2017-05-17 / Religion

God is willing to forgive those who repent

Sunday School Lesson
Rev. James Temples

As we read the account of this portion of the life of Jonah, the divine principle is shown — “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Romans 11:29 The assignment given to this prophet did not change, even though his personal actions were contrary to the revealed plan of our Heavenly Father, the Creator of the universe.

The divinely-prepared fish could not abide the presence of the rebellious prophet — “And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry, land.” Jonah 2:10 This man after that ordeal was open to the voice and revelation of the plan of God. He recorded, “And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time...” Jonah 3:1 Time seemed to have been of the essence for this doomed city, “Arise, go into Nineveh, that great a city, and preach unto it the preaching that I abid thee.” Jonah 3:2

As we read of this second call, it is interesting to compare the divine directives. The urgency of the action of Jonah was to be that of alarm. No whispered message would be sufficient for the warning that this city would need — and get. Both divine directives carried with them the need for immediate action on the part of Jonah, and the people who would hear his cries.

The record is specific, “So Jonah arose, and went into Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.” Jonah 3:3a A short description of the city was given, “Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey.” Jonah 3:3b The best evidence — presently — indicates that the circumference of Nineveh was about 60 miles. This city with its large population would about 50 years later become the capital of the country.

The message that was presented by the prophet was short, and to the point. “And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” Jonah 3:4 Since the message was urgent, there was no time for mincing words. He knew that he must quickly complete his task. His experience had taught him the importance of immediate obedience.

The message of the prophet did not fall on deaf ears. The record declares, “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.” Jonah 3:5 We are told that the “word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth and sat in ashes.” Jonah 3:6 The covering of sackcloth and ashes was an outward symbol of the level of remorse and repentance that these people were willing to show.

The subjects of the king were given instructions, indicating the changed attitude of this ruthless, pagan ruler. “And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor lock taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God (Elohim): yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.” Jonah 3:7, 8

This pagan king must have been familiar with the history of the nation of Israel, and their relationship with God. As he gave his royal decree, he declared, “Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” Jonah 3:9 It was/is important for us to remember the picture painted by the word “repent.” When this word is applied to our Heavenly Father, the thought of affection, pity, and compassion is clearly seen. God can never repent of evil, since he cannot show that attribute. The record declares, “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and he did it not.” Jonah 3:10

The city of Nineveh was known for its wickedness, and the evil that it poured upon all of its captives. The declaration of their pending overthrow must have painted some gruesome mental pictures for the inhabitants of that city. There must have been thoughts of some nation coming into their city with the same attitude that they had shown. However, they were willing to turn from their wickedness after hearing the words of the prophet.

God was willing to forgive these pagans. This fact is a picture of mercy being shown. Simply stated, mercy is God not giving us that which we deserve. Even though the citizens of Nineveh might not have known the doctrine of mercy, they realized that it was available. The thought of eternal destruction seems to be locked in the heart of mankind. Even though there might be many different mental pictures of this fact, none are pretty. These people of the past experienced the grace of God — even though they might not have given it a name. Simply stated, grace is God giv- not deserve.

The city of Nineveh at that time escaped the wrath of God by repenting at the message of Jonah. Matthew 12:41.Time dimmed the lesson taught.

Over time, sin once more became their master. About 100 years later, God sent the prophet, Nahum, with a message of destructionl His message was ignored or rejected. That city is now known only as “an ancient city.” It was located in the area now know as Iraq.

We must never “presume” on the graced and mercy of God. Many warnings have been sent to individuals and to nations. Each one must, personally, respond to the Divine call. Have you accepted Jesus Christ into your life? John 3:16

Rev. James C. Temples’ Sunday School Lesson has appeared in the Early County News each week since 1967. A native of Early County, Rev. Temples taught in public schools 32 years and 10 years at Southeastern College of Assemblies of God, in Lakeland, Fla. He also served as pastor and evangelist during those years. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 1484, Swainsboro, GA 30401; 478, 299, 2068. Email: jctjet@aol.com.

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