The story of Jonah
The story of Jonah being swallowed by a great fish is one of the most famous incidents in the Old Testament. It illustrates how far God was willing to go to ensure that his wayward prophet took the message of repentance to the people of Nineveh.
This large city was the capital of Assyria, a nation despised by the Israelites. Yet the Ninevites repented when they heard of God's impending judgment, unlike the Israelites who kept ignoring similar messages of judgment sent to them. Thus the book of Jonah is a challenge to the self-righteous and ethnocentric attitudes of the Israelites.
Being called by God — Jeremiah
To Jeremiah God said, "Before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
When Jeremiah spoke his call to repentance was severe. This may have been because his own call was severe "There is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones." (Jeremiah 20:9).
With such a calling it is no wonder why he called the people to acknowledge their guilt, there shallow piety, their religious infidelity and the luxury loving rich—who did not help the poor. How do we call people to repentance today in our churches?
Prayer for National Trouble
And Samuel took a lamb, and offering it for a burnt offering unto the Lord;
and Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel and the Lord heard him.
— 1 Samuel 7:9
The need for divine help felt in time of war drives men to God. Battlefield prayers were common in the early history of Israel. So Samuel prays before the battle of Ebenezar. The people asked him to pray for them in such an emergency. God heard Samuel's prayer.
What do we learn from this experience?
1. God is more ready to hear the prayers of his people when they repent than when they remain proud and disobedient. Amen.
2. God's ministers can pray with more comfort and confidence for a repentant people, than when the people do not repent.