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
1. feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin.
“the priest urged his listeners to repent”
2. view or think of (an action or omission) with deep regret or remorse.
“Marian came to repent her hasty judgment”
The king of Nineveh calls for his city to repent, pretty much including every living thing, after Jonah’s words reach him. How the message is conveyed from Jonah’s mouth to the king’s ears is not shared. The key point here is repentance, first by the king, then by the rest of the community. This is the king who was guilty of committing all manner of atrocities against conquered lands, including Israel and Judah. And the people shared in that guilt.
In our day-to-day lives, we may not be physically guilty of sin like the king and people of Nineveh. But we live in a time where the thought is as serious as the deed, and we’re held accountable for it (Matthew 5:21-22). I know when someone cuts me off in traffic, or moves in front of me in line, I may yield to the temptation to think ill of them. These things happen without any forethought. This ought not so to be. So, along with others, I’m in need of repentance.
While the place where Jonah 2 takes place, the fish stomach, may not be an ideal place of solitude, this is where Jonah was when he came to grips with the result of his actions. He called out to God and God heard him. Hallelujah!
Perhaps it’s time we find that place of solitude, and approach God in peace and quiet and begin to pray. The really nice thing about solitude for prayer is that we’re less distracted. It gives us the opportunity for God to prompt areas of our repentance. Ask God to reveal these areas, and then listen, just listen. Just like God wasn’t in the bright, loud, and shaking with Elijah, so, too, do we need to listen in the quiet for God’s voice. Like me, you’ll be amazed at what comes to mind, and blessed in the repentance.
By Rich Obrecht