no doubt prepared their hearts to receive the message He had given Jonah to preach. We should not presume that God had been so insistent on sending Jonah without preparing the Ninevites to hear the message and be receptive to it.

Another reason for the Ninevites receptivity to the message may be that they had heard of Jonah's deliverance from the fish, and his arrival at Nineveh was not as a total stranger to them. He did not, in other words, show up unannounced. If this is a correct assumption, it is an amazing demonstration of God's wisdom and mercy. The scenario we can imagine is that knowing Jonah would initially rebel against His command to go to Nineveh, God orchestrated all the events of Jonah's journey toward Tarshish, not just to turn Jonah around and go to Nineveh, but also to give his message credibility with the Ninevites.

Whatever the reason for receptivity by the Ninevites, they repented as a whole and "turned from their evil ways." Though we may question the genuineness of their repentance, God accepted it and "relented from the disaster He had threatened to do to them." (3:10)

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