“The Word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time …” (Jonah 3:1)
In a recent quiet time with the Lord, I was looking at the story of Jonah again. One can get distracted by “knowing the story” rather than asking the Lord to speak to one afresh. That is what he did.
This passage is both challenging as well as encouraging. Jonah had heard the “Word of the LORD” and had opted to run away from the Lord. Like a fugitive, Jonah was on the run from God with nowhere to hide (read Psalm 139). Some may ask why Jonah felt he had to run away, why didn’t he stay where He was? A possible reason is suggested by Dr Steve Brady, a well-known Christian writer, in a recent devotional passage(*): “…when God speaks, we simply can’t stay where we are, everything changes.”
As in Jonah’s situation, his disobedience impacted on others, by acts or omissions. It put those Jonah was traveling with in grave danger. For the people of Nineveh, they needed to hear a message that they were not being given. Although Jonah had disobeyed the Lord, the love of God would not let him go. God had made a plan. This plan meant taking Jonah back to where he belonged.
To refer to Dr Brady’s devotional message again: “When a believer runs from God, there are basically three possibilities for what happens next. The first is the most dramatic and unusual: God takes us home to heaven early, as someone has put it, So, Jonah ‘died’: I suspect that would been the sailors’ report on reaching land”
Although less dramatic, the second option is equally tragic. “We get off the main track and find ourselves in a siding, reaching the end of the line with reference to further usefulness for the Lord” Is this possibly what Paul referred to in 1 Cor 9:27 – “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified”? May “God deliver us from a saved soul and a wasted life!”
The story of Jonah clearly describes the third option, a second chance. There are a number of examples of this in Scripture, for example, Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Peter and even John Mark who ran away from the mission field. As referred to above, God’s intervention in the lives of these people was not merely for their personal well-being but for the blessing of many other people. In Jonah’s case a whole pagan city turned to God. What greater work of grace could there be?
The truth is that there is only One who did His Father’s will to perfection and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. He did not need ‘a second chance’. Instead, He died so that we may be forgiven and be given that grace to get up and start all over again. How we can praise God for sending Jesus!
(Reference to Devotional reading was taken from “Living Light”, Nationwide Christian Trust, Mulberry House, Chelmsford Road, High Ongar, Essex, CM5 9NL)