Lent | Jonah: Day

Tangible repentance


Today's Text: Jonah 3:5-10, 1 Timothy 1:15-16

Text: Jonah 3:5-10, 1 Timothy 1:15-16

Nineveh was the worst.

A chief city in the already brutal and wicked Assyrian empire, Nineveh removed the noses and ears of their prisoners to mark and maim them for life. And like most of Mesopotamian civilizations, their culture was immoral and generally terrifying–temple prostitution, child sacrifice and infanticide.

I love my ears and nose, and I understand why Jonah didn’t want to go.

These are the people who heard God’s call to repentance. These brutal eye-gougers! They listened to Jonah and to God. And they repented. They stopped, stripped off their clothes, rubbed their faces in the fireplace, and gave up eating. They were desperate to get God’s attention.

And God had mercy on even these most wicked people. They didn’t know they were that wicked until God arrested them in their sin. This is a story only marginally about about the repentant Ninevite hearts, but centrally about God’s mercy and forgiveness.

God calls them to repent. And they respond by fasting.

Fasting hurts. It’s tangible and practical repentance, and repentance must change how we live our lives. We turn from the things that give us false comfort, and only have God.

For the Ninevites, fasting meant giving up their means of power and energy, and depending only on God for power in a very real way. They humbled themselves publicly and didn’t hold back for pride or fear of what others would think. Even the king—who held an almost god-like status in the culture and had everything to lose—humbled himself, bowing before the one true God. It was a culture-wide repentance, extending from the greatest to the least.

Their repentance was not chiefly about their emotions, how sorry they felt, but about casting themselves wholly upon God’s mercy. It wasn’t about what they could bring to the table. Rather, they said, “who knows? God may turn and relent.” (verse 9) They recognized that repentance is about what God is doing, not what we can do to gain any kind of merit. Mercy is not a matter of merit; it is God’s gift.

Genuine repentance is tangible. You make a 180 degree turn in the other direction.

Even though Nineveh was awful by any standard (seriously, stop gouging eyes out!), God had mercy on them. I would’ve stubbornly agreed with Jonah that they were just too far gone. But God’s grace and mercy reach even the blackest hearts. And I’m with Paul when he said he was the foremost of sinners. I don’t gouge eyes, yet pride, envy, and wrath are always within arm’s length for me. “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16, ESV)

The story of Nineveh’s repentance is about God’s perfect patience, his deep mercy, and his profound forgiveness. Thanks be to God.


Guest writer Rebecca Faires teaches German and theatre, raises four sweet children, and kisses her husband. Hallelujah.

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  • Shelly, thank you for sharing your story with us! I would love to know more about the Bible study you mentioned that was so helpful to you.

  • jaustin35

    "Genuine repentance is tangible, you make a180 degree turn in the other direction." So very true and something I am doing during this fast…… Praise God for whom all blessings flow!!!! Repent like the Ninevites and God will get alllllll the Glory!!!!

  • Quiet amazing. Patience, mercy and forgiveness. All from God. Many struggle with these but if we look to the Almighty from whence cometh our help.and emulate Him there will be no more struggle. Glory be to God. SRT may we all have patience in our walk, be merciful to others and forgive each and everyone from this day forward. Amen

  • I love how full and commplete the ninevites repentance appears to be. No excuses. No planning. They hear and act. And they do the full turn about.
    I love that God changed His mind. They were still deserving of His wrath. This did not change or erase all the evils they had commited. His mercy covered them. Thank you Lord that your mercy covers me. I receive your mercy that in me, standing out above all else, jesus Christ might display His perfect patience.

  • How many times have I (like Jonah!) prayed "Lord, your will be done….." but my heart really said "Lord, your will be done…as long as it is the same thing I have in mind." And when He reveals His perfect will and it's not the same, I think "Ok, I must have misheard you Lord".

    Just like Jonah, who probably thought he misheard God when he was sent to Ninevah. Or that he must have misheard God when God changed his mind about the Ninevites. "Okay Lord, this wasn't what we discussed originally…"

    Lord, I pray today that you would search my heart. Help me to be sincere when I pray for your will to be done in my life, even if it's different from what I want. Help me to remember that You and Your will is perfect!"

    Sisters, please pray for me. I was recently and unexpectedly fired from my job and I am searching for a new direction in my life. I need His guidance. I need his comforting arms wrapped around me so tight. And oh how I wish He would come sit with me and audibly, to my face, explain the map of my life!

    His will be done. His good and perfect will.

  • I love that the King himself even publicly humbled himself and repented.

  • Wow. I hadn’t realized just how many awful things the Ninevites were up to! I l

  • Rachel Nordgren

    Hey there, friends. Long time, no see! I was out of town last week and just now caught up with the Jonah story. It's good to be back :)

    I've loved it so far. I haven't spent a ton of time in this book of the Bible, but I'm so glad that I am now. Just to read how God was and has always been (and always will be!) in the business of showing extravagant grace to the least deserving of people. Jonah, the Ninevites, Paul…it gives me a weighty and lovely hope that I am never too far gone for His grace to reach me. My prayer is that I would be like the Ninevites and turn to God immediately and fully when He asks me to!

  • rightpurelovely

    I have known the story of Jonah since I was a kid and NEVER knew how God would reveal himself to me through this study. In my current season of separation from my husband I am blown away by what the book of Jonah has revealed to me.

    God called Jonah to Nineveh to tell them one simple thing, to repent or face destruction. He didn't ask Jonah to convince Nineveh or play therapist to Nineveh, he told him to simply speak the truth. These were wicked people! My flesh thinks, "surely one sentence wouldn't be enough to turn them from their sin." THAT is when my heart is convicted. It's wasn't Jonah that was changing hearts, it was the work of the Lord, Jonah was just the messenger! All it took was one sentence and God handled the rest.

    I am just to listen! He is doing the rest! In this separation sometimes I think my husband is too far gone, too far removed from our situation. I get caught up in trying to convince him, coddle him, convict him….but God is clearly telling me that all I need to do is speak truth. HE will handle the rest. HE is the redeemer of his heart, all I need to do is obey His instructions to speak truth.

  • Katy Bates Henager

    That our Father would use such a broken, stubborn and prideful vessel such as Jonah gives me hope. It is a real fact that Jonah's miracle of being "vomited up" on the shore left him horribly disfigured from the digestive juices of the fish. Well this made him an "overnight sensation" to the huge (most likely 100k or more folks!) town of Nineveh. Just what GOD could use to get their attention. All they had to do was look at Jonah to see that God meant business. So in his own journey of repentance and brokenness, Jonah was used mightily. Sometimes our "miracles" will come with "disfigurement", but His downy love carries us on.
    I am just a bit farther on in the journey than most of you, but His Truth just gets more amazing and His faithfulness more apparent.
    Love to all…..Katy at 63

  • I usually do my little devotions while at work (shhh) because the mornings are hectic for me when I already get up so early. I kept putting off reading this morning for some reason (probably because I was behind a few days). But as I was working I felt the Lord knocking on my heart to stop what I was doing and just read-so I did. I try not to ignore His voice anymore!

    I've met a guy that I would normally ignore any possibility of a relationship with because his values are so opposite of mine. But I know that God is telling me to not turn away from him and to pray for him. Everyday. And it makes me question everything. After 26 years of having no boyfriends, why would God want me to continue to see this guy when he obviously doesn't meet any of my "qualifications"? Boy that makes me sound like a snob.

    So I'm unsure right now but this scripture is what God intended for me to read today is something I can cling to for now. I all I can do is pray for him (his name is Christian if anyone wants to join me in prayer) and show him Christ's love as best I can despite being a "chief" sinner myself.

  • The Nineveh people, Saul (Paul), the list goes on. There is such great hope for ANYONE to to be saved!

    God's grace and mercy is so much larger than what we can fathom. Amen

  • I'm a little late to the Jonah study. It's been an interesting few weeks. But sisters I'm here to tell you. GOD IS FAITHFUL!! School situation: worked out smoothly. Work situation. Well working out, but I received confirmation yesterday that I'm right where I'm supposed to be. God is good!

    By the looks of my bible I haven't studies Jonah all that much. I have two notes. I've watched veggie tales more than I've spent time in these four chapters. But what I do have is awesome.

    Grace: an unobligated giver giving something remarkable to the undeserving.

    I know this is chapter 3. But my notes on 2:7-9 says God uses the defeated to do great things!

    I love how ch 3 begins with… Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time….. Doesn't it always?
    A 2nd time, a 20th time, a 245th time, a 2,764th time, or Five Hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred (minutes) times a year!

    Thank you Rebecca, I have new notes in my bible. :) repentance is about what God is doing. Not about merit.

    Because I beg to differ with our brother Paul on who's the chiefest, I feel often times that I have more feathers in my headdress than he does. I don't know how to say this other than to say it. I've felt the nudging to confess (if you will) for a while. Not because I need to confess it, but because someone needs to hear it. Because repentance isn't about merit. It isn't about earning your way into grace. No matter what you've done or what you will do, if you are in Christ there is therefore no condemnation.

    If we think gouging eyes out is bad, well then I'm going straight to hell. And I used to believe that, all day, every day, begging for Gods forgiveness. I'd read my bible. I'd try to be a good church lady, you know the kind that are so full of The Lord that they practically float instead of walk, I prayed for hours, I went to church, I watched church on tv. I listened to church on the radio. Because I desperately wanted grace, mercy, and even if I wear the dunce hat in heaven maybe if I was good enough I'd get to touch the hem of his robe or like Moses (my fellow murderer) I'd get to see His back.

    My former life can be described like this:
    Sex, drugs, rock n roll and 2 abortions later.

    Yeah. I said the A word out loud. And I've spent years idolizing condemnation because I didn't believe that forgiveness, that grace or mercy was for me. Then I took a class called forgiven and set free, then I taught it for several years. And The Light started to come on.

    Sisters, (I say sisters because the stat is 1 in 4 women,there's more than 4 of us here, I can't be the only one) don't wait years or another moment in the corner with the dunce hat on!! (First off, that's my corner! J/K I'll share it!) forgiveness is for You! Today! Right Now! Walk in the Freedom Christ died to give you! It Is For Freedom Christ Set You Free!

    It's not about your merit, what you can do, how far you can run, it's about His Grace! Receive it today!

    • Steph_Lilac

      Wow! What an awesome testimony Shelly!! The Spirit of God in your message is going to set some souls free!!

    • Zekia

      Awesome addition to today’s lesson. Thank you! This is my first time reading Jonah (I honestly have never read the entire bible through), and this book is a blessing to my soul. GOD is in the blessing business, and HE has forgiveness and mercy aplenty. But we have to be in a receiving position in order to get what HE has for us. I learned this lesson recently and will not be forgetting it soon.

  • Courtney

    Check out 1 Tim 1:15-16 in the Message-
    Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever.

    I love that. Be blessed my sisters!! XO

  • SO thankful for His patience and mercy in my life. I’ve done a lot of sinful things in my 33 years and know that I would not have the abundant life that I have today if it were not for His breathing truth and love into my life, even in the midst of my sinfulness. God is so good!

  • Candacejo

    The entire city believes the Word of the Lord! The entire city repents! The entire city and all of their animals, fasts! They do not even drink water for what appears to be three days.

    The desperate situation called for desperate measures. They humbled their souls with fasting and what happened?

    “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” Jonah 3.

    Did they change the mind of God? Of course they did! It was not God's desire to destroy the city or He would not have sent Jonah to warn them. He wanted them to repent and change their ways.

    "And God saw….and God repented….and He did it not." Jonah 3:10

    Blown away by the mercy of God today, for Nineveh, for Jonah and even for ME! Blessings, friends!!

  • Love & Zest

    I being reminded that repentance is not self seeking or meeting God halfway, but turning around and letting his mercy sink deep… it's all about what God is doing. There is nothing we can DO to deserve or repay him for this gift.

  • JessicaLoves___

    May we always seek to bring love and God's message of redemption to those we deem to be "the worst". (After all, he saved us, didn't he!?!) He will be glorified all the more by it!

  • Wow. What people in my life do I think are too far gone? Surely sometimes I think hopelessly of my old atheist friends or of audacious celebrities, but I only put this judgement upon them up until I remember my own sin. To know that we are never far gone… that no matter how I've messed up royally, God is faithful not only to receive me back, but to also heal and restore me… it's too big for me to comprehend. Lord, give me the heart the sees the needs of people and seeks to fulfill those needs in your will. Give me the heart that does not exclude anyone from your love, but only dares to love those unlovable people even more.

    God is so daring. His love is so real and raw and intense in its pursuit of us. Father God, thank you!! You alone are God, slow to anger, quick to compassion and abounding in grace and mercy!!

  • I Love Serving God;Cos he’s d God dt brings us out frm d Miry Clay n sets us on a solid Rock…dts our God…Even wen Jonah tot they were far gone..bt God’s mercy reaches 2 d blackest heart..mks me remember 1 sam16-17…”For God does not see as man sees;4 man luks at d outward appearance bt d lord luks at d heart….he saw dere heart;d ninevites hrt..it ws repentant n he forgave…4 a broken n a contrite heart d Lord will not despise…
    I’ve made a lot of mistakes;wrongs n am repentant…God loved David so..bcos wen he confessed his sins he neva went bak 2 dem…I waNna b jst lik d ninevites like david…am repentant…n i knw God wl surely see me tru in ma repentance…thanks SRT..2day ws d best….

  • Jonah's disobedience and and the mercy God had shown him was a testimony in itself to the power, mercy, and grace of God. The people of Ninevah were told “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Maybe I missed something, but I don't see where God said, I will give you 40 days to clean up your act, or you will be destroyed." They chose to reveal to God how desperate they were for the same mercy he showed Jonah. They demonstrated with the sack cloth, ashes, and fasting that they were truly repentant, knowing that they did not deserve the Mercy, but revealed that they had Faith in God by their actions. How willing are we to demonstrate to God how much we NEED his mercy and forgiveness? How often do my actions reveal that I have the faith, to believe that strongly? How often do we inwardly refuse to reach out to those we deem unworthy?

  • Once. Just once, those horrible Ninevites heard the message of God and repented.

    How many years did the Israelites go without responding to Him? That's why Jesus said the Ninevites will condemn the nation of Israel (Matthew 12:41).

    What about us? I know I turned my back on a God over the years many times, not wanting the answers He supplied, not believing His provisions to be sufficient for me. Wanting — like a stubborn toddler– to "do it by myself" and not wanting to depend on His perfect timing.

    And those eye-gougers and fish-slappers a (yay VeggieTales) heard His message of condemnation and responded immediately. I know the Message, yet still struggle with following Him. I'm so grateful for his undeserved mercy.

    • AnnaLee

      Amen drasch. God is so good to us despite ourselves, no matter what we've done. It's a huge truth to swallow every morning, but one so worthy of it. Still trying to wrap my head around it today.

    • Rachel Nordgren


      Great minds think alike.

      I had never quite grasped what Jesus was saying in Matthew 12:38-42 until I read your words. The Ninevites CHANGED the way they were going, just like that. The Israelites (just like me) were stubborn and kept rejecting God. A lightbulb just went off for me. Thank you!

  • Punkswife

    Rebecca thank you for this message. It's exactly what I needed. I read the passages and you put in words what God put on my heart. How awesome is God's patience, mercy and forgiveness? If we could only realize there is no degree to sin that separates us, we would learn not to judge.

    Have a beautiful day Sweet Sisters.

    ~Be blessed and a blessing.

  • Joanne Sher

    Ive heard people say that Jonah preaching repentance to Ninevah would emotionally be like a Holocaust survivor preaching repentance to the Nazis. But it’s all about God. None of us deserve mercy – yet, if we repent, He gives it. Who am I to say anyone is too far gone?

    • AnnaLee

      Wow. That puts everything in a whole new light for me. God gave Jonah such strength, such love that endures beyond human capability, to be able to speak to them as if they were humans and not just monsters. Even if He still thought they were– obedience like that produce revolutionary change. Wow. Praise God.

    • Rachel Nordgren

      Wowza…that sheds a whole new light on the situation. I don't know a lot about the Ninevites…that's prompting me to do a bit more research!

  • Something that has always struck me about this text is that I've always wanted there to be more to Jonah's message…that surely an entire city didn't repent simply because Jonah said to. I mean, he had to have preached long, sweeping, messages right? Wrong! All we get report of is a simple call to repentance. I love how this displays God's great power and mercy, that when He calls, nothing can stand in the way of bringing sinners' hearts to Him. Thanks for sharing, Rebecca!

    • Steph_Lilac

      Morgan I'm with you sister! Surely there had to be a 10 hour sermon that wasn't recorded or a 3 day deliverance revival that didn't make it in the 4 chapters of Jonah. Then I hear ever so clear "With God all things are possible." John 12:32 says it best "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." Jesus didn't set any stipulations or sermon lengths for lifting Him up. As we see in Jonah, it took but a few words for a whole city to repent.

      • Gema Muniz

        God is amazing! When God sents us to do something is because he was already working. At times we forget that God is always working and thats when we fall into the Jonah perspective. We believe that God has sent us to do something impossible or something we are not capable of doing, but we forget God is guiding us and preparing the road for us.

  • Christina

    It is pretty amazing to me how we can hear something over and over and over again, but until God peels the scales of a darkened heart from our spiritual eyes, we don't "get it." I call that an "ah ha!" moment. And it would seem that God gave the Ninevites their "ah ha!" moment at one preaching of His message from Jonah. God gave repentance. God relented from the disaster HE had determined to visit on them. God used Jonah, despite himself…. or maybe to make His mercy even more real "to those who were to believe in [Jesus] for eternal life." (1 Tim. 1:16) "Ah ha"-mazing!!!!

    • LaurieEW

      Couldn't help but think of the USA, while reading this. Pray that eyes will soon be opened. And also for we believers to spread the message of repentance.

  • "The story of Nineveh’s repentance is about God’s perfect patience, his deep mercy, and his profound forgiveness."

    God is beyond awesome! He is perfect in all His ways, and if we are to live like Him, or represent Him in our walk we should strive to have Patience, Mercy and Forgiveness! For me having patience is a tough cookie, I tend to want things now and usually the easiest way out. I guess Jonah wanted an easy ministry not Nineveh where he might have lost his nose, or ears or even eyes.

    But God!

    God took the Jonah to Nineveh and used him to spread his word so well that they were all saved. If only Jonah acknowledged the patience, mercy and forgiveness of God he could have skipped the storm and the fish entirely.

    But God!

    He used the perfectly imperfect Jonah and he is still more than able to use every one of us too. Thanks SRT for another great start to my morning, have a great day ladies.

    • LaurieEW

      Yes, imperfect, Jonah. I think he obeyed out of guilt. Do I do that too? Yes. And He even uses us then.

    • AnnaLee

      Yes! God is so patient with all of us. Sometimes it's so easy to lose sight of who God is– that He is slow to anger, quick to compassion and ABOUNDING in grace and mercy (Psalm 103:8, Numbers 14:18). We are imperfect, all of us, and all sin is like that of the Ninevites– but a truly repentant heart is all he desires to bring us back into His blessing. That's all! Praise you, God.

  • There is a children’s song in church we sing that came into my head when reading this. .

    Grace is when God gives us the things we don’t deserve…

    Mercy is when God does not give us what we deserve…

    He does it because he loves us!

    Two really tricky concepts that we shouldn’t shy away from. I was really convicted on Sunday by working with some amazing 7 year olds- there faith and attitudes blew me away. I think the sentiment is echoed here- sometimes we just have to trust and pray. Sometimes we are just amazed by God’s love. So thankful.

    • LaurieEW

      Don't you love those lessons we learn from His little ones. Perks of being a servant with children!

    • AnnaLee

      Amen to that! Working with children as a tutor, I am continually blown away by what God teaches me through them. So precious, so important. Praise God.

    • Kat

      In church on Sunday my pastor shared something with us, that really made me think, and applies to this: The Gospel is shallow enough for a child to play in, but deep enough to drown an elephant. I love that the Lord has blessed us so with his Truth, with such complex simplicity, and simple complexities – so that there is so much understanding available to us on all levels.

      • Gema Muniz

        Amen! Kids not only teach us, they are also a great example to us. At our church we have a weekly bible study group, at the end of our meeting we get together and ask for prayer requests that way we can pray for each other. My nephew which is only eight years old asked for us to pray for him to read the bible and to maintain a prayer life with God. I was completely blown away by his request! Is amazing how kids at such an early age understand what God requires of us, while we at times just brush it off.

  • This has come in truly perfect timing to my heart. It has touched me. I am convicted to continue to show mercy and love towards those who are so close to me but yet keep making poor choices. Gods love and mercy is perfect. The story of Jonah tells us that God doesn’t give up on his people. Wether we are the running messenger or the sinner deep in sin, God is still extending his mercy. And he will continue to until the end. Thanks #shereadstruth!!!

    • Rachel Nordgren

      Amen, Ruth! It's awesome that you pointed out two of God's examples of grace in this story…grace to the disobedient believer and grace to the flagrantly sinful city. His grace is enough for each and every one of us, no matter what our situation is.

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