Text: “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” – Jonah 3:8.
Comment: This was the command give by the king of Nineveh on hearing that God Almighty had through Jonah the prophet decreed that the city would be destroyed in 40 days if they did not repent of their sins. Surprisingly, “the very first day when Jonah entered the city and began to preach, the people repented” (Jonah 3:4, The Living Bible) Even the King of Nineveh “stepped down from his throne, laid aside his royal robes, put on sackcloth, and sat in ashes”.
Accordingly, the people afflicted themselves with hunger, and bereft of their comforts, they were goaded into the path of sobriety. Job the prophet says: “Then he sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded. He openeth also their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity. If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures. But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge” – Job 36:9-12.
Thus, through penitence, they made good use of their time in seeking the LORD; unlike the men of Sodom who jeered at Lot when he was preaching to them. King David says: “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” – Psalm 51:16, 17.