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Jonah’s Leftovers // Jonah 3:10


Sovereign To SPARE // Gracious Again

"10When 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


A few back we looked at the regurgitation (2:10) of Jonah. Then Pastor Cody  walked us through the re-commissioning of Jonah and the revelation  (3:1-4) of God through Jonah.  Then finally last week Pastor Isaac took us through Nineveh’s response to the Word of God from Jonah and we watched an entire city repent. (3:5-9) This section is about God’s response {to relent} (3:10) back to Nineveh’s repentance.


When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way

Nineveh's response

In response to Ninveveh’s repentance (fasting + sackcloth) God sees this. God knows their hearts but He also sees the outward manifestation of their heart from the things they’re actually doing.
Whilst it is possible for someone to repent outwardly but not inwardly, it’s impossible to repent inwardly and the outside not change.
We see this in the scriptures w/the Pharisees. Or for example if you said, “Hey I repent of my adultery in my heart,” and then you continued committing adultery with your body…everyone would know your repentance on the outside doesn’t match the inside. Or, to put it as Pastor Cody said a few weeks back, “You can’t walk hand in hand with Satan and Jesus.”
I love that God sees Nineveh, maybe when nobody else really does; surely when Jonah doesn’t.  This is a reminder, maybe for you that God sees you too. God values you. God knows your heart. God sees your struggles. And God sees your repentance.
The Ninevites repent, and they’re going, “Who knows?…maybe God will see see us and not destroy us… and in fact God does see their deeds and He see their hearts.


God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

God's response to relent

How does God respond in response to how Nineveh responds? Then God relented. The HCSB/NASB and the ESV all use the same English translation here, “God relented.” The AMP says “he had compassion and relented,”
The KJV and a couple others say God “repented”,
So, does God repent? Or does God relent? – – -because 1 letter makes a BIG theological difference here.
Repent,” IMO would be a poor translation here, because God doesn’t “repent,” as the Ninevites did. In fact, to suggest that God needs repentance in anything is sorta nuts/theologically crazy, since “repent” is to turn from 1 wicked course of action, to a holy course of action.
Since God has no sin, and He is holy this is impossible. Holy comes from God, and since He has no sin He cannot “repent”.
“Repent,” would assume God had sinned and would therefore need a Savior Himself.

HOW DID GOD "relent"?

The Hebrew gives us a better indication of the meaning here, because the Hebrew word nāḥam, is translated “repent” in the King James Version, but in this sense it means “to brings comfort” or “to ease” “or “throttle back” in this case.
When we’ve see Nineveh “repent,” earlier on it’s a different change of course because a different Hebrew word is used in their repentance “šûḇ,” which is to turn from 1 path of wickedness to a path of righteousness. God’s “relent,” is an altogether different word from and has absolutely NOTHING to do with changing from sin to righteousness but simply 1 course of action to another.
God’s “relent,” isn’t about right V wrong. What this statement means is that “God removed the threat of judgment from the people in Nineveh.” This is a picture of the heart of God moving toward mercy, while the holiness of God demands justice.
God was “comforted” and “felt at ease,” that the people had turned from their sin, and therefore He revoked the sentence of judgment He’d imposed.

Theological Q#1 ~ Was Jonah a true or false prophet?

Why ask that question? Well because back in Jonah 3:4 he said in “40 days…it’s going down for real,” (AB translation) but now that we’ve read further into Jonah we recognize that his prophecy did not come true.
This is a big problem from Jonah’s perspective because if you flip back to the OT and ask, “Okay, what’s the test to know if prophet is true or false?” You might go to Deuteronomy 18:22 that says, “22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.”
The overarching theme of the OT when it comes to “prophets of God,” is that you can’t be 99.9% right. It’s all or nothing, otherwise you’d be stoned to death. (And we’ll see more on this next week with Jonah’s displeased disposition toward God’s mercy in Chapter 4).
The problem we don’t want to run into, is misinterpreting Jonah 3:10 so we need to understand it in the context of the rest of Jonah.
As we see from the “40 days,” that Jonah said destruction was coming (that 5 word sermon) was a summary statement of his preaching, not the totality. We know this at a minimum because of the response of Nineveh to Jonah’s sermon.
-Nineveh knew “which sin,” they were being judged for.
-Nineveh knew, “which God,” “YHWH,” they were answering to
-Nineveh knew “how to repent,” with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. What’s happened is that over the course of most of the 40 days leading to the “day of judgment,” Jonah was preaching (reluctantly) the Gospel to the people, otherwise there’s no way this foreign pagan nation would’ve known how to respond or who to respond to.
What was happening in Jonah 3:4 is the same exact thing that has happened through the course of the Old and New Testaments: It was God threatening with conditioning.
It was God’s wrath draped in mercy.
Jeremiah 18:7-10 portrays this a little more clearly for us saying, “7If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.”
A student of the Bible and OT prophecy clearly understands that these “un-stated,” statements can always be known by the “stated statements,” of the OT. The whole time God was telling the people of Nineveh through Jonah, “If you continue to do this I’m going to destroy you, and if you stop I won’t.”
This wasn’t prophetic judgment from Jonah as much as this was a prophetic warning. So we can easily conclude, “No! Jonah was NOT a false prophet.”

Theological Q#2 ~ Does God ever change His mind?


Let’s start this monster question so we’re all on the same page when it comes to considering the “nature,” of  God. Whenever we’re contemplating God I think it’s always a really good place to start by admitting our inadequacies. Think through this with me: If for you and I it is impossible for us to have a full grasp on earthly things, like math or language or history or science….if THOSE EARTHLY THINGS ARE IMPOSSIBLE for us to fully comprehend, then surely we understand that having a full grasp on God –  the Creator of all things, whose brought all things into existence is beyond us also.
That’s the baseline: We’re finite, God is infinite. He by nature doesn’t change, we change all the time.


The traditional Christian view (Catholic, Orthodox, classical Protestant) holds that God is immutable, He’s impassible (which means He is without human passion or emotion because He’s metaphysical), so because of that, it would be impossible for God to “repent” or “change His mind.”
So here’s the question: How do we reconcile God changing His mind?:
(Because as you read the Bible there are several passages that seem to describe God as having “changed His mind,” or expressing emotions and passions) Here’s a few for example:
Exodus 4:14 – “Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses . . .”
Psalms 2:4-5 – “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury.”
Judges 2:18 – “. . . the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them.”
Joel 2:13 – “. . . Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil.”
Jonah 3:10 – “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and he did not do it.”
The theological term for this is ~ AnthropoPathism (HUMAN EMOTIONS)
Which is just a word for attributing non-physical human emotions and passions to God. This is a teaching device used to “teach us,” about the nature and ways of an almost incomprehensible and extraordinary God. So it describes God in terms of human emotion.


The sister teaching device to Anthropopathism is Anthropomorphism (HUMAN PROPERTIES)
which is when the scriptures attribute physical human properties (or animal properties) to God.
Here’s a few examples of this one:
Deuteronomy 4:24 – “For the LORD your God is a devouring fire, a jealous God.”
Isaiah 41:10 – “fear not, for I am with you;  be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Numbers 6:25 – “the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;”
Psalm 17:8 – “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,”
Hosea 13:7-8a – “So I am to them like a lion; like a leopard I will lurk beside the way. I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs…”
James 5:4 – “…the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.”
When we read these descriptions of God I thin we naturally ask: Does God have ears, and eyes and wings and is he a fire? Maybe….I mean He did “literally,” manifest in some of those ways in the OT and NT, and CERTAINLY Jesus came as a man to the earth – – -but, there are other text more broad in nature that let us in on some clues to God’s form in regard to God the Father and Spirit.

God is fundamentally different than us

Check these verses out:
Hosea 11:9 – “. . . I am God and not man . . .”
John 4:24 – “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
(This God that we serve, no one can fully understand Him)
Exodus 33:20 – But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”
He asks Job in —Job 38:3133Can you bind the chains of the Plei’ades, or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth the Maz’zaroth  in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?” (He’s talking about star clusters and constellations. He controls it all as creation is this theatre of God’s glory!)
– – Isaiah 40:28 – “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”

God Says Himself that He doesn't change

As we consider, “Does God change,” we need to check out some verses that are even more “sweeping,” in their theological nature, check this out ~ God doesn’t change:
Exodus 3:14 – “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, `I AM has sent me to you.’”
1 Samuel 15:29 – “And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or repent; for he is not a man, that he should repent.”
Malachi 3:6 – “For I the LORD do not change . .”
James 1:17 – “. . . the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”


So, how do we make sense of anthropopathism and anthropomorphism in light of God’s nature? My belief here is that God “lowers in language” or “condescends” to the limited understanding of human beings and He does this by expressing  truths about Himself analogically (as in human actions, properties and emotions) so that we can understand Him at all.
The passages we’ve read (in this framework) say clearly– God doesn’t and cannot change and that’s a literal interpretation, while the others that state the opposite are to be interpreted figuratively or metaphorically or anthropopathicaly.
This is “baby talk.” For example: Have you ever tried to explain weighty thoughts of scripture to your kids? Or someone maybe younger in the faith then you? What do you do in those moments? You break it down. You make it simple to understand. You communicate with them in a language they understand. 
Therefore, analogous language is okay (especially since it’s Holy Spirit endorsed). Here’s another example of this: if I told you ~ Hey (A) God the Father loves you… and also (B) Dad loves Jax. We know this is an analogous description of God and that’s okay.
Whenever the Bible calls God “Father” it’s not communicating to us that God is exactly like an earthly father. But, also it’s not communicating that He is so unlike an earthly father that the statement means nothing. It means that God is similar to an earthly father in the sense that—He’s a provider, an authority, a protector etc.
When the Bible does this “baby-talk” it’s condescending (or getting down) to a level we can understand. So, naturally (from the example above) when kids hear God described as “Father” it’s natural that their first instinct should be to understand God in light of their earthly father. And the same thing is true for every other adjective that applies to God: loving, good, wrathful, patient, just etc. The only reason we can begin to make sense of these words is because they express some type of commonality between us and God. The words God uses when he speaks to us derive from the creation that he has already set up for that purpose.
Yet, I must add that as we come to a deeper understanding of God, we realize that those initial impressions need to be overhauled. Because the truth is that: God isn’t a bigger version of my dad; He’s the perfect version…right, because, fathers are sketchy (and sometimes tragically misleading) reflections of God.
Also, lastly I want to point out  in this example —that the words “father” and “son,” the original truth to this term isn’t their application to 2 male members of our physical generation (a Dad and a son) but the truth flows from the application to the Godhead in the Trinity, w/the Perfect Father and the Perfect Son. God’s true fatherhood is so different from ours, and not just in moral style, but also in structure and application. The fatherhood of God is eternal, it’s perfect and it’s necessary because it produces a Son who is perfectly like, and inseparable from His Father.
Most of the words  we use to describe God and His relationship to us are words we usually use to describe human actions, and attitudes and roles, like: king, shepherd, judge, potter, forgive, redeemer, reconciler. This is amazing because it’s GHSPirit working alongside of man as man attempts to describe a transcendent God by what they know in their revealed knowledge of God – – -so, it’s material objects, and creation, and human emotions being used describe God’s immaterial person. How cool!


Back to God’s response: God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.”
Here’s the disaster that was headed toward Nineveh. God demonstrates His righteousness and justice (not by ‘winking’ at sin, but by emptying divine wrath on the ‘guilty’). And When we talk about,  the wrath of God. We don’t, want to indicate passion on God’s part, but that this is something we assume WILL happen in order to discipline sinners who’ve committed sin. And the cost of justice for sin is wrath. Romans 6:23 – -The cost of sin is death.
See, if God only forgave you of your sin and He just acquitted you of the debt that you owe then He wouldn’t be just. And we love some justice, until the justice is pointed at us.
And that is what God is doing, He is saying, “No, this is about your sin Nineveh.”


John Piper says, I measure Your love for me by the magnitude of the wrath I deserved, and the wonder of Your mercy by putting Christ in my place.” The good news for Nineveh is that little phrase in the text, “….God relentedand he did not do it.”
This was God threatening with conditioning. Mercy was executed, because the response from Nineveh was repentance. And this isn’t just good news for Nineveh, but it’s good news for you and I.
God brings justice to our sin through His Son Jesus. The Father bankrupts heaven for you. On the cross Jesus absorbs the debt that you owe, He makes the payment w/his life. Jesus bears God’s wrath without mercy, so that we can bear God’s mercy without His wrath. It’s why we need God, to save us from God.
And You and I needed our God to do for us, what we could not do for ourselves. That’s mercy.
And we must talk about God’s wrath, because it’s a real thing and it opens our eyes up to the wonders of His mercy-fueled love and Grace.
John 3:16 says – For God so loved (a sin-stained world), that He sent His only Son (in mercy) to die (satisfying God’s wrath and justice) that whoever might believe in Him (by grace) wouldn’t perish (in eternal death and wrath) but would find eternal life (in mercy).”
That’s why it’s such good news…not just for Nineveh, and not just for the whole world, but also for you individually.


MAIN POINT: The heart of God moves toward mercy, but the holiness of God demands justice.
How do we speak about an infinite God in finite terms without violating His transcendence? We attempt to explain God somewhere between our presuppositions and proof, our doctrine and experience, our historicity and revelation….simultaneously without denying the mystery of God (an endless well of truth – -not that God is unknowable to us, but that He’s infinitely knowable).
Right now our picture is a “foggy mirror,” – 1 Cor.13:12
And while there is a change around, about, and outside of God, and there is change in people’s relationships to Him, we can confidently and assuredly affirm there is no change in God himself. As “perfect,” can’t become “more perfect.”
Praise God He sees us! Praise God He lets us know Him! Praise God for His justice and mercy!

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