Who can tell?
“Who can tell? God may turn and relent; He may turn from His burning anger so that we will not perish!” Jonah 3:9
How great is the power of God over the hearts of men! Nineveh was the capital of a powerful empire. The inhabitants were Heathen. The many prophets who, during a long series of years, had spoken in the name of the Lord to his professed people of Judah and Israel, had spoken almost in vain. The messengers were often mocked, and their message despised. The inhabitants of Nineveh, it is probable, had never seen a true prophet until Jonah was sent to them. If they had reasoned on his prediction, they might have thought it very improbable, that a great city, the head of a great kingdom, and in a time of peace, could be in danger of an overthrow within forty days. But it is said, “they believed God.” (Jonah 3:5) The awful denunciation made a general, a universal impression. The king arose from his throne, laid aside his robes, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. A sudden cessation of business and of pleasure took place; he proclaimed a strict fast, the rigor of which was extended even to the cattle. His subjects readily complied, and unanimously concurred in crying for mercy: though they had no encouragement but a ‘perhaps’, “Who can tell? God may turn and relent; He may turn from His burning anger so that we will not perish!”
by John Newton, February 28, 1794,
the day appointed for the national fast