Second Chances – Jonah 3
The fourth message in our Jonah Study.
(Find the other messages from this series here)
I’m sure that we have all wanted a second chance at some point in life. We’ve probably all wished that we could have a second shot at an interview, with a relationship, or at a moment we lost our temper…
In Jonah 3 we are going to watch Jonah get his second chance.
God not only saves Jonah, but also gives Jonah a second chance to obey.
Notice that the passage takes no time in-between Jonah being vomited up on the shore.
The very next words after we read of Jonah being vomited up are a near replica of the opening words of Jonah 1.
It’s almost as if the entire book starts over again. God still has his purposes for Nineveh and He still had a plan for Jonah.
When God plucks Jonah out of the sea with a fish and drops him back on solid ground, he’s taking him toward the call he had for him. God had a plan for Jonah and Nineveh all along, and what Jonah had done had not changed that…
You see, I think that many people have this misconception that being used for God is only for people who bat a 1,000 batting average or it’s only for people who never make errors…
The truth is that God works in the mess of this world through messy people like you and me.
At every half marathon there are people who have clearly gone to the running store and spent a lot of money. They’ve got the most expensive shoes, brand new running gear, every running gadget, and then they get blow away by people who are wearing the shoes they mow the grass in and their old physical education t-shirt.
I’m sure the same is true for hunting or for stitching or for baseball or golf- looking the part doesn’t mean anything.
When Jonah stood up and squinted as he tried to adjust to the light he hadn’t seen in 3 days, he really needed a shower, he needed to get the seaweed out his hair, but before he had a chance to do any of that God said, Jonah go to Nineveh and deliver this message.
Jonah definitely did not look the part of a prophet.
Jonah definitely did not get the call this second time because he was so qualified…
God called him anyways.
God uses crooked sticks to draw straight lines.
– Martin Luther
You’ve made a mess of life. You’ve made many mistakes, but God wants to use you to make a difference.
He’s calling you. There’s some stuff that still needs to be cleaned up. You still stink like your old life, but God has saved you for a reason, he’s got a calling, he got some marching orders, he’s got a job for you to do.
When I was in Bible College I got myself into trouble and had to meet with the disciplinary committee. They told me that I was expelled and that Mr Gaynor, the dean of men would escort me to my dorm room where I could pack all of my belongings and leave campus immediately.
As I made the drive back home, I thought I was done. I thought I’d never get to serve in ministry.
But it wasn’t long after that God gave me an opportunity to go and serve as intern and associate in Colorado. I still had the stink of those mistakes on me, but God gave me a second chance.
Occasionally I’ll still get the “you don’t look like a pastor” because of my age, though I’m not getting it as much as I used to…
I can remember one time in particular when a doctor looked at me strange when I explained I was the patient’s pastor, not their grandson. She turned her head to the side and said, “really?”
I’ve looked at my own life that way a lot of times…
God gave me a second chance and called me to serve…
SO Jonah listens this time, he goes to Nineveh and he give a short and sweet and simple message in verse 4.
“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
Jonah’s message was simple and clear.
8 words. That’s all that we have record of Jonah saying.
That’s all that was needed.
That was the summary of his message.
When Jesus started His ministry His message was pretty similar.
“Repent for the kingdom of God is nigh.”
The next few verses are remarkable.
So the people believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth and ashes.
Even the king get’s converted…
We’ll look at those in a second, but first I want to talk about this simple message that prompts all this repentance…
Jonah’s sermon wasn’t great. It wasn’t extravagant.
It was simple and it was clear.
It was something that everyone could understand. It was urgent.
A friend of mine was recently told by an older preacher that attends his church “you are not a strong preacher.” My friend said, as long as the everyday people in my congregation are understanding the word of God because I’m making it clear to them, I don’t care if he thinks I’m a strong preacher.
I love a lot about Abraham Lincoln… but I love the scene of Lincoln speaking at Gettysburg. He followed Edward Everett who had spoken for 2 hours recounting detail after detail about America’s history, about the battle at Gettysburg, and he did a fantastic job.
Lincoln got up and spoke for only a couple of minutes, but said in simplicity what needed to be heard…
Jonah’s message was simple, but paired with what God was up to in Nineveh, it brought about a powerful response. The entire city responds.
Verse 5 says from the greatest to the least.
It’s incredible. The conversion of this city is amazing.
This past week was the funeral for Billy Graham.
He was called “America’s Pastor” and has been referred to as the greatest evangelist of his generation.
Billy Graham’s message was simple. His focus was clear.
God used him to bring about the conversion of many.
Through the simple and clear message, God gave Nineveh a second chance.
Verse 5 is so great.
The people believed God.
They believed God. They took him at his word. They believed that he would destroy them if they didn’t turn to Him.
They believed that they needed to be transformed, that they needed to change, that they needed to turn from their ways.
The truly believed.
We throw around the word belief today.
We say “I believe in God” and we mean that we believe that there is a God, when these people believed God, they weren’t just believing that he existed, they were believing what he said.
If I were to say to you, I believe you- you would know that I wasn’t saying I believe you exist, but that I accept what you are saying.
Many people say there is a God, but have not believed what He has said about Himself or about them or about the world or about sin or about death or about heaven and hell.
There’s a direct link between belief and action.
Belief precedes action.
We act based upon what we believe. We prepare for things that we believe will happen. We act upon truths we’ve come to know.
The Ninevites believed Jonah and more importantly they believed God so they acted. If they thought Jonah was just a crazy person, they wouldn’t have responded. But because of their belief, they acted.
Their faith wasn’t strong, their understanding was weak, but they believed.
Look at the words of the king in verse
9Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
He’s saying, let’s turn back to God and perhaps he will forgive us.
The king had a little bit of faith and a whole lot of desperation, and that was enough.
You don’t have to understand it all, you don’t need to know it all, just believe. Maybe your faith is mixed with desperation this morning and your faith is weak but it’s critical…
Belief leads to action.
If the Ninevites said, we believe you Jonah and then just carried on as they normally did, it would be obvious that they didn’t actually believe.
Their actions demonstrated their belief. Their actions showed that they believed.
Jesus said, If you love me you will keep my commandments.
Jesus was saying, if you really are a follower of me, you’ll believe what I’ve said. You’ll follow my advice. You’ll follow my commands.
The actions of the people showed that they believed and that they knew they had been wrong.
Sackcloth and Ash was the symbol of mourning.
Fasting was a demonstration of seriousness.
They were showing the realization of their error.
The king goes so far as to say, put the animals in sackcloth too and don’t let them eat!
I had a teacher in high school who told me about when he came to Christ. He went home and he threw away his TV and his record player because he thought they were evil and that God would want him to get rid of them.
He said, my parent thought I had joined cult.
He said, I have a new TV now and a CD player, but at the time I just wanted to do anything and everything to show God I believed.