Our first lesson tonight begins with one of my favorite passages in all of scripture: “The Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time…” I grin from ear to ear every time I hear this reading.
I know that you know the story of Jonah. Jonah’s story is a whale of a tale, a satire that most people over a certain age in our country know, even if they aren’t Christians. And even if they ARE Christians, most don’t believe that Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale and survived to do God’s bidding.
Perhaps YOU see the Jonah story as more of an allegory than a historical event. In any case, what makes this phrase, “The Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time” funny to me is this:
- God had told Jonah to do something that Jonah hadn’t wanted to do.
- So Jonah had set out in the exact opposite direction.
- God had …… intervened in a most unlikely way.
- Jonah had then thanked God for his deliverance, saying,
I called to the Lord out of my distress and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.”
- And then the Lord had spoken to the fish, and it had spewed Jonah out upon dry land.
That’s the back-story for our first lesson tonight. As depicted the front of our worship bulletins, Jonah had emerged from the whale and lo, there he was—at least figuratively speaking—on the shores of where God had wanted him to be. And then “The Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time,” saying exactly the same thing as the Word of the Lord had said to Jonah the first time.
Our lesson tells us the outcome. Jonah went and did what God had commanded, and Jonah’s worst fear came true. Jonah’s enemies repented and God spared them. There are all KINDS of other messages, other learnings, other sermons THERE. We won’t go to any of those other places tonight. It’s Lent, and I have a few questions to ask you:
- What has God been pestering you to do that you’ve been rejecting?
- What dark place might your avoidance led you to?
- Are you ready to cry “fish” yet, to reach out to God?
God will hear you. God will answer you. But be forewarned: You will be given a second chance and no amount of running the other way will get you off the hook.
If you say that God is not calling you, you deceive yourself. God is always calling. Maybe you are not in the belly of a fish. Maybe you are on a ship already, figuratively speaking, heading for what God is calling you to do right now. But maybe you are wondering, “How did I get HERE, on THIS ship, heading to THAT place, to do WHAT, for Christ’s sake?” If so, cry out to the Lord again, and he will repeat his message.