We took a short break during Holy week and the week after - but we are going to continue some of the Lent devotions written by Cindy Graff - finishing out the book of Jonah! Enjoy this next installment!
Scripture & Devotion: Scripture focus: Jonah 3:6-10
When the news 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. Then he issued a proclamation: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: “Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” When God saw what they did and that they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.
From the least to the greatest
When Jonah arrived in Nineveh and began to preach, it did not take long for the people to begin repenting of their wickedness. In fact, their efforts to do so are immediate and genuine. In the verse which precedes these, we learn that “all of them, from the greatest to the least” fasted and put on sackcloth, an ugly and uncomfortable garment made from coarse goat hair woven to make large bags for animal feed, much like what we call burlap today. Wearing sackcloth was a token of mourning, grief, and self-humiliation, a constant physical reminder of emotional and spiritual suffering. Even the king of Nineveh himself joined with the people in these acts of repentance.
This passage of scripture is interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the way the people of Nineveh seemed so easily persuaded to take Jonah’s warning about their imminent destruction to heart. No doubt, they were already aware of the evils of their society and longed for an end to the daily threat of violence and crime under which they were living. The speed and the fervor with which they repented indicates that God was already preparing their hearts; all that was needed was for someone like Jonah to come and to bring God’s message as a catalyst for their conversion.
A footnote in my Life Application Bible makes the point that “God’s word is for everyone… If we simply proclaim what we know about God, we may be surprised at how many people will listen.” Who these people are might also surprise us. A few years ago, a man at our church shared with the congregation about having prayed for a long time for members of his family who seemed uninterested in a relationship with God. But, over time God opened doors for communication and conversation with his loved ones about the Lord’s goodness and mercy and his desire that no one should perish as a result of sin and separation from him.
Our God is a god of compassion. Psalm 51:17 reminds us that “a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Just as the people of ancient times, we still need reminders to examine our hearts for signs of temptation, waywardness, selfishness, anger, envy, prejudice, and other forms of sinful thought or behavior that threaten to do us harm. Then and now, the way to escape the consequence of sin involves acknowledging our own unrighteousness and appealing to God for help in overcoming it. That is what the Lenten season is about: admitting our need for a Savior and trusting with hope and confident expectation that God will save us from the destruction we human beings are so apt to bring upon ourselves. As was the case with the least to the greatest of the people of Nineveh, if we turn away from sin and toward our Heavenly Father, he will extend to us his forgiveness and grace.
You are the giver of extravagant and amazing grace! We worship You!