Monday, May 2, 2011

when pagans repent

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

God hears the honest heart. In response to Jonah's obedient (but maybe not passionate) preaching, the city of Ninevah from the top down falls into a metropolitan repentance. It is clear that the message was heard. And the king himself issues the decree that public repentance be shown. This was the real deal at that time, and God saw it.

The real story in Jonah is God's heart responding to human hearts. God loved the huge city of Ninevah, sinful as it was. He sent His prophet to proclaim a message of repentance. The message was about God's wrath, but the city repented of sin and God responded in grace. So preaching God's justice can result in His grace. It happens all over the biblical text, specifically in this book most dramatically.

But in all this, Jonah's heart was the real tragedy. He held his self-righteous thoughts so tightly that he could not rejoice at this great moment when a pagan nation turned to God. The one unrepentant heart in the whole story is the heart of Jonah. And he points out to us all the dangers of finger-pointing, self-righteous pride. It can be a barrier to living out God's concern for the world. God wants all people everywhere to repent. Do we?

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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