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“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.’”—Jonah 3:1–2 (NASB)
It took just eight words: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4 NASB). Although Jonah bereaved his calling, his reluctance was nonnegotiable. Once he conceded to God’s order, the bedraggled prophet journeyed into Nineveh to deliver God’s judgment upon the people. Then, all at once, “the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5 NASB).
Bedraggled indeed! Imagine what the people of Nineveh saw that day. A man with skin bleached white from his voyage inside a fish. Perhaps seaweed draped from his body as he stumbled throughout the city proclaiming God’s verdict upon their atrocities.
Jonah, who had once resisted God’s call to warn the Ninevites, now stood among his enemy as an extension of God’s lovingkindness. Jonah relented, and the people repented.
This bothered Jonah! The unbridled cruelty the Assyrians had inflicted on his countrymen justified their destruction. It was altogether unthinkable that God would show even a modicum of mercy. But Jonah knew God, and he knew what would happen.
Upon hearing Jonah’s warning, the king of Nineveh stood up from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat among the dust. Throughout the city, the king decreed that everything–human to beast–would fast. Like the king, they were to cover themselves with sackcloth, repent of their violence, and call vehemently upon God for mercy. Perhaps God would turn and relent from His burning anger so they wouldn’t perish (Jonah 3:6-9).
And God did turn.
The impact of Jonah’s appearance and the story he undoubtedly shared of his journey was certainly one avenue for their repentance. But ultimately, the word of God, His truth, and His desire was what prompted the Ninevites to act. This word from God was delivered in simplicity—no flowery dialogue or grandiose theology was required. Just eight words empowered by the Almighty God created the greatest revival in the history of mankind.
The Lord’s desire to call people to Himself hasn’t wavered. He doesn’t want anyone to perish but come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). That’s all people need to hear! Then God’s word accomplishes all it intends (Isaiah 55:11). The process begins when God stirs the hearts of the unsaved, and it finds its way through the voices of His people–ordinary people with truth on their lips. The Ninevites didn’t believe Jonah, they believed God. And God knew they would.
Jonah’s mission was incredible, yet his journey was physically and spiritually arduous. You might not feel led to go on an overseas mission trip, but what about reaching an isolated neighbor, a Muslim friend, or an unnerving cousin? The Church is commissioned first and foremost to go and tell. You don’t have to go to the ends of the earth—just look around you. Who is God leading you to speak to with His truth?
PAUSE: Why did the Ninevites repent?
PRACTICE: The world is in great need of hearing the truth of God’s Word and the need to repent so they can be saved from His judgment. The mission field begins at home and extends to where God leads. If you feel the Lord’s calling–wherever it may be–follow His heart.
PRAY: Lord, it’s Your heart and love I want to feel for those around me, no matter who they are. Praise You, God, for Your Word, which is alive and active and pierces the soul and spirit. Holy God, cause any fear on my part to give way to Your calling. Help me to not put anything over evangelism, and to You be the increase!
Lisa Supp lives in Utah and has served within the CCFL Web and Prayer Ministry since 2011. She also volunteers as an editor on the CCFL Prayer Wall and is a writer on the Communications Team. Retired from teaching, Lisa and her husband Ron volunteer at their local Calvary Chapel and share a passion for Scripture, apologetics, and education.