WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
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A WAKE-UP CALL
(GOD shows compassion to repentant sinners)
The prophet Jonah ministered during the reign of Jeroboam II. Years earlier, during the reign of Jeroboam’s great grandfather, Jehu, the nation of Assyria had established dominance in the east. They had secured tributes from Jehu, and, in effect, had made him their “vassal”, or, “puppet king”. Sometime later however, the Assyrians suffered a temporary setback due to dissension within their own camp, and this allowed Jeroboam to expand Israel’s territories to its greatest size since the “United Kingdom” days of David and Solomon.
Unfortunately, because of Jeroboam’s continued disobedience to GOD, and his leading of Israel farther into idolatry, GOD, in an effort to give him a chance to repent and make things right, sent both Amos and Hosea into northern Israel to warn him of HIS impending judgment on their sins and social injustices. In fact, the prophet Hosea specifically told Israel that GOD would use the Assyrians to topple them because of their refusal to return to HIM (Hosea 11:5).
It seems likely that, because Assyria, at that time, had been lingering in a weakened and declining state for some years, Israel was not inclined to believe the words of GOD’s prophets, and thus remained stubborn, steadfastly refusing to heed the prophets warnings from GOD.
And perhaps, these prophecies from Amos and Hosea also served to explain why Jonah, who did believe them when they said that Assyria would destroy Israel, was reluctant to obey GOD and go to preach repentance to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria. He understandably had a real problem with going to save his enemy so that they could come later and destroy Israel.
Here in chapter 3, we see, a now obedient Jonah, traveling to Nineveh to deliver GOD’s message to the Assyrian populace, still hoping in his heart, that they would not heed his warning of imminent judgment. However, much to Jonah’s surprise, after the king himself heard his message, he came down from his throne, took off his royal robes, wrapped himself in sackcloth, and sent out a royal decree commanding that all the people of the kingdom repent and pray earnest prayers to the GOD of Israel.
Everyone, all the way down to the least in the kingdom, was required to dress themselves in sackcloth, and fast and pray. Even the animals in the kingdom were not given any food and water during this period of fasting and praying. And when GOD saw the Assyrians demonstration of earnest repent and obedience to HIM, HE had mercy on them and did not carry out HIS alternate plan of judgment and destruction. Jonah’s mission had been an overwhelming success, even though Jonah himself was not happy at all with the results.
Genuine repent always tends to melt the heart of GOD, even though, in this case, it did nothing but harden the heart of Jonah. Whenever GOD sees genuine repent and GODly sorrow in the human side of HIS creation, HIS compassion is rained down on those individuals who exhibit it. He is always pleased to grant us HIS mercy, grace, and forgiveness, whenever we decide to turn from our own way of doing things, and embrace HIS way, which has already been laid out for us to follow, through the human life example of CHRIST JESUS, that HE exhibited to us, while living here on earth.
Nineveh’s repentance delayed GOD’s wrath on them for another 150 years. However, as mankind seems to always do, the people of Nineveh in the next generation fell back into the doldrums of sin, and ultimately, their city still had to be destroyed because of it. World history now tells us that Nineveh was invaded and destroyed by the Babylonian king, Nabopolasser, with help from his ally Cyaxeres the Mede, in 612 B.C. (also see Nahum’s prophecy in the Book of Nahum). And, by the way, because of Jonah’s negative attitude towards that generation of Ninevite’s salvation, GOD had to continue to deal with him concerning those issues, after his mission in Nineveh was complete. Stay tuned.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander