Jonah 3:1-5, 10
January 21, 2018
Pastor Witt



Greeting; Grace and peace be yours in abundance through knowing God and Jesus, our Lord.


Text: 1) Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.  2) “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”  3) Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.  Now Nineveh was a very important city – a visit required three days.  4) On the first day, Jonah started into the city.  He proclaimed, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”  5) The Ninevites believed God.  They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.   10)When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.


Introduction: “You are being given a second chance.”  There’s a statement that can lead to lots of interesting thoughts.  “So this person is being given a second chance.”  I wonder what the first chance was?  Something must not have gone well.”  Or “A second chance for this person.  Now just why are you giving him/her another chance?  What’s your reason?  What’s your motivation?  What’s your expectation?  And, of course, you could supply your own dialogue in response to the intriguing statement: “You are being given a second chance.”


Just what does it mean to have a “second chance”, that is, to be given another time to attempt something that may or may not have gone well the first time?  There are different ways people can look at second chances.  Some see them as signs of weakness.  Some see them as signs of strength.  Some see them as signs of foolishness.  Some see them as votes of confidence.  Some see them as signs of desperation, as having no other options.  Some see them as signs of well conceived choice among a variety of options.  Some see them as things we are all entitled to.  Some see them as things few, if any have a right to.  These difference are often brought out for the Cardinal baseball fan by the mysterious, often inexplicable way in which the Cardinal manager handles the use of his bullpen pitchers in close games. If you follow the Cardinals, you’ve likely repeatedly questioned why the manager gave a certain pitcher another chance in a key situation, only to see the pitcher squander the opportunity and blow the game.


So what does this discussion about second chances have to do with the Book of Jonah?  Well, consider the remarkable things that happened in this short, four-chapter book in the Old Testament.   God sent a violent storm when Jonah decided to run away from an assignment he was given.  Jonah pleased with fellow passengers on the ship to thrown him into the sea.  God arranged a large fish to swallow Jonah and then transport him to dry land.  Jonah went to the capital city of the dreaded enemies of the Jews and publicly preached God’s Word to them.  Many of these unbelieving Gentiles repented of their sins and were saved.   Given all these things, what is the most remarkable thing about the book of Jonah?   Isn’t is this? - that Jonah was given a second chance,   He was given a second chance to live, a second chance to serve God as His representative, a second chance to help people who need help, a second chance to repent of his unwillingness to love his enemies.  From God’s dealings with Jonah, He gives us some important things to consider about what it means to get a second chance from Him.


1.A Second Chance Is A Gracious Gift From A Patient God


When God gives a person a second chance, we have to understand some things correctly. The God who is almighty and all-wise, the God who created and controls us and everything else is not weak or foolish or desperate about anything.   So we are not to interpret second chances we may be given as signs of God’s weakness or foolishness or desperation.   It’s not ever we who are doing God a favor by taking a second chance.  It is always that God is doing us a favor by giving it.   We must also understand – and this point is very hard for naturally selfish, stuck-on-themselves sinners to grasp – that we are not entitled to received second chances from God.   God does not owe them to us.  We have no way of coercing or obligating God to give them to us.  So this is the lesson to learn: A Second Chance is a gracious gift from a patient God.  Let me say it again: “A second chance is a gracious gift from a patient God.”


That is surely the case in the story of Jonah.  God gave Jonah a job to do, to go to the city of Nineveh and call the sinners who lived there to repentance.   Jonah refused and got on board a ship heading for Spain, the opposite direction from Nineveh.  He was adamant in his refusal to do what God wanted and tried to run away from God and his responsibility.  Jonah was defiant and most determined not to ever bring God’s Word to these people whom he disliked intensely.


God gave Jonah a second chance.  He saved Jonah from drowning.  He miraculously preserved him inside a fish’s belly.  He reauthorized his commission to preach and teach in Nineveh.  He tried by word and deed to help Jonah overcome his lack of love after Jonah completed his mission and was disappointed that the Ninevites repented.  How do we explain this.  There’s only one way.  God was very patient with this sinful man.  In His wonderful grace, His deep love for people who have forfeited the right to be love and to get further opportunities,  God gave Jonah a number of second chances.


You and I have a lot in common with Jonah.  Sometimes God tells us: “Go.”  We tell Him,”No.”  Sometimes, we may even tell him: “Hell, no.”   God tells us to speak up.   We tell Him that we are going to stay silent.   God tells us to reach out.  We tell Him that we are going to pull back.  God tells us to show our love.  We tell Him that we would rather keep our hatred.  God tells us to show up.  We decide to run away.  It may be a different assignment with some different circumstances.  But all too often, we are just like Jonah – disobedient, defiant, loveless, selfish.  Shame on Jonah and shame on us.  Like a petulant child that tries the patience of his parents.  So we try the patience of God.


God may well rebuke us.  God may well afflict us.  He has every right to.  He should, in fact, abandon us and torment us.  But here comes God reaching out again to give us a second chance – another opportunity to repent of our sins,  another opportunity to trust and claim the forgiveness that Jesus has won for us, another opportunity to be assured and convinced of His favor in Christ, another opportunity to do what we should have done before, another opportunity to respond to His love with thankful, willing obedience.  It is astounding, is it not? - that God gives us second chances and that these chances are extremely gracious gifts from a most patient and pardoning God.  Let’s remember that and rejoice over it.


2. A Fresh Opportunity To Be A Blessing


There is something else we should understand about God’s gift of second chances.  God gives second chances as additional opportunities to fulfill the purposes of our lives and to be a blessing.  God does not give second chances with the intention that they don’t mean anything.   He does want us to treat them as something insignificant or unimportant, something that we can dispose of or waste without a second thought.  We are not to squander our second chances.   We are to cherish them and to use them well.  They are gifts from God Himself, given with love, so that we may use them to bring blessing to others and to ourselves and to bring honor to our God.


After being chastened by God, Jonah did use his second chance as God intended.  After his three days inside the belly of the large fish, the fish deposited him on the dry ground and God told Jonah again: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.  This time, Jonah went to Nineveh and faithfully proclaimed the message that God give him to speak.  God blessed the preaching of His Word and led the Ninevites to believe it.  The Ninevites repented and were spared.  Tens of thousands of people were saved from God’s judgment.   Jonah used his fresh opportunity to be a blessing.


This is what God wants to happen when He gives us second chances.   From His loving heart, God gives us fresh opportunities to do something good, to do something other than the bad thing we did before.  Very often we have to live with the regret that we failed the first time around.  Our failure may have brought hurt to ourselves and to others.  It may have deprived us or others of something pleasant or valuable.  A second chance is a chance to either do it over or to repair the damage done earlier and make things better than before.   God is very generous is giving us second chances.  They are exactly what we need and long for to correct an earlier mistake or failure.


God helped Jonah see his fresh opportunity.  May God help us see ours.  They are there every day. There is:  the opportunity to help someone we should have helped earlier;  the opportunity to give something we should have given before;  the opportunity to apologize to someone we have hurt;  the opportunity to say “Thank you” to someone who has help us;  the opportunity to forgive someone who has wronged you;  the opportunity to gently rebuke someone who is saying or doing the wrong thing; the opportunity to encourage someone you left discourage before; the opportunity to show love to someone to whom you have previously denied it.  All these and many others are fresh chances each day that God gives us to right a wrong, undo a mistake, and be a blessing.


May the God of Second Chances be with you to help us realize the meaning behind the ones He gives us.   A Second Chance is a gracious gift from a patient God.  A Second Chance is a fresh opportunity to be a blessing.  May you treasure these precious gifts and the God who grants them.  May you take full advantage of these further opportunities to do good and loving things.  Amen