“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.” (Jonah 3:10)
God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and one of the main characteristics of God is that He is merciful.
When a person (or in this case a nation) truly repents, God is faithful to respond in mercy by offering His grace instead of the punishment He warns of.
In Jeremiah 18, God clearly states that He issues conditional declarations of punishment, and the penalty is given in accordance with our response to those warnings:
“If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.” (Jer. 18:7-10)
Essentially, whether God hands out punishment or not, is ultimately up to us and how we choose to respond. Since He is holy and just, He cannot let sin go unaddressed and unpaid for.
In Jonah 3, we see this exact scenario play out. Initially, God used Jonah to deliver the warning that “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (v4). Immediately upon hearing the message, “The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth” (v5).
The entire city of Nineveh repented and turned from their evil ways upon hearing from the Lord. And thus God relented and withheld the disaster that would have been the punishment for their sin and opposition to the Lord.
As I mentioned at the start, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The very same grace and mercy He extended to Nineveh, is extended to us today. The condition of receiving His offer is based upon our own decision to repent, deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus (Matt. 16:24).
God is merciful and compassionate and always gives us a chance to respond to His offer of grace that can only be received through Jesus Christ. When He warns you of the destructive pattern of sin in your life, how will you respond?
[From February 20, 2019]