I’ve been reading through the minor prophets, they were God’s loudspeaker to the Israel and Judah (after the kingdom split in 930b.c.) and the surrounding countries during times mostly of disobedience to God. As you can imagine, when a nation is misbehaving, God doesn’t have the most pleasant things to say. What I found very interesting though is every message of judgment comes with a counterpart for repentance and restoration. While God said he would judge Israel and Judah by sending them into exile in Assyria and Babylon, He also promised to bring them back.
I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob;
I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel.
-God speaking through the prophet Micah, Micah 2:12a
The time in exile, and the subsequent rule by other empires of the world was not God abandoning the people of Israel, but a time of learning for them. That time was for a purpose, and would also come to an end, when its purpose was accomplished.
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. [...]
But you must return to your God;
maintain love and justice,
and wait for your God always.
-God speaking through the prophet Hosea, Hosea 6:6, 12:6
[The LORD] will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.
What I love about Jonah is, even though he had a major attitude problem, the book isn’t really about him, it’s the story of God sending a warning to the people of Nineveh (the capital of Assyria), to turn from their ways. God offers them a second chance, and they take it!
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.
They repented and God forgave them! God does not desire suffering, but he desires repentance, and changed hearts! Everything God does, or allows to happen is for a reason.
“Even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.