“Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.”
Then God saw their works,
God took note of the credibility of the Ninevites’ repentance.
that they turned from their evil way;
The Ninevites genuinely faced, acknowledged, and turned from their evil way. Their repentance was far more than a token tip of the hat to God.
and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them,
God chose not to bring judgment to the city of Nineveh. God “relented” or repented of bringing catastrophe on the Ninevites. He changed His mind based on the actions of the city. God is always willing to forgive, but we should not presume on His forgiveness.
1 Ti 2:3-4, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
2 Pe 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
and He did not do it
God did not bring judgment on Nineveh.
God cannot change because He is immutable; God changes His actions toward man when man changes toward God.
God is immutable and never changes His mind, so how is it possible that “God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger?”
1 Sa 15:29, “And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”
Malachi 3:6, “For I am the Lord, I do not change;
Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.”
He 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Jas 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
How could we trust a God who goes back on His word? He knows all things from eternity past. God decreed all from eternity. He knows everything He is going to do. The answer is found in immutability itself. God never changes His mind about truth and character. He always acts consistently with Himself. The repentance of Nineveh did not cause God to change His mind about truth; it caused Him to change His mind about the consequences of His truth. It was man who aligned himself with God and not God aligning Himself with man.
Ac 15:18, “Known to God from eternity are all His works.”
The idea of God repenting is an anthropopathism (an idea about God put in human psychological terms). It is language that accommodates itself to the viewpoint of man. Human repentance is man altering his attitude and actions to God’s standard. God’s repentance is God reacting to human adjustment to His standards. Man meets God’s conditions so God is free to relate to man on God’s terms.
God exists uncaused. He is absolute and must exist as He does without change. Any change in God’s attributes would make Him less than God. However, immutability does not mean immobility. God can act without the bounds of His conventions. His immutability is not like a stone’s inability to respond to changes around it. It is more like a thermostat of mercury that rises and falls with the temperature. The mercury always reflects the temperature accurately. God’s immutability always acts in the same way. He never adapts or accommodates His character to man; man must always accommodate to God. That is why some of God’s commands are conditional.
Je 18:7-10, “The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 8 “if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. 9 “And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10 “if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.”
God always reacts righteously to the actions of man. Sinfulness on the part of man always produces righteous judgment. Repentance always produces mercy in God. That is the way a mirror reacts to whatever gets in front of it. A mirror acts candidly to whatever it sees.
Nu 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”