When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. Jonah 3:10 (NIV).
Pretty amazing, don’t you think? Ninevah deserves to be smacked down for all the flavors of evil it cherished, but they become repentant so God relents. All throughout the Old Testament that happened, from the Israelites in the desert to Amos’ prophecies about Israel in exile, God called on His people to repent, and He relents when they repent.
Notice that God didn’t change His mind. God forgave. God had compassion. God backed away from His righteous anger. But also don’t overlook the fact that God didn’t change His mind. Sin is still sin and still needs atonement. God called it out.
Yet He seeks healing. Sin is a breach of the relationship God made for us to enjoy with Him. He’s holy, eternal, supernatural, and all love and justice. He doesn’t want to keep that all to Himself, so He made mankind to share it with Him. To increase His glory by spreading His love around. Yet we chose sin. Adam chose it and every mortal who’s followed chose the same, including me and you. No excuses: everyone has; everyone does.
Everyone except Jesus. Jesus, who is the only salvation for mankind, who is the only one to repair the breach, heal the relationship, save us from the spiritual damnation that is separation from God. Jesus Christ: the same Son of God who was God when Ninevah repented and its king declared the city would follow a better way. God didn’t tolerate sin, then or now. But He did something bigger: He forgave it. He made the necessary atonement.
Sin is sin. It’s not that God seeks vengeance. If you draw that conclusion from the Bible, I urge you to take another, more informed look. God doesn’t seek revenge, but sin still needs to be accounted for; the spiritual books need to be reconciled. The books were squared at Calvary; the breach was healed on Easter.
With Ninevah, God relented from His anger and patiently, mercifully, used another day to get to the time when Jesus would make all things new. Thousands of years after that, it’s still the case. The sacrifice Jesus made of Himself still atoned for all sins after, including ours. Ninevah repented and God suspended His promise to destroy them. The same is true for us. Our sins are ours and Jesus has already taken the punishment for them. Whether we accept that or not is the choice every person since His time has had to make. Pretty amazing, eh? No excuses now; will we repent?
For further reading: Exodus 32:14, Jeremiah 18:8, Amos 7:6, Jonah 4:1
Dear Lord, what’s amazing is Your forgiveness, Your patience, Your mercy. All praise to You for them.
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