Our opening video comes from the VeggieTales movie “Jonah,” which is basically a kid’s version of the Jonah story.
It’s a fun video, and really speaks to the heart of what comes in Chapter 3.
Last week, in Chapter 2, we heard Jonah’s prayer while he was inside of the fish.
God seemed to take some of that time to grow Jonah a bit.
Jonah recalls how God saved him from the storm, that God had shown mercy to him.
And the large fish goes and “vomited” Jonah out onto dry land.
Right from the very beginning of Chapter 3 here, we see something big happen.
It might not seem big, but it comes in the form of two very simple words: “second time.”
Referring to v. 1- “The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time,”
See, where we left off last week, if that was the end of the story, Jonah would be a really great miracle story.
And nothing else.
But Jonah has been called, by God, from the very beginning of Chapter 1- to go and preach against Nineveh.
God is calling Jonah to be a prophet, and God is reminding Jonah of that calling here in 3:1-2.
See, what’s really fascinating about these opening verses, is that God doesn’t really seem to care that Jonah ran away from him at all.
There’s no reference to “And God became angry with Jonah and rebuked him” or “sent a plague upon him” or “caused him great anguish.”
What we do see, however, is God responding in love.
Not by what is said, but by what’s left unsaid.
God seems to respond as a wise parent would.
He let Jonah go and throw his little rebellious fit and run away.
But He still sent a storm to nudge him in the direction God wanted him to go, and cared for him every step of the way, by sending the whale & saving his life from the storm.
So now it’s almost like God is thinking: “okay, now that that’s over with, I’ve got something I want you to do.”
And so we see in v. 2 that God tells Jonah that He still wants him to go to Nineveh to preach “the word that I (God) tell you.”
So God is calling Jonah again, and promises to equip him with the right words at the right time.
I once heard of a saying that goes something like this: “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.”
And if we look throughout biblical history, God doesn’t necessarily want the “brightest and best,” God wants those who are willing to serve.
God seeks those who will obey and heed the calling that he places on their lives.
Look at Moses- as God called Moses- he argued with God in Exodus 3:11: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God simply responds: “I will be with you…” (v. 12a)
Moses had doubts about his abilities to obey God’s calling.
Moses was a simple shepherd, no one of consequence, but God promised that He would be with Him, and God was with him.
So, God’s calls Jonah a second time, and Jonah responds:
“Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.”
So, he goes.
After running from God the first time, and everything he has experienced, this time, Jonah chooses to obey God.
When God calls us to do something, we always have a choice.
Because of that darned little thing called Free Will, we can choose to obey God, or not.
But one that we should not take lightly.
And one that we must live with the consequences of, whichever way we choose.
Now, it’s interesting to note here, that at the end of v. 12, the size of the city of Nineveh is described:
“Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.”
So God calling Jonah to preach in Nineveh would not be a small task, God was asking a lot of Jonah.
From a physical perspective, it would take a lot of stamina to walk three days while preaching the entire time.
And yet, we see in v. 4 that “Jonah began to go into the city” and that after he was a day’s walk in, he starts preaching to Nineveh.
This time, Jonah was faithful to God’s calling, and we can clearly see that God fulfilled his promise, too.
God gave Jonah the right words to say.
When we choose to obey God, God will be faithful to us and give us what we need to fulfill what He has called us to do.
See, what’s so fascinating about Jonah, is that he tries it both ways.
In Chapter 1, God calls, and Jonah runs, but here in Chapter 3, God calls again, and Jonah obeys.
Jonah is a bit wiser the second time around.
So, He goes, knowing full well at this point that God will be with him regardless of what happens.
And so, the people repent, they listen to Jonah, heed his word, the text says that they:
“believed God, & proclaimed a fast.”
They believed & followed the Torah, and the news of Jonah’s preaching & Nineveh’s response reaches the king, who issues a decree that everyone in Nineveh is to repent by putting on sackcloth and fasting.
Hoping that God would have mercy on them.
What’s interesting here is Nineveh’s response to Jonah’s preaching.
You get the sense from the text that they believe that God is a person, who can deal with them as He pleases.
Especially true are the king’s words in v. 9 when he asks: “Who knows? God may relent and change his mind: he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.”
Basically, Nineveh is saying: “Okay, God, we have done our part. We repented and turned from our sin. The ball is in your court now.”
And they wait for a response from God.
So Jonah fulfilled God’s calling to preach in Nineveh.
And his mission becomes a success when Nineveh turns from its sin and “believes God.”
And so the rest is up to God.
V. 10 is what makes all the difference: “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.”
Because of Jonah’s choice to obey God, many people came to believe in Him.
And the text makes clear that God “changed his mind” because of Jonah’s faithfulness.
So what does all of this mean for us?
What can we take away from Jonah 3?
God is a God of second chances.
Ps. 103:11-12: “For as the heavens are high above the earth. So great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes his transgressions from us.”
God removes our sins from us, so that he can give us as many second chances as we need.
As the saying goes: “fall down seven times, get up eight.”
God has a specific calling on each of our lives right now.
The question then becomes: how is God calling me to serve in the midst of the life I’m living right now?
Some helpful questions to think about this week:
Is God trying to get my attention, or tell me something?
Does God want me to do something?
Is God trying to show me something?
How can I see God in the people I meet every day?
How can I reflect His love towards others in a real, relevant way?
When we are faithful to the calling God has placed on our lives, God will provide for us what we need to fulfill that calling to the best of our ability.
God might also bless our work, or us specifically for our faithfulness.