As I read through Jonah 3 this morning the word that kept coming to mind and the theme that I saw demonstrated so clearly in the text was “grace”. Here’s what I saw.
“Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,…” ~ Jonah 3:1
The fact that the word of the LORD even came to Jonah a first time and the fact that, even after Jonah responded in disobedience, the word of the LORD comes to Jonah a second time speak to only one thing – grace. I get the feeling that God was going to deliver His word to Ninevah no matter what and He could have used whatever means He wanted. The fact that the LORD gave Jonah a second chance is pure grace – undeserved and unmerited favor. God didn’t have to use Jonah but He wanted to. Grace.
“Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.” ~ Jonah 3:4-5
Again, God’s grace is on display. Without His grace, the people of Ninevah would not have received this warning and without His grace, they would have been unable to immediately believe God’s word and respond in obedience. The people had ears to hear God’s word and hearts of faith to receive it as true, to believe it, and to respond in obedience and repentance. It’s not because Jonah was a compelling and gifted orator, and it wasn’t because the people of Ninevah were inherently good people or highly intelligent and self aware. It is only because of God’s grace.
“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.” ~ Jonah 3:10
God relents and does not punish them as He said He would. God sees that His word has been heard and believed. God sees that His word has pierced the people of Ninevah and has divided their soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and has discerned the thoughts and intentions of their hearts. God forgives them because He is a gracious God, abounding in steadfast love and forgiveness.
Although the book of Jonah talks a lot about Jonah and a lot about the people of Ninevah, as I read through chapter 3 the main thing I walk away with is that God’s grace still amazes me.