Second Chances - JONAH
“Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah 3:1-2
The story of Jonah is one many of us learned in Sunday school, GB or church as a young child. We remember the highlights of the story: a man who was swallowed by a large fish and lived there for three days and three nights; it’s not a story you could easily forget! However, there is more to the story of Jonah than just a man who survived living inside a fish. The story of Jonah is one of disobedience, trusting in God and second chances.
The book of Jonah begins with God asking for Jonah to visit Nineveh to preach against the wickedness that was going on in the city, or the city would be destroyed - yet Jonah ran away in the opposite direction. It could be easy to judge Jonah in this situation as he directly disobeyed God’s request. However, the Ninevites were known to worship the false god, Ashur. They were savage people who lived miles away from Jonah’s home. I’m sure many of us in that situation would have reacted the same way as Jonah, whether we want to admit it or not.
However, God didn’t give up on Jonah after he disobeyed him. He sent a second chance in the form of a storm and a big fish. I’m sure when Jonah was cast into the stormy sea, he didn’t think of it as a second chance, but God’s plans often aren’t what we expect.
In Isaiah 55:8-9 it says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” These tell us that despite our plans and expectations, God’s plans for us are so much better for us, even if they don’t make sense to us at the time.
Jonah knew he had disobeyed God and that the storm was his fault, and so demanded to be punished and thrown into the sea, but this wasn’t the end for Jonah - God sent a great fish to rescue him. This teaches us that no matter what we do God’s love can still reach us. Jonah was at rock bottom, yet God listened to him from within the fish.
“In my distress, I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.”
When Jonah was back on dry land, God spoke to him again asking him to go to Nineveh, and this time he obeyed. Jonah spent three days walking through the city, telling thousands of people about God and his love and many repented, including the king. There was revival in the land, the king ordered everyone in the land to call urgently on God so they would not die - all because God gave Jonah a second chance.
“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.”
Jonah’s story didn’t end here - you can read more about Jonah and how God showed his love for him and the Ninevites, despite Jonah’s anger with God for forgiving the wicked people. Sometimes we can be like Jonah, we readily accept forgiveness when we have done wrong, embracing our second chance, yet we can’t extend the same forgiveness to others who have hurt us.
God is a just God, but He is also merciful. He extends His love to people who don’t deserve it, like Jonah and the wicked people in Nineveh and like us. We sin again and again, just like the Ninevites, yet God gives us a second, a third in fact he gives us many more chances.
However, God goes one step further and gives us a new life when we repent and trust in Him, through Jesus’ sacrifice for us. We don’t have to repeat the cycle of sin, repent, forgiveness - we can place our trust in God and His Son’s wonderful sacrifice for us and know that we are forgiven through the shedding of His blood in Calvary.
Let’s celebrate God’s mercy and grace that has been poured on us and ask God to help us extend the same mercy and forgiveness to those around us; even if we don’t think they deserve a second chance.