Just as we learned from Jonah, where the Lord “repented,” though it was not actually the Lord who repented but the Ninevites…the Lord changed His course of action because of the Ninevites’ repentance. So, cannot God do with us as the potter deals with his creation?
The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it. ~Jeremiah 18:1-10 NKJV
The funny thing is that many look at this and believe this is a contradiction…but is it truly a contradiction? No, I do not believe so. God does not repent in the traditional sense of the word as man would repent. So, what is repentance? According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, repentance means:
There are three Greek words used in the New Testament to denote repentance. (1.) The verb _metamelomai_ is used of a change of mind, such as to produce regret or even remorse on account of sin, but not necessarily a change of heart. This word is used with reference to the repentance of Judas (Matt. 27:3).
(2.) Metanoeo, meaning to change one’s mind and purpose, as the result of after knowledge. This verb, with (3) the cognate noun _metanoia_, is used of true repentance, a change of mind and purpose and life, to which remission of sin is promised.
Evangelical repentance consists of (1) a true sense of one’s own guilt and sinfulness; (2) an apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ; (3) an actual hatred of sin (Ps. 119:128; Job 42:5, 6; 2 Cor. 7:10) and turning from it to God; and (4) a persistent endeavour after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of his commandments.
The true penitent is conscious of guilt (Ps. 51:4, 9), of pollution (51:5, 7, 10), and of helplessness (51:11; 109:21, 22). Thus he apprehends himself to be just what God has always seen him to be and declares him to be. But repentance comprehends not only such a sense of sin, but also an apprehension of mercy, without which there can be no true repentance (Ps. 51:1; 130:4).
Was God truly “repentant”? No, but as the word means, in one of it’s definitions, He changed His mind. Was it proper for the writer to use the word that he chose to use? Probably not, but it was a means to get across the message that God would change His wrath to joyfulness, because the penitent changed from their evil ways to the ways of God.
I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. ~Luke 15:7 NKJV
With this promise to later on be said by Jesus, could you imagine the joy over the Ninevite’s turning over a new leaf and turning their lives over to God? Such joy to be had and noticed!So, was God sorry? No, He was glad and joyful that those who followed a path of evil had changed their minds and hearts to align with God’s heart and will. But He did change His course of action, instead of destroying the people of Nineveh He blessed them. Jonah went up on the hill to watch the Ninevites revert back to their old ways, because in Jonah’s mind “you just cannot trust a Ninevite!” On a side note God is always sorry and heartbroken that man chooses a path that leads him to Hell, because God “…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.“
In the book of Ezekiel, and other places within the biblical text, we are told:
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.” ~Ezekiel 3:17-21 NKJV
God is forgiving, if we are repentant. But God will hold each of us accountable for the sins of our neighbors and brothers IF we do not warn them as we are told to do. We are each called to be ministers, priests, and evangelists. Bearers of the Word of God and therefore, we are to warn all peoples we come into contact with that their souls may live with God.
We are the “Watchmen”, for the sake of men’s souls and eternal life! This is the endgame of bringing the word to others…to open their hearts in order to bring about a repentant heart that God my yield his mercy and forgiveness. Regardless of how repentant we may be, none of us is good…NO NOT ONE!
May God Richly Bless You, My Beloved!
MK Murphy, PhD, DD