Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Jonah 3:8-10 -- On Turning From Our Evil Ways

"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 3:8-10

This is a really cool example in the scriptures of repentance.  God sent Jonah to preach to Nineveh, and although we know that Jonah got distracted on the way, he eventually arrived, and gave God's warning to the people: "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown" (Jonah 3:4). And, in one of the coolest surprises in the Bible, "the people of Nineveh believed God" (Jonah 3:5).

They proclaim a fast, and they ask each other to turn away away from evil and violence, in case God might have mercy on them, and save them.  And God does. :)

Now, of course we can say this was an imaginary threat, and was never going to happen, or we can get mad, as Jonah did, to think that God would go back on something that he said he would do.  It seems to me though, from so much evidence elsewhere in the gospel, the scriptural accounts, and really our own lives, that God's statements and his commandments are always conditional.  More like if-then statements.  Kind of like D&C 88:63: "Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you." If you do this, I will do that... almost always, if you obey, I will bless, but I think set up either way.  If we do good, good will come, and if we do evil, evil will come.  Luckily, when God sees us veering off into the dark, he warns us.  He sends a message, through a thought or feeling, or through a friend or a scripture or a prophet.  And he wouldn't even bother to warn if there weren't a chance.  When God says that he will destroy a place, he's still listening to the prophet who wants to find a way to save it... are there 40 righteous people?  30? 10? 5?  And he's always willing to let us have another chance if we truly repent.

True repentance, of course, doesn't mean just saying you're sorry and then going off to do it again because you got away with it once.  It has to be sincere, and we actually have to change ourselves so that we don't just slip back into old patterns.  The people of Nineveh were going all out to save themselves, and to repent.  I think that is amazing.  More often it is a Lehi preaching in Jerusalem experience where you tell them that destruction is coming and they eventually try to kill you.  Unfortunately, I think we are that way more often on an individual level as well.  We don't want to hear the warning because it's hard to take criticism and it's really hard to change.  It would be so much easier if the thought or the feeling, or the friend... or the scripture, or the prophet... were wrong, and we could keep doing whatever we want.  Today, though, let's be like the exceptional, amazing people of Nineveh.  Let's hear God's warning, and believe him, and change.  Let's turn from our evil ways, and follow God's way instead.


  1. A beautiful reminder of the power of repentance and the grace the comes through Jesus Christ as we turn away from sin and turn again (and again and again) to God. Thank you for sharing.


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