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When God Saw What They Did... God Relented

21 February • Wednesday of the First Week in Lent


Jonah 3:1-10

1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth. 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

6 The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, 8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”

10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

Meditation

 

Several important insights emerge as we meditate on today’s text in the book of Jonah and all of Scripture.


The Holy Spirit will illumine them to us. But there is one that we must not miss. It is that God is one who relents (v.10).


However, one must not misunderstand that it is our repentance that causes God to relent. Rather, it is in God’s very nature to relent. Both Jonah 4:2 and Exodus 34:6 tells us that it is God’s character to be gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. God can’t wait to relent. It is His way of extending grace.


Out of His redeeming and relenting love, God sends Jonah to Nineveh with the message to repent. God takes the first initiative towards restoration. This is a recurring theme in Scripture.


As the Ninevites receive and respond to God’s word to repent, God relents as He has always intended to—or He would not have sent the prophet Jonah with the warning. Often, God calls out to us in our moments of unbelief, attitudes of resentment, or dispositions of rebellion—all signals of sin lurking in our spirits—that we might repent and return.

We discover, each time we do, that His is a relenting and redeeming love. Thanks be to God.


Even as God is a relenting God, our repentance is important. The Ninevites demonstrated genuine contrition and repentance—from the King to the kid in the flock. Although God is slow to anger and quick to forgive, we must not take God’s mercy and patience in vain, as Paul in 2 Corinthians 6 and Peter in 2 Peter 3 remind us. We must return to God with all our heart and repent from our sins with both mind and heart. The turnaround must be decisive and firm. This is an expression of faith.


Finally, a parting thought: God involves human agents in His expression of relenting love. Jonah was called and sent. God waits to involve us in His work of redemption in Christ Jesus. How might God be involving you here?


Prayer

 

Redeeming and Relenting God, grant me the grace, through Your enabling Spirit, to return to You each time I willfully rebel or allow my heart to stray. Restore me that I may truly love You and others, and experience afresh Your redeeming love. In the name of Jesus. Amen.


Action

 

Examine my heart to see if I have truly repented of all my sins. Rest in God’s redeeming love as promised in Zechariah 1:3 and 1 John 1:5-10.


Rev Dr Jimmy Tan

Lecturer in Pastoral and Practical Theology, Chaplain Trinity Theological College

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