Monday, September 24, 2007

Spiritual deja vu

Chapter two of Jonah finds Jonah lying in a pool of whale vomit more than likely on the shore of Joppa. Chapter three of Jonah now opens with some of the most amazing words in the Bible. Verse one says that the Word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time! The first time was back in the opening verses of chapter one. Jonah rejected that original command which resulted in God sending a storm and ultimately a fish to get Jonah’s attention. As Jonah fled the presence of the Lord in rebellion, God would have had every right to say, “ENOUGH!” God could have zapped His prodigal prophet once and for all and no one would have thought otherwise. But God didn’t give up on Jonah and his prophet finally repented. Now God gives him a second chance. I guarantee you that the same is true today. If you will repent, God will also give you a second chance.

This is like déjà vu all over again for Jonah. The command is the same. Jonah is to go to Nineveh. The message is still the same. He is to preach against their wickedness. The city is still a great and very wicked city. The first time Jonah responded by trying to flee from the presence of the Lord. This time Jonah responds properly. First, his obedience was immediate. He arose and went. He didn’t waste any time. Second, his obedience was complete. He did according to the word of the Lord. That is Biblical obedience. Biblical obedience is always immediate and it is always complete. Delayed obedience is disobedience. Partial obedience is disobedience. How obedient are you?

The message that God gave Jonah for the city of Nineveh made him a prophet of doom. Nineveh would be overthrown due to its wickedness. This is the same word used to describe God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah in Gen 19:24-25. To add soberness to the message, try to imagine Jonah’s appearance which may have been as unwelcome as his message due to the gastric juices from his three days and three nights in the stomach of the fish which had begun the digestive process. Chances are very good that Jonah’s skin was a revolting yellowish-brown and he would have likely had no hair on his entire body. He must have appeared like a dead man walking as he marched through the city proclaiming God’s message that Nineveh would be destroyed.

Now comes the most amazing miracle in the entire book of Jonah. The prophet’s message results in the entire city repenting from the king all the way down to the peasants. This involved a sincere belief as they believed that what God said was true. It also involved a sorrowful repentance seen in the putting on of sackcloth and in their fasting which were both outward signs of true remorse in Old Testament. They turned from their wicked ways which caused God to relent in His judgment. As a result, national revival and spiritual renewal took place.

In God’s mercy, the city of Nineveh was not given what they deserved...punishment. In God’s grace, they were given what they did not deserve…forgiveness. And all this happens because God gave Jonah a second chance. Imagine what could happen if you responded to God’s second chance in your life!

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