Summary: One of the most beautiful pictures of grace and repentance toward God is found in Jonah chapter three. Jonah preached a message of impending judgment; the people repented, and God extended mercy and grace.
Sovereign Grace in Nineveh (Part 2)
Jonah 3: 1-10
Following his harrowing ordeal within the belly of the great fish, Jonah experienced the unrivaled grace of God. The Lord could have punished Jonah for his disobedience and refused to use him further in ministry. (Jonah may have been temporarily relieved had God not commanded him to go to Nineveh, but believers know there is no peace and victory apart from being in the Lord’s will and following His guidance in life.) However, we discover that God was unrelenting in His plan and purpose for Jonah. Nineveh was a wicked city, in need of repentance, and God had sovereignly decided that Jonah was to journey there and preach of impending judgment.
Although this passage was written thousands of years ago, about an empire that has long since faded, the principles remain relevant for our day. God remains sovereign in His dealings with mankind. His pursuit of the sinful and disobedient is dictated by His divine character, rather than dealing with individuals and nations as they deserve. God’s sovereign grace is front and center in the book of Jonah. He came to those who were underserving, offering a chance for repentance and reconciliation, rather than swift and destructive judgment.
As we continue to examine the observations within the text, I want to take a moment to review our previous study, which is inseparable from the verses we will consider today. Considering Sovereign Grace in Nineveh, we discussed:
I. A Conversation with God (1-2)
A. Grace was Extended (1)
B. Obedience was Expected (2)
C. Competence was Provided (2)
II. The Commitment to God (3-4)
A. The Sincerity of Jonah (3a)
B. The Enormity of the City (3b)
C. The Severity of the Message (4)
III. The Conviction from God (5-8) – Having now entered Nineveh, and faithfully preaching the message of repentance, Jonah had no way of knowing how they would respond. Would they heed the words of a Jewish prophet? Would they in deed repent of their sin, or would they reject Jonah’s message, and continue their wickedness? Fortunately for Jonah, the results were not up to him. These verses reveal the conviction of God and Nineveh’s response. Notice:
A. The Repentance of the People (5) – So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. Upon hearing the warning of impending judgment, the people immediately responded in genuine repentance. The people believed God. This has the idea that one would expect – “believing or trusting in something.” It also has the application of “receiving something as true.” The repentance of the people was not superficial; it was genuine. They heard the Word of God and believed it as truth, causing them to examine their hearts and repent of sin.
Their inward conviction prompted an outward display of grief over sin and their commitment to turn from sin. The people proclaimed a fast, calling for a time of reflection and deep repentance. They adorned themselves with sackcloth – an outward display of grief and suffering. These acts of repentance were performed from the greatest of the people unto the least of them.
Their attitude toward sin is indicative of the attitude of grief and repentance from sin that all must display before God when confronted with sin. Sin must create an attitude of repentance and sorrow. Repentance is essential for salvation. One cannot merely “accept” Christ and continue to live as they were, apart from repenting of sin and genuinely turning from sin!
B. The Reaction of the King (6-8) – The conviction of sin was not reserved for the common people within Nineveh. The king also heard the word of Jonah and it created a repentant heart in him as well. Consider:
1. His Mourning (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. When the word of God, preached from the prophet, reached the king, he responded in a way that most would not have expected. He was king of a dominant world power. They were unrivaled in battle, accustomed to having whatever they desired. He was not familiar with submitting to anyone. However, as conviction gripped his heart, he responded in much the same way the people did. He removed his royal robe and adorned himself in sackcloth and ashes, revealing his conviction over sin and hope that God would be merciful unto them.
You will likely agree that it is often difficult for those in positions of power to submit to anyone. The wise will heed the Word of God and respond in repentance and faith. If the king of Nineveh was willing to repent of sin and turn to God, there is hope for many in Washington!