Summary: This sermon examines how God gave Jonah a second chance to preach, and what a difference that second chance made to Jonah and the Ninevites.
January 29, 2006 Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city—a visit required three days. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.. . . When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.
In a lifetime the average American will spend six months sitting at stop lights : Eight months opening junk mail: One year looking for misplaced objects : 2 years unsuccessfully returning phone calls: 4 years doing housework : 5 years waiting in line : and 6 years eating. What does this tell us? Every second counts! Think about what difference a second can make. In a race, a second is a world of difference between first and second place. When you are traveling, a second can mean the difference between a head on collision and safety.
In today’s text it says, “the Word of the LORD came to Jonah a SECOND time.” When God uses a “second” in today’s text, it’s a different kind of “second.” It isn’t a second in time - it’s a progressive second. Just as a second can make a world of difference in time, so we will see the same from a progressive point of view.
What a Difference a “Second” Can Make!
I. It made a difference in Jonah
The story of Jonah is one of the most intriguing and eye catching stories in the Bible. Our text for today picks the story up in the middle - half way through. The first half covers a game of hide and go seek by Jonah and God. God called to Jonah, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” Nineveh was the capital of Assyria - yes the same Assyria that ended up taking the Israelites into captivity. They were a violent people. King Ashurnasipal was said to take great delight in the high mound of human heads he erected after his victories. Because of this, they were considered the enemy of God’s people - like modern day Iran or North Korea is to America.
Consider the significance, then, of God calling Jonah - a prophet to ISRAEL - to go and preach to ASSYRIA! What was the message for Israel? “I have had enough of YOU! I am taking my message elsewhere.” Even though Jonah may have been disgusted with his own people’s lifestyles and rejection of God - he had even more disdain for Assyria. These people worshiped foreign gods - they didn’t even have a scent of morality to them. And so, you know what Jonah decided to do. Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. Instead of heading east, Jonah went in the exact opposite direction - toward modern day Spain.
At this point, God had every right to squash Jonah from any existence on the earth. He could have sent a hurricane to come and swallow Jonah in the sea. He could have sent sharks to swallow Jonah bit by bit. But instead, you know what happened. He had a huge fish of some sort swallow him whole, and spit him back onto shore. In his mercy, the compassionate and gracious LORD - slow to anger and abounding in love - spared Jonah’s life. Not only did God spare Jonah’s life, but He even went one step further - Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time. “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” God gave Jonah a second chance - telling him to rise and go to Nineveh!
What a difference that “second” made! Look at how Jonah responded. Instead of trying to run away, Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. This time Jonah did exactly as God told Him to. God produced a change in Jonah’s actions. If you look later on in the book, you’ll see that Jonah’s attitude wasn’t completely healed. He still held a grudge against Nineveh. After he had preached the message, he sat down and waited hopefully for God to destroy Nineveh. But he must have known that if he had tried to run away again - he wouldn’t be so fortunate - he would probably be lunch for that fish. When it comes down to it, God wouldn’t allow Jonah’s prejudices to get in the way of His will. He produced a godly fear in Jonah that made him preach to the Ninevites even when he had a great desire not to do so.