1Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,
2"Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you."
No new revelation had come to this prophet of God while he had been in rebellion. But immediately upon his repentance and God’s restoration of his life, he heard God’s voice to him. It is no wonder that we fail to understand God’s leading and have wisdom according to His Word when we are in sin. The first thing we must do before God will give us new marching orders is to repent and get back to doing what He has already told us to be doing.
We should note also that God told Jonah to go right to Nineveh. He didn’t need therapy or a recovery program. He had repented, and God had changed His heart. He needed to get back to his calling and obey.
God didn’t tell Jonah right away what he was to say, but He told him that He would tell him once he got to Nineveh. This is typical of God’s leading as He gives us what we need, no less, and no more, just like the manna of Moses’ day. We should praise God for His mercy that even when we fail the first time, God may be merciful to give us another chance as He did Jonah.
3So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days' walk.
4Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown."
5Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.
Jonah obeyed God and went to Nineveh, walking the three days journey. This was no light task, and it was evidence of true repentance that he would obey God whether he liked it or not. God would soon have to teach him to like it. But for now, he walked through the city and cried out that Nineveh would be destroyed in forty days, obviously the message God had revealed to him. The people repented and believed. They feared God and believed that God would do what he said. Jonah simply declared the Word of God, and the Word of God acted powerfully. The people of Nineveh called a fast, and the entire city repented and put on sackcloth in mourning over their sin, humbling pleading that God would relent. From the greatest to the least of them, poor and rich, young and old, they repented.
6When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes.
7He issued a proclamation and it said, "In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water.
8"But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands.
9"Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish."
When the king heard the proclamation from Jonah, he left his throne, took off his royal robe, and donned sackcloth and ashes. He repented and issued a proclamation to the city that there would be no eating or drinking for both man and animals. They were to plead with God in desperation that He would relent of the calamity which He said would come upon them. They were to ask God for grace to change their hearts as they repented and turned from their evil, violent ways. The king’s hope was that perhaps God would relent and not bring this calamity upon his people. In this proclamation, the city was effectively saying that they would die praying and calling upon God before they would even eat or drink again. This was a broken people who greatly feared God. Just as with the sailors, God created those who feared Him really without Jonah doing much of anything, except acknowledging the name of God. Here all Jonah had to do was say the message which God had given Him. God’s Word did all the work because God had prepared the hearts and minds of these people to respond to the message. God received the glory and Jonah got to be part of what God was doing. This wasn’t a self-generated ministry feat to chalk up on his prophetic resume, but it was a miraculous work of God that he could only be grateful to have been a part of.
10When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.
Sure enough, consistent with the merciful nature of God, God relented, having seen their repentance. He relented and did not bring the calamity which He had said He would.