Jonah and the Ninevites

Jonah and the Whale by Pieter Lastman (1583–1633)

Jonah and the Whale by Pieter Lastman (1583–1633)

When thinking of the story of Jonah and the whale found in the book of Jonah in the Bible, one thinks about how God gave Jonah a second chance to obey His command to go to Nineveh.  But, there is actually two stories of redemption and second chances. Let’s start with the first story…

God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh to tell them about His  judgment of them and to warn them that He is going to destroy their city because of their wickedness.  The Assyrian people were known to be fierce warriors.  They beheaded the men of a conquered city and piled the head’s at the entrance to the city as a calling card.  They raped and killed the women and children.  They would bury men alive up to their necks and place a stake through their tongues and into the ground.  The Assyrians were Israel’s worst enemy.  Is there any wonder why Jonah had no love for these people and didn’t want to go and tell them God’s message?

Most people know the rest of the story.  Jonah flees in the opposite direction and hitches a ride on a ship going to Tarshish, thousands of miles away from Nineveh.  On the way, the ship encounters a horrible storm and Jonah volunteers to be hurled into the sea after confessing his transgression to his shipmates.  He’s swallowed by a great fish and remained in its belly for three days after which he was vomited out.  As a side note, Jonah’s desperate prayer and confession, while in the fish’s belly, found in Jonah 2 is beautiful.  He sees the error of his way and heads back to Nineveh.

Here’s where we get the second story of second chances.  Jonah tells the Ninevites of God’s judgment of their wickedness and because of his obedience, the Ninevites repent of their ways and turn to God, thus being saved from God’s destruction of their city.

God gave both Jonah and the Ninevites a second chance.  There is nothing you can do that would make God stop loving you.  He offers second chances even when we think we don’t deserve them.  Read the book of Jonah; it will probably take you 15 minutes at the most.  If God is willing to give vicious murderers and disobedient prophets a second chance, He’s willing to give you one too.

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. – Jonah 3:10

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