Jonah – God of second chances
"The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time…" Jonah 3:1
Unlike the other prophets of God who were given messages primarily for Israel and Judah, Jonah is called to be a missionary to another country. It's a noble call that untold numbers of Christians have obeyed based on Christ's Great Commission in Matthew 28. The difference with Jonah was he didn't want to go.
Jonah didn't want to preach to the Assyrians, they were evil. From a worldly point of view, they may have needed judgment, not mercy. How many of us have secretly or not so secretly 'prayed' for judgment against evil regimes.
But judgment is not our role in the Grand Drama, obedience is. God is the judge and He says vengeance is mine,' (Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:19). Judgment is God's prerogative, not ours. Jesus said, "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you," Matthew 5:44.
So Jonah doesn't do what God told him to. He didn't go to Nineveh, he headed to Tarshish, the opposite direction. But God impeded the progress of the ship Jonah was on with a powerful storm that caused the crew to fear for their live's. Soon this led to Jonah being tossed overboard and swallowed alive by a great fish that God waiting nearby like an astute Uber driver. Over the next few days as Jonah sloshed along in the bile and muck, his attitude toward living changed but his feelings toward Nineveh didn't.
God had the great fish burp Jonah up onto the shore where Jonah became the unofficial patron saint for guys like me when God gave him another chance – "The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time…" (Jonah 3:1)
What an encouraging word! Sometimes we can be fearful, reluctant, hesitant, uneasy, willfully disobedient, oblivious, or just out of sorts, and we don't do what God is calling us to do. Whether it is to repent of some particular behavior or speak to someone, or something else. We know God is speaking, but we don't do it. We turn and go the other way.
And I know from experience that when you want to run from God, Satan will be right there to provide transportation – and there was a boat that just happened to be going in the opposite direction, to Tarshish. Oh, how often have I boarded that boat!
But God loves us, He is actively conforming us into the image of Christ from glory to glory (see 2 Corinthians 3:18), He is patient and willing to give us another chance.
So Jonah got up and walked the streets of Nineveh with God's message, "In a few days Nineveh will be overthrown!" And the people believed God and repented, all the way up to the King! And God forgave them, He withheld judgment, He gave them a second chance, just as Jonah was afraid He would.
He is the God of second chances. As He did for Jonah He will do for you. Whether it is using your spiritual gifts for His glory or sins you have neglected to deal with, do you really need to spend any more time in the belly of the fish? Or are you ready to surrender to what God is doing in your life?
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9
"For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn." Romans 11:29