So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish? Jonah 3:5-9
Jonah preached his 8 word sermon and the Ninevites were struck with the fear of the Lord and moved to complete repentance.
The king stood up (a sign of his serious intent), removed his royal robes (a sign of humility), covered himself with sackcloth (a sign of mourning), and sat in the dust (a sign of repentance). Then, according to the King’s edict, every soul in Nineveh responded with desperate fasting. It’s hard to imagine that level of conviction coming upon an entire metropolis of over 120,000 people. But what followed was the greatest revival in history. Everyone in the city got saved! This seems so impossible at every level. The whole story of Jonah is utterly fantastic from beginning to end…almost like a fairytale.
But we know it isn’t a fairytale. The Lord Himself clearly refers to Jonah’s ministry as a historical fact; [Luke 11:29-30].
Through it, God is inspiring us for the days we live in. Look around, isn’t the whole world going the way of ancient Nineveh? Isn’t the wickedness and moral erosion around us just as horrifying as the evil deeds of the Assyrians? Can God’s judgment be far away?
And what were the chances of Nineveh’s revival taking place? If Jonah, who knew God’s mercy and grace as a prophet, was against it, who would give the Ninevites a ghost of a chance for salvation? Many of us undoubtedly feel the same way about most of our modern cities. We’ve stopped believing that God can reach the unreachable or do the impossible. Instead, we say, “It’s Nineveh. It’s hopeless?” What can we honestly expect in these “Days of Noah and Lot”?
The prophet Daniel, I believe, has an answer for us in these End Times: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever; [Daniel 12:3]. It took Jonah a while to get there, but he finally did shine the righteousness of God into a wicked city; and he led many to righteousness.
Our God still has some plans with “fairytale” dimensions. If we can get over our cynicism, apathy, judgmental attitude, and unbelief, there are still a few Nineveh’s in our future, I believe. I have no illusions about the strength of those negative qualities in us, or the desperate evil in our modern cities. But there are some whose identification with the Lord in His death, just like Jonah, who will lead many to righteousness, just as he did.
Your family in the Lord with much agape love