17 September 2021Jonah 3:6-10
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. (v. 10)
The writer, in contrast to some of the other prophets in the Old Testament signifies universalism in this account. Jonah is not sent to faithful Jewish people who had lost their way, but to people who were not of that faith. Although that is not spelled out as such, it is clear in these few verses that the message Jonah brings is not only for the ordinary people of the city but is also spoken loudly to the King of Nineveh, who immediately joins his people in the wearing of sackcloth and according to the text “sat down in ashes”. (v. 6)
Having taking this upon himself, the King issues a decree which would affect not only the people, even those who had not already heard the prophesy but the animals as well. The decree would bring about a total fast upon the city and call upon the people to pray loudly to God for salvation. He also calls on them to totally repent of all those things that go against what God would want them to do in the hope that God will reprieve them from the promised disaster which Jonah had told them was to come in 40 days' time. Being obedient people and respecting their ruler, these orders were obeyed and we are told God changed his mind and the city lived on.
The interesting thing about these verses is the way one person could have such an influence upon the community. Perhaps also they give some indication of what was to happen some 100s of years later when Jesus, God’s son, is sent with his message of universal love, drawing more and more people to acknowledge their creator and leading them to the Church of which we are ourselves a part today.
- Did the influence of the king bring about the reprieve for the city of Nineveh, or did his actions just emphasise what the ordinary people had already begun?
- What message is there for we who live in the world as it is today as we read these words? Do we need a new prophet, or should we, who follow Jesus, be the ones who seek to bring about the world which was intended at the beginning?
- Has the book of Jonah anything to say to the modern world, or is it just a good story to be enjoyed for what it is?
When we hear your word Lord, help us not to discount it, from whichever voice it comes. Help us to seek to do your will and make a difference for you wherever and whenever we see a need. Amen.