FASTING REPENTANT ANIMALS
Lord, Your mercy even to the heathen is beyond comprehension.
Read JONAH 3
Jonah Goes to Nineveh
3 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. 4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”(1 John 1:9).
“‘Arise, go to Nineveh the great city …’ So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh” (2,3, NASB). At last! Nevertheless, Jonah’s message is very short, (five words in Hebrew) and one wonders if, even now, he has done just the minimum. The response of the Ninevites is the average evangelist’s dream: they immediately believe the message is from God and their repentance is thorough (fasting and sackcloth) and widespread (from the greatest of them to the least). All this happens before the king hears the word and, when he does, he rises from his throne to put on sackcloth and sit in the dust (compare this with Jonah, who was slow to rise and do the right thing). As with the sailors, this is exemplary behavior from Gentiles. Lest one has missed the exaggerated reaction to Jonah’s message, the proclamation from the king and his great ones (7) leaves no doubt, for even the animals are to demonstrate repentance (though how one stops a grazing field animal from nibbling is another matter!). Furthermore, the Hebrew of verse 8 naturally reads, “Let man and beast be covered with sackcloth and let them earnestly/urgently call to God”. That is, the animals are included in the calling to God. By means of exaggeration and repetition the text emphasizes repentance.
The Ninevites are unsure that God will relent (9), though, as we have noted, Jonah is not in doubt (Jonah 4:2). Do I doubt God’s forgiveness? Am I sure that, if I repent, God will forgive? Or do I feel that what I’ve done (especially given that I’m a believer) is perhaps a bit too hard to forgive? Do I grasp how wide, long, high, and deep Christ’s love actually is? Verse 10 tells us, of course, that God did relent. If God can forgive oppressive tyrants and cruel kings, then he can forgive me.
Meditate on the love of Christ and the depth of God’s forgiveness, recognizing that no sin is too great for our great God. Thank Him for the cross.
Lord, we demonstrate our repentance by actually repenting and by humbling ourselves in the process.