Jonah 3:5 – The People of Nineveh

The question of the day is: Will God relent and give America a Nineveh-like revival?

God called Jonah to preach repentance to the Assyrian city of Nineveh.  Knowing these fierce, pagan people as he did, Jonah wanted nothing to do with his assignment.  Assyria’s reputation preceded it.  Its warriors gave no quarter and always committed terrible atrocities upon the nation’s enemies that they conquered.  Knowing these people as he did, Jonah had no interest in obediently calling them to turn from their wicked ways.  Jonah’s response had to be along the lines of, “What is Yahweh thinking?”  Perhaps He’d made a mistake, and by running away from His command, Jonah might have hoped God would forget and relent from sending his prophet on such a mission.

Alas, God had not erred in desiring Jonah to bring His Word to this great city.  He chased him down, made it abundantly clear that He required the prophet’s obedience, and changed Jonah’s mind.

When Jonah was onboard the ship fleeing to Tarshish, it’s important to note the reaction of the sailors when they learned he was a Jew and served the God of heaven.  These sailors – from whatever nations they came – all served other gods.  That was the way of the Ancient Near East (ANE) that had come about following Yahweh’s scattering of the people through their disobedience in the Tower of Babel incident (Genesis 11).  God set men into nations and placed His divine sons over them while He raised up Israel as His Chosen People (Deuteronomy 32:8-9 ESV).  Those powerful beings – faithful to God at the time – were to superintend the nations and point their inhabitants back to Him as the only One worthy of worship.  But something went wrong and all these spiritual entities – these mighty princes – rebelled against God.  In their pride, they raised themselves up as rulers and gods over their respective nations and turned the people’s hearts away from Yahweh.  For this gross disobedience, God judged them and promised their eternal fate would be as if they were mere men (Psalm 82).  Despite all peoples of all other nations on earth following their own gods, they were well aware of the One true God who ruled over Israel, and they feared Him.

Once the sailors threw Jonah overboard and the storm ceased, they knew that Yahweh was greater than any of their own gods.  They had made the right decision and feared God for it (Jonah 1:16).

This same fear and respect was present when Jonah finally made it to Nineveh.  Consider what occurred in Jonah 3:4-5:

Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

This is so important in the narrative: And the people of Nineveh believed God.

They – like the sailors who encountered God in the midst of the tempest – knew of the mighty God of the Hebrews.  Did they ever in their wildest imaginations suspect that He would show up on their doorstep and demand they turn from their wicked ways?  Doubtful.  But they knew who He was.  They respected Him.  That He sent prophets to foretell what was coming, and their prophecies always came about, surely factored into their response.  When Jonah told the peoples in this city they had forty days to mend their evil ways or be destroyed, even the king agreed they were in serious trouble.  In their response, they truly repented as noted in Jonah 3:10:

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

This wasn’t a surface turning away from evil.  God knew their hearts.  If it hadn’t been real, He would have known.  Because of the fact that they heard and truly repented, their city was spared at that time.  It was another 150 years until Nineveh was destroyed in battle against the Babylonians.  Eventually, whatever the reverence for Yahweh looked like in this city after their repentant turning toward the Lord, it faded away over the generations.  The people didn’t teach their children about Him, who didn’t teach their children, etc. and all their pagan ways returned.  They did just as Israel always did.  The older generation never instructed the younger one, and God was forgotten.  It is the way of sinful man.

Back to our original question: Will God relent and give America a Nineveh-like revival?

Based on the Biblical prophecies, to which we who believe in the pre-Tribulation Rapture adhere, there seems to be no chance that will happen.  From the Jonah narrative, one of the primary reasons becomes apparent.  Remember the sailors on the ship?  They knew of the God of Israel because of His reputation that was prevalent in the ANE in those days.  Pagans obviously didn’t worship Him, but they were aware of His deeds.  This was the God who overnight could annihilate entire armies, and who, at a Word, caused the sea to part.  When they learned that it was this God pursuing Jonah, they rightly feared.

The same is true for Nineveh itself.  The Old Testament recounts the exploits of Yahweh among the nations.  Recall in the time of Samuel and Eli’s sons how the Ark of the Covenant, the presence of Yahweh associated with this religious icon, caused the Philistines to greatly fear.  The way that news traveled at that time mouth-to-mouth, and from truth to legend, stories about the Hebrew ark and how its God caused boils and distress to unbelievers certainly was known.  A prophet of this God coming to their city meant something.  Upon hearing a prophecy of complete destruction, they had no trouble believing it and responding in turn.

Would such warnings cause the people in our nation to likewise repent?  Given all the surveys and polls of the disbelief among every demographic today, it’s a seeming impossibility.  Few know of God; fewer fear Him.  Proverbs 9:10 says:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Without fear of God in America, what wisdom or understanding do we have?  Certain people of God have been having prophetic dreams of late, but many believers disdain them.  The Bible – the very Word of God – is seldom read, even by those who call themselves Christians.  How can we have knowledge of the Holy One when we haven’t followed His ways nor taught our children?

To make a poor analogy, it’s as though we are the final generation of the people of Judah before the Babylonians overran them.  We are the people 150 years after Jonah went to Nineveh whom the Babylonians also destroyed.  In each of these cases, God had been long forgotten and no further warnings would be given.  Remember what He said in Jeremiah 11:14:

“Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble.”

They were goners.  Their time was up; every second chance had been given.  Even the prayers of Jeremiah for them would be of no avail.

This is why Bible prophecy portrays these final days as ones that continually go downhill.  There is no reprieve for our nation or the world.  When God is forgotten, there is nothing left to save.

Although there is no hope for this world, we who are true believers have much to anticipate.  The darker it gets, the brighter is the light to which we are drawn.  Should we not in these blackest of times be drawn as moths to the flame of Christ and shine with His glory?

That’s the Good News in this lost and dying world.  It’s easy to be overwhelmed if we look all around us, but when we look up, it all fades away.

One Response to “Jonah 3:5 – The People of Nineveh”

  1. Reply Gail

    The so-called Christians of the USA are beginning to wake up. You should not be so quick to condemn. What you speak becomes real. I encourage you to realize that it is very possible that the USA absolutely CAN repent. Repentance is a gift and we should be praying for that gift to affect more and more people. There is an awakening going on worldwide – hordes of people from every language and nation and belief system are responding. It’s even happening in the US. Rabbis are realizing that the Jewish man, Yeshua actually was and is the looked-for messiah. This is BiG. Many many Jews are also receiving their messiah, yeshua (the Greek Jesus). Their God isn’t done with them or us. Prophecy is being fulfilled all around you! SPEAK THAT!

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