Jonah 3:6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:
8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.
9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
We see here that even the king was humbled by the Word of the LORD. He was a powerful man. He could have gone out and arrested Jonah and silenced him. We might expect this in Canada now. We have already seen the government attack churches over the past 2+ years. We are living in a different time than Jonah did. Ours is more like that of the apostle Paul.
God told Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach His Word. God provided the environment for Jonah to be able to do what God commanded him to do. Obviously God had been working in Nineveh prior to Jonah coming there. The hearts of the people were being prepared for the message from the LORD.
Here we read that the king got off his throne and took off his royal robe and covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. The king humbled himself. This was good news. This is the way for a leader to become effective in what is important. God was working here for His glory. When the Lord is glorified, the people that humbly seek to glorify God are also blessed by God.
In verse 7 the king proclaimed a public fast. This was different than what Constantine did in his day. The king of Nineveh was truly humbled. He did not “see a vision” in the sky. He heard a powerful message from God.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
He wanted his city to prepare themselves to listen to God. Not only were the people to fast, but the animals were to fast as well. This king was greatly impacted by what he heard.
In verse 8 the people and animals were also to be covered in sackcloth. They needed to be truly humble. This was not just a show. This king was truly repentant. This is the result of God at work and people responding to His work. This is different than many who claim salvation today. Unless they tell you they are a Christian, you would never know it. Some years ago we were witnessing to a person that we knew. This person had no testimony of salvation and so the approach was to show them the need to be saved. This person insisted they were saved but did not make a public show of it. This may sound good to some people but it is certainly not Biblical. The Bible declares:
Matthew 7:16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
In Nineveh, things were changing drastically because the people, from the king down, were greatly humbled and they were demonstrating the change that God made in their hearts. In verse 9 we see that the king did not know how God would respond, but he was hopeful that God would turn from His promised judgment on Nineveh.
It is true that God knows everything. He gives warnings often. He gives man freewill. There are finite people who want to claim that God is like a machine. He has a plan and He never allows for any change. We as people are finite. I am not going to suggest to you that I know everything there is to know about God. I too am a finite person. God is infinite. God gives man the opportunity to hear His Word and respond to His Word favourably.
The king of Nineveh needed God to be merciful toward him and the people of his city. He had not been a merciful king, but he wanted mercy from the LORD. The good news is that God is merciful. He gives all people the opportunity to repent and be saved. No person deserves salvation. No person deserves God’s forgiveness. However, God loves to forgive.
Notice in verse 10 that God saw their works. They were not saved by works. They were saved by turning to God which shows they turned away from their evil ways. We mentioned this before. There is a change that only God can provide for those who are truly repentant. It is important for us to take God’s Word as our authority, not the testimonies of people.
People can be good actors, but fruit is important. God shows us many times that when He penetrates to the heart of the sinner, and the sinner is saved, that person is changed. It is a work that only God can do. God is very good at changing hearts and lives. How important for those of us that are saved to stick to God’s truth. God loves people. He wants His children to love people. Loving people is giving them the facts and helping them to follow the facts. The basis of all facts is God’s Word. God’s Word is liberating to the person who humbles himself and turns to God in repentance and trusts in His provision for salvation.
This is what the king and the people of Nineveh did. The entire city benefitted from their true repentance and faith. This is an important lesson for us to learn and note today.
The apostles were accused of turning the world upside down with their preaching. The apostles were faithful in preaching God’s Word. The Word of God is powerful. Those who hear it will either humble themselves like we read of Nineveh, or they will become angry as the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day and beyond. Some will try to ignore the truth for a time, but where the Word of God is faithfully preached, it will have an effect.
Let us take the Word of God and believe it first of all and then proclaim it faithfully so that people will know who to turn to and why.