Mercy Stands in the Gap - Part Two

From The Heart

Publish date: 04/03/2011

Men shall speak of the might of Your tremendous and terrible acts, and I will declare Your greatness. 7 They shall pour forth [like a fountain] the fame of Your great and abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of Your rightness and justice. 8 The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in mercy and loving-kindness.  Psalms 145:6-8 AMP

Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. 
Jonah 1:1-2 KJV

The Lord saw the great wickedness of the city of Nineveh and commanded Jonah to go to them and cry out against it — to preach and proclaim to them a message that He gave Jonah for the city. They had forty days to repent or God was going to destroy the city like He did Sodom and Gomorrah! According to Nahum, the sins of Nineveh were murder, lies, deceit, robberies, wars to plunder other cities, a multitude of whoredoms, idolatry, many kinds of witchcraft, drunkenness and the oppression of others. In short, they were very evil!

If God was not a merciful God, He could have just destroyed Nineveh without a warning. But He is righteous and will not dispense punishment arbitrarily or without giving men an opportunity to repent. Jonah was called as an intercessor — to stand in the gap — to bring God’s message to a city in need of God and His mercy. However, Jonah was disobedient and headed the other way on a ship. As a result, there was great storm, Jonah was tossed overboard and swallowed by a fish. When he repented, the fish spat him out on the beach near Nineveh and the Lord spoke to him again.

And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, 2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. 3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord . Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey. 4 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. 5 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.
Jonah 3:1-5 KJV

Apparently, the walls of the city of Nineveh were about eight miles in circumference with approximately 175,000 inhabitants, but the whole district was about thirty to sixty miles across — about three days journey. It was a very important and prominent city. Jonah went reluctantly into the city — one day’s journey — and preached the message God told him to preach. Miraculously, these pagan, evil people believed Jonah — they received God’s word to them and they ALL repented. Jonah 3:10 says, “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 had a big problem with that — he wanted God to punish and destroy that city!  “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly and he was very angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, I pray You, O Lord, is not this just what I said when I was still in my country? That is why I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and [when sinners turn to You and meet Your conditions] You revoke the [sentence of] evil against them.” (Jonah 4:1-2 AMP)

Jonah did not want to preach to Nineveh because he did not want them to repent and he didn’t want God to forgive them! He knew that if they repented, God would forgive and spare them. Many times we behave just like Jonah, we are angry when God forgives someone whom we think has done the unforgivable, but God is righteous and just and He will not punish those who sincerely repent. Many years later, God was forced to completely wipe out the city because of their great sin, but this generation that Jonah preached to was spared, because they repented.

Psalms 145:17-18 AMP says that, “The Lord is [rigidly] righteous in all His ways and gracious and merciful in all His works. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely and in truth.” The Lord will always show grace and mercy when He can — His righteousness makes Him forgive and redeem the worst sinner when His conditions are met.

Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy [that is, readiness to help those in trouble] and not sacrifice and sacrificial victims. For I came not to call and invite [to repentance] the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), but sinners (the erring ones and all those not free from sin). Matthew 9:13 AMP

And if you had only known what this saying means, I desire mercy [readiness to help, to spare, to forgive] rather than sacrifice and sacrificial victims, you would not have condemned the guiltless. Matthew 12:7 AMP

Father God is always looking for the way of mercy — for an opportunity to extend mercy — not judgment. Judgment gives Him no pleasure. That does not mean that there is no punishment for sin. Realize that if you violate His commandments and do not repent of it, you will not be saved from the resulting consequences that you invited upon your life. There are absolutely consequences and punishments for sin. However, God is not pleased to have to punish and He loves to extend mercy if we will repent.