God Gives 2nd Chances – Part 2

  • what-is-god-really-likeGod works in many ways, but he works and speaks though us too.

When we follow Jonah’s example and give people GOD’S word instead of our own. When we obediently speak what He wishes, whether we are sharing our faith or teaching then amazing things happen. As God promises in Isaiah 55:11,

My word will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

And that is what happened in Nineveh.

4  On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”  5  The Ninevites believed God….Jonah 3:4-5a (NIV)

They heard God speaking through this reluctant and somewhat self-righteous prophet. In this little phrase, they believed God, (Jonah 3:5) the Hebrew text makes it clear that the Ninevites personally trusted God. Theirs was a response of faith. The exact same phrase is used in Exodus 14 to describe Israel’s response of faith for what God had done to release them from Egyptian bondage. It is also used in Genesis 15:6 to describe Abraham’s faith in God.  These people heard God speak to them through this little message.

This shows that when we are obedient; when we make good on our vows to God, like Jonah, we become vessels filled with God’s power and when you are powered by God nothing is impossible.

As II Corinthians 3:5 says, We are not competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. The truth of this text was clearly seen in Jonah’s experience because God used this short message to stir the entire population of the greater Nineveh area, from the king on the throne to the lowest person in the field. They were given 40 days but didn’t need that long to repent. The entire city responded to God’s message very quickly. Understand, this was one of the greatest revivals in the history of the world! More people turned to God in repentance and faith as a result of that message than at any other time. It makes what happened at Pentecost look small for, not just a few thousand turned to God but hundreds of thousands did—all because a man named Jonah allowed God to speak through him. You know, the greatest thrill of being a pastor are those moments when I feel God’s power.  Those times I know that the things I say do not come from me, but from God.  And I want you to know that God doesn’t just empower pastors to speak. He empowers all of His servants! I encourage you to try it. When He gives you an assignment like He gave Jonah, accept it. Let God speak through you!

Jonah’s message also helped him to understand that there was an urgency in his task.

Those people needed the Lord. They urgently needed to hear the message God had given him.  They may have looked mighty and powerful and self-sufficient but at this point in their history the people of Nineveh were having some real tough times. History tells us that they had recently suffered two plagues that had killed thousands and that they had gone through a total solar eclipse, a very frightening thing to people who did not understand that kind of natural phenomena. Plus, Babylon was rising in power at this time, as were other nations that bordered Assyria which meant the Ninevites faced potential war on four fronts. For these and other reasons these people were hungry for help from above. They were ripe for repentance. So when they heard Jonah say, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned,” ears would have perked up. People would have stopped what they were doing and listened intently!

In the ancient Near East the phrase forty days would have had religious significance. The number forty always suggested a time of waiting for divine activity. Think of some of the instances in the Old Testament when this was true: Israel wandered in the wilderness forty years…during the flood it rained forty days. Jesus prayed in the wilderness forty days before his ministry and remained on earth forty days after His resurrection. So when the Ninevites heard that in forty days something was going to happen it was like a trumpet blast of warning: There is danger coming and you better pay attention. It also inferred that this time period was a time in which God gave the people to repent which is what the King understood the message to say. In verse 9 he urged his people to repent of their sin saying, “Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from His fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

As Jonah watched those people both listen and respond he must have seen that no matter how together a person seems to have it, no matter how depraved they seem, they still need God. And you and I need to glean this from Jonah’s experience as well and remember that regardless of exterior appearances, all people need the Lord. As Philip Yancey says,

We must ask God to give us ‘grace-healed eyes’ so that we see even people who offend us not just as immoral people but as THIRSTY people, like the Samaritan woman at the well.

All people desperately need the Lord we know and love and serve. A life insurance salesman was talking to a customer about a policy. When he finished his presentation, he said, “I believe this is important, but I don’t want to force it on you. Every fifteen seconds someone dies in our country.  Go home and sleep on it tonight. And IF you wake up in the morning, give me a call.” There was more truth than humor to that approach. Some people will not wake up in the morning. And the Bible says that if a person dies without Christ, they face the reality of an eternity of separation from God. We must never forget that people need to hear the message of love God has commissioned all Christians to share.

And then, Jonah learned another thing in the way the people responded to his message

 What TRUE Belief looks like:

  1. Humility   Jonah 3:6-7 “The king of Nineveh, rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.” The King ordered them to all wear sack cloth and sit in ashes. Through this action they were saying, We make no excuses God. What we have done is wrong. We agree with You.

 2. Calling on God in Prayer Jonah 3:8a “Let everyone call urgently on God.

3. Admitting Wrongs and Changing Behavior  Jonah 3:8b   “Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.”

assyrian_flayingThese people who were known for their wickedness were now asked to stop living that way. And in a nutshell that is what repentance looks like. For us to experience God’s forgiveness and restoration we must humbly agree with Him that what we have been doing is wrong. And we must turn completely from doing it.

Repentance is not like the person who sent the IRS a check for $150 with the remark, If I can’t sleep, I’ll send you the rest. No it is a complete turning from sin.

  • Our Repentance Will Change God’s Judgment

I say this because since the people responded to Jonah’s message by repenting, God relented. He changed His plans. No fire or brimstone fell on this Sodom-like city after all. God pulled back His hand of judgment. Now, many people think this conflicts with Scripture like James chapter 1 where it says that, God does not change like shifting shadows. But understand God did not change. He has always hated sin and always loved sinners. As I said earlier He longs to forgive us when we repent. In Jeremiah 18:7-8 God says, If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down, and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.

So, God did not change. The Ninivites did. They heard God’s word spoken by Jonah and then repented and aligned themselves with God and He responded to their repentance in line with His character.  What about us?  Will we change as the people of Nineveh did?

Jesus said in Matt 12:41 41 “The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.”

Like Jonah we gleaned a great deal of wisdom from his short message. We learned that God can use our tough times in a powerful way. We discovered that success in being God’s representatives is due to His power and not our own. Jonah saw that people need to hear from God. He also witnessed a great example of true repentance or belief and realized that it is possible for our change to affect God to change his plans.

What have you learned from Jonah’s short message? Has God spoken to YOU personally? Has He called you to share His word with a lost friend or neighbor or co-worker?  Has God convicted you of some sin…some act of disobedience…calling you to true belief or life change? Have you realized how much you need God in your life?

In the next post we will see that “God is Patient with Us.”



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God Gives 2nd Chances

what-is-god-really-likeHave you ever wanted a second chance? Or wished that you could start all over? I have and whether we said or did something we regretted we often need another chance and that is exactly what God gives to us.

What is God really like?  He gives 2nd chances!

“Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time:  Jonah 3:1

  • God gives second chances.

Although we never get back the time we wasted in in running from God and there are still consequences for wrong behaviors but through God’s grace when we change our mind we get a chance to start over…to begin again. And that is good news for all of us isn’t it?! Because each of us at one time or another has wished that we could have another shot. We have made mistakes in our finances, our careers, our parenting, our marriages….which lead us to wish we could have one more chance. One time or other we have all longed for the opportunity to begin again.

When we humbly admit our wrongs like Jonah did and express a desire to change, God helps us start over. Throughout the Bible in fact we see God doing this for several people who asked for a second chance: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, King David, Peter, John Mark. Each of these great men had failed in one way or another but they changed and asked God for another shot and He gave them one! This is because ours IS is the God of the 2nd chance. He wants very much to forgive us and help us start anew. John Ortberg says,

If there is one way that human beings consistently underestimate God’s love, it is perhaps in His loving LONGING to forgive.

God’s love for us—His desire to help is start anew—is why He sent His only Son to die for us in the first place. He knew that this was the only way we could have our sins washed away and start clean.

Warren Bennis once wrote of a promising junior executive at IBM who was involved in a risky venture for the company and ended up losing ten million dollars in the gamble. He was called into the office of Tom Watson Sr., the founder and leader of IBM for 40 years, a business legend. The junior exec, overwhelmed with guilt and fear, blurted out: I guess you’ve called me in for my resignation. Here it is. I resign. Watson replied, You must be joking. I just invested ten million dollars educating you; I can’t afford your resignation.

I think this illustrates why God longs for us to change our ways: so He can forgive, so He can be faithful and just to cleanse us from unrighteousness, so He can cast our sins as far as the east is from the west and remember them no more, because He has invested the life of His only Son to make it possible for us to begin again.

As Jonah discovered, when we repent we can start over…no matter what mistakes we have made. This is what II Corinthians 5:17 says, If anyone is in Christ he is a NEW creature; the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.

  • God uses our past as strength for the future.

And the pain Jonah endured in the storm and in the belly of the fish worked to his advantage. It not only led him to renew his vow to be God’s prophet. It also made people stop what they were doing and listen to his message!  Why did they listen as Jonah stopped at every street corner to deliver his sermon?    I think one reason was because Jonah’s 72-hour fish stomach acid bath changed his appearance. His skin was probably bleached white, as was his hair, unless the acid burned it off completely. To me it’s like the image of Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi when he took his mask off.

Several commentary writers go so far as to say they believe that Jonah’s disgorging from the great fish was witnessed by others who happened to have been spending the day at the beach or all the trade workers when he arrived.   If this is the case then the story of his experience must have preceded him to Nineveh via caravans or traders and made people all the more anxious to hear what he had to say.

Commentator David Moore also tells us that the main god of the Ninevites looked like a big fish.  So can you imagine what people were saying? I’m sure the nightly newscasts said something like, “Jonah a powerful prophet who has just spent three days inside a huge fish god is coming here with a message.  Stay tuned for more details.”  So when he arrived and began preaching, you had better believe that they listened all as a direct result of the tough time Jonah had endured.

And God does the same thing with our pain. He takes the bad in our life and uses it to His advantage. As Paul says in Romans 8, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

 I don’t know about you, but I listen to people who have gone through great difficulties. I tend to believe them when they say God will help us when we have to endure tough times. For example, David Ring was born with Cerebral Palsy. Because of this disease he walks with a limp and talks in a stilted fashion. But he is a powerful evangelist who keeps audiences spellbound. He says, “I’m like E. F. Hutton. When I talk people listen.” He challenges others to be more faithful in their own evangelistic efforts saying, I have cerebral palsy. What’s your excuse?

Jonah learned, when we repent of our sin, God redeems the experience and uses it for His glory and this leads to another thing Jonah learned from his sermon.

  • God uses our obedience to do great things.

Jonah 3:3-5   “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.”

5c-ninevehWhen Jonah crested the final hill and saw Nineveh in the distance he must have been overwhelmed because, as it says in our text, Nineveh was an exceedingly GREAT city and it was. In Jonah’s day Nineveh was very impressive…especially to a country preacher from the hills of Palestine. The Bible says that Nineveh was so big that a visit required three days. This is because the greater Nineveh area included five surrounding cities together which were 60 miles in circumference. There were great aqueducts and canals, huge gardens. There was even a library from which archeologists have discovered 16,000 volumes…some of which describe creation and the flood. Nineveh proper was surrounded by a huge wall 10 stories high and wide enough on the top for three chariots to run abreast.

7-wall-relief-1There were 1500 towers equally spaced around the wall each 20 stories tall. These towers served both as watchtowers for any approaching enemy and as storehouses for weapons. These weapons could be transported quickly on chariots or wagons that would speed around the top of the wall to places where they were needed in time of attack. The combined population of the area must have been between six hundred thousand and a million. We can guesstimate this based on the fact that God said in chapter 4 that there were 120,000 who didn’t know their right from their left—a reference to children. So, Nineveh was no insignificant place and Jonah must have thought,  How can I alone have any impact on a city this size? Besides they obviously already have everything they need, so why would they listen to me?

In the next post we’ll look at why they would listen and see that not only did God give Jonah a second chance he also loves to give our enemies a 2nd chance!



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God is There When We’re Broken – Part 2

what-is-god-really-likeHave you ever prayed out of AFFLICTION not AFFECTION?   I have!  This is how Jonah prays and we see that’s it’s okay.

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God Jonah 2:1. This is the first time we see Jonah pray.  Let’s review the things that his emergency-motivated prayer teaches us.

  1. GOD HEARS US when we pray.

In verse 2 he said, In my distress I called to the Lord and He ANSWERED mefrom the depths of the grave I called for help and [GOD], You LISTENED to my cry.” Jonah 2:2 In a previous post we see that God SPEAKS but now we see that He also HEARS!  When Jonah was sinking deep into the sea; when his life was about to ebb away, he squeezed off a quick SAVE ME! God heard even that supplication, which is in line with His promise to us. In Isaiah 65:24 God says, BEFORE they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will HEAR!

God wants to hear from us. He is very much like a father whose daughter or son goes away to college or the military and then waits for that phone call home. This is why it is so true that no matter how far we run from God…even to the bottom of the sea, it is always only one step back to Him.

I have learned that people in crises need two things:  our presence and someone to listen.  God does both for us!   He is there and always hears when we call out to Him.

The second thing Jonah’s prayer show us is….

  1. There is no place where God is not.

Back in chapter 1 verse 9, Jonah had admitted to the sailors that God was Lord of all the earth and in the belly of this fish at the bottom of the ocean he found out just how true a statement that was.  He crys “In my distress.. This is the Hebrew word that’s used when a woman is giving birth. The distress of labor, the pain of childbirth.  He’s inside the belly of this fish and he’s using a pregnancy word.  “In my distress, in the agony, as if I’m being born, I called on God and He answered me.”

He goes on, “From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.”  The Hebrew word is Sheol, and the King James translates it “from the depths of hell.” In other words, “from the point in which I was furthest from God, from the place where I was miserable and had no way to contribute, from the place where I was helpless and desperate and afraid and hurting from hell I called on God and he heard me!”  This is going to speak to some of you because you are in the middle of what you would call Sheol or hell.  Some of you would say, “From the depths of my marriage in Hell, I called on God and He answered me.  From the depths of Sheol in my heart, everything on the outside seems fine, but inwardly I’m depressed and I’m hurting and I’m afraid and I’ve got this anxiety, and something’s just not right.  And everything seems right, but inside, it’s not.  From the depths of an inward Hell, I called on God and He answered me.  When I had no place to turn, I called on God and He answered me from the deepest, darkest place, Sheol.  When I needed Him most, and I deserved it the least, He was there for me.”

Perhaps this experience reminded him of the words of Psalm 139 where King David prayed, Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.”  God IS always with us, around, before, above, and beneath. In this Psalm David is proclaiming God’s hear-ness AND nearness. The problem is not that God is distant and needs to be wooed or badgered into coming to us. No, the problem is that God is ever present, ever near, but that some of us like Jonah, seek ways of escape from Him.

Jonah learned He is present…near…even in the midst of the dark trials of life. In Joshua 1:9, God promises, I will be WITH YOU wherever you go!  In Psalm 46 it says, God is my refuge and strength, a VERY PRESENT help in time of trouble.

God is near, as Jonah and anyone who has ever called out to Him has discovered…

  1. Prayer Helps Us Remember God’s Faithfulness

At any point in this story, God could have just gone “poof, it’s over!”   God could have sent, instead of a fish, a turtle.  Not a little turtle like in my back yard, but the largest sea turtle over 8 feet long, a leather back!  Jonah gets on the back, gets a suntan as a turtle takes him to shore.  God still did a miracle, but I want us to notice, God was actively working, even though Jonah was still in pain.  Watch the different phases of God’s work:  “Jonah, go.”  Jonah says, “No.”  Jonah gets on a ship.  Phase 1, God sends a storm.  It doesn’t work.  Phase 2, God sends the captain.  “You need to pray.”  Phase 3, the sailors have mercy on him and don’t throw him overboard.  Phase 4, when they do throw him overboard, God sends a fish.  Phase 5, the fish gets a tummy ache and throws him up onshore.

All through we can see different places where God was working.  A lot of times, we will say, “God, I want You to do this,” whatever it is.  Fill in the blank.  When God doesn’t do what we hope we freak out.  Don’t overlook all of the little things that God may be doing on the way.  Watch as God works.  God may have you on a 10 phased healing process, because if you don’t go through the first nine, you’re not going to learn the things that God wants you to learn.  You may be on phase 4 going, “God, what are you doing?”  Don’t forget to look back and count, “1, 2, 3 … Oh, I can see how You’re working and how You’re moving.”

Jonah prayed, “To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But You brought my life up from the pit O Lord my God Jonah 2:6

In Jonah 1 and the first part of chapter 2 we see over and over again the phrase, “DOWN.”  He went down to Joppa, He went down to the bottom of the ship, down to the bottom of the ocean and then all of a sudden in Jonah 2, because of the interaction of God, things shift and we see him starting to go back UP!  “But you, O God, brought me UP from the pit.” 

Maybe today you feel like your life is spiraling out of control, going downward, never forget the “BUT God,” moments.  My life was out of control, BUT God intervened.  My marriage was in trouble and we thought it was over, but God changed my heart and healed our marriage.  The doctor said there’s no chance, but God has the final say.”  Don’t forget the “but, God” moments.  Remember, all things are possible with God.

Jonah prayed, 7  “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.  Jonah 2:7 (NIV)

Like Jonah have you forgotten God? When things are going well, I can put God on shelf.  I’m doing my thing,” and then one day, I recognize, “I’ve been doing life without the power of God.  I remember my God.

  1. Prayer Shows Us Who We REALLY Are and What We Need to Do

Jonah’s experience opened his eyes to his shortcomings.  He saw his idolatry. In verse 8 when Jonah said,

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

He was talking about himself.  Jonah had put himself in God’s place. God had told him he had a job for him to perform and Jonah had told God He had the wrong man. God had told him he wanted him to go east to Nineveh. Jonah decided to go west to Tarshish. God told him to go by land. Jonah went by boat. Everything God said to do, Jonah did the opposite. Jonah made himself his own god. He tried to superimpose his will on the will of God. He was determined to direct his life, to govern it himself. And we do the same thing today. We superimpose our will on His. We put ourselves, a loved one, our possessions, or whatever in the place of God. But our counterfeits will always fail and will leave us frustrated and defeated.

When we put ourselves in God’s place we run headlong into our insufficiency and inadequacy. If we are wise, when that happens we turn back to God. We cry out to Him in prayer and see the error of our ways. We see ourselves from God’s perspective and like Jonah we return to making Him Lord.

Well, after this three day combination underwater cruise/prayer retreat Jonah was ready to listen to God and next week, we’ll learn that God Gives 2nd Chances!



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God is There When We are Broken

what-is-god-really-likeWhat is God really like?  He is there when we’re broken.  He hears us when we pray.  When we are broken God is present, He is comforting and He continues to love us. I’ve discovered when I’m broken God has been there, Jonah discovers this truth as well.

In the last post we ended on a cliffhanger. Jonah, the popular prophet of God at his own request asked the sailors to throw him overboard.  They reluctantly did and the storm stopped.   We last left him sinking down deeper into the cold, dark depths of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Jews were never seafaring people.  They were afraid of the ocean. For them death by drowning was the worst way to die.   But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:17

Now it is at this point that we are confronted with one of God’s most unusual miracles.  Some cynics try to explain it away but there are several stories of this actually happening of whalers or fishermen being swallowed and then discovered alive inside the stomach later.  So, this is not really that big of a miracle; which is why it is strange that so some people would have such a hard time swallowing this part of the Bible.

It makes sense to me then that the reason there has been an attack upon the book of Jonah is that Jesus compares his own resurrection to this event in Jonah.  You can read more here: Matthew 12:39-41   If you attack this miracle…you also attack the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection.

The key word in verse 17 that is used to describe this whale or fish is “provided.” Notice it did not say, God created a great fish. “Provided” literally means assigned or ordained or appointed. This word is used four times in the Book of Jonah and always points to the Lord’s power to accomplish His will.   And that is one of the most wonderful truths we can glean from Jonah’s experience.  God doesn’t sit up there in heaven remote…disinterested in our affairs. No. He watches us every moment of our lives and when necessary, He intervenes miraculously as He did here.

Earlier God controlled the weather as well as the lots they drew that fell on Jonah. Now He controls this great sea creature. Later He will control a plant, a worm, and a desert wind.  I hope we can see here that there is a saving purpose in all of God’s miraculous interventions in Jonah’s life as there is in our own.

So, one thing the book of Jonah teaches is the amazing truth that God does intervene in our lives. He does miracles but always for a purpose which leads to a second truth we can learn at this point in our study.

God often uses our brokenness to help us see what’s really important.  This is why He threw this storm at Jonah’s ship and why He often miraculously throws storms our way when we do stupid things.  Like a bucket of cold water in the face, these tough times help us to come to our senses.   God loves us too much to just let us go off and do foolish things that will bring pain into our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

As Max Lucado says, God loves us as we are…but too much to let us stay that way!  This is why He intervened in Jonah’s life…out of love. God could have chosen another prophet and said, “good riddance!” But he loved Jonah too much to let him get way with this sinful rebellion. So He threw a storm at his ship and worked things so that Jonah would be thrown into the sea, sink to the bottom, and panic so much that he would be humbled to the point that he would finally pray and through his prayer and the time he spent in that fish, he would have an opportunity to realize how wrong he had been.

Often the ONLY thing that brings us to our knees in prayer are the storms of crisis or being broken. 

Pushed to the brink, back to the wall, right up to the wire, all escape routes closed, ONLY then do many people go to God for His help. Abraham Lincoln once said, I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.

There’s the true story of an airliner bound for New York that began its descent when the pilot realized the landing gear had refused to engage. He worked the controls back and forth, trying again and again to make the gear lock down into place but had no success. He then asked the control tower for instructions as he circled the landing field. Responding to the crisis, airport personnel sprayed the runway with foam as fire trucks and other emergency vehicles moved into position. Disaster was only minutes away. The passengers, meanwhile, were told of each maneuver in that calm, cheery voice pilots manage to use at times like this. Flight attendants glided about the cabin with an air of cool reserve telling the passengers to place their heads between their knees and grab their ankles just before impact. It was one of those “I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening-to-me” experiences that led to many tears and screams of despair in the cabin. The landing was only a minutes away when suddenly the pilot announced over the intercom: “We are beginning our final descent. At this moment, in accordance with International Aviation Codes established in Geneva, it is my obligation to inform you that if you believe in God you should COMMENCE PRAYER.”

The belly landing went off without a hitch. No one was injured, and aside from some very extensive damage to the plane, the airline chose to distance themselves from the prayer comment.  In fact, a relative of one of the passengers called the airline the very next day and asked about the prayer rule the pilot had quoted. No one volunteered any information on the subject. Only a “no comment” response was given.

The only thing that brought out into the open a deep-down secret prayer rule was crisis, but when the crises was over, it was time to quickly move on and ignore God.

This is like so many of people because only when death and disaster is imminent only when everything else has been tried; only then do they crack open a hint of recognition that God just might be there and that they should commence prayer which is what Jonah did. When he was totally exhausted at the end of his rope with no where else to turn only then did he cry out for God’s help. And you know, when you are sinning like Jonah, that scenario is the best possible place to be. Because until we get to that place where we have exhausted our abilities and sufficiency; until we give up on every logical human resource, most of us don’t reach out for God.

Sometimes I think that the trouble with many of us is that we have just enough ease in our life experiences that we never get desperate. We never quite get to the place where there is no hope for us except in God so we ignore Him and rely instead on self. And when this happens God may send storms our way, like He did for Jonah—storms that are really blessings in disguise because they drive us back to Him and what is really important.

A little boy was sailing his model boat on a lake when the wind caught it and threatened to blow it out of his grasp.  His father came along and started throwing rocks at the boat and the first the little boy cried in anger for him to stop. But then he noticed that the rocks were carefully aimed to fall just beyond the boat and that the waves made by the rocks were gradually gently pushing the boat closer to shore. In the same way many times God throws problems in our lives…trials that push us closer back to relationship with Him.

Often, like Jonah we have to be DRIVEN to our knees but finally the time comes when we say, with the Psalmist, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might LEARN Your decrees.” ( Psalm 119:67,71 )

And Jonah had a lot to LEARN…For three days in that smelly, dark fish belly he pondered his situation. He did a lot of soul-searching. He eventually saw the foolishness of his sin. He saw his need for God and then he prayed again the prayer that makes up most of this second chapter. I like the way R. T. Kendall put it. He said: “the belly of the fish is not a happy place to LIVE, but it is a good place to LEARN.” Up until this point Jonah had thought all he needed was public success as a prophet and the material rewards and acclaim that comes with it but in the fish he realized this was not true. He saw that his greatest need was to follow God’s instructions.

In the next post we’ll examine elements of prayer and his brokenness and see God’s presence and purpose in our brokenness.



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