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When Repentance is Not in the Message

Recently, I was attending church in a different city and the pastor was doing a series on Jonah. His presentation was well received, and he communicated a strong message of second chances. Jonah had a second chance with God to fulfill what God wanted him to do in delivering a message to Nineveh. Jonah had a simple message … repent or perish was his cry to the city. You would think that the fierce battle-hardened people of the Assyrian empire wouldn't think twice about such a message, in fact, you would think they would have just killed this messenger. However, they didn't. Instead, they repented and even the King gave a decree to the people to put on sackcloth and repent.

This scene seems so surreal because usually it never happens quite this easily. The repentance by the citizens of Nineveh stayed the destruction and they lived to enjoy their lives. If this was a play, that would be Act One. About 150 years later, a Prophet by the name of Nahum also preached to Nineveh, and this time Nineveh would not escape the judgment of destruction.

So, let’s get the scene right:

· In 763 BC God spared Nineveh because of their repentance

· In 612 BC the city was destroyed by the Medes

Now, listen to how God opens his comments directed to the city He is about to destroy:

Nahum 1 2The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is fierce in wrath. The Lord takes vengeance against His foes; He is furious with His enemies. 3The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will never leave the guilty unpunished. His path is in the whirlwind and storm, and clouds are the dust beneath His feet.

Isn’t it amazing that God is stating about Himself that He is jealous and an avenging God? That is a message we often read about Him in the Scriptures … that we are not to take vengeance against our enemies, that He would do it.

Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

Nineveh had repented about 150 years earlier because of Jonah's warnings. So, what happened to Nineveh that they returned to the place to bear the judgment of God? We are told by history that Nineveh returned to the wicked ways of her past. Remember, every generation will stand on its own before God. What happened in previous generations will not automatically get passed on to future generations. So, what that means is, every generation must understand repentance and salvation, and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. There are no exceptions. What happened in Jonah’s day in Nineveh did not carry into Nahum’s Nineveh, 150 years later. When the church in our day doesn’t preach repentance, salvation, and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, that generation will be lost to God.

Repentance isn’t a condemning word … it is a word to receive forgiveness. Repentance is a form of self-awareness. I believe God is always at work drawing people into an awareness of their eternal state, as God draws and the world drives away. If God wants none to perish as the Scripture states, then He is always at work.

When we are faced with the tragedy of someone's death or a disaster that kills many unsuspecting people, we become aware that death can happen at any moment. It can happen in seconds, and it can happen to anyone. These are sobering reminders that draw us into the finality of life and the awareness that everyone has an appointment with such destiny. The Bible tells us that awareness starts with knowing our days on earth are numbered, and we need to use them wisely.

Psalm 90:123 So, teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Repentance is a sign of God's awareness. As humans, we come to this awareness in many ways, but the result of repentance is the same … we acknowledge God and our need for Him. It is the start of what is called salvation. We are saved from our journey of denying Him to a journey of knowing Him, and repentance is our initial step toward Him.

My prayer is that repentance becomes a routine in your life, a message for keeping a short account of preventing any distance to occur between you and God. It is a course correction and compass adjustment that keeps God as your true north.

Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler


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