After Jonah had been miraculously cast up on dry land by the great fish, the Lord spoke to him again. He said, “Rise up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to the people the words that I shall tell thee.” So this time, Jonah arose and went. And despite all the traveling he had done, he was no closer to where he should have been than when he was still at home. All the time that he had spent on the ship was lost time; and more than that, he had lost his money, too – for he certainly was not going to get a refund for his voyage-ticket from the shipping line! Thus we see how it is much better and less costly for us to obey the Lord’s commands at once, than to take off in our own obstinate courses and then be obliged to come back and still do what we ought to have done in the first place. Nevertheless, the fact that God gave Jonah a second chance and employed him once again in His service was a mercy to him! When God allows us to continue to labor for Him, despite our previous disobedience and rebellion, it is an evidence of His being at peace with us. And there is yet another lesson here for our learning, as we behold the nature of true repentance; it involves the change of our mind and way, and a return to our work and duty. This is one of the many blessed benefits of affliction; it brings us back to the place of duty which we have deserted. But this is only done when the affliction is accompanied by the power of Divine grace; for affliction alone drives people away from God, rather than drawing them to Him. But when His children are recalled by His grace, and re-established in their post of service; then they willingly and cheerfully go wherever their Master sends them, and obey whatever His Word commands.
Jonah faithfully and boldly fulfilled his errand. He came right into the great and might city of Nineveh, as far as he could walk in one day; and there he cried out with a loud voice, and said, “After forty days, Nineveh shall be destroyed for the sins of the people!” Whether Jonah said more, to show the anger of God against them; or whether he only repeated these words over and over again – we do not know. But this was the theme of his message. Forty days is a long time for a righteous God to delay judgments, yet it is only a very little time for an unrighteous people to repent and reform in!
When the king of Nineveh (who is known in other places in the Scriptures as King Pul) and his people heard Jonah’s preaching, they believed that Jehovah had sent him and that the words which he spoke would come true. So the king got up from his throne, took off his royal robes, and put on sackcloth as a symbol of humility before the righteous Lord. In addition, he and his princes sent word throughout the city that all the people should fast and pray. And when God saw how they prayed to Him and ceased doing evil, He took away His anger from them and did not destroy the city.
Let us make a very close and personal application of the truths embodied in this chapter. Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah; but have we repented at the preaching of Jonah’s Lord, Who is the Savior of the lost? Nineveh cried mightily to the Lord, but have we learned to continue in prayer and to make every affliction a reason to come before the throne of grace? The people of Nineveh were called upon to “turn every one from the error of his ways,” but have we been taught that same lesson? Have our consciences been quickened, and have our hearts been humbled in the sight of God? Or will the men of Nineveh rise up on the Last Day, and condemn us for our unbelief? Is there anyone among us who has heard God’s warnings, promises, and entreaties – and yet refuses to turn at His reproof, and to be allured by His mercy? The heart-searching eye of the Lord knows all the truth! The only truly blessed persons are those who have heard the warning voice of God, who have followed where He leads, and who have been saved as Nineveh was saved. O for grace that we may be among that number! Let us prize the precious Gospel with all our hearts. Let us rejoice in it. Let us ponder and pray over it. Let us humble ourselves for the neglect of it. Let us steadfastly resist anything which tends to corrupt the Word of God, and which hinders its influence among the human race; for anything which does so is an attempt to destroy the foundation of our hopes. And let not the Lord’s feeble servants despond amidst the efforts which they are making to do good for Him in this present evil world! Jonah might have desponded when he was sent as one man against the millions of the great Assyrian metropolis; but he leaned upon Jehovah and was strong, and was thereby enabled to become the conqueror of the hearts of Nineveh in his Master’s name. Our God consistently chooses weak things to confound the mighty, and the weakest are always the mightiest when the Lord is their strength!
Thank You, dear Lord, for giving us many second chances, even when we have repeatedly rebelled against Your express commandments. All praises be to Your blessed name for the wondrous provision that is made for us in the Person and all-sufficient Sacrifice of the Lamb Who was slain before the foundation of the world! Amen.
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illustration by Gustave Doré, 1866 | Wikimedia Commons