READ: Psalm 102, Jonah 4, John 6, Ephesians 2
The New Testament God is not Jehovah 2.0. God does not change and His character does not evolve to accommodate the renaissance or relapses of humanity. God has ever been merciful and will ever be just. The seemingly harsh God of the New Testament is full of love and compassion, and gentle Jesus is coming back with a robe dipped in blood and will consign the wicked to eternal, unrelenting hell. Same God. Same glory. God will endure; God remains the same (Psalm 102:26). Intriguingly humanity is just as offended at God’s mercy as it is at His wrath.
Jonah was not fond of the Assyrians and more than anything in the world wanted God to destroy them for all their heinous crimes. But Jonah, being a prophet, realized that God’s center is love and mercy, and he was horrified (angered) at the thought of enemies being pardoned. “I know you are a gracious and merciful God,” Jonah pouts, “slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness. One who relents from doing harm” (Jonah 4:2). If anyone deserved wrath, it was the Assyrian butchers but Jonah knew (and resented) that God would lavish mercy on them.
God’s mercy angers us. We have more twisted justice within us than we have Calvary love. God continually expresses mercy to us and we lap it up, while simultaneously coveting it, not wanting others to receive what has rescued us. We demonize others and judge them beyond the pale, unworthy of the mercy of God. In some cases we would rather die than participate in God’s mercy to others (Jonah 4:3). The issue is not that we are unrealistic about the unconverted, it is that we are dishonest about ourselves. The Assyrians were brutally pagan, lewd, and violent. They did deserve wrath, but that is not the point. The point is that Israel (and every person, every people) are just as disgusting in God’s sight. We walk to the precipice of disaster if we resent the mercy that God lavishes on the wicked, for we too are wicked and only spared by divine love.
An unchanging God continues to give mercy wicked humanity. In the ages to come He will continue to show the “exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). Jesus is our peace (v. 14), in that He reconciles us and the Assyrians, us and the radical Muslim, us and the child abuser, us and the cannibal, us and the rapist–together by the same blood and by the same mercy. Let us continue to rejoice that God will ransom those who have hurt us the most when they repent, for if He cannot mercy them, He cannot mercy us. God does not change over time, and He does not change over context. He is always just, always merciful. Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same. All may change but Jesus never. Glory to His name.