Select Wisdom Brand

Click the image to watch the video.
Scroll down for more options.



The Prodigal’s Second Chance

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Jonah 3:1–10

Jonah needed to learn what we all do: that we must never put limits on God’s mercy and grace, presuming that some people are beyond His reach and concern. If we simply and faithfully communicate His Word, He will accomplish His purposes and may surprise us.


The Prodigal’s Second Chance

Jonah 3:1-10


By the time most Christians finish Jonah 2, they are under the impression that all the good stuff is over. They might know that Nineveh repented and Jonah was not all that happy about it, but once you get past Jonah getting thrown up onto dry land, it’s time to start reading something else.

The truth is, Jonah chapter 3 to this day holds the key to spiritual awakening—a return to spiritual health and vitality for individuals, churches, and even nations.

Now after the Lord told Jonah to go to Nineveh, he boarded a ship instead, heading in the opposite direction. He had come to believe, as most of his nation had, that salvation belonged exclusively to the Jewish people—and that did not include the Ninevites.

Only when he was inside that great fish did Jonah recognize, as he says in Jonah 2:9, that salvation belongs to the Lord. That is, God can and will save anybody who calls on Him to be saved.

The other reason Jonah effectively resigned as a prophet was because he did not want this brutal and idolatrous nation to get anything from God but fire and brimstone. He would rather resign as a prophet and run away than see that happen. Fortunately, God chased him down.

After Jonah was spit out onto dry land, we read in the first verse of chapter 3, “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time.” I love that statement: God spoke to Jonah “the second time.”

To tell the truth, I would not have reenlisted Jonah. I would have begun asking for resumes so I could start over with someone else.

But the grace of God is indeed amazing. God reenlists messengers like Jonah. As one author noted, “If He did not, none of us [would be able to] serve Him.”[1]

Well, what does God say to Jonah this second time? Verse 2: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”

That sounds like the same thing God told him back in chapter 1. But there is a difference. In the first commission, God referred to the wickedness of the Ninevites. In this second commission, Jonah is simply challenged with the sacred task of delivering the message of God.

Basically, Jonah is to preach God’s Word. From Jonah to my generation, there is always the temptation to water it down, to preach something more appealing, more positive. But the reformation of souls and the awakening of hearts come through “the word of God [which] is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12).

“Jonah, go preach My word.” But think about it: wouldn’t Jonah’s personal biography of surviving three days in the belly of the fish have drawn incredible crowds to hear him? Thrown overboard, swallowed by a great fish, alive for three days in the Mediterranean Sea—it can’t get any better than that!

Listen, God is not interested in Jonah talking about himself. Jonah is to go to Nineveh and talk about God.

In fact, I believe the people of Nineveh were already prepared to listen to Jonah. There is little doubt that news of Jonah’s amazing experience had already reached Nineveh. And think of this—one of the chief gods of the Ninevites was the fish-god Dagon. The Ninevites believed this half-man/half-fish ruled the Mediterranean Sea.

But here comes a prophet who rode inside a great fish that was under the command, not of Dagon, but of Jonah’s God—a God who evidently had greater power than their own fish-god. So, God ties all these things together to set the stage for what we could call the greatest national revival in human history.

Verse 4 tells us, “Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’”

From a human perspective, Jonah’s short sermon seems a little ridiculous. How could one man confront thousands of people with a rather short, offensive sermon—“You’ve got forty days before God overthrows Nineveh”—and expect them to believe?[2]

How does that work? Beloved, this is always God’s method of bringing about reformation, revival, and a spiritual awakening in any human heart. God works through believers who are committed to proclaiming the message of God. Then God does everything else.

Is it really that surprising to read in verse 5, “The people of Nineveh believed God”? They may have been somewhat swept away by the growing legend of Jonah, but they are ultimately swept into the mercy of God.

I don’t doubt that Jonah had much more to say to the Ninevites about the God of Israel. In fact, they would need to know something about God in order to transfer their faith from Dagon to Yahweh, the true and living God.[3]

We are told in verse 5 that the people “believed God”; this word for believed comes from a verb that means to confirm. In other words, the people confirmed that everything Jonah said was true.[4] But don’t miss the fact that they believed in God, not in Jonah.

Now the proof of true confession is repentance, which means to turn around. And did they ever.

The Ninevites radically altered their personal priorities:

They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. (verses 5-6)

So, all the people, from the king on down, put on sackcloth. Sackcloth was a coarse, rough cloth used for making grain sacks—we might call it “burlap.” When it was used for clothing, it represented humiliation and mourning.[5]

That is not all they did. Verse 7 tells us the king called for a national fast. And all the people went without food for a day in order to spend the time seeking God for mercy.

But there is still more that they did. They also radically altered their public behavior. The king says here in verse 8, “Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.”

During the dark days of World War II, the king of England and president of the United States called for national days of prayer. But this king is calling for a national day of repentance.

They are not just praying; they are repenting. They are admitting their evil and violent lifestyles and then walking away from living that kind of life.

The king says in verse 9: “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” And that is exactly what God does:

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. (verse 10)

From our limited human perspective, it appears God has changed His mind. But from the divine perspective, God is simply keeping His promise to forgive those who repent and confess their sins.

Now if we learn anything today from this amazing scene, let us learn that God’s grace can change the most unlikely person. Do not take anybody off your prayer list because you think he or she is too far gone. Just continue praying and sharing the Word of God. Faith, the apostle Paul writes, comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).

Martin Luther, the Reformer, was once asked about his contribution to the Reformation, which reached so many people with the truth of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. Luther responded by saying, “I simply taught … God’s Word … I did nothing; the Word did everything.”[6]

Our world is in need of another reformation—another spiritual awakening—so let us continue faithfully delivering the Word of God.

[1] James Montgomery Boice, The Minor Prophets, Volume 1 ((Baker Books, 1983), 292.

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Amazed (Victor Books, 2004), 85.

[3] Ibid., 86.

[4] William L. Banks, Jonah: The Reluctant Prophet (Moody Press, 1966), 85.

[5] Ibid., 88.

[6] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Volume 51: Sermons I, ed. and trans. John W. Doberstein (Fortress Press, 1959), 77.

Add a Comment

We hope this resource blessed you. Our ministry is EMPOWERED by your prayer and ENABLED by your financial support.