Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 5 2019 - Jonah 3 – Repentant Nineveh

Jonah has been vomited out upon a beach, reeling from his experience of the judgment and salvation of God, feeling like one brought back from the dead. "Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 'Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.'" (Jonah 3:1-2). Jonah had learnt his lesson; he immediately set off overland for Nineveh. And when he arrived, he spent three days travelling from one side of the city to the other proclaiming the word of the Lord, "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown" (v. 4).

Jonah's preaching does not sound very promising – rather like a man with a sandwich board proclaiming "The end of the world is nigh!" But it proved to be effective, "The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth" (v.5). I suspect it was effective because it was accompanied by the most powerful demonstration of the judgment and mercy of God in the person of the reluctant prophet. He must have looked quite a sight as a man come fresh from the stomach of a great fish. He must have smelled ghastly. People would have asked why he had come to Nineveh and he would have told them his story. It was not, I suggest, merely Jonah's preaching of doom that so affected the people of Nineveh, it was also the living experience of the preacher. They could see in him both the judgment and the mercy of God.

Look at the words of the king of Nineveh, "Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish" (vv. 8b-9). If Jonah had simply been declaring their doom, why did the king of Nineveh think that if they called out to God for mercy they might be saved? Surely it was because of Jonah's testimony. He had been disobedient to God. He had been fit only for God's judgment. He had been cast into the stormy sea and had sunk into its depths, about to die. He had called out to God and he had been saved. Surely, the people of Nineveh and their king must have argued, if we call out to God, we too may be saved.

And so they were; "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" (v. 10).

God calls us to be witnesses to Christ; to declare the judgment of God that fell upon him and the salvation of God that freely flows from him. He calls us to declare these things not coldly and academically but as those for whom this has become part of our own story. We too have tasted the judgment and salvation of God. Our declaration of the good news concerning Jesus Christ comes with our own personal testimony. And our experience of God's saving goodness is to be visible in our lives – people should be able to see and smell the reality of what we preach (see 2 Corinthians 2:15-16).

Father God, we thank you for the Lord Jesus Christ in whom we see the severity of your judgment and the greatness of your mercy and salvation. We thank you that he bore the punishment for our sin and that even in glory his body bears the marks of all that he endured for us. But we thank you that death could not hold him; he is risen from the dead and reigning at your right hand. We bless you that your Spirit touched our hearts to convict us of our guilt before you but then drew us to trust in Christ and his perfect atoning work. We have tasted of your anger against sin and of your saving power; we have died with Christ and been raised to new life in him. Help us to proclaim Christ in the words that we speak and in the character of our lives. May others come to taste your salvation through our testimony.

Peter Misselbrook