- Maybe God Will Change His Mind
- Jonah 3
- Lyndol Loyd June 11, 2017
1 Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”
3 This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. 4 On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” 5 The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow.
6 When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. 7 Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city:
“No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. 8 People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. 9 Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.”
10 When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.
There are a number of things we do in life in which we have only one chance to get it right.
- Borrow money from the bank (or from a friend) and don’t pay it back, you probably won’t get another chance to borrow.
- If a job promotion is tied to a certain project that you are doing at work, and you botch the project, you probably won’t get another chance to do the job right, and you’ll miss out on the promotion.
- If you invited all your friends to your house for a big party, and when everyone showed up you said, “I decided I didn’t feel like having a party tonight, why don’t you come back another time.” I doubt if any of your friends would come to another one of your parties.
In any of these cases, if the appeal was made, “I’ll do better next time,” more than likely the appeal would be ignored and the second chance would be denied.
Today, I have one chance to deliver the message that God has given me this week. What if, after I finished preaching this morning, I were to say, “Folks, I think I can do better. Why don’t we all stay an extra thirty minutes and let me preach this message again?”
How well do you think that idea would go over? How many would stay? Since we came in two vehicles this morning, my family might even leave. Everyone probably expects me to get it right the first time, if I don’t, you shake my hand, give me a smile on the way out, and say it was good to be here.
There are many situations in life in which we have only one chance, and even if you needed a second chance, you had one shot, you “blew” it, and that’s all there is to it and there’s nothing you can do about it.
The good news is that, with God, it works differently. With Him, we get a second chance. We don’t deserve a second chance, but we get one.
God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach the Word. Instead, Jonah got on a boat headed for Tarshish, which is in the other direction. In the middle of the sea, a storm came along and the boat started to sink, the sailors found out that they had a runaway in their midst and they tossed him overboard.
Being tossed out was Jonah’s own idea. He was running from God, and apparently decided he would rather die than repent. Everyone thought that was the end of Jonah, but God had other plans.
A great big fish came along and swallowed Jonah. After three days in the fish, “the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry ground” (2:10). The next chapter includes one of the most encouraging verses in all of scripture.
“Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time” (3:1). Jonah got a second chance from God even though he didn’t deserve it. This is God’s mercy at work, even if we blow it the first time, God gives us a chance to try again.
Without exception, we all need a second chance from time to time.
There’s only one way to interpret Jonah’s behavior, he sinned. God said, “Go to Nineveh” and Jonah said, “No.” It boils down to the fact that Jonah didn’t want to do what God told him to do, and he ran away
God could have given up on Jonah, some may even say God should have given up on Jonah, but God was merciful to Jonah, He gave him a second chance.
God’s mercy is greater than our sin, and there are simply some things our sin cannot change. It is God’s nature to give second chances. He forgives and lets us try again.
Your boss may not give you a second chance; your spouse may not give you a second chance; but God will, He is the God of second chances.
His mercy is greater than our sin. We make the mistake of thinking that once we have “blown” it, we can never get back on track, God can never use us again.
If you have been running from God and you are now ready to come back, God is willing to pick up where you left off. If you have “blown” it once, it doesn’t mean you’ve “blown” it forever.
God’s mercy is greater than your sin; He will bring you back to the place he wants you to be, and he will forgive those sins. Period. They become part of the past. There are some things your past sin doesn’t change.
- Your Past Sin Doesn’t Change God’s Plans
(v. 1-2) “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Ninevah and proclaim to it the message I give you.’”
God told Jonah to do the same thing in chapter three that he said in chapter one: Go to Nineveh and preach. Jonah’s disobedience didn’t change God’s plans. Ninevah still needed to hear the Word of God, and Jonah was still God’s man for the job.
Once Jonah dealt with his sin, God was ready to put his plan back into action. Repeatedly throughout Scripture we see how God was able to use people even after they committed “major” sins.
- Abraham tried to get his wife to commit adultery, and God still used Abraham.
- Moses committed murder, and God still used him.
- King David committed adultery and murder, and God used him again.
You may try to run away from God at some point in your life, but once you stop running, God’s plan for your life goes back into effect.
Some of you may have felt called by God when you were younger to serve Him in a special way and instead of pursuing that call, you let your life take a different course, and now it’s time to pick up where you left off and pursue the plan God has for you.
One of the really interesting things about seminary was that all around me, in the classroom, were former doctors, attorneys, accountants – you name the career, chances are someone used to have it.
In many cases their story went something like, “I knew that God was calling me to be in some type of ministry and I ignored it. I’m here now to get back on track with what I’ve always known God wanted me to do.”
God gives second chances.
- Your Past Sin Doesn’t Change God’s Power
Jonah went to Ninevah and did as he was supposed to do. He walked through the streets of Ninevah and proclaimed the Word of God. As a result, “The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth” (v. 5).
Just because Jonah disobeyed God didn’t mean God’s Word lost its power. Once he got back into the place God wanted him to be, he began pursuing God’s plan for his life, he was able to experience God’s power.
Scripture has more than one of these stories as well. While Jesus was facing death on the cross, the Apostle Peter abandoned Him and left Him to die all alone. Not once, not twice, but three times he was asked if he was a disciple of Jesus, and each time Peter denied ever having known Christ.
As Christ was being led to his death, Peter warmed himself by the light of a Roman soldier’s fire and swore to all who could hear, “I don’t know the man!”
Some follower of Christ he was. He ran from Jesus at a time Jesus needed him most. Peter was supposed to be a leader and look at the example he set.
- How could he expect to have any credibility as a leader ever again?
- How could he expect to experience God’s power ever again?
- How could he expect to be anything other than a second-class Christian, banished to some sort of spiritual exile, never to be seen or heard from again?
And yet, even after Peter denied Christ, he experienced the power of God in his life in a dramatic way. On the day of Pentecost, Peter spoke and 3,000 people became Christians.
A few days later, as Peter approached a gate at the temple, he saw a crippled man and said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” And the man stood to his feet and began walking and praising God.
The power of God was so evident in Peter’s life that people brought the sick into the streets where Peter walked so at least his shadow might pass over them (Acts 5:15).
Peter’s sin didn’t change God’s power. When Peter got back on track, he was again able to experience God’s power in his life.
It is the story of Jonah. It is the story of Peter, and it is the same with us. Just because we have failed God in some area of life doesn’t mean we have forever lost the ability to experience God’s power.
Jonah found that running from God was not a pleasant experience
-He wound up in the belly of a fish. Not a pretty sight.
-He was puked up by a fish.
But when he came back to God, he saw the power of God working through him. He saw God keep His promise. He learned that when you run from God, it doesn’t mean God is finished with you.
When you’re ready to stop running, God will help you pick up where you left off. God’s mercy is greater than your sin.
It isn’t based on what you deserve to receive, it’s based on what God is willing to give. That’s why it’s called “Radical Mercy.”
When we repent, our sin is forgiven and those sins become part of the past. Micah 7:19 puts it this way, “Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!”
If you’ve ever run from God, please listen closely to me. The Word of God is coming to you a second time. Please, hear it and respond with your heart.
If Jonah’s story ended at this point, he would go down in history as one of the greatest prophets of all time. He preached one very short sermon and all kinds of people repented and believed in God.
So dramatic was the response on the part of the Ninevites that God changed His mind. The problem is that this really upset Jonah.
While Jonah had given in to the will of God to go to Nineveh and preach, his heart remained unchanged in his feelings for the Ninevites. He still wanted to see them wiped out. He didn’t want to see God be gracious with them and he told God so.
Jonah wanted God to be gracious with him. He just didn’t want to see God respond the same way to the people he didn’t like.
Several years ago, I heard a speaker who challenged his audience to think of the people who had caused them the greatest pain in life. When I was asked to do so, I had no problem coming up with some names. Their faces appeared immediately in my mind’s eye.
Then the speaker challenged each of us by asking if we would be willing to pray that God would make that person or persons our neighbors for eternity in Heaven.
It quickly becomes an uncomfortable proposition. The side of me that cries out for justice and vindication says, “No, I’m not about to do that.” At the same time, the sinner in me knows all that I have done and how I stand in need of grace.
The final lesson of Jonah’s story for us is that God’s grace is available to us all, not just to the people we pick and choose. The question then becomes are we willing to live by that principle?
Jonah made his choice and had to learn yet another hard lesson. It is our choice how we will respond when faced with the same reality.