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 (Jonah 3:5 ESV).
Friend to Friend
A few years ago, doctors diagnosed my daughter with asthma. From that moment forward, any warning of the asthma-induced cough sent me into action. I grabbed medicine, called doctors and asked her to stop any strenuous activity. I knew her life depended on it.
Like me with my daughter, we’re usually quick to respond to physical warnings. When we have a fever we call a doctor. When we have a headache we take medicine. We go for yearly check-ups and do at-home examinations.
Why don’t we treat our spiritual health the same way?
Today’s Truth details the response of the wicked city of Nineveh to God’s warning, “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” (Jonah 3:5 ESV).
One verse before this, God’s messenger, Jonah, had gone into the city to warn the people that in forty days Nineveh would be overthrown. We don’t know every detail of why Nineveh responded this way, but it’s clear that an encounter with the all-powerful God moved them to get serious about their sin.
Their response carved a path of change, and the pattern of their response is one we can still practice today.
First, change started with individuals.
The first mention of change in Nineveh is among the people, not the leaders (Jonah 3:5). They didn’t wait for direction from government or religious leaders; from the greatest to the least, the people made personal decisions to change their own lives.
Next, change continued with complete dependence on God.
As the people acted on their belief, word reached the king, and he too, believed God. He urged the people to “call out mightily to God” (Jonah 3:8). Another translation says, “call on God earnestly and forcefully” (AMP). It reads like a full-body motion – a calling out that comes from all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind and all of your strength.
Finally, change required change.
The people in Nineveh couldn’t just acknowledge they needed God, they had to surrender to His will. The overhaul of Nineveh included giving up their wicked ways to turn to God’s way.
A pattern of personal repentance lines the path to change. When we cry out to God with a sincere heart, He hears us … and the waves of His waiting grace rush over us, saving us and changing us.
Maybe you’re in a place today where you feel disqualified because of your sin. Maybe you’ve ignored God’s call or command and suffered consequences because of it, and today you’re surrounded by a mess – absolutely sure God has no plans for you anymore. Remember, repentance knows no boundaries.
The great mercy God extended to Nineveh was preceded by God extending mercy to his prophet, Jonah, “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time” (Jonah 3:1).
After Jonah resisted God’s call and ran away from Him. (Jonah 1:3)
After Jonah suffered extreme consequences and literal depths of the sea. (Jonah 2:3)
After Jonah lay on the ground in the middle of a mess. (Jonah 2:10)
Then — the word of the Lord came to Jonah. (Jonah 3:1)
God could have enlisted another prophet to take His word to Nineveh. He could have left Jonah in the belly of the whale. But He didn’t. Instead, God’s word came to Jonah a “second time.”
Thank You Lord for second times! No matter where we are or how far we’ve wandered, we can always believe God, call out mightily to Him and turn from our wicked ways. Then God will continue His work within us.
How can you take your spiritual health more seriously today?
Lord, start with me. Have I skipped a step-in repentance? Explore my heart and point out anything in me that offends You. Break my heart for the things in my life that break Your heart. When You do, may I be quick to respond.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
What is one way you can put the steps to repentance into practice every day?
The quiet, quick notions that cross our minds daily can be indicators of hidden sin in our hearts. One way I practice these steps is to take inventory of my thoughts, day-by-day, minute-by-minute. I listen for lies and ask God to help me replace them with truth. I look for lusts of the flesh and commit to flee from them with the help of the Holy Spirit.
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