"Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, "Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and call out against it the message I tell you." (Jonah 3:1-2 emphasis added)
Have you ever sensed God prompting you to do something and failed to respond? You know the feeling...you sense an urging or even hear God's Spirit say something like, "go talk to that person," or "stop by so-and-so's house" or "take all that you have in your wallet and go buy that homeless person groceries." In your mind you rehearse all the excuses as to why you can't do what He's asking or you to do, or you brush off the prompting telling yourself that you just think you're hearing God.
I looked up in scripture how many times this phrase, "the word of the LORD came a second time" was used and with whom. It's used four times: twice in Jeremiah, once in Haggai and here in Jonah. Many are familiar with its usage here. Jonah was told by God to go to Ninevah to pronounce God's judgment upon it, and he runs the other way. Have you ever done that?
I love what Tullian Tchividjian says in his book, Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels, about Jonah's situation: "In light of Jonah's earlier disobedience, what could possibly be more stunning to him--or more humbling--than to be promptly recommissioned with his earlier assignment? And what could possible be more gracious of God than to offer him this second chance?"
I'm a Jonah. In 2006, God made it clear to me that He wanted me to write a book about Honoring Dishonorable Parents. I ran the other way for four years! I didn't get swallowed by a whale, but I was drowning in excuses as to why I wasn't up for the task. Then in 2010, on two separate occasions, "the word of the LORD came to me again."
The first came through a sermon our pastor was teaching out of Luke 5. It's about Jesus' calling of his disciples near the Sea of Galilee. Simon Peter and his companions had been fishing all night. Jesus was teaching a large crowd and got into the boat asking Simon Peter to move out a little from the shore. After He finished teaching, He told Simon Peter to venture out into deep water and "let down the nets for a catch."
Immediately, Simon Peter responded, "Master we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." Scripture tells us that they caught so many fish that the nets began to break.
When I heard this sermon, I heard the LORD say to me "write the book." It was so strong I wrote the date in my Bible at the top of Luke 5 and I immediately responded in my spirit to the LORD, "because You say so, I will."
I wish I could tell you that I went right to my computer as soon as I got home from church! I didn't! It was several weeks later when preparing a message for my Bible study out of James 1 , "be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only." The "word of the Lord came to me a second time,"--write the book. This time I listened. I told the women of my study, I could no longer teach them in integrity when I was disobeying what I knew God was telling me to do.
I announced that I would step down the following year to focus on writing the book. I did. And now, four years later that book is about to be published.
As for me, I can only echo what Tchividjian writes in his book:
"God responds to great sin with great mercy!"