Read Jonah 3:1-5
1 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. (NIV)
The first time Jonah was told to go to Nineveh he ran away in the opposite direction. No such response this time. It seems God had neither given up on Jonah nor given up on Nineveh. Human disobedience might make things harder but God is not thwarted. We can assume Jonah learnt from his past experience of running away that no matter how far you run away you can’t entirely escape from the presence of God.
We know from what happens later that Jonah didn’t really want Nineveh to be saved. They were the bad guys and deserved to be punished. But he obeyed God, perhaps rather grudgingly. And the message he preached was not designed to win friends and influence people. It was a no-holds-barred command to change their ways in order to avert disaster.
The people of Nineveh did repent: they came to realise the error of their ways. A reminder to us of the power of God. The unlikeliest people can respond to God’s message if we bring it to them. Even if we bring it to them with a less-than-pure heart.
It seems God will go to great lengths to bring people back to himself. He will chase after disobedient prophets. He will give such prophets a second chance. He will not demand purity of heart and motive from them. He is a God who loves rebellious people and uses other rebellious people to rescue and restore them.