GOD’S LOVE FOR NINEVEH
Adult 1 Sunday School Class Jonah 3 MAY 21, 2017
Theme: Communities today are wracked with separation and violence. What can bring people together to live in wholeness and peace? When the people of Nineveh repented, God brought peace and wholeness through divine love.
Understanding and Interpreting the Scriptures in which the original verse is in regular print
Please explain the meaning or significance of the following verses:
* Jonah 3:1,2: “And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, 2. Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.” Jonah, a prophet of God, has now been vomited out of the mouth of the big fish that God had cause it to swallow. Jonah now realizes what God can do to a disobedient servant. Now the Lord directs him a second time to go the Nineveh and “preaching that I bid thee”. This indicates that Jonah, as a prophet, speaks for God; just as Moses, Jeremiah and Jesus did. After realizing the power of God, he relents reluctantly, and goes.
* v.3. “So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey.” “exceeding great city” means it was larger than most in the area, and large enough that it might take Jonah at least three days to cover by walking and preaching the destruction of Nineveh as the Lord had directed. The point that Jonah may have been expected to preach in the city for at least 3 days, the amount of time that he was in the belly of the fish.
* v.4. “And Jonah began to enter into the city a days’ journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” Jonah was fortunate that the people fell to their knees upon hearing the Lord’s message delivered by him. They also hastened the time required to preach God’s message to about a day instead of three. The message was simple, repent within 40 days or your city would be overthrown. Nineveh had been a city of evil people, and God had proclaimed its punishment by the prophet Jonah. We can see here that God showed mercy toward Nineveh, if it had been unconditional, Jonah would not have been needed. This shows that people would not have repented without the word of God being preached to them. It is said that, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom 10:17) “For whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” In short, “How can someone call upon the Lord who they do not believe; how can they believe in a Lord that they have not heard; and how can they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:13-14)
*v.5,6,7,8, and 9. “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. 6. When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. 7. Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city: “No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. 8. People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. 9. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.”
The people immediately believed that God would bring His wrath on Nineveh, and tore off their clothes in repentance and covered themselves in sackcloth, prayed, and fasted; not knowing whether God would remove His curse. They felt that by repenting of their sins and turn from evil and violence they would be spared. They also repented from hurtful language and disposition that caused others harm that was not physical. The king stated that the people must completely revert to a more loving and peaceful attitude and behavior.
v.10 “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” God shows extreme mercy for a repentant people whom He initially judged to destroy because of their cruelty as a nation, and their idolatry and injustice. When the Lord saw their true repentance and turning from their evil ways, God changed His judgement upon Nineveh and did not destroy it.
Key Points about this lesson
* God can be a God of wrath (allowing the fish to swallow Jonah), but also a God of mercy (having the fish release him upon his repentance).
* God relented and showed mercy toward Nineveh, which had been an evil city, and He did not destroy it.
* The pagans of Nineveh, believed Jonah’s message (612 BC) from God, repented of their sins, and their city was saved. There is a message today for those who receive the Gospel, repent of their sins and accept Jesus, they too can be save from eternal damnation.
* Prior to Jonah’s message to Nineveh, they had heard about his encounter with the fish, and they understood the power of Jonah’s God; which made it easier for them to accept Jonah’s message.
* Jonah was reluctant to go to Nineveh because of the historical dislike that Judah and Assyria had had for each other, and Jonah felt spiritually superior to the pagans because of God’s covenant with his people.