Judgment Pronounced, Forgiveness Offered

 The Judgment Pronounced, and Forgiveness Offered.

Jonah 3

“When God saw their deeds, that they turned away from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them.  And He did not do it.”

 

            We often read the prophets with a degree of reluctance.  Much of the prophecies recorded center upon the coming judgment upon the nations because of their sin and rebellion.  The prophets would denounce corruption and proclaim the coming judgment of God, and this does not fit our desire for positive and uplifting messages.  We want messages that encourage us in times of trials and offer hope in the face of adversity.  We want messages that are centered on the love and grace of God.  As a result, some avoid the prophetic literature altogether.  Nevertheless, we must recognize that God is a righteous and just God.  Sin cannot go unabated and unpunished.  Even in our judicial system, we realize that justice requires a penalty for sin.

Furthermore, while justice does bring reformation, the ultimate requirement of justice is punitive.  One must suffer the consequences of breaking the law. However, when we read through the prophetic pronouncements of judgment, there is a delay between the pronouncement and the execution of the punishment. In this delay, God gives one last opportunity for repentance and forgiveness.         

            When Jonah arrived in the city, he began walking through the crowds, proclaiming that Nineveh would be overthrown in forty days.  Surprisingly, the people were struck with fear and repentance instead of rejecting Jonah's message.  As the people called upon one another to fast and pray in repentance, word reached the King of Nineveh. He was also struck with fear and called the people to join him in an extended period of fasting and prayer. Then, in a remarkable display of repentance, the king covered himself with sackcloth and ashes and called everyone to join him in a fast. 

            In verse 8, we see the genuineness of their repentance.  Not only did they seek God’s mercy, but they turned away from their wickedness.  Genuine repentance is not just being sorrowful for what we have done or being sorry for the consequences. True repentance involves acknowledging that we have offended God’s character and a willingness to change our behavior.  It is to set a different course of action in our life.  Instead of engaging in sin, we now pursue the righteousness of God.  Many people are sorry for what they have done because of the consequences of their actions, but they are not willing to change their lives in response.  They say they are sorrowful only to return to the very same activity the next opportunity.

            In Verse 10, we see then the grace of God. God does not ignore or reject a genuinely repentant heart, even when it is known for its wickedness. On the contrary, he is willing to forgive and restore us.  Thus in verse 10, God relents his judgment and forgives the people for their sins. 

            The hope of every person is that the basis of our judgment and forgiveness is not the extent of our sin but the extent of our repentance.  It does not matter how much we have fallen into the depths of evil; if few repent and seek God, he is willing to cleanse, forgive, and restore us to a favorable relationship with Him. The confrontation with the message of God’s judgment is to lead us to the necessity of repentance and forgiveness.

            Instead of skipping the prophets and their message of judgment, we need to be reminded of it.  We must remember that sin has consequences and that God will bring judgment.  However, God, in his mercy, warns us so that we might turn before the sentence is executed.  We are not judged because God is angry and vindictive; we are judged because we reject the grace He offers and refuse to seek forgiveness.  It is not too late, even if we are still entrapped in sin.  God gives us every opportunity to repent.  Today is the day of salvation. 

 

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