Is God Changing His Mind? (Jonah 3:10)

“And God saw their works, that they had turned from their way of the evil, God grieved over the evil which he had threatened to do to them and he did not do it.”  (Jonah 3:10)

 

Now, before you go running off to burn all of your copies of John Calvin’s Institutes and to declare to me that this verse proves that God changes his mind, let’s stop for just one minute and see what it is that is going on in this passage and place it in the context of the rest of God’s revelation.  As well, let us keep Ephesians 1:11 and Job 23:13 before us, being reminded that God has ordered all things (not just some, but all) according to his will.  Also, God’s will is perfect and right and he does not need to go back to the drawing board periodically to modify his plan to suit the happenings of the world.

God is infinite, timeless, changeless, and boundless; there is no measuring him or constraining his will and plan.  At the same time, we are finite and bound by time.  For us, there must always be a chronological sequence of actions and reactions—we understand cause and effect, not infinite design.  Thus, God condescends to us within history, not because history in some way binds him, but because he wishes to be understood and this is the only way we will understand his revelation.  Thus, at times, when God’s activities are described in manners like this, they are described in terms of cause and effect that we might be able to understand what it is that God is doing.

Thus, the language here is not the language of God changing his mind, but it is describing in terms that we can comprehend, all that is going on.  Was God’s threat to destroy the city a real one then?  Yes, indeed!  At the same time, God intentionally moved on the hearts of the king of Nineveh and the people of the city and brought them to repent of their sins.  God is a God of mercy, and in bringing them to repentance, he relented of his threat to destroy the city (at least for a time).  This is the mercy of God.

Beloved, this mercy of God is the most important thing that you walk away with from this verse or even this chapter of Jonah.  God is merciful and kind and those who repent of their sins and turn to God through his son, Jesus Christ, will find forgiveness—that is not just a nice, theological statement, but this is revealed fact.  What God has promised, he will do and he does not change his mind mid way through the process.  Friends, cling to the mercy of God that is in Jesus Christ.  Remind yourself that if God is willing to forgive even the Ninevites, he will also be willing to forgive you of your sins and even the most vile pagan of his or her sins as well.  There is no sin too terrible that the blood of Christ can not wash it clean—this is God’s promise to us, and oh, what a blessed promise it is!

Arise, my soul, arise,

Shake off your guilty fears;

The bleeding Sacrifice in my behalf appears;

Before the throne my Surety stands,

Before the throne my Surety stands,

My name is written on His hands.

-Charles Wesley

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