Jonah 3 begins exactly the same way as the first chapter. “The word of the Lord came to Jonah”. God didn’t change His plan just because Jonah tried to run away. God came right back to Jonah once He has his attention and gave him the same direction. “Go to Ninevah”. Last time, you’ll recall Jonah ran the other way. He jumped on a boat and headed as far from where God wanted him to go as he could. He was not going to go tell these people how to save their skin. He hated them.
God’s direction was clear to Jonah. “Call out against it the message that I tell you”. Jonah doesn’t have to figure out how to do the task at hand. God is going to give him the message. All Jonah has to do is be willing and available. All Jonah has to do is go. That is so often how God works through us. It isn’t that we have to figure out all the details. He has all that in hand. We just need to be willing to go. What God originates, God will orchestrate. He has it under control. He just wanted Jonah to go in obedience.
Jonah went to Ninevah which was a big place. “Three days journey in breadth”. That is a large city. The message God gave Jonah was to tell them “forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown”. This was an evil city. The people were not tuned into God at all. But “the people of Nineveh believed God….called for a fast….put on sackcloth….word reached the king….he arose from his throne….removed his robe….covered himself with sackcloth”. Jonah’s fears have happened. This evil city is repenting and God’s message has been heeded.
The king issues a proclamation to have everyone fast and turn from their evil ways and from the violence. This is now a city in repentance. They heard Jonah’s simple message, one that he didn’t even want to deliver, and they are touched. They understand God’s anger and their future if they don’t change. So they repent. “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”. The message delivered by a reluctant messenger works. A city is saved. God turns from destruction.