Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
The book of Jonah often serves as a reminder of God’s gracious ways. Time after time, the God of all calls people to repentance and change. This even for his prophet, Jonah. After Jonah’s refusal to go to the people of Nineveh, the Lord sends him again. The unwilling prophet does speak God’s word, a message of warning.
For the time being we lay aside the questions about God’s intention. God’s revealed character always seeks to reconcile people to himself. What is God’s message to the people of Nineveh? They are being warned. Flee destruction!
When confronted with their options, the people of Nineveh believe God. They don’t want to be destroyed. They engage in life change, at least for the time being.
Now we can question God’s attitude. Does his forgiveness in verse 10 mean that God’s attitude has changed? Does it mean that the people’s righteous response pacified him? Does it mean that God lied to the people, saying the city would be demolished but not really meaning it? Not at all.
God in his mercy has several layers to his revelation. He remains the just judge of heaven and earth. Because all have sinned, all deserve destruction. He has provided only one way of rescue, through his substitutionary death on the cross in the person of God the Son. His desire is to reconcile the world to himself. And he is quite able to do that. But he has chosen to do it only through the means he prescribed. It is only as people turn from their sin and trust that he is the God who has provided rescue that they are actually delivered to safety. God rightly condemns the world and all in it. He also rightly forgives the people of Nineveh.
What is our reaction? Do we become mired in our unbelief? Do we remain hostile to God’s work? May the Lord have mercy on us.
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