WEEK 9: God’s Hope
“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that He had said He would do to them, and He did not do it.” (Jonah 3:10. ESV)
When the people of Nineveh repented of their evil ways and stopped their violent deeds, God chose not to destroy them as Jonah had prophesied would happen within forty days if they did not repent. Matthew Henry said the reason for God relenting was because the people of Nineveh had “broken and contrite hearts”. Nowhere do we read that they sacrificed offerings to the Lord – only that they were genuine in their repentance, and therefore God relented from punishing them.
The direct Hebrew translation for “God relented” is “God repented”. Can God repent? Repentance is only necessary when you have done something wrong. If God is incapable of sin, why does it say then that He repented? John Piper says the following: “The repentance of God is His expression of a different attitude and action about something past or future—not because events have taken Him off guard, but because events make the expression of a different attitude more fitting now than it would have been earlier. God’s mind ‘changes’, not because it responds to unforeseen circumstances, but because He has ordained that His mind accord with the way He Himself orders the changing events of the world.”
As we will see later in Chapter 4, Jonah did not believe Nineveh deserved God’s forgiveness, and waited to see how they would turn to their old ways and how God would realise His mistake in forgiving them. But God is not man that He should doubt. Nor is He changing like the wind that He should change His mind every now and then. No, God “repented” of what He was going to do to Nineveh because Nineveh changed, and the hope that they would remain changed is what saved them. Human hope is wavering. When God hopes, it’s in accordance with His will.
Choose today to change. Not because you hope for something better, but because your hope is in a God that is infinitely more than any change you could hope to make. Trust Him to change you, and allow Him to continue that change till perfection.