The Almighty God created the entire universe with a spoken word, so it’s obviously no great effort for Him to give rise to nations or discipline and destroy nations. Job faithfully declared, “I know that you can do anything and no plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). God is sovereign!
Assyria was the world’s super-power. Good king Uzziah, in the lineage of David, was king in Jerusalem while Jeroboam II ruled the northern Israelite tribes. Amos and Hosea were both busy preaching God’s call to repentance when the Bible introduced another prophet.
“The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because their evil has come up before me’ ” (Jonah 1:1–2).
Unthinkable! Jonah couldn’t imagine taking God’s message to the capital-city of the evil Assyrian empire!
Their wickedness was well-known. History tells us that the Assyrians were a cruel and heartless people who thought nothing of burying their enemies alive, skinning them alive, or impaling them on sharp poles under the hot sun. When the Assyrian army defeated an enemy, they often decapitated the fallen, and made heaps of their skulls, a rotting reminder to those left behind. Nineveh was also well-known for its idolatry, with temples dedicated to the gods Nabu, Asshur, Adad, Ishtar.
No sir! Jonah would rather disobey God than take His message to such people. So, “Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence” (Jonah 1:1–3).
God is the God of second chances. Jonah’s story, a favorite bed-time story for children, is the story of grace. Though Jonah openly rebelled against God, God supernaturally saved the prophet from the storm by sending a great fish.
Jonah isn’t fiction. It’s not a fable or a fairy tale. It’s historical, factual, true. So said Jesus! “For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fishthree days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:40).
After three days in the belly of the fish and saved from sure death, God recommissioned the prophet. “The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach the message that I tell you.’ Jonah got up and went to Nineveh according to the Lord’s command” (Jonah 3:1–3).
God is sovereign. He judges righteously and justly disciplines nations. As the God of second chances, He’s the God who forgives and restores nations.
When the Ninevites heard God’s word, spoken by the runaway prophet, “the people of Nineveh believed God. They proclaimed a fast and dressed in sackcloth—from the greatest of them to the least” (Jonah 3:5). “God saw their actions—that they had turned from their evil ways—so God relented from the disaster he had threatened them with. And he did not do it” (Jonah 3:10).
America! It’s never too late to turn to God.
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NKJV).