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The God of Second Chances

By

Thomas R. Fletcher

 

Read Jonah Chapters 3 & 4

 

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.”

When God saw their actions, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them.  God relented.  God gave them another chance.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”

Jonah knew some truths about God—truths he had apparently wanted to keep to himself. Jonah had just experienced God’s loving-kindness. After God first called Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah ran away, putting his prejudice above God’s directive.

I can’t fault Jonah too much for resisting what God wanted. How often have I tried to hide from God, going my own way? How often have I avoided what I clearly sensed God would have me do? How often have I, like Jonah, wanted to see God punish others for their sins?

Even though Jonah disobeyed and ran from God, he was given a second chance. With grace and mercy, God was still willing to use Jonah in spite of his past failure. Jonah knew the Lord’s compassion, and so do we. How can we not want to see that mercy extended to others? God has given us another chance more times than we can count.  We become more like God when we extend a second chance to others.

God of second chances, forgive us for not extending mercy to others. Show us someone with whom to share your loving-kindness today.

Pray for someone who needs a second chance; help me be willing to offer others a second chance.

 

 

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