So far in the book we have watched a showdown unfold. And it has presented a contrast between the mercy of God and the pride of man.
The Lord calls his prophet to carry out a task that is unpalatable. Namely, to go proclaim a message that could bring salvation to an enemy.
The prophet goes rogue, and leaves his post in an attempt to run from the Lord. The majority of the narrative so far has really encompassed this time period from Jonah’s rebellion, and God humbling him and bringing him back to Himself.
It has been a marvelous display of God’s sovereignty over even the smallest details.
And in the progression of the narrative this is all heading toward a crescendo that we will encounter next week in Chapter 4. The climax of the book is Jonah’s heart getting exposed before God and a showdown that takes place outside of Nineveh.
But in the meantime along the journey, we are going to witness today God’s salvation reaching the most unlikely places. In fact, there is no partiality with God. No favoritism. No prejudice.
This is a lesson that Israel has not yet learned. Who does the Lord regard?
Isaiah 66:2—“For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD. “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”
What we will see today is a people who would have seemed too far gone. In high school when everyone votes on the most or least likely, they would have been voted least likely to ever get saved.
They were a hardened people in Assyria. They loved iniquity and false gods. They were famous for their wickedness.
And yet when the Word of God came to them, they responded in humble fear.
Nineveh stands even today as a timeless testimony to God’s mercy to save even the most unlikely and least deserving sinners. And it also stands as a testimony of what it looks like to respond to God in a way that He desires.
Nineveh had an Isaiah 66:2 response. And as a result, God granted this wicked people, salvation.
It is possible for you to be a part of a church that stands for expository preaching, and not tremble at God’s Word.
You might have a rich family pedigree of those who fear God and tremble at His Word, but your family heritage doesn’t accomplish anything before God.
Perhaps you have a distant memory of a time when you trembled at God’s Word. It’s your go-to example of something that happened a long time ago, but there isn’t anything coming to mind freshly.
Nineveh stands a testimony for all time of the people to whom God looks.
4 Developments in God Reconciling Nineveh to Himself
- A repeated assignment (1-2)
- A reluctant preacher (3-4)
- A shocking response (5-9)
- A profound pardon (10)
Jonah 3:1–10—1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk. 4 Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. 6 When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. 7 He issued a proclamation and it said, “In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. 8 “But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. 9 “Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.” 10 When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.