So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth…
The Book of Jonah illustrates man's perverseness, God's love to sinners, God's tenderness to His people. It contains a type of our Lord's work. It shows God ever the same, whether dealing with Gentile or Jew: stern against sin; yearning over sinners; faithful to promises. As to the repentance of the Ninevites, mark —
I. ITS ORIGIN. "They believed God." Repentance starts from faith and leads to faith. No true repentance till there is belief —
1. That sin is hurtful.
2. That life is fleeting.
3. That God's Word is true.Faith of Ninevites very simple, — perhaps ignorant, yet they were led on. It came from God. The Holy Spirit's work thus to convince of sin.
II. ITS SYMPTOMS.
2. It was universal.
3. It was thorough.The next symptom was earnest prayer.
(1) They did not stop at humiliation; they cried for pardon.
(2) They looked to the right source for help.
(3) They cried mightily, as if they meant it.The next symptom was reformation. They turned from their evil way. They brought forth "fruits meet for repentance." The only proof of true repentance is to give up sin utterly. Not only fast for sin, but abstain from sin.
III. THE RESULT, God repented; that is, He changed His dealings. This was foretold as possible. "Yet forty days," — a time of grace given. There is room in the all wise decrees for answers to faithful prayer. Application —
1. God's laws are the same for all. We have more light, more responsibility than had the Ninevites; but for us the path is the same. Contrition, faith, pardon.
2. Have we repented? A "greater than Jonas " calls us. By His Word, His work, His death. Let us turn to Him while the day of salvation lasts.
3. What an encouragement to the true penitent. " There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."
(A. G. Hellicar, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.