Lessons From Jonah (Pt. 3): Today, If You Hear His Voice
One of the most striking moments in the book of Jonah is when the people of Nineveh respond with swiftness to the judgment pronounced to them. The entire nation goes into a repentant stance of fasting and mourning, all in hopes that God would perhaps spare them (3:6-9).
To Jonah's dismay, God does indeed relent, and the people are spared for their faith and repentance. After this, Jonah would complain to God for being, "a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster" (Jonah 4:2). Unlike Jonah, we should not despise God for this behavior, but savor it! We should take great note of Nineveh's quick and humble repentance as an example to live by.
Deep down we know we mess up daily, sometimes in ways we aren't even fully aware of (Psalm 19:12). Other times, we are keenly aware of our sin and disobedience. It is not unlike us to keep "pet sins" nearby, sometimes even evidently (1 Timothy 5:24). The reality is, God sees and knows all there is (Hebrews 4:13). We aren't fooling anyone but ourselves when we act like our sin isn't a problem. The good news is we don't have to fear God in dealing with our sin because of Christ's work on the cross. The apostle John encourages us when he writes:
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin... If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:7, 9).
Jonah knew God's propensity to forgive sinners, which was why he fled to Tarshish instead of obeying his call (Jonah 4:2). Jesus made it clear that he desired, "mercy, and not sacrifice" (Matthew 9:13). So, what does this mean for us? It means that we should not fear or delay our confession of sin. The writer of Hebrews pleads with us when he writes,
"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." (Hebrews 3:15)
When Nineveh, the great city known for their evil and not knowing their right hand from their left — a statement of their moral depravity (Jonah 4:11), heard the words of God from Jonah they did not waste time. They immediately responded and humbled themselves before the Lord. It is not fear that leads us to repentance, rather the Lord's kind and loving nature (Romans 2:4). If you need a reminder of how good our God is, open your Bible to Psalm 103 and simply read of His incredible gracious and merciful character:
"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust." (Psalm 103:8-14)
It can be intimidating to come clean about the mistakes we have made. Our sins create a great deal of shame, but for those in Christ, we can confess our sin and walk with our heads held high. Paul wrote it this way, "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret..." (2 Corinthians 7:10). The conviction we experience is meant to drive us to God not away. When we turn from our sin and embrace the grace that is available in Jesus, we can experience freedom from shame and guilt.
Today, if there is sin to repent of, do not ignore this invitation to run to the Father. If you hear his voice, do not harden your heart. Return to the light and experience the grace of God in Jesus Christ!