In this verse God was confronting the nation of Judah. For they had been practicing religious festivals of their own design in direct rebellion against Him. In other words, they were taking God’s Word – adding and twisting it to fit their own desires and notions. Kinda sounds like religion today where God’s Word has been spun and misinterpreted to become more politically correct and not offensive anyone. But man’s job is not to reinterpret God’s Word in order to make everyone feel better. Man’s job simply is to obey what God has already written.
God’s gracious gift of salvation is for everyone…for He wants all to be saved.( I Timothy 2:4) But we shouldn’t take His slowness in judgement as a sign of weakness, indecision, or wavering…but rather as long-suffering. For it’s only by God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience is He willing to give all of us the time to change our minds and repent.
It tells us in Luke 1:17 that John the Baptist ministered in the spirit and power of Elijah…down to the same attire. For the Prophet Elijah was recognized by what he wore – a garment of hair with a leather belt around his waist ( II Kings 1:8). This garb in fact was so powerful that false prophets started copying his dress in order to deceive the people. (Zechariah 13:4) Initially, the curious crowd might have been drawn by the wild-looking man, but when John shouted, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near!” divine conviction fell upon them.
In the Hebrew, this sentence is only 5 words long. It doesn’t even mention God, nor did it call the people of Nineveh to repentance. So why did the Ninevites believe what Jonah warned them of? Jesus tells us in Luke 11:29-32 that the Ninevites had heard of Jonah’s miraculous deliverance from the belly of that fish and that they will, “stand up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.” The people of Nineveh heard and believed God…may this present generation do the same.
John the Baptist came preaching repentance. His baptism was a ritual symbolizing spiritual cleansing through the forgiveness of sins to those who repented and believed the gospel, and also prepared the Jews for the coming Messiah. But many in the crowd took offense, wanting rather to put their trust in their lineage or “pedigree” for their righteousness. But it tells us in Galatians 3:6-7, “Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.” We will never get to heaven on the shirt-tails of our Godly father, or on the apron-strings of our prayer warrior grandmother. No, the only way is by putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ…and it’s only through repentance and forgiveness of our sins that we have the promise of eternal life.
The verse written here was the fulfillment of prophecy first spoken by the prophet Isaiah, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2) Jesus was the embodiment of light and truth, and His message still rings true today…”Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
God is not hesitating out of uncertainty…it’s not from indecision either that He has held off judging the world. No, it’s because of the Lord’s long-suffering grace and mercy that He delays the Judgment Day. For in I Timothy 2:4 it tells us, “God our Savior, Who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” Our Lord wants no one to perish, but all to come to the saving reality of Jesus Christ…but neither will God wait forever.