Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. – Jonah 3:1-10 (ESV)
R. Reed Lessing writes:
The impact of the Ninevites’ faith on their behavior is similar to that of the sailors in chapter 1. In 1:5 the seamen “became afraid,” “called out,” and “hurled” their possessions overboard. In 3:5 the Ninevites “believed,” “called for a fast,” and “put on sackcloths,” thus depriving themselves of their possessions (food and clothing). Although these verses use some different vocabulary, the actions match in numb er, order, and kind. They move from inward response, to verbal response, to outward action. In this way, the narrator paints a favorable portrait of each group as it appeals to Yahweh [While giving the Israelites a model of what their own repentance should look like].
When Jesus’ mother and brothers were “outside” seeking him (Mark 3:31), Jesus pt it this way to those who were inside with Him, listening to His words:
“Who are My mother and My brothers?” And looking around at those sitting around Him, he said, “Behold my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God, this one is My brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:33-35)
Thus Jesus’ relatives, who were familial “insiders,” became “outsiders,” and the familial “outsiders,” who were not members of His natural family, became “insiders” through their relationship to Him through faith. Similarly, the Ninevites, who were not Israelites but Assyrians, became “insiders” through faith in the God of Israel. But ironically, the Israelite prophet Jonah is on the outside of the boat (1:15) when the mariners worship, vow, and sacrifice to Yahweh, and he will be outside the great city of Nineveh in 4:5 while the city revels in the grace of the God who shows no partiality.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 7
Q. 7. What are the decrees of God?
A. The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.