A Two-Way Conversation – Nineveh’s Message to God
By Pastor Toby Crowder
Someone once said, “True communication is not a one-way street, it goes both ways.” While most Christians are somewhat familiar with the story of Jonah, and the message that God sent to Nineveh through him, do we ever pay attention to their response and realize that Nineveh also sent a message back to God?
While many are only familiar with the story of the great fish, and the miracle associated with God’s deliverance of Jonah, there is another miracle that often goes unnoticed; that of how God sent revival to a town that most would have considered unreachable. Nineveh was a wicked city; home to the Assyrians whose wickedness had “come up” before God (1:2) and God had a message for this people. It was a message of repentance lest they face His wrath and judgment.
In chapters 1 & 2 of Jonah, we see God’s commissioning of the prophet, Jonah’s disobedience, and how God used the great fish to bring His messenger under subjection. Chapter three begins with Jonah’s “recommissioning” and we see the message that he had for Nineveh in v. 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.” This was a very concise message to them regarding God’s judgment of their sin. Jonah got straight to the point!
The Ninevites were wicked, and God knew that. Yet even in their sin and wickedness, God offered them the chance to repent, just as He does with sinners today. As Jonah delivered this message of God’s judgment, he also exhorted them to fast and cry out to God. Verse 10 tells us “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.” It was an amazing act of God’s mercy and grace that He did not overthrow Nineveh, but He saw their works and brought revival to the land.
The message that Jonah brought to them is evident as we read the Scripture but remember that true communication is not a one-way street. Not only were the people of Nineveh receptive to the message, but they also made a sincere statement to God by their response. As a matter of fact, they did what most Christians are unwilling to do: They heeded and obeyed the message of God. What was the people’s response to God’s message? What was their answer to His proclamation? While we may not have a transcript of their exact words, we can see that they sent God a message by their actions: they listened, believed God, and repented! As a result of believing God’s message, they proclaimed a fast and dressed in sackcloth, both man and beast … as a sign of mourning for their sins. Even the king laid aside his robe and joined the people in their efforts. They cried unto God and turned from their evil ways… and He heard from Heaven and healed their land! Call it what you will, but this is a compelling Biblical example of true repentance.
Though we live in a time where things change at a rapid pace, God’s recipe for revival and restoration has not changed! Gods message to those seeking restoration is still the same. 2 Chronicles 7:14 stands as true today as ever: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” This is God’s message to us these days, but what is our reply to Him? We are typically satisfied with simply confessing our sins to God, and then continuing in them; yet God commands that we turn from our wicked ways, just as we see in the example of the Ninevites.
Friend, we have the Word of God; God’s personal message to us! But true communication is not a monologue, it is not a one-way street. Nineveh sent God a message of brokenness and repentance and He honored it… what kind of message are we sending to him… personally…. as a church… as a country? What will be your response to God’s great invitation?
Toby Crowder serves as Pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Spruce Pine. He and his wife Leslie have been married for 26 years and have two daughters, Emilee, and Katy. He can be contacted via the church’s website MCfamilyforChrist.org or firstname.lastname@example.org
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