26 January, 2017

Jonah 3:4–10—“… And God saw their works, that [Nineveh] turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them …”



And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: 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 3:4-10 KJV).


COMMON GRACE ARGUMENT:
The first point of common grace, particularly the well-meant offer, teaches that in the preaching of the gospel God evinces His general love to all the ungodly, His pleasure in their lives, and His willingness to save them all; that in the preaching there is a temporal blessing for all men, also for those who are not saved.

In this particular case, it is said of Nineveh (whom it is suggested is a reprobate nation) that they “repented” as a result of Jonah’s preaching and subsequently their punishment was temporarily postponed and they were temporarily saved from destruction.


(I)

Rev. Herman Hoeksema

[Source: The Rock Whence We Are Hewn (RFPA, 2015), pp. 38082]

[The theory of common grace] teaches that in the preaching of the gospel God evinces his general love to all the ungodly, his pleasure in their lives, and his willingness to save them all. [It also] teaches that in the preaching there is a temporal blessing for all men, also for those who are not saved. [Examples suggested in favor of this idea often include] Ahab, who repented and whose punishment was postponed as a result of Elijah’s preaching, and [also] Nineveh, which repented as a result of Jonah’s preaching and was temporarily saved from destruction.

This is a minor point and I can dismiss it with a few remarks.

Certainly nothing in the word of God contradicts the view that the men of Nineveh were really converted. Not all were converted, but only the elect whom God had in the city at that time for his prophetic purpose. Everything is in favor of such an interpretation. This is evident from Jonah 3:5–9, which describes the conversion of the Ninevites. It is also clear from the Lord’s repeated reference to the sign of Jonah the prophet, a sign of Jesus’ death and burial and his leaving the nation of Israel to turn to the world with the gospel of salvation. Nineveh is an old-dispensational type of the world from which Christ calls his elect and gathers his “other sheep … which are not of this fold” [John 10:16]. The Savior, in words that leave no doubt as to their meaning, asserts that the men of Nineveh repented through the preaching of Jonah, while the men of his own generation refused to repent through the preaching of one much greater than Jonah. Sound interpretation certainly requires us to understand the word repentance each time in the same sense. I maintain that God for his sovereign purpose, chiefly of creating the prophetic sign of Jonah the prophet, had some of his elect in the city of Nineveh at the time of Jonah. They repented through his preaching, and for a time the city was spared for their sakes. Shortly afterward the city was destroyed.


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(II)


Rev. Herman Hoeksema

[Source: Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, December 1968]

Another Illustration of the same truth is the example of Nineveh. We must consider the incident of Nineveh as historical fact. The chief significance of the book of Jonah is its prophetic character. Nineveh is typical of the world to whom the gospel will be preached after Christ has risen from the dead. Even as Jonah goes forth after his three days in the fish’s belly to preach the word of God to a people outside of Israel, so the risen Christ will go forth after a three day’s stay in the heart of the earth to preach the glad evangel to every nation. But that is not our consideration at present. We must view the matter as historical reality.

The wickedness of Nineveh is great, and because of this Jonah is sent to preach its destruction. Also here final punishment is preached: Jonah must announce extermination of Nineveh as a city. The question also in this case is whether Nineveh, as Sodom of old, is ripe for destruction. Jonah preaches, and Nineveh humbles itself. The announcement of punishment still terrifies its inhabitants. As in Ahab’s case, this is a sign that the time for final judgment is not yet ripe.

The destruction of the city is postponed for the while. Surely, not long afterward Nineveh is destroyed. But when Jonah preached against the city, the wickedness of its inhabitants had not reached its culmination. Hence the Lord’s final sentence is not executed. Nineveh’s example, like that of Ahab, assures us that final punishment will be inflicted only when the measure of iniquity is full. This filling of the measure of iniquity takes place only along the organic line of the development of the race, and even of individual tribes and families.


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(III)


More to come! (DV)



            

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