“God Has Relented (Repented)"
January 24, 2021
Scripture Readings: Jonah, Chapters 3 & 4
Supplemental Scripture Readings: Jonah, Chapters 1 & 2, Psalm 103:13;
Psalm 145:8-9; Matthew 20:13-15
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus!
Has there ever been anything in life that you have refused to do? What happened? Did you stick to your guns? Or did you relent? (It’s interesting that “relent” and “repent” come from the same Hebrew word.....)
We all know the story of Jonah and the Whale (or the “big fish” as is now proper to call it). But do you know the story before the big fish? Do you know the story after the big fish? They’re actually almost exactly the same story.
The story before the big fish is that God called and commanded Jonah to go preach in Nineveh. Jonah refused.
The story after the big fish is that, probably as stinky, vomit-covered Jonah sat on the beach where the “big fish” had deposited him, God called and commanded Jonah a second time to go preach in Nineveh. Three days in the belly of the big fish had changed his mind. It probably would yours, also. This time he relented (repented) and went and preached. The Ninevites heard Jonah. They actually listened to him. They relented (repented). And God relented (repented) and didn’t wipe the Ninevites off the map as He had threatened. And everything was good in the world........
Well.....not so fast. That’s not the end of the story, yet. Then Jonah got mad at God. Yes, Jonah got mad at God for being gracious and loving and compassionate. Jonah got mad at God because, in his mind, the Ninevites didn’t deserve God. This comes from the guy who had to spend three days in the belly of the “big fish”.......kind of ironic – isn’t it? – that he deemed others less worthy of God’s grace and love and compassion than he was. But that’s what happened.
The message of the entire Book of Jonah (it’s only 4 short chapters that you could probably read in 30 minutes or less) is all about God’s grace and love and compassion. The entire book of Jonah intimately reveals to us God’s heart for the wayward (summarized best in the last verse of the book – Jonah 4:11).
Let’s cut to the chase. Jonah is a book about you and me and the Church!
Whether you like it or not, in your baptism, God has called you to be His child, His disciple, His follower. He’s called you to live out His grace and love and compassion and let everyone see. Have you been a Jonah? Or have you been a Samuel (1 Samuel 3:10; 1 Samuel 3:19-4:1a)?
And, whether we like it or not, God has called His Church to be His collection of stinky Jonahs to carry His message to undeserving Ninevites, to allow them the opportunity to hear and to listen and to relent (repent). That’s God’s call – not ours!
The truth is that you and I have failed miserably in our baptismal calling – over and over again. And the truth is that the Church has failed miserably in its Great Commissional calling – over and over again. We should be running away from God as fast as we can. We deserve no better than Jonah. But we receive so much better than Jonah! All because God has relented (repented)! All because God is gracious and loving and compassionate!
That’s why Jesus spent three days in the belly of the earth (“who for us and for our salvation came down from Heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried” – The Nicene Creed). He served our time. He emerged (spit out like Jonah) from our grave – battered and beaten and stinky (John 11:39) – because God was concerned about us and about His world (Jonah 4:11) and God chose to relent (repent) and to be gracious and loving and compassionate.
That’s the rest of the story: the rest of Jonah’s story and the rest of our story. That’s the message into which we are baptized. That’s the message that’s planted deeply into our hearts and minds. And that’s the message God knows our world needs to see and hear.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see!
Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come,
His grace has brought me safe so far. His grace will see me Home.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, than when we’d first begun.
Grace and peace to you!
Pastor Christopher Schaar