A guest post by Bubba Hines
In our study of Jonah, we see God speak of judging the Ninevites. When they repent, we see God’s mercy and grace abound as He withholds that judgment. This provides the opportunity to ask the question, “Does God change His mind?”
If you remember when we preached through Exodus, Brian Lowe addressed the same question from Exodus 32:11–14. To recap, the short answer is, “No, God does not change His mind.” Scripture is not in conflict over this point, even though a surface view of the situation appears to indicate it could be.
First, we need to consider the usage of phenomenological language in the Bible to use human terms when describing God. A common way we see this each day is when we talk about the sun “rising” and “setting.” When the authors of Scripture describe God and His interaction with people, we should always seek to understand the description without arrogance that attempts to mold God into a man, as 1 Samuel 15:29 clearly states, “God is not a man, that He should relent.”
Secondly, we ought to consider that each instance wherein we see the proposed contradiction, the context is one of judgment. Scripture is chock full of statements that explicitly state, “The just God will punish you, unless you repent.” Our issue seems to be the few places where repentance is not explicitly mentioned.
Having all of Scripture to study, one cannot escape the message that God’s wrath will land upon the unrepentant, and has landed on Christ for the repentant. In Jonah, we specifically see in the last chapter that Jonah himself never had a doubt that God intended to find repentance among the Ninevites. If Jonah finds it so consistent with God’s character, why would we choose to understand it as inconsistent?