Jonah awoke with a sharp pain on his leg. He reached down and groped his right shin. He pealed off what must have been a section of octopus tentacle.
“Lord, how much longer must I suffer like this? I’m sorry for running. I know it was foolish of me. Nobody can win against You. Please give me another chance. Let me see Your temple again.”
The fish turned sharply to the right. Jonah sloshed with the stomach juices. He felt pressure on his feet so he curled up in the fetal position.
The fish seemed to climb up then stop. The stomach opening released just before Jonah slammed into it.
The sunlight never seemed so bright.
Jonah saw the giant fish slide back into the water. A wave washed up rinsing some of the debris off of him.
He looked up. “Thank You, LORD! I won’t waste this second chance.”
“Go to Nineveh. Tell them what I tell you.”
Jonah searched his surroundings. A city was upriver from him. He stepped into the water and washed himself off.
As he approached the city a man was fishing along the river.
“Excuse me, sir. What city is this?”
The fisherman looked Jonah up and down. “Are you a Hebrew? How did you get here? Why are you naked?”
Jonah blushed. “I guess my clothes didn’t survive the stomach acid. What city is this?”
The fisherman removed his coat. “Here, put this on. This is Nineveh. Always has been. Always will be.”
Jonah put the coat on. “Thank you. My God has a message for your people.”
A crowd gathered around Jonah by midday. He stopped when he heard God’s voice. He turned and faced the crowd. “In forty days Nineveh will be destroyed.”
A murmur built in the crowd. “Isn’t the Hebrew God the one who destroyed the Egyptian military in the Red Sea?”
“Yeah, and He crumbled the walls of Jericho like they were nothing.”
“How do we appease Him?”
“Sackcloth and ashes according to my research.”
The crowd dispersed only to return wearing sackcloth and worried faces.
Thirty nine days later Jonah walked east of the city in disgust. “Isn’t this why I fled to Tarshish to begin with, LORD? I know You’re compassionate. They don’t deserve it.”
He set up a small shelter to shade the sun. Maybe brimstone will still fall from the sky tomorrow.
A sound behind him caught his attention. A plant was growing up extremely fast. It’s shade was refreshing.
Jonah awoke the following morning. Nineveh was still intact. He ate the figs he brought with him. The plant behind him fell. A caterpillar was gnawing on the stump. “What a shame.”
As the sun climbed in the sky a strong wind blew in from the east.
Jonah felt his energy slip away. “Just end my life now, LORD.”
“Do you have a right to be mad about the plant that you had no control over? Shouldn’t I have the right to forgive the people of Nineveh when they show remorse for their evil?”
Here we have yet another prophet falling into a depression after a success. Didn’t God have any better men to choose from than that?
Actually, He didn’t. All He had to choose from were ordinary folks.
That’s one of the things I love about the Bible. It’s filled with normal people being used by God even when they fail after they succeed.
That means there’s hope God can use you and me, too.
I see two short-term successes in this story about second chances.
First, Jonah took advantage of his second chance by telling the people of Nineveh about God’s impending judgement on them for their wicked lifestyle. But then he relented and wished God wasn’t so compassionate because of his hate for such wicked people.
Second, the people of Nineveh took advantage of the warning Jonah gave them and showed remorse to stem off God’s anger for their sins. But then they turned right around and defeated the nation of Israel to show their strength.
So, what’s the message of the book of Jonah if these second chances were wasted?
God was really big on using object lessons to make a point to His people.
When Jonah returned to Israel and told them how God relented from destroying the Assyrians they should have sat up and paid attention. That Gentile nation was known for their brutality in war.
Had the leaders of Israel caught the lesson they would have turned back to God to save themselves, but they didn’t. So God used the freshly wicked Assyrians to punish His own people.
I don’t call the shots here. God does.
Wickedness is a tool in God’s belt as much as grace and mercy.
It’s like a tapestry. If you only see the back side of a fine rug it won’t make much sense. It’s just a jumble of threads seemingly thrown together.
We don’t see the picture side of the fine artistry until God allows us to.
The history recorded in the Bible shows us God’s orchestration of all kingdoms through time.
Wicked nations were used more strategically than peaceful Israel was during Solomon’s reign.
That plant God grew for Jonah was destroyed by a bug. All of that was ordained by God.
Mighty nations, fish, storms, plants, bugs…they’re all the same in God’s plan. They all serve Him.
That control you think you have over your own life. Give it up.
Your success and failure are controlled by God.
Accept that it all belongs to God.
He can take it away in a moment or make it flourish past your lifetime.
That should remove a lot of stress from your life.
Do the best you can with what God has given you. He gave you the stewardship of your life for a reason.
Use what you have to build God’s kingdom, not yours.
Don’t waste your second chances.
Let them change you into someone more like Jesus Christ.
I’ll see you later. Wade