We all know the story of Jonah and the big fish. Jonah didn’t listen when God commanded him to go to Nineveh to warn people of their wicked ways. He didn’t want to go. The book of Jonah tells us he deliberately disobeyed God. He took it upon himself to flee and board a boat headed in the opposite direction of Nineveh, a place called Tarshish. He, in his own mind, thought the Ninevites didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness and compassion. Why would God waste his time with them?
But who can stand in the way of God’s plans? Not Jonah! We read that he never made it to Tarshish. Instead, while on the boat sailors threw him overboard to die when they figured out he was the reason for the roaring storm around them. It was the only way. Even the sailors feared God. The rest of the story goes like this. Jonah is swallowed by a big fish, remains inside it for three days and three nights, and ultimately repents and heads to Nineveh to obey and complete God’s original mission for him. Jonah’s example teaches us that God will pursue us in order to use us for the purposes he has determined for us. We can run, but we definitely can’t hide. End of story, right? Well, not really.
Have you ever wondered about the Ninevites? What were they thinking? There they were, unaware that they were living in sin and that God, the creator of the universe, truly existed. When Jonah showed up and told them God was going to destroy their city in forty days, they did the unthinkable. They actually believed in God, stopped living in sin, and repented of their ways! This pleased God so much he had compassion on them and changed his mind. He didn’t destroy them after all!
Jonah was upset that God forgave them. They didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness! God could forgive him for disobeying, but not those Ninevites!
Lucky for us, God showed Jonah his sovereignty in forgiving the Ninevites. He caused a plant to grow to protect Jonah from the scorching heat, making him thankful for it. Then God caused a worm to attack it and it withered, again making Jonah angry.
Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” ~Jonah 4:10-11
Jonah experienced God’s compassion and love toward his creation firsthand. If he cared for a plant that grew suddenly without his effort, how much more did the God of the universe care for the people he created who repented of their sin and turned to him?
We can find hope in the story of Jonah. Not only do we see that God gives second chances, but we also learn it’s never too late. God was already planning on destroying Nineveh, but in light of their repentance, God changed his mind. We, too, can turn to God and he will hear and have compassion on us. He gave Jonah a second chance. He gave the Ninevites a second chance. He will give you and me a second chance, too. Are we deserving of second chances? No. Yet, God in his beautiful grace and compassion offers us second chances when we come to him with sincere hearts in repentance. He forgives us freely. He meets us where we are. Thank you, God for second chances.