Jonah and the God of the Second Chance!
God Gives Second Chances!
It was New Year's day in 1929 when Georgia Tech played the University of California in the Rose Bowl. In that game a man named Roy Riegels caught a fumble for California. However, he became confused and started running 65 yards in the wrong direction. Luckily, one of his teammates, Benny Lom, ran after him and tackled Riegels just before he scored for the other team. Sadly, California attempted to punt, Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety, which ultimately led to their victory at the end of the game.
That strange play happened in the first half of the game and everyone who was watching was asking the same question. What will Coach Nibbs Price do with Roy Riegels in the second half.
The men filed off the field after the first half of the game and went into the dressing room. They sat down on the benches an on the floor. All but Riegels. He put his blanket around his shoulders, sat down in a corner, put his hands in his face and sobbed uncontrollably.
The coach, who like most coaches usually had a great deal to say to his men at halftime, was unusually quiet, possibly trying to figure out what to do with Riegels.
When the Second half was announced, Price told the team:
"Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second."
The players got up and started out. All but Riegels. He didn't budge. The coach looked back and asked Riegels if he'd heard what he'd said. Then Riegels looked up and said:
"Coach, I can't do it to save my life! I've ruined you! I've ruined the University of California! And I've ruined myself! I couldn't face the crowd in the stadium to save my life!"
Then the coach put his hand on the man's shoulder and said:
"Roy, get up and go on back. The game is only half over!"
With that encouragement, Roy Riegels went back to the game. And the opposing team would tell you that they had never seen a man play football as well as Riegels played that second half!.
Like Coach Price with this poor man, our God is a God of second chances. And Nowhere is that seen more clearly than in the Old Testament Book of Jonah. God's grace and mercy abound in this book and we will do well to understand and learn from its words.
I. Author, Background and Setting
It doesn't say anywhere in the text who wrote the book of Jonah, however, most scholars lean toward the belief that it was written by the prophet himself. Jonah was active during the reign of Jeroboam II who, because of the relative weakness of Syria and Assyria at the time, was allowed to enlarge the borders of the Northern Kingdom of Israel to where it had been in the days of David and Solomon. The years that Jeroboam reigned were between 793-753 B.C. And the incidents in the book most likely took place around 760 B.C.
Although he could have easily prophesied to the Northern Kingdom that was spiritually bankrupt at the time, God had a special mission for Jonah to the Gentile City of Nineveh, which was the Capital city of Israel's enemy Assyria.
Nineveh was founded by Nimrod, great-grandson of Noah (Genesis 10:6-12). It was perhaps the largest city in the ancient world and became the Capital City of the Assyrian empire. It was infamous for it's evil and cruelty. The Ninevites and the Assyrians, in general, were notorious for doing horrible things to their captives such as amputating their hands, gouging out their eyes, skinning people alive and decapitating them. So God would have been completely justified in destroying such a people. But Jonahs' mission was to warn them ahead of time of the coming judgment.
II. A Synopsis of Jonah
The story begins with the prophet Jonah, son of Amittai being commanded by God to go to of Nineveh. The Lord tells Jonah:
"Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city and cry out against it, for their wickedness has come up before me!" (1:3)
However, Jonah didn't want anything to do with this and decided to get on a ship in Joppa that was headed for Tarshish, in the opposite direction. Scripture says that he fled from the presence of the Lord (3).
However, as the saying goes: "You can run, but you just can't hide!" That is especially true when you are trying to flee the presence of an all-knowing, all-powerful God who created the universe.
The Lord hurled a great wind and storm in the direction of the ship, which nearly caused it to break apart. The men on board cried out to their gods and began to throw cargo off the vessel to lighten the load (4-5).
In the meantime, Jonah was in the hold of the ship and was sound asleep. The captain approached him and said:
"How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish!" (6).
The men of the ship then cast lots to find out who had lead to the calamity that they were experiencing. And the lot fell on Jonah.
The ship's crew then began to question Jonah:
"Tell us now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation and where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you? (8).
"I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of Heaven who made the sea and the dry land."
This frightened the men, especially since they found out from the prophet that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord. They rebuked him, asking how he could do such a thing. Then they asked him what they could do to him to make the sea calm again. (10-11).
Jonah then told them to pick him up and throw him into the sea. They were reluctant at first and tried to row back to land, but nothing worked. Then the men of the ship earnestly prayed to the Lord, not to let them perish on account of this man and not to put innocent blood on them because, as they said:
"You, oh Lord, have done as you pleased!" (12-14)
So, the sailors picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, which immediately becomes calm. The men feared the Lord, offering Him sacrifices and making vows to Him. (15-16).
In the meantime, the Lord prepared a great fish to swallow the prophet and he remained in that creature for three days and three nights (17).
Then Jonah did what any sane person would do under similar circumstances. He prayed to the Lord his God. Most of chapter 2 is that prayer. He repents, crying out in prayer and praises the Lord. The prayer ends with a surprisingly prophetic statement: "Salvation belongs to the Lord!" (2:9).
Next, we see the complete control that the Lord has over all of His creatures as He speaks to the great fish and the animal vomited Jonah up onto dry land. Most commentators believe that he is thrust out where he began, at Joppa (10).
In the third chapter, God gives Jonah a second chance to do what He had originally commanded him to do and this time the prophet obeys. He walks through the city and proclaims that in forty days the city would be destroyed (1-4). Obviously, Yahweh had prepared the hearts of this people for the message because they fasted and repented, wearing sackcloth and ashes (5-9).
At the end of this chapter, we see God observing the deeds of Nineveh. And then He relented of the calamity that He had vowed and didn't destroy them. (10).
This angers Jonah because Israel's enemies had been spared. He gets so upset that he just wants the Lord to take his life (4:1-4).
He then goes out of the city and sits down to pout and rest. He makes a shelter for himself to see if the Lord would change his mind again and destroy Nineveh after all. And God provides a vine to shelter him from the hot Sun This made the prophet very happy (5-6).
However, the next day the Lord put a worm on the vine to destroy it and cause it to wither. He also sent a scorching East wind and caused the Sun to beat down on his head, making Jonah complain again, wanting all the more to die (7-8).
God then scolds Jonah and teaches the reluctant prophet a lesson. He asks Jonah whether or not he had good reason to be angry about the plant that had withered. He replied:
"I have good reason to be angry, even to death!"
The Lord then says:
"You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals!"
And so the Lord teaches Jonah that He not only has compassion and forgiveness for His people Israel but also for a wicked Gentile people who repent as well. They are all His creation.
III. God Gives His Servants Second Chances
The first thing that we can learn from this true tale is that God can, and often does give his servants a second chance to get things right. For those who believe that they have wasted their life and ruined any chance of the Lord ever using them, they need only look to Jonah. He not only refused to do the Lord's bidding, he ran in the opposite direction in order to keep from doing what he was supposed to do. And yet the Lord still managed to use him.
Of course, we see this man putting himself through a lot of pain and suffering that he otherwise wouldn't have gone through, just as we also will do if we choose to disobey the Lord.
But, as many servants of the Lord saw, God gives second chances. We see one given to King David, who, later on in the Old Testament, committed a sin with Bathsheba, committing adultery with her, and then having her husband murdered. We also see it with Peter in the New Testament, who denied his Lord three times. And we can see a second chance given to the Apostle Paul who, before conversion, killed Christians. Later, upon repentance, God used all of these men mightily.
Jonah, like these other servants, is an example of God's mercy and grace. God forgives the greatest of sins and then takes the sinner and makes him one of the greatest trophies of that mercy and grace the world has ever seen. And as long as we are alive, the Lord isn't finished with us and can use any of us, despite our sins and weaknesses. And for that, we can truly praise His name.
IV. God Gives Nations Second Chances
Just as God was concerned about the great and evil city of Nineveh, He is still concerned today about all nations and desires for them to repent. I think about our great nation of America and all of our corporate sins. It reminds me of something that our Sixteenth President did during the Civil War.
On April 30, 1863, then President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a National Day for Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer. In it, he called for this country to repent of its' sins. Here are his exact words:
"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, the many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to God that made us. It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."
Among the sins that America needed to confess in that day was the sin of slavery that treated some men, women, and children as if they were less than the human beings created in the image of God that they were. Those national sins lead to the death of 620,000 men on the battlefield. Considering the fact that there weren't as many people living in America at that time, if the same percentage who died in the Civil War died today, the death toll would be 6 million souls.
America in our day is in Civil War over values and we cannot remain silent. Our greatest need is seen over and over in the Bible and that is the need to confess our National sins and turn to God.
Of course, we could look at many places in the Old Testament to see the revival of the Nation of Israel and see how God relents of judgment. But nowhere is it seen more clearly, the complete change of a nation than the repentance of the City of Nineveh, the Capital of Assyria after the preaching of the prophet Jonah to that people during his time.
Sadly, we see from history and in the Bible itself, that it didn't last forever. However, the repentance was real and kept God from judging that generation of Ninevites and it is a great example of how God can forgive and suspend judgment upon a nation, even one whose sins are great. And the United States is no exception.
I am not convinced that America's greatest days are behind us. There have been great revivals in the past, and I believe that God could do it again. However, we as His people, have to repent and pray, speaking to God on behalf of our nation.
And we need to be like Jonah after he was given his second chance and tell America that God doesn't take sin lightly. We have to warn them of possible judgment ahead if they don't turn to the Lord and turn from sin.
V. God Has Given the World a Second Chance.
Last, but certainly, not least, God not only cares about individuals and nations, he cares about the world. In fact, he cared so much that He sent His one and only Son to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16). We were all dead in trespasses and sins and were headed toward an eternity apart from God in Hell.
However, Jesus died and was raised again to life. He is now seated at the right hand of the Father and will one day come to take those who have accepted him by faith to be with Him forever.
None of us deserves this second chance. However, God once again has shown Himself to be a God of grace and mercy and all we need do is repent, turning to Him in faith and accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior.
Therefore, we who have received this second chance, are now obligated by love and by commandment from God to be His ambassadors, telling the world that God, through Christ, has reconciled them to Himself, if only they will accept that reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:19-21). This is our main purpose for our life and should be our passion, no matter what we do to earn a living in this world.
And so, no matter who or what it is- a person, a nation, or the whole world- our God is a Sovereign who delights in second chances for those who are open to repentance and change. There is no one who is too far gone that our Savior cannot reach him or her and make that person a masterpiece of His grace. God is in the recycling business. He takes an old wrecked life that is torn and tattered with sin and makes it into a new and vibrant one, ready to tell other wrecks what He's done for them.
If you are here today, there is hope. As the songwriter has said:
Are you tired of chasing pretty rainbows
Are you tired of spinning round and round
Wrap up all the shattered dreams of your life
And at the feet of Jesus lay them down
Give them all
Give them all
Give them all to Jesus
Shattered dreams, wounded hearts, broken toys
Give them all
Give them all
Give them all to Jesus
And he will turn your sorrows into joy
My final plea to you is this: No matter where you are, or what you've done, give yourself to the Lord, and you will learn, just like Jonah, and everyone else has who has done it, that He will give you a second chance to make something beautiful out of your life.
© 2019 Jeff Shirley