The Mercy of Second Times (Jonah 3:1–10)

“Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying…” (Jonah 3:1 ESV).

Jonah deserved no “second time.” God would have been just to have left him to the depths. Jonah deserved no “first time.” The commands of God come to us as honors high above our station.

Remember the disobedient man of God in 1 Kings 13. In obedience, he delivered a powerful word to Jereboam I. He was also instructed not to return by the way he came, but another prophet lied to him saying that an angel appeared to him and that the man was to eat at his house. Once the man of God was at his home, the word of God did come to the lying prophet informing him that the man of God was to die for his disobedience. A lion killed him on his way home. If we think this harsh, we don’t understand the God who is commanding us and the honors He extends.

How many employers would be so gracious? God is no employer. He is Lord. We are his slaves. When He commands, He calls us to immeasurable privileges. We spurn these blessings and disobey. And yet, following repentance and faith, He so often gives us a “second time.” How great the mercy of God, that it not only forgives us our sins, but extends to us again the privilege of obeying our Lord?

Mediated Judgment and Mercy (Exodus 32:15–35)

“You break it, you remake it.” Is this the connection between Moses’ breaking the first set of tablets, which were completely the work of God, and the second set, which God required Moses to cut? Is Moses being punished for a temper tantrum? I doubt it. When Moses makes the second set, it doesn’t speak against, but for Moses.

Just before Moses comes down we have the fullest description of the tablets (Exodus 32:15–16). This sets you up to be devastated at their being broken; but who really has broken these tablets? The tablets say, “You shall have no other gods before me.” The tablets say, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image.” Who has broken the tablets? If Moses’ breaking the tablets was wrong, far better to break these tablets the way Moses did than the way Israel did. Still, I don’t believe Moses is sinfully throwing a hissy fit, and thus, neither was his making new tablets like being required to rewrite a sloppily composed essay.

Consider the following things that speak for Moses’ action. First, the very words are used to describe God’s anger (32:10), and now used for Moses’ (32:19). Second, unlike the instance in Numbers 20 where Moses does disobey God, there is no rebuke here. Third, Moses breaks the tablets at the foot of the mountain, the place where the true altar was built and their covenant with the true God was ratified. Finally, the tablets are a visible sign of the covenant. Israel has broken covenant, and now Moses throws them down as a sign of what has happened. Moses throws down the tablets of the covenant to show them what they’ve done.

Following this, further judgments are then mediated through Moses, yet, following this, he pleads with God for the people. When the people enter back into covenant through Moses’ mediation, the second set of tablets is carved by the mediator. This isn’t punishment, rather, it speaks to the necessity and blessing of mediation before God.

What we have broken, Jesus makes new. We have received something better than the sign of tablets for our covenant breaking. We have received the cup of the new covenant. Yet all the same, we should not take this sign lightly (1 Corinthians 11:27–32). Both judgment and mercy were mediated through Moses. We should not then be dumfounded that such things can be joined together in Jesus if they were united in Moses. Jesus will both save His church and purify her. All of His mediation is good and all of it is for the good of the church.

Superglue not Necessary Unless (Matthew 23:37-24:2)

This text is like superglue (if needed). But it isn’t like the covert superglue project of a son glueing two things together that shouldn’t be, say a forehead and a flashlight. No, this is the mature parental glueing together of something the clumsy child has broken.

It doesn’t take superglue to hold the end of chapter 23 with the beginning of chapter 24. It just takes clumsy foolishness to break them apart. Jesus’ lament is snuggled nicely in the midst of judgment speak; it’s cozily at home. Curse and lament, “woe,” and “o,” tenderness and wrath, these two do go together.

How? Theologians have long spoken of two wills (some even mention three) in God using a variety of labels. You may hear them mention God’s secret and revealed will, or His will of command and will of decree. They might speak of his sovereign will and moral will, or his efficient and permissive will. Still others prefer the terms decretive and preceptive will. That there are so many terms says both that there is something there, and that that something is complex.

Let’s simplify by analogy. Can you have two wills? Have you ever had to go to the dentist? Have you ever wanted ice cream and to exercise? Better, have you ever wanted ice cream and to lose weight? As far as I am concerned, both exercise and ice cream are good desires. The trick is to will them in the right proportion.

Can God have two wills? Look no further than the cross. When sinful men crucified our Lord they were violating the will of God, and yet, they were carrying it out. We mustn’t think of God’s will(s) like our going to the dentist, “I guess I have to. I want to, but I don’t want to.” The ice cream illustration is better. Ice cream is so good, illustrations become superior to other illustrations by the mention of it. A person might desire ice cream, and desire to exercise; and these desires can harmonize perfectly. Perhaps the exercise is so intense, a high number of calories must be consumed.

In God, mercy and wrath meet perfectly. It takes no superglue for these to go together. They meet in this goal, the glory of God. Jesus wills to save and He wills to damn and He does neither with a grimace. “Our God is in the heavens, he does all that he pleases (Psalm 115:3).” The will of God is always done with pleasure, because the Father delights to make much of the Son and the Son of the Father and the Spirit of them both. And this is what everything that God wills in every way is ultimately about. If you make God supremely about you, you will hollow out words like election, and sovereignty to put these two together. If you realize the cross (John 17:1, 4-5), and all creation (Romans 11:33-36) is ultimately about the glory of God, you will see that these harmonize perfectly.

If you can’t bear this, remember this, Jesus deals out nothing that He hasn’t borne. He deals out wrath, for His glory in the damnation of sinners, and He bears that wrath for His glory in the salvation of sinners.