Jonah 3:1-2. And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.
There is no preaching like that which Gods bids us. The preaching that comes out of our own heads will never go into other men’s hearts. If we will keep to the preaching that the Lord bids us, we shall not fail in our ministry.
Jonah 3:3. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey.
For those times, Nineveh was “an exceeding great city,” but it is far exceeded in size by this modern Nineveh of London.
Jonah 3:4. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
His message was short and sharp, there was not a word of mercy in it. There was nothing to distract the attention of the hearers from the one point and the one subject; and there is a great deal in that. We may sometimes say too much in a single sermon, and give our hearers a field of wheat instead of a loaf of bread. · But Jonah said what he was bidden to say, no more and no less: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”
Jonah 3:5-9. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything: let them not feed, nor drink water: but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
Note that the only message they had heard was a prophecy of impending judgment. God had sent his servant to warn them of the coming destruction; and, since he had warned them that he meant to destroy them, they could infer that he might possibly intend pity towards them should they repent, but there was as yet no verbal declaration of mercy or hope. these people went to God with nothing better to sustain them than this, “Who can tell?” How much more guilty than these Ninevites are they who refuse to humble themselves before God, even when they have distinct injunctions from God, and explicit promises that whosoever shall confess and forsake his sins shall find mercy! these men of Nineveh will rise up in judgment against the men of London, and the men of this generation, and condemn them, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now men do not repent even at the testimony of Jesus Christ the Son of God. To despise the prophet Jonah, would have involved these people in certain destruction; of how much sorer punishment shall they be thought worthy who despise the Christ of God, and do despite unto the Spirit of grace.
Jonah 3:10. And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
There is no change in God, absolutely considered, but there is often an apparent change, that which he threatens, while men remain in sin, is not executed upon them when they repent and turn to him. He is always the same God. from the beginning, he has been “the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” If he did not pardon sin, when men turn from it with sincere repentance, he would have changed his method of dealing with the penitent; but when he does forgive, it is according to his way from the beginning, for he has ever been a tender, and compassionate, and gracious God.