The Second Time

I am speaking this Sunday from Jonah 3. Jonah is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. It is clear gospel in story form. 

God calls ~ Jonah runs
God wants to include outsiders ~ Jonah wants to exclude outsiders
God loves ~ Jonah hates
God pursues ~ Jonah flees
God forgives ~ Jonah whines
God provides second opportunities ~ Jonah needs second opportunities

God is the only hero in the story of Jonah. The only example Jonah provides is what NOT to do.  He is the epitome of a self-absorbed, self-righteousness, self-concerned God follower. Even his prayer in chapter two is self-focused and self-serving.  God on the other hand repeatedly imparts unconditional grace to the undeserving in the story - the righteous (Jonah) and the unrighteous (sailors, Assyrians).

One of my favorite statements in the book is found in 3:1 where it maintains the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time.  I love that phrase "the second time."  Those three simple words tell us so much about God (and us).

1. God doesn't hold grudges.

I love the fact that God does what is necessary to save Jonah, not to punish him, but to redeem him - to rescue Jonah from Jonah.  And then God extends an unconditional second opportunity to this disgruntled, rebellious prophet. God doesn't qualify his call with "you blew it the first time Jonah" or "you will never amount to anything" or "what lesson did we learn Jonah" or "don't make me regret this."  We tend to hold grudges. God tends to redeem sinners for His glory and purposes.

2. God is more interested in redeeming you than accomplishing a task.

Let me be clear on something: God doesn't NEED you. God doesn't pursue us because He is needy. God seeks after us because of who He is. As the Creator, He desires to be in relationship with His creation. God did not need Jonah to take His message to Ninevah.  He could have raised up an army of prophets.  But God pursued Jonah because He desired to redeem Jonah.  We tend to overvalue our place in God's work.  We like to be needed.  But in reality, God will accomplish His work with or without me. But God desires to do a work in my life that redeems me from me.

3. God has high demands.

God's call on Jonah's life does not change. He does not negotiate His demands. His instructions remain the same - take My message to Ninevah.  God's demands are high.  He is holy. We are sinful.  He is pure.  We are impure.  We can't measure up to God's requirements.  And that is why the gospel is so vital.  We can't meet God's requirements of righteousness. But there is One who did - Jesus Christ.  Jesus lived a sinless life and became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God.  I'm not sure our finite minds can comprehend the depth of that statement.

Here's what I know: God is more righteous than I can comprehend.  My sin is more offensive to God than I can even begin to imagine. My sin deeply offends a holy God.

Here's what I also know: God's grace is bigger than I can comprehend.  My sin is swallowed up in the death of Jesus - leaving me redeemed and righteous in His sight. My sin is great but Jesus is greater.  That's good news - that's the gospel.

I am like Jonah in so many ways. I want to be preferred.  I tend to position my heart toward my own desires and wants.  I react wrongly. I rebel. I have to be pursued by God.  Jonah is always lurking in my heart.  And that's why I need the gospel.  I need a God who comes to me, not just a second time, but again and again and again and again.  I need a God whose grace is limitless and that is exactly who He is. 

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