the Son of Man (Jesus) came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)
Some people remember only GOD’s wrath and His mighty power and turn a blind eye to His numerous acts of mercy. Scripture is fraught with diverse instances of the display of His bounteous grace and goodness. He does not pay us according to what our sins deserve. God by nature is merciful. The Psalmist echoed this several times in the Psalms. “For the LORD is good; His mercy endures forever.” (Psalm 100:5)
Any display of God’s mercy is a direct demonstration of His love. Because He is a just God who does what is right, He will not let the wicked go unpunished. “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sins of the father to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34: 6-7) Yet this just God said that He would show “love to a thousand generations of those who love [Him] and keep [His] commandments.” (Exodus 20:6)
There are no two ways, God will not take kindly to forthright and blatant disobedience from any quarters, yet His love for all His creation will not be altered once the person chooses to repent of his or her sins and abandon them. His love is not conditioned by our past from the moment we turn our backs on the world. No weight or degree of sin can stand in the way of His forgiveness, once repentance sets in.
To illustrate this, God commissioned His prophet, Jonah, to visit Nineveh to warn them about the impending danger if they did not repent of their sins and change their ways. “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2) Nineveh had a very bad reputation and the prophet knew for certain that God would not punish the Ninevites if they complied. He wanted the Ninevites punished rather than have God pardoned them. As a result, Jonah decided to go in the opposite direction. He headed for Tarshish, forgetting that you cannot run away from God and hide.
Nineveh was a Gentile nation, renowned for its wickedness, immorality and depravity. You may wonder why it is that God would want to save such a nation in disrepute. Well, firstly, Jehovah is a God of a second chance. His prophet knew He would forgive if they repented. Because Jonah was not ready to cooperate, he encountered no end of problems. The ship in which he sailed ran into a storm and would have capsized if the prophet had not admitted that he was the cause – running away from performing a mission God had assigned him.
When they ultimately tossed the prophet overboard, Jonah was swallowed by a big fish. Immediately, the storm ceased. “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” (Jonah 3:1) This time around the prophet obeyed and carried out the instruction. The people of Nineveh “... declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.” The king ordered, “Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from His fierce anger so that we may not perish.” (Jonah 37-9)
Who was not happy? Jonah, of course. He prayed to God: “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love.” (Jonah 4:2)
In the parable of the Lost Sheep, Jesus spoke of a man who left ninety-nine of his sheep that were in safety to go in search of one that had gone astray. “And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” He concluded by saying “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:3-7)
God is asking believers, those who are enjoying God’s favour after repentance, to take the message of forgiveness to the whole world. It is available to ALL today. “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:7) It does not matter how far we have drifted from God, when we make a deliberate attempt to leave our wicked ways, He will graciously pardon. No one is beyond redemption!