Agonizomai: Jonah 3:10 - Anthropomorphism

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Jonah 3:10 - Anthropomorphism
10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and he did not do it.

This must mean that Jonah stuck around for 39 or so days after delivering his message, else he could not know that God had abated His threat. However long it was, it seems clear that whole city was in abject repentance and all commerce stopped while they pleaded for mercy. But we have cause to suspect Jonah’s motives for waiting around as we shall see.

This whole verse is an anthropomorphism. It is put in such a way that we can understand it as human beings. But we must be careful not to limit God to what we are like, even though He uses our faculties as an illustration. God is not a man that He should change His mind. Every thought that comes to the Divine mind is necessarily perfect the moment it springs forth. And God is not tempted with evil, neither does He tempt any man – so God was not bringing evil upon the Ninevites in the sense of He being the source of it.

I do not believe we can change God’s mind, but I believe that we can appear to do so. Prayer – like the prayer of the Ninevites – is not bringing God to do something He never intended to do in the first place, but rather the alignment of the human will with the Divine purpose. God meant to save Nineveh, and all else was the means by which He did it. Preaching, repentance, prayer – all are God’s ordained means by which salvation comes to the people whom God is saving.

At some time or another you will run into a particular sort of doubter or disbeliever who uses verses like this to belittle the faith and to impugn the Omnipotence and Sovereignty and Holiness of God. If they will not listen to the broader explanation then don’t cast your pearls before swine. They will often consider the need to balance one scripture with another as proof of the fallibility of the Bible, instead of the wisdom of God at work. {Lu 7:32}

In this case, however you choose to regard it, the good news is that God showed mercy to Nineveh. Next we shall see how God deals with Jonah’s reaction to His grace upon others.

My moniker - that's John Hancock to Americans


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