Devotion: Jonah 3:6-10Jonah marched through Nineveh pronouncing God's judgment and imminent destruction. The people heard the prophet of YHWH, believed God and repented. As we will see next week this was not to Jonah's liking. Yet, this week we see what happens when leadership is humbled before God.
"The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, 'By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.' 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 3:6-10 ESVThe king of Nineveh humbled himself before the Lord. He did not need statistics, proofs or arguments. He heard the word! We cannot underestimate the power of the Word of God. That very Word took a mighty king and put him in sackcloth and ashes, traditional symbols of repentance throughout the ancient near east. What's more, the king used his power to call the people and their livestock to a fast. The fast was to commemorate the repentance that was breaking out in the kingdom, but the king adds weight, calling everyone, "to turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands." Repentance must be the rule of the day.
Some will be quick to see fee-for-service thinking behind the king's actions. The final statement about the relenting of the Lord from his fierce anger seems to point to a self-preservation motive. The king could be calling the people to repentance in an effort to assuage YHWH and then return to business as usual. There is no way to prove that this was not the case, but the king's action was first to take sackcloth and ashes to himself and this likely means a true change of heart. At any rate, God does relent from the disaster.
The relenting of God is sometimes lifted up as evidence that God can/will change. That idea is nonsense, as Scripture firmly proclaims, "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed" (Malachi 3:6). So, if God firmly proclaims He does not change, what can we make of Him relenting here (or the relenting of Exodus 32:7-14 among others)? Perhaps it is worth our time to consider means and ends. Means are those things/actions that lead to an outcome, or end. Too often we ascribe God sovereignty over ends, but fail to see that He is equally sovereign over means as well. Hence, the Apostle Paul can say, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). The Lord can use all things (i.e. means) to bring about good in the lives of those who love God and are called according to his purpose (i.e. the end). God can do this because He not only has the end (good) in mind, but also the means (all things). In the case of Nineveh, God has used the means of Jonah's preaching of destruction to bring about the end of Nineveh's repentance, from the least to the greatest. Yet, should Nineveh have rejected Jonah's preaching, destruction would have come. A good explanation of this is found in our Westminster Confession of Faith in Chapter 5: Providence.
"God is the first cause, and in relationship to him everything happens unchangeably and infallibly. However, by this same providence, he orders things to happen from secondary causes. As a result of these secondary causes, some things must inevitably happen; others may or may not happen depending on the voluntary intentions of the agents involved; and some things do not have to happen but may, depending on other conditions." -WCF 5.2
The end result, as God ordained, is that Nineveh repented and He relented from the disaster. This ought to lead us to take repentance and humility seriously in not just ourselves, but also our leaders. That is true inside and outside of the Church. We need to pray for humble leaders who will repent when the Word of the Lord comes to them. Barring that kind of humble leader, we need to pray that our proud leaders are humbled by God by any and all means necessary.
Music this week is from Indelible Grace, "God Moves in a Mysterious Way."
News for You:
- Look for small group sign-ups soon. We are still in need of some leaders.
- Camp Chelan is getting ready to launch registration. If you have youth in your life sign them up!
- The Women's Walk and Talk group will be meeting at Eastside Park this Saturday at 8. All women are invited to spend time in fellowship and getting some exercise.