‘The Lord commanded the fish.’ Amazing. Fish are not the only things God can command. ‘Aaron’s staff, become a snake!’ He ordered. ‘Sand, turn into gnats!’ ‘Locusts, gather your friends and populate Egypt!’ ‘Red Sea, open up!’ ‘Walls of Jericho, fall!’ ‘Lions, spare Daniel!’ ‘Fire, don’t touch those three men!’ Is there anything he cannot command? No, nothing. Seas open, walls fall, lions shut their mouths, fire is harmless, and even death yields its captives. At his word everything obeys. Every confinement ceases. You cannot be entrapped by anything that will refuse to obey God’s command
Our fish is at God’s command
Jonah was imprisoned by his circumstances, but God’s command released him. ‘I feel so trapped by my situation,’ you may say. But God can change it overnight. ‘Job situation, change!’ he can order. ‘Money, get into her bank account!’ ‘Managing director, promote him to that position!’ God is far greater than our circumstances. At any time he can command our ‘fish’, ‘Enough! Let him go!’ And the fish will cough us up – not back into the sea, but onto dry land.
The Bible tells us, ‘For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let me ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance’ (Ps. 66:10-12). God takes his people through difficult circumstances, not because he wants to hurt them, but because he wants to strengthen them and make them more effective. React positively to confinement and you will one day, like imprisoned and forgotten Joseph, find yourself suddenly released onto dry ground and into great things.
A second time
At last Jonah was on dry ground, delivered, delighted, but probably disqualified – or was he? No! Here we find those wonderful words, ‘The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time’ (Jonah 3:1). What a glorious statement. We may have written Jonah off; he might even have disqualified himself. But God didn’t abandon him. He brought his prophet right back into his original plans, back to where he had left off.
Throughout Scripture we read of scarred people whom God had chosen and who heard from him a second time. Abraham, unable to wait for God to give him a child by his wife Sarah, produced a son through her maid, Hagar. ‘That’s it,’ we’d have said. ‘He’s blown it. No chance of God using him now.’ But after thirteen years, Abraham heard God’s voice again, ‘Your wife Sarah will bear you a son’ (Gen. 17:19). And a year later the promise was fulfilled.
Then there was Moses. ‘I’ll deliver Israel,’ he said, then killed an Egyptian and ran for his life. Forty years later God called him again, and Moses brought the Israelites out of bondage just as God had intended. And what about David, the man after God’s own heart? He committed adultery and as good as murdered the woman’s husband.
Peter cursed and swore that he didn’t know Jesus, but he wasn’t overlooked from that time on. God’s word came to Peter a second time, ‘Do you love me?’ And on the day of Pentecost, who was it standing there preaching the gospel, to which 3,000 people responded?
God’s grace says, ‘Come back – not to a different word, but back to my original word to you. I will gladly pick you up and reinstate you to my original purpose. That’s what I’ve wanted all along.’ God does not adjust His command in order to accommodate Jonah. His authoritative word must be obeyed as originally given
What was Jonah’s response? He ‘went according to the word of the Lord.’ That’s what God wants from us – to go according to his word. Have you messed up your marriage? Is your business on shaky ground? Have you been resisting God in your spiritual life? Get back into line with the Word of God. Jonah did. Will you?
‘When Thomas Edison was developing the incandescent light bulb, it took hundreds of hours to manufacture a single bulb. One day, after finishing a bulb, he handed it to a young errand boy and asked him to take it upstairs to the testing room. As the boy turned and started up the stairs, he stumbled and fell. The bulb shattered on the steps. Instead of rebuking the boy, Edison reassured him. Then he turned to his staff and told them to start working on another bulb. When it was completed several days later, Edison walked over to the same boy, handed him the bulb and said, “Please take this up to the testing room.” Imagine how that boy must have felt. He knew that he didn’t deserve to be trusted with this responsibility again. Yet, here it was, being offered to him again as though nothing had ever happened. Edison’s gracious action restored this boy to the team clearly, quickly, and fully. That’s what God wants to do for us. He wants to restore us to His team. To his service. Clearly and fully.’