5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
Surely this is every Christian’s dream! The Ninevites respond positively to the message: they believe it and repent. Everybody from the greatest to the least repents. The people of Nineveh eagerly embraced God’s message through the prophet Jonah. At the first hearing of God’s message they gave up their evil ways. They put on the mourning clothing of sackcloth, and fasted. Their self denial showed the sincerity of their repentance.
The willingness of the people of Nineveh to turn to God is a lesson to the people of Israel who had gone into exile in their stubborn refusal to repent of their disobedience.
Jesus draws this out when speaking with the people of Israel, The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. (Matthew 12:41)
As Jesus spoke of the need for repentance to the people of his day, so he speaks to us today. Do I take opportunities to regularly review my discipleship walk with Christ? Do I love God and my neighbour as myself? Do I allow activities in Christ’ service, crowd out my relationship with Christ himself?
Forgiving God, I ask your Holy Spirit to reveal wrong doing in my life. Empower me to repent and so walk more fully, day by day, in the way of Christ. In His name, I pray. Amen.