Monday, November 27, 2017

Jonah and the God of the Second Chance

“When God saw … how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.”  – Jonah 3:10

The early 20th century British pastor George H. Morrison used to say, “The victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings.” Isn’t that true? When we fall down, Satan tries to convince us that we can’t get back up. He tries to convince us that once we’ve failed God, God won’t take us back, God won’t forgive us, and God certainly won’t everunder any circumstances—allow us to serve Him again in any useful way.

The first time God gave Jonah an opportunity to serve Him, Jonah disobeyed and ran away. But God is the God of the second chance. After rescuing Jonah from the storm and helping him survive his stay in the belly of a big fish, God gave Jonah another chance as He lovingly said, “Go to the great city of Ninevah and proclaim to it the message I give you” (Jonah 3:2).

God had already chosen not to put Jonah to death for his sins--that’s mercy. But here, God chooses to wipe the slate clean and give him a second chance to do what He had asked Jonah to do a week earlier—that’s grace. That’s undeserved favor. Isn’t God awesome? Not only does He offer to spare us the punishment that we deserve; He also offers us a clean slate, a fresh start, a new beginning to live for Him and do His great work. And this time, after being showered by God’s mercy and grace, Jonah “obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh” (Jonah 3:3).

Then, in verse 4, the Bible gives us the gist of Jonah’s message when he gets to town: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” Surprisingly, that’s it. In the original Hebrew language Jonah’s message is only five words. That’s a pretty short sermon, don’t you think? Now, it’s likely that this is just a small sample of his message. Certainly, he pointed out their wickedness and violence. In all likelihood, he proclaimed God as holy and righteous. But I think it’s safe to say that Jonah’s message was short and sweet.

Yet, amazingly, verses 5-10 make it clear that the people of Nineveh did repent. They fasted. They put on sackcloth. Their king took off his robes, donned some sackcloth of his own, and sat in ashes.

Now, if the people of Nineveh had simply fasted and sat in ashes, would God have forgiven them? The most likely answer is—no. Because in Isaiah 58, God tells us He’s not impressed with fasting that does not include a sincere change in behavior. The Bible says that fasting is a wonderful spiritual discipline—when it is accompanied by sincere prayer and a sincere change in our behavior. And from what we read in Jonah 3, it’s clear that the Ninevites’ prayers and repentance were sincere. Notice what the king commands the people to do in verse 8b: “Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.”

The king knew there weren’t any guarantees that God would spare Nineveh the destruction He had threatened. He told his subjects in verse 9, “Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from His fierce anger so that we will not perish.” And that’s exactly what the God of the second chance did: “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened” (verse 10).

Twice at the end of the chapter we find this wonderful word, “compassion.” As Jonah says to God in the next chapter, “You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2). On the heels of showering Jonah with undeserved mercy and grace, God showered the wicked people of Nineveh with grace as well.

You see, neither Jonah nor the people of Nineveh were too far gone to be reached by God’s mercy and grace. And neither are you. We need to pay attention to Jonah’s example. When God gives you a second chance, take it. So, you blew it the first time. There’s nothing you can do about that now. But don’t blow it this time. Despite how much you disobeyed Him yesterday, receive His mercy and grace and obey Him today. Like Jonah, you can do it by God’s grace.

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit  and join us for worship tomorrow at 10 a.m.

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