“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. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, ”By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” 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 3:5-10)
This back half of Jonah 3 makes it crystal clear that when the Ninevites were confronted by God in Jonah’s preaching, they repented, just as the pagan sailors repented when confronted by God on the ship. In 3:5 we see that everyone in the city, from the greatest to the least repented. In 3:6-8 we see that the King of Nineveh (who was what we would call a governor) repented himself and then issued a decree, telling all the citizens of the city to not even eat or drink until they’ve mourned over their sin and repented. In 3:9 we see that they understood Jonah’s preaching, and that one of the reasons they repented was so that God would not destroy them in 40 days, and in 3:10 we see God again, being gracious to sinners by not destroying them.
I think we’ve grown accustomed to reading things like this and just pass on by without giving it a second thought. This is no small event, it was a huge deal! Why? Because Nineveh was a pagan, non-God following city. They had their own gods and idols they worshiped and sacrificed to. And not only did they not know of Israel’s God, they also were one of the most evil cultures to have ever existed, so much so that you would think they are too far away for God to reach!
But the glorious Truth here for us in Nineveh’s repentance is that no one is too far away to be submerged into the ocean of God’s grace! If God can save Nineveh, He can save you, and He can save me.