Text: Jonah 3: 5-10
Introduction: Yom Kippur is the culmination of the “Ten Days of Awe,” in which we are to conduct a soul search of ourselves and root out any inequity brought to our attention by the Ruach (Holy Spirit). During Rosh Hashana and the 10 Days of Awe We were to make repairs in ourselves, with our fellow man, and with YHVH Elohim. Traditionally, on this day rabbis read from that which is my text today because it is an example of what true repentance for sin before YHVH is. We know that Jonah reluctantly went to Nineveh a great heathen city and preached YHVH’s message of condemnation and hope. This is Nineveh’s reaction.
Jonah 3: 5-10
5 So the people of Nineveh believed YHVH, 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 G-d: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.
9 Who can tell if YHVH will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
10 And YHVH saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and YHVH repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
Verse five tells us out of chronological order what happened in Nineveh, but we should observe that this sequence leading to repentance started in verse six.
In verse six we learn who was the first to believe YHVH and respond. It was the king. That’s an important distinction for if our leaders ignore a warning then most likely will the majority of the populace.
A nation’s leaders, in any crisis must take the lead if the whole nation is to respond undivided. They are the establishment and regardless of what we say we look to our leaders to set the course. If leaders do not take the initiative, we become divided. Think what would have happened if the King of Nineveh had reacted like Pharaoh, if he had hardened his heart and told the populaces don’t worry, we don’t need to be concerned or who is this god that we should listen to him? Nineveh would have been destroyed. So we see here, conviction begins at the top, and spirals down to the most common person. A Leader sets the standard by his own repentance and subsequent response before the nation.
In verse seven the king of Nineveh reinforced his decision by proclaiming that all his subjects should acknowledge their acts from the greatest to the smallest and demonstrate this by fasting and afflicting their souls.
Verse eight calls on every man to call out to YHVH in repentance, not only confessing their sin, but to turn away every man from his evil and violent ways. So, we see affliction of the soul is followed by turning away from our evil ways. Profession is followed by right action.
Verse nine recognizes the sovereignty of YHVH. There is no assumption that YHVH Elohim will stay His hand and not destroy them anyway, but there is hope in His mercy. We are not dealmakers with YHVH. We should not respond to YHVH’s call for repentance out of fear but out of right action being even then willing to accept whatever punishment He deems. Perhaps, in His mercy He will forego the harshest punishment we truly deserve.
In verse ten we see an interesting statement. “And YHVH saw their works, that they turned from their evil way…” Look at the word rendered “works.” In Hebrew it is mah-as-eh’; it is from the Hebrew root word, aw-saw’; which means; to do or make an action (good or bad). What should we learn from this? It is enough to merely profess our sins but if we are truly to be forgiven and turn the totality of YHVH’s wrath away we must follow our confession of sin with good works as described and given to us by YHVH Elohim in His Torah.
Yom Kippur is as important for us today as it was before the Advent of our Messiah Yahshua. Though we might be reconciled to YHVH Elohim through Yahshua we are still responsible for what good or evil works we commit.
This season should impress upon us the need to abstain from evil and embrace YHVH’s good. When our sin is revealed to us through the prompting of the Ruach HaKodesh, we are to truly repent in sackcloth and affliction turning back to Him, humbly throwing ourselves upon His mercy. May all of us heed Jonah’s warning, afflict our souls, confess and turn away from evil insuring that we will not be blotted from the “Book of Life.”
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart