'By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.'"
Jonah was going about the city proclaiming the coming destruction if they did not turn from their ways and immediately the people believed in a God they did not know. This must have been some sight for Jonah, while he was walking by their must have been such commotion from the people who heard these words, the people stopped what they were doing and changed into sackcloth. The king and all of the people put on sackcloth and did not eat or drink anything. Sackcloth was probably very uncomfortable to wear, sin should not be a comfortable fit. One of the reasons to wear sackcloth was to show repentance for sin, either personally or nationally. Even the animals did not eat or drink, this was showing that every being was submitting to God. Jonah was walking around this city, he would have had the attention of everyone due to the words he spoke and the possible harsh state of his body.
This message was for all the people, not just a select few. All of the people were now equal in their repentance, the king did not say that only the greatest should put on sackcloth. This king could have kicked Jonah out of the city, but he enforced Jonah's words. This man also saw the truth and was trying to ensure that his people would all be saved. A leader should care about the welfare of their people and do the right thing, unfortunately we have many in power around the world now that are not God loving God fearing leaders. I think that many countries would benefit by having female leaders, there may be less wars and I think that the welfare of the needy would be on the heart of any woman who ran a country. I pray daily for God to take those out of power who do not know Him and are cruel to their people. A true leader should serve in the best interest of their country, not to see how they can inflict their power on the weak.
"Forgiveness of past sin qualifies us for present service." Priscilla Shirer
Many commentators believe this was the greatest revival in history. Looking back to see what happened during this time period will help us understand why these people didn't hesitate. There were two plagues in 765 and 759 B.C. even though they were protected by the city walls this would have been devastating probably killing thousands of people and on June 15, 763 B.C. there was a total eclipse of the sun. The plagues showed that there were things that they could not control, their well defended city was brought to it's knees. The eclipse must have been scary to the people who probably didn't know what it was at the time. This takes nothing away from God when Jonah preached to the people. I believe God uses situations to soften the hearts of the people so that when He sends someone on a mission, the people receiving the words are willing to accept Him. He has done this from the beginning and He still does it today.
When we are up against a task that appears too grand for us to undertake, we must remember:
- We are right. It most likely is too big for us to handle.
- If God is calling us to it, He will equip us for it.
- God has been at work in the situation long before we are scheduled to arrive, and He is preparing the way for our obedience to make a difference. Pricilla Shirer
God's word is for everyone, anytime, no matter what we have done or how long our sin has gone on.
I don't think that we need to put on sackcloth and ashes on our forehead, but we can do this in spirit. We can mourn those lost by death, those who choose to turn from God, cruel leaders that continue to still be in power wielding their weapons of hate. Many things people did in the Bible we can do in spirit today to show God obedience.
Many times God may give us a task that seems small, insignificant or something we don't want to do. What we don't see is the ripple effect from our obedience, it may spread through one person to their family, friends and possibly their children and grandchildren. It's an interesting sight to see when we help other people in that process God can help and heal us.
We can't truly repent if we intend to keep our sin. Repentance is accepting that we need God and asking for Him to forgive us. His offer is hard to comprehend, He gives us love and mercy if we turn from sin. This deal is unlike any other and if you take it you will reap rewards that will astonish you for decades to come.