Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. 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 3:1-5 ESV
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55:6-7 ESV
In the early days before the American Revolutionary War, a man named Paul Revere was an express rider in Boston who promised to carry news and messages to places as far away as New York and Philadelphia in support of the American side. On April 18, 1775, British troops were marching to Lexington to arrest a couple of men who supported independence. Paul Revere rode through the night to warn these men, and on his way he stopped at every house to warn people that British troops were coming. The next day the first two battles of the war were fought in Lexington and Concord. The American militia who supported independence were ready to fight because Paul Revere had come to warn them.
Jonah warned the people of Nineveh that God was going to destroy their city. The people heard his warning and believed it. They took action by being sorry for their sins and hoping that God would show them mercy. They wore sackcloth, and uncomfortable, scratchy kind of cloth that would remind them of their sinfulness and show that they were sorry and wanted to change. They also didn’t eat any food, which was another way to show they were sory and that they wanted to change. This is called repentance.
When God speaks to us through his Word about the ways we’ve turned against him, he helps us feel sorry and want to turn away from our sins. God sends us his Holy Spirit to help us repent. We don’t earn God’s forgiveness by repenting, but God works in our hearts to turn us away from our sins and to receive a wonderful gift. That gift is the forgiveness of all our sins and a new life with him. Jesus earned that gift for us by dying on the cross to pay for our sins, and God’s mercy makes that gift ours now and always.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the gifts of repentance and forgiveness. Please help us to trust your mercy now and always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.