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‘THE SECOND TIME’
‘The word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh … and preach.’
I. ‘The second time.’ This implies that there had been a first time.—Jonah must have paused after writing these first words of a new chapter in his life-history, and gone back in thought to the earlier call at Gath-hepher, and the terrible consequences of its rejection. He must have wondered that Jehovah had not cast him off for ever for his perversity. But he was to have another opportunity of making his calling and election sure. He had not yet committed the unpardonable sin, nor had another been called to take his office. A fresh start in his prophetic life was open to him, and the tide of Divine favour and blessing was once again at the flood. How rarely this happens we all know; but Jonah’s life and history, rather than his message, were to be the gospel to the Ninevites.
II. ‘The second time.’ The words suggest the Divine Sovereignty.—We are slow to realise the sacredness of Divine law. It seldom occurs to us what an appalling thing it is to break even one of the least of God’s commandments. We forget that the universe depends, for its continued existence and well-being, on the strictest conformity to law and order. The Church, being a purely spiritual community, could not exist without absolute obedience to the laws of its Divine Head. The welfare and happiness of our own lives are conditioned by obedience to the law of our Creator. But all the more sacred and inviolable ought those laws to appear to us, to whom their wisdom has been explained, and their necessity made clear, by their Divine Author and Executor, the Son of God Himself. We ought to recognise that the Divine Will must be paramount, and we must yield to it prompt and willing obedience. His word comes ‘the second time’ whenever it has been disregarded the first time; and it will continue to come until it has prospered in the thing whereto He has sent it.
III. ‘The second time.’ The words suggest the Divine Clemency.—Jonah must have felt what St. Peter felt when he was commanded to ‘Feed the Lambs’ of Christ, when he was thereby forgiven for his delinquency and restored to his apostleship; he must have felt that God’s thoughts were not as man’s thoughts; he was pardoned without reproach, and restored without upbraiding. Jonah was not asked where he had been, or what he had been doing, or what he had now to say for himself, but told to arise, and go to Nineveh. ‘Who is a God like unto Thee?’
IV. ‘The second time’ suggests the Divine Love.—It was love, not only to Jonah, but to Nineveh with its sixty-thousand children. God so loves the world. The first message had been miscarried, but in pity and love He sends a second. If there is threat of stern judgment in the message, there is a full gospel in the pardoned messenger. There was forgiveness with God that He might be feared, and love that He might be trusted and obeyed.
‘We must not presume on this, but we may take it to our hearts for their very great comfort. God’s word may come to us “the second time.” Jonah evaded it the first time, but he was permitted to have a second opportunity of obeying it. Thus it was with Peter; he failed to realise the Lord’s ideal in the first great trial of his apostolic career, but the Lord met him on the shore of the lake, and His word came to him a second time. God is not waiting to notice our first failure and thrust us from His service. He waits, with eager desire, to give us the joy and honour of being fellow-labourers with Himself. He waits to be gracious. Therefore, when, in our madness, we refuse to do His bidding, and rush off in another direction, He brings us back, amid bitter experiences, and says, “Go again to Nineveh with the message that I gave thee originally.” ’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Jonah 3". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30