by Dorette Saunders
Perhaps when you read Chapter 3 of the story of Jonah, you cheer when you learn that God is planning to wipe out the city of Nineveh because of their great wickedness. Perhaps, like Jonah, the prophet, who has been ordained to deliver the message, you can’t wait to hear the big boom, and watch the whole place go up in smoke. The story, however, does not follow that plot line. Instead, the Scriptures tell us that “The Ninevites believed God…” (Jonah 3:5, NIV) and everyone, from the king to the people, and their animals, took part in a solemn fast.
But it was not enough to fast. The king commanded that “everyone call urgently on God…. give up their evil ways and their violence” (v. 8).
Can you envision the scene? The drunken orgies stopped. The fear-mongering stopped. The hate crimes and the misogyny, the lying, stealing, murders. All the wickedness came to a halt as the people prayed and repented.
The Ninevites knew that Jonah’s message from God was not an idle threat. If God said it, then God would do it. But the people also knew that God was compassionate and merciful, so they threw themselves on his mercy.
The Word of God tells us:
“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” (v. 10).
What do we know about God? Do we believe God’s Word? Do we trust in God’s mercy and compassion? Can we join with the writer of Lamentations in saying:
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
(Lamentations 3:22,23, NIV)
As we examine our lives, we find that it is because God loves us deeply why we are still here. That’s cause for thanksgiving and for praise. Yes, God is faithful. There is no God like our God. God takes no pleasure in us perishing. In fact, the Bible says,
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).
Repentance does not always eradicate punishment because sin, after all, does have consequences. But genuine repentance gives us a clean slate, a do-over, a chance to walk once more in the footsteps of our loving and forgiving God.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, one by one the walls of pride fall down. We repent of missing the mark, and wallowing in our mistakes. Forgive us for not trusting in your Word and give us the courage to walk in the glorious light of your Word. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.