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Our loving and merciful God - 19 June 2020

Ben Fourie

So he prayed, “LORD didn’t I say before I left home that this is just what you would do? That’s why I did my best to run away to Spain! I knew that you are a loving and merciful God, always patient, always kind, and always ready to change your mind and not punish.”  Jonah 4:2 (GNB)

When I was a child, many ministers were inclined to put a lot of emphasis on God who was always watching us closely and was ready to detect and punish even the smallest trespass. Even today, you hear certain preachers harping on the same string. I have even heard people saying Covid-19 is God’s punishment for the sins of the world. If you read the story of Jonah, the people of Nineveh really deserved punishment. The city was situated in Assyria and we learn from history that it was, at one time, the biggest city in the world. It was also the city where the cult of Ishtar, the goddess, started.

The Book of Jonah tells us that the city was so big that it would take someone three days to walk through it. When God sent Jonah to warn them of the coming punishment, He said, “I am aware how wicked its people are.” When Jonah eventually reached Nineveh, his message was, “In forty days, Nineveh will be destroyed.”

This never happened. The Bible tells us that the people of Nineveh believed in God’s message, called for a time of fasting and put on sackcloth to show that they had repented. In chapter 3 verse 10 we read: “God saw what they did; he saw that they had given up their wicked behaviour. So he changed his mind and did not punish them as he had said he would.”

El Channon, the gracious and loving God about whom Jonah himself said, “… always patient, always kind, and always ready to change your mind and not punish.” This is the important message of the Book of Jonah. God is merciful and, as the New Testament tells us, wants everybody to be saved. This is the message that runs like a golden thread through the Bible. Our God is not an eagle-eyed observer just watching to see where he can catch us out on some or other sin. He is a God who looks at us through the eyes of a father to see where he can save and forgive.

Prayer: We thank you that we can know you as a loving Father.  Amen

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