Summary: 3rd in a series on Jonah.
Jonah: God’s Runaway
I’ll go but I won’t like it
A young high school football player realized his size and ability would restrict his chances of playing, so he decided to try out as a punter. His team happened to be one that punted the football a bunch, so he figured he’d get plenty of playing time. The day of kicking tryouts, he stood in line with a dozen or so other guys. Every guy got just one kick to impress the coach -- if the coach liked what he saw, the player might get the chance to show him a few more kicks.
This kid was confident in his kicking skills. He figured he had a good chance of making the team. When it was his turn, he took the ball in his hands, extended his arms, swung his foot forward and -- the ball lobbed off the side of his foot and landed about six yards from where he stood. The coach shook his head and yelled, "Next!" Needless to say, he was disappointed in his performance. He waved and said, "Hey coach. It went off the side of my foot. I can do better than that. Gimme another shot.ï¿½ The coach looked at him for about one second and said, "Next!ï¿½ His kicking career ended before it started. One chance and he blew it.
There are a plenty of times in life when we get only one chance to get it right. Maybe you borrow money from the bank, or a relative and donï¿½t pay it back. Might be tough to get another chance. A job promotion may be tied to a project that you muddle -- you might not get another chance at a promotion.
You disappoint your friends by not being a person of your word. They donï¿½t trust you because youï¿½ve blown the opportunity. The appeal in those kind of situations might be, "Iï¿½ll do better next time," -- but very often, with other people, the appeal is ignored -- no second chance is forthcoming.
Jonah has taught us a bunch about the character of God. One character attribute gets reiterated in our text today. Godï¿½s mercy. God is a God of second chances -- with His man Jonah, He has already been unexpectedly merciful. Godï¿½s mercy comes to the fore again today.
You remember that when God called Jonah to represent Him to Israelï¿½s enemies, Jonah bailed -- he scooted off in the opposite direction -- he aimed for an objective which was 2000 miles removed from Godï¿½s assignment. What we have yet to discuss is that God had already used this prophet Jonah effectively in ministry to Israel. Jonah is the mouthpiece through which God spoke to the wicked king, Jeroboam II.
But Jonah struggles with Godï¿½s purpose with the people of Ninevehï¿½.after all theyï¿½re wicked, violent idolaters. The very thought of communicating with them was too much, so he tried to sail away from God. Jonah discovered God is much bigger than the Mediterranean.
There was that horrific storm at sea -- Jonahï¿½s confession to the sailors that his God was the Maker of the land and the seas -- that awful experience of going over the side and sinking into the churning waters. Then the great fish -- Godï¿½s means to both rescue and confine His prophet for a few days.
The lesson? -- God never gave up on His prodigal prophet. He chased him, He saved him from drowning and, God gave Jonah some serious time to think and pray. Jonahï¿½s prayer in chapter 2 is poetic, like we saw, but it fell short. Itï¿½s focused on him and his dilemma and Godï¿½s deliverance, but there was nothing about Godï¿½s assignment nor any real repentance.
But God -- God Who is so unexpectedly merciful, gave the word to the fish and he spit Jonah out on the beach. There he lay -- no doubt with a thousand thoughts pouring through his mind. Thatï¿½s where the account picks today -- in 3:1. Jonah continues his story:
. . . the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 ï¿½Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.ï¿½ 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the Lord.
I want to make three observations and then weï¿½ll talk about lessons here.
First, 1. God re-commissions Jonah to deliver His message. (3:1-4)
God provides Jonah a second chance. He repeats the failed assignment: Go to Nineveh -- deliver My message. This time -- Jonah goes. Weï¿½d say, S.R.G. Shows real growth! Jonahï¿½s done with running from God -- heï¿½s become convinced that that is an exercise in futility.
But, like weï¿½ll see even though Jonahï¿½s body goes to Nineveh, his heart is somewhere else.