We don’t see people today wearing burlap as a sign of cleansing and repentance. But in Jonah’s time, it would have been amazing to see, even the king, listening and responding to the warning from God. What Jonah proclaimed was destruction. He didn’t give them an “unless.” That is, Nineveh will be destroyed unless you repent! But the people showed their respect, and their tears of sorrow melted God’s heart.
It was quite unexpected to see the people of Nineveh believing God’s word. I think of the Israelites who went on and on living their idol worshipping lives despite the efforts of Jeremiah, for example. He told them to repent because their worship of other gods angered the one true God.
If we can’t trust any of the so-called prophets of our own day to be actually sent by God like Jonah, we do well to rely on Jonah’s account here for us. Even if we can’t hear audibly that “we are going down” because of our sinfulness as a society, we can accept Jonah’s message of destruction because of the similarities in our circumstance. Jonah’s message may just as well be for us today, and every generation that sins! It’s a bit frightening how similar our society and Nineveh’s seems to be.
Again, the book of Jonah is thought to be a parable we can learn from. As such, it’s easier to believe that rebellious children could immediately be so obedient. It is clear God wants us to listen to him. His word is full of all sorts of messages from God. And as Nineveh found out, God’s intentions change in response to human repentance and prayer. Is that the message you took from this story, too?
Do you take your time in being obedient to God? Are you waiting for some grand moment to fully devote yourself to God? Are you letting the evil one distract you by keeping you busy? You know, some of the devil’s schemes are actually “good” things. I, for one, don’t want to imagine the evil one sitting back, laughing at me for how I toil and labor on things that don’t matter to God. Yet, I know I spin my wheels as much as the next guy!
“When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.” If you ever wondered if God could change his mind, the answer is in this text. You’ll find other examples in the Bible when God changed his plans in response to obedience. If you’re like me, though, listening for the audible voice of God with direction never gets old. Who and where is Jonah these days?
We’re not wearing burlap, so how are we showing remorse for our behavior? Have we even stopped our sinful behaviors? All of them? Don’t forget you can ask for help from the Holy Spirit to be strong.
We have the promise of Jesus’ return. Paul thought he was coming soon. Soon from God’s perspective may still be centuries into the future from our perspective. But if it’s not, and it is next week, do you feel ready? Ready for the completion of all of God’s promises, a new body, no more bills, no more pain, meeting Jesus face to face!
Listen for God today. Be open to receive his message of love and mercy.
Let’s pray. Lord, I want to be ready for your triumphant return to earth. I know that I am sinful, forgive me for those things I do, have done, and will do that anger you. Help me to know when I am acting in sinful ways. Cleanse me and fill me with your spirit. In Jesus’ name. Amen.