Restoration & Praise
Christian Fellowship Center
Devotional Reading: Acts 11:11-13
Background Scripture: Jonah 3; Nahum 1-3
LESSON SCRIPTURES: Jonah 3
Exerted from: Standard Lesson Commentary 2016-2017 (KJV): StandardLessonCmy2016KJV.
1 And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying,
2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.
3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey.
4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:
8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.
9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
10 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.
After participating in this lesson, each learner should be able to:
1. Describe the reactions of the people and king of Nineveh to Jonah’s message.
2. Explain God’s reaction to the Ninevites’ repentance.
3. Make a list of the actions and attitudes of repentance that he or she will model in the week ahead.
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Some matters are easy to forgive. But occasionally a news report will tell of a person who forgives a killer who took the life of a family member. Most, however, find it impossible to forgive when a person kidnaps, tortures, or takes the life of a loved one.
Even so, there are examples of people who befriend the criminal in prison. Upon release, he or she is invited to share a meal or even live in the same house until a job and permanent housing are obtained. The emotions go from hatred to compassion to forgiveness.
Even given the absence of criminal behavior, people find it very difficult to request, offer, and/or receive forgiveness. When someone is offended, months or years may pass with no contact between parties. Eventually, one may extend an olive branch. Communication grows over a period of time, forgiveness is extended and accepted, and the parties eventually interact as if nothing ever happened. To seek forgiveness requires maturity. So does offering it.
Think about that from God’s perspective as you imagine yourself sitting on a hillside overlooking a modern city at dusk. The sun goes down and lights appear. The city bustles in the darkness as hundreds or thousands engage in sin. When the accumulated impact of thousands of sinful acts is considered, you may wonder why God does not act to rid the world of all sin!
But God has acted: He sent His Son to redeem humanity from sin. This act is described in these well-known words: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
God wants to forgive, and He does. But on a day known only to God, it will be too late either to seek or accept forgiveness because it will no longer be offered (see Acts 17:30, 31). The residents of Nineveh knew their time would be up in 40 days, and they repented. Since we do not know when Jesus will return, repentance is all the more imperative!
Understanding the Lesson
The city of Nineveh is the place for the events considered in this lesson. This city is first mentioned in the Bible when a descendant of Noah’s son Ham built it (Genesis 10:11). It was a major city in the Assyrian Empire and became its capital about 700 BC. This is often misunderstood, for many think it was the capital in Jonah’s day, but it was not. Jonah’s time period was more than 50 years prior to the city’s becoming the capital.
King Sennacherib was the Assyrian ruler who selected Nineveh as his capital. He is the one who greatly enlarged it and built a very large palace. He is also the one who lost 185,000 troops in a single night (see 2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36). The city was sited on the eastern side of the Tigris River; its ruins are across the river from the modern city of Mosul in Iraq.
Major cities often seem to be cesspools of sin. This was certainly true of Nineveh. The reason given for Jonah’s mission to Nineveh was that the wickedness of the city had got God’s attention (Jonah 1:2).
Sin and wickedness often produce feelings of guilt. When a city experiences a tragedy, conscientious people may wonder whether their sin is the cause. The nation of Assyria was in a period of temporary decline during Jonah’s day. Provincial leaders acted as kings in their respective regions. This is normal in and of itself, but there were conflicts among them. These were exacerbated by famines. The area also experienced devastating plagues in 765 and 759 BC. The ancients considered eclipses to be bad omens, and a solar eclipse occurred on June 15, 763 BC, visible over much of Assyria. Jonah’s message of impending doom may have had a greater impact because of some or all of these astronomical, economic, and political events.
The Need to be Forgiven
Fred had just become a Christian, and he was fully aware of God’s forgiving love. Fred had a great memory, and he could recall things he had done that were wrong. His conscience would not let him brush them aside.
With thoughts of restitution, Fred decided to visit an acquaintance in the same town. After being invited in, Fred took some currency from his billfold, pushed it toward the other man, and said, “I owe you this.” The offer was resisted with the protest, “Freddie, you don’t owe me anything.”
Fred then confessed to a time he had stolen a pig and sold it when he was running low on cash. He was sure that there were so many pigs in the herd that one would not be missed. He was right; it was not. Even so, Fred insisted on restitution, and the money was accepted. Fred also asked for forgiveness for taking advantage of a friend. The forgiveness was granted, and the forgiveness in love strengthened a friendship in Christ.
Repentance is demonstrated in its fruits. This was just as true of the ancient Ninevites as it was for Fred. Where’s your fruit?
From the Standard Lesson Commentary 2016-2017 (KJV): StandardLessonCmy2016KJV.