Jonah 2 “From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. 2 He said:“In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. 3 You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me;all your waves and breakers swept over me. 4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ 5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. 6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit.7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, 8 “Those who cling to worthless idols to your holy temple.turn away from God’s love for them. 9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’” 10 And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” NIV
While cleaning out the closet last night in youngest daughter’s old bedroom, I came across the book Jonah:A Life Interrupted by Priscilla Shirer. It is a woman’s bible study group book, encompassing the trials and tribulations of Jonah. While the study is meant to help you get back on track when life throws you a curve ball, what struck me the most was that even though our God is a God of second chances, He still expects you to start over from the beginning.
When Jonah finally realized that he had really, really screwed up, he called upon God to give him another chance. He laid all of his faults out on the table, including his fears as he was tossed overboard. He pointed out that he had been called of God to do just this one thing and had failed miserably in his selfishness. But notice one thing about this chapter. While Jonah was going on and on about how bad he had been, God just listened. While it does say that God answered him, it strikes me that it could have been a one word answer. Much like the “yes?” that we give our children when they call our name.
We sit and listen as they recount just how and why they got into the mess they are in. We nod and try not to snicker as they point out the mistakes they now realize they made. When it is all said and done, when we have listened long enough, when we are tired of listening to them recount for the umpteenth time how sorry they are, we then give them the chance to try again to do what we asked them.
When God was finished listening to Jonah ramble on and on, He had the fish spit Jonah out. What is crucial here is that He had the fish spit Jonah out right back where the entire adventure began. Not at Nineva, not halfway to Nineva, not even one step towards Nineva. Right back at the exact starting point. It came to me today that God places us right back at the beginning each time we ask for a second chance. He doesn’t do the job for us and then point backwards and say “that’s how you should have done it”. He doesn’t point to the sister next to us and say “next time, try to be more like her”. He just tells us to do it again. From the beginning.
Also notice that He didn’t punish the fish for eating Jonah. It wasn’t the fish’s fault that Jonah was in the water. He just did what comes naturally to a fish. I suppose what I mean is that no matter what kind of fish we find ourselves in, we can’t blame the fish. If we are inside a fish, it is because we put ourselves into the water, thus making ourselves fish food. Does that make sense? (I am glad it does to someone!) It is not fun being swallowed by a fish (not that I would know) and I am sure the cleanup was right messy. But when it was all said and done, Jonah was able to get back on the path to doing what God had asked him to do in the first place. And he was successful at it. Because when you do what God asks you to do, He will make a way for you to succeed.