Give something, however small, to the one in need. For it is not small to one who has nothing. Neither is it small to God, if we have given what we could. - St. Gregory Nazianzen
Devotion & Scripture focus: Jonah 3: 1-5
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.” Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city – a visit required three days. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
A God of second chances
Shortly before Christmas several years ago, while en route to spending the holidays with family on the East Coast, I was stuck at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport in a very long line of planes awaiting take-off clearance for what must have been at least an hour. Also in the wide-body jet was a mother with her small daughter, perhaps four or five years old. After awhile, the little girl began to fidget about having to stay in her seat with her seatbelt fastened. The mother, no doubt aware that the child’s increasingly loud and whining protestations were bothering fellow passengers, began a running series of comments like, “You need to settle down now. I’m not going to tell you again. You need to shush. This is the last time I am going to tell you. I mean it. This is the last time…” Finally, a male voice boomed from the back of the plane: “Santa Claus is watching you.” The little girl stopped fussing, just like that.
Unlike the little girl in the plane who repeatedly ignored her mother’s instructions, Jonah obeyed immediately when God reminded him a second time about what he was supposed to do: go and deliver a message to the people of Nineveh. He didn’t whine or fuss or kick or try to wriggle out of the responsibility or plead with God to relent about charging him with the task. He knew that his life had been spared in order to give him a second chance to fulfill God’s direction.
This passage of scripture describes Nineveh as so large and important a city that “a visit required three days”. My King James Bible puts it another way, stating that Nineveh was “a great city of three-days’ journey.” Either way, given that Jonah had just spent three days in the fish’s belly and that Jesus referred to Jonah’s time in the fish as a sign pointing toward the time between his own death and resurrection, the symbolism here is obvious. God gave Jonah a chance to live In order to provide a way for the people of Nineveh to escape destruction; God raised Jesus from the dead in order to give humanity a way to escape the consequences of sin.
How wonderful it is to serve a God of second chances! If we confess and are sorry for the wrongs we have done, the Bible tells us in 1 John 1:9 that God is “faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Lent is a time when we confess our self-centeredness, our tendency to flee from God or to ignore his call, our predisposition to sin and to allow ourselves to become distracted from our life’s purpose. Let us take the opportunity today to thank our Lord for being a God of second chances who loves his wayward children, even when they whine and fret and put up a fuss.
We thank You AGAIN - that You are the God who gives second chances - who loves us enough to call us back in love. May we be focused on You and all that You are.