God is the God of second chances. And he’s also the God of third chances, and fourth chances, and fifth chances.
Case in point: Jonah.
Have you read the book of Jonah any time recently? It’s a surreal book featuring Jonah the Enormous Jerk and the God of Everflowing, Overflowing Grace.
God calls Jonah to go to Ninevah and prophesy their impending destruction. Jonah isn’t so keen on that idea and makes a break for Tarshish. The moment Jonah ran, God should have killed him. But he gave him a second chance. His mercy won’t let Jonah get away that easily.
God hunts down Jonah with a storm of epic proportions, which results in him be thrown into the sea by the ship’s crew (who, by the way, placed their faith in Yahweh). It would be right for God to let Jonah inhale the water and suffocate, but he doesn’t. Instead he appoints a fish to swallow Jonah and save him from drowning. Jonah is vomited onto dry land.
He goes to Nineveh, preaches, and 120,000 people repent in sackcloth and ashes. It’s probably the greatest revival in history and it certainly is every preacher’s dream come true. But Jonah is in no mood to celebrate. He stalks outside the city and sets up a booth to sit in, hoping that God will still bring the hammer down on Nineveh. God doesn’t and Jonah flips out on God. He’s angry that God would be merciful to such scumbags and now would like God to take his life.
Jonah should have been vaporized on the spot. But God gave him a third chance.
God sends a plant to cover Jonah from the sun. The plant is present for only one day, but it appears to be the best day of Jonah’s life. The next however, it’s gone, eaten by a God-appointed worm. Jonah has had enough. He again asks God to kill him on the spot. But God continues to extend compassion to Jonah, and gives him yet a fourth chance to turn from his wickedness.
The book of Jonah ends without telling us what Jonah did, but I think he finally got it. God just wouldn’t let go of Jonah. He loved him too much and wouldn’t let him wallow in sin.
God does the same with you and me. God always sticks with us. He should have dumped us long ago, but he is utterly faithful to the end, and will keep pursuing us with compassion.
Which makes me really glad.