Today’s devotion is based on Sunday’s Message: Grace Relents (LISTEN HERE).
First this morning, I’d like to wish my beautiful bride, Christy a “Happy Birthday!” I am truly grateful for her love, friendship, forgiveness, partnership in ministry and much more! She is very much a blessing from God, a gift of grace!
Back to Jonah…
Jonah 3:10 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.
A tension that always exists in the heart of a parent is the balance between justice and love. A parent must be an arbiter between what is right and wrong…who is right and wrong…and what appropriate discipline is. Even when we do our best to administer justice in the home, we are charged with “not being fair” from other siblings that feel they were punished more or less than another. It is hard to be perfectly just.
A parent also exhibits unconditional love. Love is a self-sacrificing action on behalf of another. From the moment of pregnancy, a mom is giving to her child. A dad catches up once the child is born. Both give of themselves to serve their child and do what is best for their child. In addition their heart and their emotions desire what is best for their child. So even in discipline, it comes from a heart of love that doesn’t desire the demise of their child, but rather that they learn from their mistakes and don’t do the same thing again.
In a much greater and perfect way, God exhibits his two characteristics of justice and love. His boundaries he sets up in his law are there because he loves us enough to keep us from harm or keeping us from harming others. He loves us deeply and desires a close and ongoing relationship in which we feel as safe and secure as a child does in a healthy and strong family environment.
So when God threatens to punish, it is a big deal. But his threat of punishment is to warn the straying child that their behavior will bring harm to them temporarily and eternally. His desire is that they don’t blow off his warning, but to turn from the destructive and evil behavior and turn back to walking in the ways of the Lord.
The Lord desires and is more pleased when he can relent from deserved destruction than carrying out his justice as a result of unrepentant sinners.
Joel had a similar message as Jonah:
Joel 2:12 “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13 Rend your heart and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
Like the prophet Joel, the issue was the turning of hearts. By the change in behavior in Nineveh and the fact that God relented is indicative that God saw a change of heart, which is what he desired. For when the heart changes, so do the actions.
How important all this is to remember for us. When someone calls us from sin, receive it not as “judgy” or “judgmental” but because they love us enough to warn us of where our behavior is going. As we recognize the error of our ways, let not just our behavior change to “stay out of trouble” but let our hearts be changed so we return and stay with the Lord, our God who is gracious and compassionate and more than willing to relent from sending the calamity our sin deserves.
Apply: What sin is God calling you to repent of? Does it become easier when you consider God is doing it because he loves you and wants to spare you harm? Know that he does love you and desires your heart to always align to his.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for being a gracious and compassionate God who is willing to relent when your people repent. AMEN.