Scripture: When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. Jonah 3:10 ESV
Observation: Upon the fish vomiting Jonah on dry land, the Lord again commanded his prophet to go to Nineveh and call out God’s message against it (3:1-2). Jonah obeyed the Lord without delay this time, pronouncing: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (3:4). Thus, having heralded God’s warning, all the people responded by fasting and putting on sackcloth (a sign of contrition). And once the word reached the king, he too repented and decreed that all must turn from their evil ways in the hope that the God of Israel might relent and spare their lives (2:7-9). Then, as the above verse indicates, our merciful God relented and withheld judgment.
Takeaway: This is a story about second chances. God granted Jonah a second chance by rescuing him from certain death and recommissioning him to go to Nineveh and prophesy looming destruction. And God afforded the Ninevites a second chance to turn from their evil ways and become God-fearers who would adhere to his ways. Thus, this story directs our attention to the work of Christ. The greatest of all prophets and kings, Jesus proclaimed repentance, forgiveness, and restoration through his and the Father’s acts of grace. And under this glorious covenant of grace, we receive second chances and many more.
Still, we must never presume upon our Lord’s grace by willfully continuing to sin, for we are at risk of squelching the provocations of the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sins and provokes repentance. Indeed, over time the Ninevites strayed further from God and became recalcitrant to his second warning through the prophet Nahum (about a hundred years after Jonah’s encounter). Then, in 612 BC (approximately 50 years after Nahum’s prophecy), the Tigris’ surging floodwaters breached Nineveh’s seemingly impenetrable walls, permitting enemy forces to ravish the city and its inhabitants. So while we worship the God of second chances, we would do well not to chance the consequences of unrepentant sin.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you that you are the God of second chances and continue to extend grace and forgiveness to us. Would you please help us not to presume upon your grace but instead cooperate with your Holy Spirit in ongoingly repenting of our sins? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling