I learned something profoundly fascinating this morning.
Our pastors, Michael Howard and Eric Spence, have been working through the book of Jonah. You can hear this morning’s message HERE.
Jonah is a story that many people are familiar with, believers and non-believers alike. I think because it just seems so incredulous that Jonah would be swallowed by a fish, than vomited up on shore after words. And this is after a terrible storm from God, in which Jonah had to be thrown overboard in order for God to halt the storm.
But beyond the “swallowed by a fish” scenario, do we really pay attention to the rest of the story? The part when Jonah finally relents to a relentless God who demanded Jonah go to the Ninevites and warn them that they had 40 days to repent, less they be destroyed in a manner along the ways of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Jonah finally goes to Nineveh. He delivers the message:
40 days. This is the first thing we see. Our relentless God, is also a God of relentless mercy. He could have destroyed them without a warning. He could have demolished them immediately. Their sin was tremendous. Their sin was wickedness. Evil. But our gracious God sent Jonah to proclaim a 40 day opportunity to repent. To turn from their sin.
When word of Jonah’s message reached the king, the king did an astonishing thing. He listened. He heard the message. Not only did he hear the message–he acted upon it. He came off his thrown, put on sackcloth and sat in ashes, and proclaimed a fast. He demanded that the people of Nineveh repent and cease doing their evil sins. And the city responded, “calling out mightily to God” for mercy and forgiveness.
But here is what I want to share with you–what surprised me greatly. The king goes on to proclaim this:
Please see with me what is so remarkable here:
- The term “relent” means to soften in feeling, temper, or determination; to become more mild, compassionate or forgiving. To be relentless is to be unyielding. God was relentless in his pursuit of Jonah and His determination that Jonah deliver a message to Nineveh. God was relentless in his amazing mercy by gifting the Ninevites with 40 days to repent and call out to Him. And here the king proclaims—Who knows? God may relent! He may turn from His anger! He may spare our lives. And what happens? God relents:10 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. This God is relentless when it is for our good. He relents when it is for our good. He relents when we truly repent and turn from our sins. Our God is sovereign. Our God is sovereign.
- Verse 9 begins with the question “Who knows?” I’ve never seen that before this morning. And I love it! What a question! “Who knows?” The king, who could have ignored the warning, instead says “Who knows? God may relent–if we cease our sins, we may not perish. Listen carefully though: They didn’t know. They did not know. They did not know, if they repented, if God would save them. They did not know whether God would relent. They did not know if it was already too late for them. “Who knows?” But here’s the amazing thing. This was before Christ. This was still during the time of animal sacrifices for the substitute of sin. The ultimate sacrifice had not been given, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Do you see? We now know the answer to “Who Knows?” The answer to “Who Knows?” is that when we truly repent and turn from our sins–God will forgive our sins. He will relent from the punishment we deserve. Because of God’s gift of His son as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, we can confidently say that there is no “Who Knows?” in Christ. Amazing.
“Who knows?” turns to a confident “I know” in Christ. I know that He forgives sins. I know that He paid the ultimate price for my sins. And as a result, I know that some day–when my numbered days are over, I will go home. Home to my Jesus.
Can you confidently say “I know” in Christ?