And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do to them…
It is another people in Nineveh that God now looks down upon. These have "ceased to do evil." "God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way." Then is the threatened doom to come? No; "God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not." And yet in other Scriptures God is said not to repent. Words can only faintly portray a human friend. How feeble, then, are all words to declare God! Words that seem to us to contradict each other are necessary to convey to us a fuller, clearer view of him. If in one Scripture God is said not to repent, or "change his mind" (as the word means), that is true. If in another he is said to do so, that is also true. The Scripture fearlessly declares both.]t makes no attempt to harmonize them. We may be unable to do so. And yet we may believe both; confident that they are in harmony if we cannot harmonize them. Men repent, or change their mind, in reference to sin. God repents, or changes his mind, in reference to the sinner.
I. IN HIS OWN NATURE GOD IS CHANGELESS. What changes there are in earth and sky, the seasons, human life and experience! "Man continueth not in one stay." With God" is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." He never ceases to be almighty, omniscient, "the only wise God." He says, "I am the Lord, I change not" (Malachi 3:6). This was the Divine message by Balaam to Balak: "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent; hath he said, and shall he not do it?" etc. (Numbers 23:19, 20). In other words, no enchantment, no divination, could avail against Israel. What were Balak's bribes to God? He could fulfil his promises to Israel - for he was almighty; he would, for he was faithful. Further, in various Scriptures (Genesis 6:3; Jeremiah 18:7; as well as here) we are taught -
II. THAT GOD REPENTS, OR CHANGES HIS MIND. Some would limit this to God's altered dealings with men; to his acts, never to his feelings. They hold that in his feelings he is ever the same to men; that none of the affections found in us have any counterpart in him; that he looks down upon all human changes - sorrows, joys, conflicts, defeats, triumphs - cold, calm, unmoved, immovable! What! a God only thought, only will? No mercy, no pity, no sympathy, no love? Unlovely creed! "God is love." Then he has the feelings of love, without, indeed, the imperfections that may mingle with ours. He is "the Father of our spirits." Our emotions are the image of his; in him "without spot," or defect," or any such thing." It is no mere figure of meaningless speech that speaks of him as "angry with the wicked" as "pitying them that fear him," as rejoicing over his penitent creatures; as repenting concerning Nineveh. With no idle threatening was Jonah sent to the Ninevites. God then meant destruction. And had the people not repented, it would have come. But the very threatening was blessed to them. They saw the greatness of their sin in the greatness of the imminent punishment. And when their state of rebellion and defiance ceased, their city came into a new relation to God, "and room was made for the word to take effect; 'the curse causeless shall not come.'" God knew that the city would be spared. Yes. But he also knew that, when spared, it would be another city - a city not of violent rebels against him, but of penitent subjects. God is righteous in all his ways. He rewards every man according to his works. It was in accordance, then, with his nature, that when the Ninevites turned from their evil courses with true heart sorrow, he should turn from the fierceness of his anger. There is warning here. God's threatenings are not to be trifled with. Remember the destroyed sinners "in the days of Noah;" ultimately these very Ninevites; and the Jew, "tribe of the wandering foot and weary breast," is witness today through all lands to the tact that when a warned nation repents not, God is faithful to his warning. And so with the individual. Let the warned sinner "flee from the wrath to come." What consolation, too, in this narrative! God is "not willing that any should perish; but that all should come to repentance." How willing - how revealed in Christ, who came to "call sinners to repentance"! Turn from sin. God will turn to you. From afar he will see you. He will run to meet you. He will kiss into forgetfulness all your sins. He waits to be gracious. "He delighteth in mercy." - G.T.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.