“And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? 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.” – Jonah 3:7-10
The word “repent” simply means “to turn away from“. When we repent of our sins we turn away from them and go the other way, leaving them in the past and moving on to a better future with Christ. Likewise, when the above mentioned passage states that God repented, it simply means that He turned and walked away from the judgment He was about to pour out on this wicked people.
When God’s fierce anger is stirred up against a person or a people because of sin, rebellion, blasphemies, or wickedness, there are a few things we can do that can cause God to change His judgment and turn away wrath. The first is true genuine humble repentance. All of Nineveh chose to believe the word of God set before them and in fear and trembling they repented with prayer, fasting, sackcloth, and ashes to prove their sincerity and humility to God. God saw their true repentance and it turned Him away from anger and wrath, and turned Him towards mercy.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14
An other way that God may be persuaded to change His judgment is by the prayers of an intercessor. We don’t like to think of this very real and frightening truth but let’s face it, there is a point when after God has poured out much mercy and provided many opportunities for repentance that if one continues to openly and intentionally rebel with complete knowledge of God, yet willingly choosing not to obey Him, that God will give up on them. This state is known as being reprobate.
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;” – Romans 1:28
A reprobate person is someone who has chosen to turn away from obedience to God and has not heeded God’s efforts to turn them back, so eventually He turns away from them. A reprobate is thought to have no further chance at salvation since God is no longer trying to reach them. Without God trying to speak to them, tug at them, or prick their hearts they will not feel conviction for sin and will never see a need for repentance. However difficult, I do not believe it is impossible for a reprobate to be saved. I have seen it happen because of the fervent continual prayers of an intercessor crying out to God on their behalf, praying for God’s mercy, petitioning Him not to give up but to turn back to them to convict, draw, and give them a more chance.
“And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever. And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.” – Exodus 32:7-14
Though God may change His judgment, showing forth His merciful nature for the genuinely humbled, or the compassionate intercessor, know that His will never changes, for His will is perfect. In Nineveh it was God’s will that they repent and be saved, He only changed His mind regarding judgment once they lined up with His perfect will.
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9
Moses reminded God of His promises and knowing it was His perfect will to bring the Israelites to the Promised Land, pled for God to give them an other chance to walk out His perfect will. God only changed His mind on the wrath He was ready to pour out, not on His will for this people.
You see, we may plead before a judge that he might change our judgment (or sentence) but he can not change the law. So never think that you can beg God into changing His perfect will or His commandments for yours, but do know that if you have angered God (either as an individual or a nation) if you are willing to humble yourself and plead for the mercy of His Holy court, agreeing to line up with His perfect will, then He will change His judgments toward you, serving you from the cup of His mercy where He once prepared a cup of wrath. Even when it seems impossible and that all hope is lost, He is still true to His nature, sound and unchanging, a God of love, mercy, and justice, a God of second chances.
“O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” – Psalms 118:29
However, if you are not right with God don’t wait for tomorrow banking on His mercy to give you yet an other chance for tomorrow may never come, for once we are past from this world there will be no more chances and our final judgments will be sure and eternal.