Then the word of the Lord came
to Jonah a second time.
Jonah was a prophet of the Lord; a man whom God had prepared and set apart as His messenger. He was one in whom the Lord had placed His trust. He had been chosen as the ambassador of His grace to those who were perishing in their sin. He was given a ministry, but he did not have a heart for the ministry. When Jonah saw that God had compassion on Nineveh, Jonah states ”I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish.” (Jonah 4:2) He was sent to speak to the people of Nineveh, but he had no heart for the people of Nineveh. He was in possession of the word of God to the people, but lacked the heart of God for the people to whom he was sent.
God, in His Grace, has prepared each of us for the ministry which He has prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10) We are given His word, His promises, and the Holy Spirit. Opportunities abound to share His grace with a perishing world around us in our neighborhoods, our families and in our workplaces. We know that our God is a compassionate God, ready and eager to provide forgiveness and restoration to all who call upon His name. Has a lack of having God’s heart for the people to whom you were sent ever turned you away from following His will? It has in my life on several occasions.
Years ago, I met a young man from Iran, a student at Wichita State University. He was a patient of mine with whom I had developed a friendship. As we began to discuss the Gospel of Christ, he showed interest and we were planning on pursuing a Bible study together. On one of our meetings, he asked if I could do him a favor by attending a special activity some weekend at WSU. It would have involved a fair amount of time, and as I had other plans during that time, I told him that I was busy. Over the next several weeks, I noticed a change in our relationship. He was no longer available, and showed little interest in further exploration of the Gospel. My lack of God’s heart for this man evidenced itself in saying no to a greater cost of involvement with his life.
Another situation concerned a patient of mine who was an accountant. We had met for breakfast on several occasions and had been fishing several times over a period of a few months. He had a definite interest in the Gospel and we were able to discuss the scriptures in some detail together. Following attending a Wichita prayer breakfast together, he said that he was interested in attending a Bible study group. I took him with me to a group that had just started, introduced him to the group and left him in their care. If I had God’s heart for this man, I would have continued to meet with him individually. He soon dropped out of the group, married a young girl involved in a religious cult, and to my knowledge has never come to Christ.
About twenty five years ago, I received a call from a man who lived in the neighborhood. I had been referred by our church as someone who might help him find a Bible study group. He gave me the nights that were available to him and I told Him I would see what groups were available. I looked at several possibilities, but nothing was immediately available. I subsequently forgot about his request. Six months later, I happened to meet him and found out that he had found a group at another church, one that did not preach the Gospel. I realized, with regret, that if I would have had God’s heart for this man, I would have been more diligent in caring for him spiritually.
“Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time.” (Jonah 3:1) Though Jonah had failed God and run away from his assignment, the LORD was merciful. Even though the prophet was unfaithful, the LORD was faithful. All of God’s work with this man focused on his protection; his restoration to a point of obedience to the voice of the Lord. The work of God continued beyond obedience with the intent of producing a change of heart in Jonah’s life. The Lord’s desire was not only a work through Jonah but a work in Jonah.
The Lord’s desire for us is the same that He had for Jonah, which is to work in us as well as through us. The experiences which I related previously have helped me to know and appreciate God’s heart for people. I have experienced His word coming a second time, giving opportunities to express His love to others. God’s word not only comes a second time, but a third, a fourth and as many as necessary to the completion of His work in us and through us. “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
Howard Hendricks once stated that when God chose to write about Jesus, the unfailing servant, He chose Mark, the failing servant, to do so. I also remember Lorne Sanny’s comments regarding Psalm 119. He related that nearly all of the verses mention the word of God as statutes, ordinances, precepts, commands, laws etc. Almost all of them are written as prayers to God. This, then, was written by one who was deeply influenced by the word and had given their lives to prayer. Yet in the last verse we read; “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.” (Psalm 119:176)
It is possible to go astray in our devotion and in our obedience to His voice, yet in His grace and mercy, he will not leave us there. He will seek His servant. It is not our grip on Him that will sustain us, but His grip on us. As with Jonah, the word of the LORD will come a second time. May the Lord encourage your hearts as you look to Him to establish His work both in and through your lives.