Scripture: Jonah 3:1-4:1
Key verse: (3:1) “The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time…”
Reflection: Do you remember the story about the day Jesus was asked how many times we are to forgive? He gives a difficult answer: not 7 times, but 77 times. In my book, he might as well have said, “Never stop forgiving” which is about as impossible as a call gets! The point, though, is that we are called to stop counting how many times we do something righteous and instead discover a whole new way of living – one that is free of keeping track of grievances.
I always feel a little overwhelmed by that story because I know my desire to cling to the old way of doing things. But there are little signs throughout scripture that, for God, the “old way” of doing things has long since been out of fashion. With us, God’s fundamental posture is like what is described above – gracious and patient.
Consider Jonah. It’s a small phrase that is easy to skip over, but at the beginning of chapter 3, after Jonah has run in the opposite direction of God, hiding from a difficult calling (“Go tell those nasty Ninevites to change their ways!!”), the word of the LORD comes to Jonah a second time. Here Jonah is, fresh from the belly of the fish, stinky and sitting on dry land after a scary mess he could have avoided, and the word of the LORD comes to him a second time.
Have you ever had that experience? Has God ever spoken to you a second, or a third, or a fourth time, even after you’ve lost your way – or willingly left it? Have you ever received a word of grace when you’ve made a mess of things? Has someone forgiven you when you’ve screwed up or broken trust? Have you been able to hear the good news of a God who doesn’t give up on you, no matter what, but continues to call you again and again to a whole new way of living?
If so, then you’ve got something in common with Jonah, at least here in chapter 3. And it might help you to hear that word of Jesus a little differently, too. Thank goodness that God continues to speak to us, over and over again, even when we find ourselves in the middle of messes of our own making.
Prayer: Give me the humility to listen for you, O God, when I think I’ve long since scared you off. And be patient with me – because I know I will pray this prayer again. Amen.
Author: Anna Dickson
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].