In the book of Jonah there are three words that are easy to overlook. They come right after Jonah was spit up by the great fish that had swallowed him and right before the great revival that saved the people of Nineveh. In Jonah 1:1-2 the story begins with these words: “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’” But Jonah headed west to Tarshish instead of east to Nineveh.
In the midst of his travels by ship away from Nineveh, a powerful storm came up in which Jonah was swallowed by the huge fish. Then in Jonah 3:1-2 we read, “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’”
Now that is interesting. The words “a second time” are God’s way of saying to Jonah, “I’m giving you another chance, a new beginning, a fresh start. Now go to Nineveh and tell the people about me.” I like second chances, how about you? It’s easy to overlook these three words, yet they reveal a great deal about God’s character. God is the God of the second chance, the fresh start, and the new beginning. He doesn’t ignore the repentant person no matter how blatant the rebellion or how bad the transgression.
Jonah, like all of us, would have been a washed-up failure had God not given him a second chance. We can look beyond our shortcomings to see ourselves from God’s point of view. You are God’s special treasure, and he loves you deeply. God knows you and accepts you just as you are, but he loves you too much to leave you just the same. He does not give up on you, no matter how many times you have failed.
Jonah ran away from his responsibility and his calling, but God reissued the call and gave him a second chance. And “Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh” (Jonah 3:3). As a result of his obedience and the grace of God, many people of Nineveh—including the king, the main leader of the people—came to believe in God and they turned from the way leading to destruction. And guess what? No matter what you’ve done, with repentance and an intentional desire to live for God, he will renew, reinstate, and reshape you to be the person you are meant to be. It’s never too late to say to God, “I need a do-over. Help me to do better.”
Happy New Year! Live it with intentionality and in God’s grace.