The King of Nineveh responded immediately to Jonah’s call for repentance. In Jonah 3:6 it says that the king stood up, took off his royal robes, put on sackcloth, and sat down.
If Jonah’s message had only inspired, the response from the King would have been quite different. Inspiration may have created conversation, even contrition, but it may not have been the road to personal life change.
Something else must have happened because the King doesn’t hear the words and form a focus group on morality. He doesn’t write new laws into the judicial system that limit the amount of brutality caused outside their community. Although both of those suggestions would have been welcomed, there is something far more personal and soul-changing in the King’s response.
Instead of inspiration, he gets vision--not just of a better life, but what he was living for.
In standing and taking off royal robes, he surrenders personal lordship. He surrenders control and even arrogance. He puts on sackcloth. He demonstrates a change of heart. A determination to live differently.
Then he sits down; down into in a new reality. He changes his reality because he has transferred his trust to God, and as a result, everything has to change.
This morning I participated in a prayer meeting for ministers and professors across Yale. We read this prayer together while talking about surrender and creating space in our every day to make Christ Lord.
Take one minute, put away all distractions, and if you can, read this verse passage out loud. And then as you finish, close your eyes and take the challenge of the King of Nineveh: to stand, surrender personal lordship, transfer your trust to God, and then sit down in that reality.
You can trust Him. He loves you completely.
O Lord Jesus Christ, there is so much to drag us back:
empty pursuits, trivial pleasures, unworthy cares.
There is so much to frighten us away:
a pride too cowardly to submit to being helped,
apprehensiveness which evades danger to its own destruction,
anguish for sin which shuns holy cleansing.
But You are stronger than all these, so draw us now more strongly to You. Amen.