"Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time..."
The journey of the prophet Jonah is one of most dramatic tales of the entire Old Testament; it is truly a "whale of a tale" (...bad pun intended). The "second chance" that Jonah receives underscores God's determination to get his message to the Ninevites, but it also highlights God's deep desire that Jonah fulfill his God-given mission. In other words, God could have simply "moved on" to another prophet and left Jonah to his own devices. But instead God dramatically rescues Jonah and offers him a "second chance" to go and proclaim the offer of repentance to the people of Ninevah.
One of the major themes in the book of Jonah is the boundless compassion of God. As one commentary explains this theme, "the Lord is a God of boundless compassion not just for 'us' (Jonah and the Israelites), but also for 'them' (the pagan sailors and Ninevites)." This thematic focus of the book of Jonah can easily be applied to our own context - the boundless love and compassion of God is not just for 'us' (comfortable Christians within the four walls of the Church), but also for 'them' (those in our communities who need to know the healing love and grace of God).
In today's reading, this boundless compassion of God is ultimately directed toward the people of Ninevah, but it is first directed at Jonah himself, who is rescued from the belly of the great fish and given a "second chance." Jonah never fully realizes that he has been the recipent of God's boundless compassion and, therefore, he remains angry over the fact that the pagan Ninvites have repented and received mercy.
In our own lives, we have been the recipients of God's boundless compassion, which is most powerfully demonstrated by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. (In fact, early Christians interpreted Jonah's three days in the belly of the fish and rescue from death as an analogy for the death and resurrection of Christ.) We are also the recipents of "second chances"- we serve a God who passionately pursues us and continually challenges us to fulfill the call that he has for our lives.
And so, as we conclude this second week of our "Missional Journey" together, take a few moments to reflect upon the boundless compassion of God in your live. Maybe you are need of a "second chance." If so, let the word of God enter into your heart today and receive afresh the boundless compassion, love, and grace of our Lord, who died for us and rose again. Alleluia!