“I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” Ezekiel 18:32
God hates sin, and He will not contend with sinners forever. We know this to be true from Scripture. In His holiness, He destroyed every living creature on the earth (except for Noah and his family) with a fierce flood of water and anger (Genesis 7). Because of the peoples’ wickedness, God rained down burning sulfur to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). God’s instructions to His people when they took possession of the Promised Land was to drive out every living thing so that they wouldn’t be tempted to worship their false gods (Numbers 33). There are many more similar events throughout the history of God’s people.
These passages are sometimes used in an attempt to disprove God’s existence by saying a real God could not be so cruel. Or religious people, to condone hateful attitudes and actions toward certain people, misuse the passages. And well-meaning Christians will even try to explain God’s actions by saying, “That was the Old Testament,” as if God has somehow changed between the Old and New Testaments. All of these responses are grievous misuses of God’s word. The first blames God for man’s actions. The second manipulates God for man’s actions. And the third denies the very nature of God.
God is not cruel or hateful; and He has not changed from the Old to New Testament. He does, however, hate sin. If all of the aforementioned passages are read in context, God’s patience, grace and kindness are evident, along with His wrath. God gives chance after chance for repentance. He warns people of His coming judgment. He takes no delight in destroying that which He has created for His glory. Why would He?
But His love for people does not trump His wrath against sin. Both are equally part of His character. Does He love all people, even His enemies? Yes. Does He hate sin and all who do evil (Psalm 5:5)? Yes. Does He long for all people to repent and be saved? Yes. Will He punish those who do not? Yes. He cannot forego either His wrath or His grace. If He did either He would cease to be God.
These are the mysteries of God that are unfathomable, as Job 11:7 says. We cannot understand all of His ways, nor should we seek to. But, one thing we can know God tells us in Ezekiel 18:32 – He takes no pleasure in the death of anyone, and wants all men to repent and live.
O LORD You are so mighty! There is so much I cannot understand. But I believe Your Word and cling to it, knowing that You desire for all people to repent and live. Please use me today to show others Your love for them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.” Jonah 3:10
Repentance moves the heart of God. Think about that for a moment. As children of God, we have the opportunity to touch the heart of God in a profound way. If you are a parent, you have likely been deeply touched by something that your child said…something that truly revealed their love for you. It is easy to say, “I love you, too.” But there are those times when children do or say something that is uniquely “them,” something you know they are not just repeating…something that comes from the heart. These moments stick with us forever, don’t they? They are precious reminders that every parent clings to during difficult seasons.
In Jonah chapter three, God has one of those moments with the people of Nineveh. God sent Jonah to deliver horrible news to the inhabitants of this important city. In forty days, He planned to overturn Nineveh because of the sin of its people (Jonah 3:4). His anger toward them was evident…God was going to punish their sin. But then something happened that touched the very heart of God…
The people of Nineveh repented. There were three main aspects of their repentance that we can learn from today. First, they believed God. Jonah delivered the word of God to them, and on the first day they heard it, they believed that God would indeed destroy the city. Secondly, because they believed God’s message, they grieved over their sin. From the king all the way down, they fasted and wore sackcloth and ashes – a sign of deep sorrow. Lastly, they urgently called to God in repentance.
Verse 10 tells us that God “saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways.” Then something amazing happened…God had compassion on them and withheld His punishment. The word “compassion” here means, “To be sorry, moved to pity, to comfort or console.” True repentance consoles and comforts the heart of God. It sooths His righteous anger toward our sin.
It was not the words they said but the action they took that moved God to relent. Do we believe what God says about sin, like the Ninevites did? And if so, does this belief cause us to mourn and to turn from sin? Repentance that moves God is not lip service, it is turning away from sin and to God.
Father, I desire to love and serve You with all of my heart. That cannot happen when there is unconfessed sin in my life. Please convict me of my sin and give me a heart of true sorrow and repentance. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
“And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Jonah 2:10
We serve a God of second chances…and third, fourth, fifth and sixth chances. I do not mean to imply that God is a pushover. He is, however, slow to anger and quick to forgive, redeem and restore.
As the prophet Jeremiah wrote:
“Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
Today’s focal verse (Jonah 2:10) is a perfect example of God’s unfailing compassion. Jonah cried out to the LORD from the belly of the great fish. It was God’s unfailing love that sent that fish to rescue Jonah from drowning due to his disobedience. And then God, in His grace, gave Jonah a second chance to obey Him. And how does He do this? God commands the fish to spit Jonah out so he can go to Nineveh.
We serve a sovereign LORD. He reigns over all of creation. And yet He is compassionate in our weakness. He is LORD over the wind and the waves. He is LORD over the fish of the sea. He is LORD over Jonah and Nineveh. And He is LORD over you. This holy, mighty, compassionate God has great love for you…and His mercies are new every single morning.
Are you, like Jonah, running from God? Are you in the boat heading in the opposite direction from His plan? Are you in the crashing waves of His discipline, gasping for air? Are you in the belly of the fish, crying out in gratitude for a second chance? Or are you on dry land with a fresh start that you don’t deserve, but want desperately to take? Take heart! For our God is the King of second chances. And today His compassions toward you are brand new.
Father, How do I say ‘thank You’ for Your unfailing compassion toward me? Just like Jonah, You have given me so many second chances when I fail. I want to honor You in all I do. I choose today to joyfully surrender to Your plans. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” James 4:4
What does it mean to be a “friend of the world,” as this verse states? It is an important question to answer, because choosing friendship with the world has serious consequences. James is clear…whoever chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
It is interesting that this verse does not make Jesus the object of our choice. The focus is on how we choose to relate to the world. Affection for the world results in enmity with God. Many people think that if they believe in God, that is all that matters. Not according to this verse. A line is drawn. A choice must be made. We cannot claim to follow Christ and still love the things of this world. To do so, God says, is adulterous.
So, what does friendship with the world look like? It helps to understand the use of the word “friendship” in this verse. It means a familiarity or close association…much like a brotherly love. And by “the world,” James is referring to the world order, not the people of the world. We know from Scripture that Satan and his powers are at work in the world, warring against God and His people (Ephesians 6:12). There is an unseen battle raging, and we must choose a side. Remaining neutral is not an option in this war.
Friendship with the world involves the details of our lives. It is what we watch on TV, the movies we will pay to see, the music we listen to, how we allow our children to dress, the language we use, how we spend money, how we spend our time, and the list goes on and on. In every life choice, we are siding with either the world, or with God. Are we numb to the blatant disrespect for God that is rampant in the world today, or does it grieve us and move us to take a stand…to pray?
As Christ followers, it should be evident in our daily choices whose side we stand on. Our affection should be for Christ, not for the world that is opposed to Him.
Father, Everything this world stands for is in direct opposition to You. In a world that promotes self, pride, excess and pleasure help me to stand for You, with You and in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
“Then Jesus said to them all: If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’” Luke 9:23
Self-denial. This is what Christ demands. And more importantly, it is what He deserves. Jesus isn’t asking His followers to hate themselves; he is asking them to adore Him. Just as the old hymn says:
“Jesus paid it all.
All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain.
He washed it white as snow.”
The choice to deny self is born out of adoration and gratitude, not obligation. It is the response of a heart that is ever-conscience of Christ’s sacrifice, and always thankful for His grace.
To deny yourself means to disregard your own interests for the sake of Christ and His glory. Following Jesus is not easy. There are times when He leads us to places that we do not want to go. He leads to places that are unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and even undesirable. I mean this both literally and figuratively. Loving our enemies is not comfortable. Forgiveness is not always easy. Putting others needs ahead of our own desires is tough. All of these are examples of how Jesus asks us to deny ourselves.
But, when we hold these acts of self-denial up to the cross…they don’t seem so hard, do they? When we choose to consider Christ’s sacrifice, we realize that He has the right to ask for whatever He desires from our lives. After all, we wouldn’t even have life physically or spiritually, if it weren’t for Him.
And as if what He has already given us isn’t enough, He continues to lavish His grace upon us. Whatever He asks us to give up He will replace with His abundant life. What we find is that the more we sacrifice, the more He gives. In God’s kingdom, death to self is the only way to truly live.
Jesus, You have shown me what self-denial really is. Thank You for dying so that I may live. Please help me to deny myself and follow You today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.