The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” Jonah 3:6-9
Jonah’s mission is almost complete. He delivers his message and the Ninevites repent! But what is repentance? As the Ninevites show us in this passage, it is more than just saying you’re sorry. Repentance means to turn from sin. To truly repent, the Ninevites had to “turn from [their evil way and the violence that is in [their] hands” (v. 8).
In a story set in a time and place so distant from our own, it’s easy for us to separate ourselves from the Ninevites and decide the need for repentance was their problem, not ours. After all, they were the brutal, pagan people, not us. But God cares just as much about the state of our hearts as he cared about the Ninevites’. And sometimes that means we have to face the sin still in our hearts and turn from it.
Even if we have repented before, repenting again is no easy thing. If I admit that I need to repent I have to admit that I’m not perfect. I have to admit that I don’t love God or love others the way I’m called to. I have to admit that I’m so often like Jonah, obeying grudgingly and not really wanting to see God’s mercy poured out on others.
But remember that the Ninevites didn’t turn from sin just for the sake of doing so. They turned from sin, from their evil and violent ways, for the sake of life! And the same goes for each of us. We don’t repent for the sake of repenting, or because it’s the “Christian” thing to do, or even because that’s the theme of today’s Daily post. We repent because of the new life we have in Jesus Christ, and because he has so much more for us than the patterns we resort to or the second things we make first things.
In this season of Lent, journeying with Jesus towards the cross, remember why Jesus is going to the cross in the first place. Today, pray a prayer of repentance. Ask God to bring to mind anything specific that you may need to repent from and ask him to help you turn from those things. End your prayer with thanksgiving; thank Jesus for opening up a new way of life through his death and resurrection so that we are freed from our old ways.
By Jessica Rust