Today’s chapter starts with Jonah on, what I’m sure is, a beach. He’s probably lying down on the hot sand with the sun shining down on him, thinking about the last few days’ events. Just a quick recap: he was told to go to Nineveh, ran away, got almost shipwrecked, got tossed from the ship, swallowed by a whale, spent three days inside the whale, then was spat out by the whale onto this beach. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty worn out from thinking about these things. I can’t imagine the way Jonah must feel. But God comes to him again, and commands him to go to Nineveh.
Jonah, having learned his lesson, gets up and travels to Nineveh. At this time, not only is Nineveh as sinful as I mentioned before, but it is also the capitol of the Assyrian Empire. This empire was the biggest in world, and was one of the biggest enemies of the Israelite nation! But Jonah went. On his first day in the city, he proclaimed to them “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned” (3:4 NIV). This was the moment; the moment that Jonah feared. He proclaimed the message of God to the Ninevites. At any moment the army should be coming to either arrest him, or kill him. But that didn’t happen. I’m sure their reaction astounded Jonah; he never would have thought they would have reacted the way they did. “The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least put on sackcloth.” (3:5 NIV). The king even reacted in this way (3:7-9). And because the people repented, God spared them from their punishment (3:10).
So what does that mean for us today? I see two big points in this chapter. The first is that God has a plan and knows what is best. Jonah did not trust in God that He had a good plan in place. When he was told the first time to go to Nineveh, he ran away because all he saw was trouble. He knew that going to a place that had long been against God, he would surely die. But what Jonah didn’t know is that, according to historical records, there was a recent eclipse and the Assyrians would have taken it to be a bad omen. So the people of Nineveh were receptive to a message of their destruction, because it was already on their minds! So God sent Jonah, in order to bring these people back to Him.
The second point that I see is that God want’s for us to repent of our sins and come back to Him. God planned to destroy the city of Nineveh, but He decided to offer them a choice. So He sent them the prophet Jonah to speak His message. When the Ninevites repented of their sins and turned towards God, He chose to spare them from destruction. God wants the same for you and me. We are sinful creatures, but God offers us salvation through the Cross of Jesus Christ. We simply have to repent and seek to follow Him. It’s not an easy path, but it is certainly a better one than the one that ends in punishment.
Jonah was given a task to do from God, and thought that it would take his life. While that is a possibility in the life of a prophet, the Ninevites were much more receptive to his message that he had thought. Has God given you something to do? Are you spending time saying “No” rather than doing as God has asked? If this is the case, take a lesson from Jonah. God’s task maybe easier than you think it is. I’m not here to say that it is always easy, but on the off chance that it is. Is it really worth it to add so many problems to your life?