Summary: You are never so far away from GOD that you can’t get back on track.
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
“And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.”
“10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.”
There is a journey that every one must take. It is a journey with only two directions….one direction leads toward God. The other direction leads away. The former is a life lived according to God’s will. The latter is a pursuit of self-will.
Our journey is complicated by the fact that many don’t take the time to read the ’warning signs’ along the way…warnings like "Enter ye in at the strait gat…" and "wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction", and narrow is the way, which leads unto life" (Matthew 7:13) We are often too busy pursuing our own will to notice God’s will for our lives.
Life that has failed is tragic…. but even worse is a life that has succeeded, only to find in the end that what was achieved is not GAIN at all, but ASHES. A journey without God breeds a sense of non-fulfillment and disappointment, no matter what the achievements. But a journey WITH God opens up the windows of heaven.
Consider the unsaved millionaire who comes to the close of a life that afforded him every luxury. Like all unsaved men, he has but one thought… “Life is almost over. Why do I feel as though I have missed something?"
Indeed, a life lived without God misses the whole point of our existence. Man’s soul is God-given, and man is meant to JOIN his soul with his MAKER. St. Augustine wrote, "Thou hast made us in Thy likeness, and our souls are restless until they repose in thee." Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
God gives man the authority to choose his own path, but not without consequences. For Jonah, his first journey was a choice to go it alone…without God. When he boarded a ship for Tarshish, he was operating on self-will. But when a violent storm suddenly overtook the ship, Jonah was cast overboard and swallowed by a big fish, and had a few days to rethink his choice. Life gave Jonah a second chance. He finally saw the detour sign on the road of life, and that sign led him back to God.
Man is anti-repentant. We hate to admit that we are wrong, or weak, or imperfect, or incapable of supplying our own needs and making our own wise choices. So we stubbornly plunge ahead…running from God and His guidance…like a Jonah heading for disaster. We end up with husbands and wives that make us unhappy; we end up in careers that are unfulfilling…and the pain of our choices last FAR MORE than three days.
But we serve a God of second chances. For Jonah, that second chance brought him back in line with God’s will. He learned to follow the direction of the Lord, no matter how difficult, and in the end…he witnessed the great reward of repentance and service to God.
Jonah awoke on that third day to find himself spewed upon the shore…given a second chance to choose another direction for his life. And the second time around, he finally did obey God’s orders to go to Ninevah and preach to a people whom he had previously deemed unworthy of his prophetic knowledge. The end result was that the entire city of Ninevah repented and was spared from God’s wrath.
Consider for a moment, the impact of our own repentance. When we finally get life RIGHT, and obey God…how many after us will find salvation by our example. A father, who repents and takes his children to church, is choosing not just to correct his OWN path, but also to set a new path for his children and his grandchildren. Our generations can be blessed or cursed by our own choices.
Imagine how desperately Jonah wanted to preach at the moment he was spewed on shore! The penitent prophet Jonah was no doubt eager to fulfill his neglected duty. But notice that he did not presume his commission was still valid. After all, if God commands us to go, and we refuse, we cannot assume that He won’t assign another to the task. The punishment for disobedience is often SILENCE. It is God’s mercy that allows us a second chance to obliterate our disobedience with a demonstration of new enthusiasm. God showered His mercy on Jonah, and issued him a second commission. This time Jonah would not fail.