The Repentance of Nineveh

Studies in Jonah - Chapter 3

The Greatest Revival in History: “The Repentance of Nineveh”

This chapter talks about Jonah and his message. Jonah was a prophet, the messenger of God. He had a strange story to tell with regards to his personal experiences. His actual survival gave power to the message he preached, which was a message of grace and mercy and a call to repentance. It was also a message of judgment, as he said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”

Hearing this message and believing the sign was from God, the king’s heart was touched, and so he proclaimed a fast and called the people to repentance. Jonah 3:5 says, “So the people of Nineveh believed god, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest of them to the least of them.” They literally, “sat in ashes.”

The king, with his subjects, gave himself full-time to supplicate God and plead for mercy. This is the fourth miracle in the book. The four miracles consist of the following:

    The sea ceased from raging.

    The Lord prepared a great fish.

    The resurrection of Jonah took place, “The fish vomited Jonah upon dry land.”

    The repentance of Nineveh took place.

The repentance of Nineveh was a miracle. The land was a total of 60 miles around. [Describe Nineveh] It was a place filled with strong, cruel, and sinful people. Its surrounding wall was 100 feet high. It was so large that two chariots could run abreast. The city had 120,000 children and a total of 1 million people.

God’s love is eternal, but the threat of God’s judgment caused them to repent. [Describe human repentance and talk about the parable of the two sons in Matthew 21:29] Repentance implies a radical change of mind. It is a turning away from sin to God. This is illustrated in Nineveh’s repentance. They changed their minds and hearts, and proved their repentance by their works (see Jonah 3:8).

Note that there are two kinds of human repentance: true repentance and false repentance. False repentance is sorrow over the result of sin. See Matthew 27:3, which shows such an example through Judas. True repentance is sorrow over sin itself. Some examples of true repentance can be seen through the publican who said, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (and he smote his breast). Another example is the prodigal son who said, “Father I have sinned,” and he arose and went to him. Jonah is also an example of true repentance. He ran away saying, “Salvation is of the Lord.” Each of these men experienced the love, grace, mercy and peace of God.

Some examples of those who did not repent can be seen in the following:

    The nation of Israel during A.D. 70. (See Romans 9, 10, and 11) The City of Sodom The people of Noah’s day.

God set a deadline upon this generation saying, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man: for that he is also flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” When the end of the 120 years came, and they had not repented, God’s foreknown judgment fell on that wicked world and destroyed them all.

In the case of Nineveh, God’s message through Jonah was, “Repent of your sin within 40 days and you shall be saved.” God set a deadline of 40 days, “Yet 40 days and Nineveh […]” They repented and God saved them. [Introduce the solemn thought that God sets a limit on man’s opportunity] As with Nineveh, you, too, must come within your forty days. Once that time is up, it will be forever too late.

Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed unto man once to die.” There is a time to be born, and a time to die (see Ecclesiastes 3:2). [Give the example of the ice tragedy] When God’s time comes for your departure, all the medical skill in the world and all the life-saving apparatus will not prevent it. As sure as you were born, so surely you must die. The question is, “When is that moment for you?” For some it will be today, for others this week. “I know not the day of my death.” Perhaps for you it is 39 days, 23 hours, and 59 seconds from right now. God’s deadline may be very near. “23 hours and 59 seconds and I’m not saved.”

Will you, like the Ninevites, repent, believe, and be saved? Or will you be like Noah’s generation, cross the deadline, and perish in the judgment of God? (Example: Belshazzar) You may cross the deadline anytime; this may not necessarily be death. Then it will be too late. Felix, said “Go.” Festus said, “Mad.” Agrippa said, “Almost.” Will you then stop right now, before another minute passes, and repent of your sins, confess your sins, and receive Christ as your Savior?

“O sinner, God’s patience may weary some day, and leave thy sad soul in the blast. By willful resistance you’ve drifted away over the deadline at last. O turn while the Savior in mercy is waiting, and steer for the harbor safe; for how do you know but your soul may be drifting over the deadline at last.”

“Behold, now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of acceptation.”

“Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”