The King James version of the Bible is very interesting, because it is the only version that states God repented. A rather interesting choice of words, but since “repentance” means, “a change of mind and purpose and life, to which remission of sin is promised” according to Easton’s Bible Dictionary.
“And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” ~Jonah 3:10 KJV
God does not sin, so that is not necessary to have a debt cancelled; also, His life does not need to be changed; so this leaves to change His mind and purpose for the Ninevites. Because the Ninevites, of their own free will and their own accord, changed their purpose from following a pathway of evil, paganism, and debauchery. In other words, the Ninevites repented of their ways and changed their purpose to that of God’s will. They could have chosen to not listen to the word of God, or the warning of God, which Jonah evangelized throughout Nineveh. From the greatest to the lowliest of them, they dressed in sackcloth and sat in ashes and they fasted…not even a drink of water.
This book of Jonah has a great many teachings, but here, in this particular part, we learn of second chances from God, even to the Gentiles, and we learn of our free will, and let us not forget about repentance.
In the remaining books of the Old Testament people came to the man of God to learn of what God had to say, but here in the book of Jonah, it is a little bit different. In this book, the man of God was sent to a specific place to preach to the people of the city of Nineveh the warning of their impending destruction. The first evangelist, so-to-say. Either the man of God was in the king’s employ (King of Israel), or he was in the service of a foreign king (Israel conquered and Israelites enslaved.) The next known evangelist was John the Baptist and after him was Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God. It was during Jesus’ ministry that his followers were sent out to preach the word of God (ref Matthew 10) to their fellow Israelites. After Jesus’ resurrection his follower’s were given the Great Commission (ref Matthew 28:16-20).
Now, getting back to Jonah, did God change His mind? No! The Ninevites changed their minds via their free will. God will want you to follow and believe Him and all He has done for you, as well as others. However, He will not make up your mind for you, you must do that yourself. Look at Jonah: He did not want to preach to the Ninevites because he knew if they repented, that God would avert His judgement of them and be that ever forgiving God that we know. That God who yields the infinite number of second chances until our dying breath. If we have not chosen to repent by that time, we will be judged according to all of our choices throughout our living days on this earth. Now, what would happen if Jonah decided a second time that he still did not want the Ninevites to be on the receiving end of God’s forgiving heart? I believe that that same fish would be waiting for him again if he went by sea, or something else if by land. God was bound and determined to give the Ninevites another chance! And I believe it was to be Jonah to do that job. Also, God needed His prophet to follow that task He had placed before him to do. God needed to win over His own messenger to His way of thinking. Teaching Jonah that he did not need to preach to the Ninevites because he loved them, but to go preach to the Ninevites because:
- God told him to go and preach to the Ninevites, and
- God loved them enough to give them another chance.
Simply put, if God tells us to do something, we should do it. We also have the obligation to “test every spirit,” but we are obligated to our Creator. Also, though we may have reservations, or judgements, against others…we are obligated to talk to those people because God loves them, just as God loves us. We are all creations of God and are in receipt of compassion, forgiveness, or judgement by our Creator. We have been predestined (meaning that God knew what your decision was going to be before to beginning of time) according to God’s plan and His will, also we were chosen according to His purpose for His praise and glory. (ref Ephesians 1:3-14)
For those who may disbelieve in God, there are proofs everywhere around us: cosmologically, archaeologically, textually, etc. Could be as simple as a flower, the process of photosynthesis, the birth of a child, etc. You can say there is not enough evidence for God, but what exactly are you looking for? Are you even looking? Reading? Or researching? If you have no idea as to what you want, you will never attain it! You cannot hit a target you do not know exists. The same Goes for knowing God, you won’t always get an invitation or an explanation. You may just have an “Ah-HA!” moment at something as simple as a red or green light. Who is to say?
If you want to truly find God in your life, YOU need to pray, YOU need to read, and YOU need to associate with fellow believers. It is not as easy as you may think, for you are constantly going against many people. Mentally you are beaten down, sometimes physically, and often Spiritually. But it is your ability to survive those tumultuous times that your Spirit is tempered, your mental capacity is tested, and your physical being is also tested. We sometimes succeed, and many times we fail miserably – or so it would seem – but we can rebound because of who we are…we are adopted sons and daughters of the Most High God, through the blood of Jesus and our faith in Him!
Next time you go to work, look at that co-worker that you have not liked since he/she started working there, or because of some negative interaction with them. Maybe, just maybe, God is pushing you to talk to them, so don’t prejudge them because God will not judge you before your time. Perhaps this person is your Ninevite moment and you are playing the part of Jonah. Just think about that for a moment…
May God Richly Bless You, My Beloved!
MK Murphy, PhD, DD