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“God’s Love Gives Another Chance”
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Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2013 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited. As always you are encouraged to do your own studies as well. Blessings!)
The whole Bible is riddled with stories pertaining to mankind, his choices, and how they play out in their lives and in their relationship with God. In those choices, some wrongs are made and consequences are felt. Once the hardness of the consequences set in it causes one to be more reflective of their life and what got them on the path they are currently walking.
In a previous article, I wrote:
“Hindsight is a kicker. I’ve heard it said before that hindsight offers perfect 20/20 vision. I don’t remember where I heard or saw that phrase but I could not agree more. Staring down the road once traveled, seeing it littered with the trash of mistakes and bad choices changes one’s perspective.” (Be Wise in the Choices I Make/Word For Life Says)
Negative results from wrong choices are something all of us have felt or experienced most likely more than one time in our lives. But, even in the midst of our mess, for the heart that turns to Him in true repentance, God shows mercy and compassion. God stands ready to save and deliver.
There may still be some residual effects from the wrongs and consequences we have done and felt, but God still offers the gift of grace; the gift of another chance.
Jonah 2:1-3 “Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hast cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.”
Corrie ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place, once wrote, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still,” (Quote Source: Goodreads) which covered her and her family’s experience of helping the Jewish people during the time of the Holocaust (I believe it is a must read). I am sure that if the prophet Jonah were alive in her time he would wholeheartedly agree with her statement. The place where God’s love reached him was unimaginably horrible. His “pit” is described as the “belly of hell.” In today’s lesson, he is portrayed to be in “the fish’s belly.”
It is from this place, the Bible tells us, “Jonah prayed.” The interesting thing about this chapter opening with those words is that while the storms that converged on him in chapter 1 were raging, we don’t see this at all. While the threat of being capsized by the tumultuous seas was going on not once are we told that Jonah abided by the shipmaster’s plea when he instructed him to, “Call upon thy God,” (Jonah 1:6). Jonah was not actively engaging in the spiritual discipline of prayer; even at that moment he was not trying to connect with God. Perhaps his heart was still in a runaway mode. But here, in the worst condition possible, he finally humbles himself before the Lord.
The Bible teaches us, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land,” (2 Chronicles 7:14; emphasis mine). And here, we see this playing out for Jonah. Jonah has “cried” out to God in the midst of his mess and declares “he heard me.”
The words “heard” and “heardest” read as past tense because Jonah obviously didn’t pen these words while in the stomach of the fish. After everything was said and done, sometime after the fact, these words were probably written. In that dire of circumstance, swirling around in the midst of the trouble of his consequences, his prayer did not fall on deaf ears. God is never so far removed from our circumstances that He can’t be reached if a heart is truly repentant, humbled, and truly seeking Him. If God can hear Jonah in the belly of a great fish, He can hear you wherever you are.
In his prayer, Jonah not only needed God to intervene because of his “affliction” but he also expressed the truthfulness of his situation: God’s hand is at work in everything he was now experiencing. The men of the ship fought furiously to save his life until they realized they had no choice but to do as Jonah insisted and cast him into the sea. Their hands did the deed but it was according to God’s will this was accomplished.
He said, “Thou hadst cast me into the deep . . . thy billows and thy waves passed over me,” (compare Psalm 42:7 and 88:6). Over and over again the Bible makes us aware of sin and its effects on the person or persons who indulge in it. “For the wages of sin is death . . .” (Romans 6:23) the Bible tells us, and this is what Jonah felt like as he sank further in the water and as the waves covered his near dead body, and the dread of his situation sank deeper in his heart. He should’ve died but he realizes God showed him mercy and compassion. God heard his prayers.
Jonah 2:4-6 “Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.”
The words in these verses offer another look at his further sinking condition. Physically, the “waters compassed me about . . . the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head,” he said. Someone may ask, “How low can you go?” In Jonah’s case, it was pretty low and pretty bad. Basically, he was drowning and was very much aware he was drowning and that his life was coming to an end. I can imagine him in that situation lifting his eyes and seeing nothing but dark water over him. His arms were probably flailing about grasping for anything to give hope.
He realized that it was the choices he made that placed him out of the will of God thus out of His “sight.” The NLT version expresses the idea of being “cast out of thy sight” as being “driven . . . from your presence.” Spiritually, he seemed to be separated from God. There was a great disconnect because of his disobedience. This, in essence, is the whole sin plight when one chooses to go outside of the will of God. It causes division between the beautiful unity one could experience between God and man, Creator and His creation. Complete dread must have overwhelmed him as he was thinking back on that horrible experience and the miracle of being delivered from it.
Jonah’s theme song could’ve been Love Lifted Me for this was, in essence, his story of restoration. In that song, author James Rowe writes:
“I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more;
But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me.
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me.” (Lyrics Source: Hymnary.org)
His experience in that water was more than just being saved and swallowed by a great fish. His experience was a restoration experience. It was a time that brought to reality just how good he had it when he was in right fellowship with God. He literally almost lost everything.
Although he said, “Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight,” admitting his own fault to his own condition, he also expressed a great measure of hope in what seemed to be a hopeless situation. He went on to say, “Yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.” The man that spent so much time and energy to flee God’s presence is now looking forward to experiencing His presence once more. The “temple” in the Old Testament times was a symbol of God’s presence amongst His people.
In the midst of all the craziness of his plight, I get the sense of sweet peace coming over him at the very thought of the beauty of God and being restored and being able to properly worship once again where He is. In a place where no such beauty can be felt, but only a downward spiraling of life into the deepest depths of the ocean which he describes by saying, “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me forever;” amongst those despairing words comes forth this assurance that he would once again get to enjoy the presence of the Lord, somehow, some way; whether here or in eternity. He felt that God, in His love for him, had not totally given up on him. God’s hands were in his consequences, but he also believed God’s love to be at work in his time of restoration.
“Thou hast brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.” The same “thou,” that was used to describe Him [God] that cast him [Jonah] into the sea (vs. 3) is the same “thou” that was responsible to raising up his “life” once more. God spared Jonah’s life. He didn’t allow him to see death. These words are compatible to those expressed by David in Psalm 30:3 when he said, “O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.” The situation may seem terminal, at a point of no return, but God is able to deliver and restore again. Jonah’s story isn’t over yet. Jonah’s story didn’t stop when he hit the water or even in the belly of the fish. God had more pages to write for his life.
Jonah 2:7 “When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thy holy temple.”
“I remembered the LORD.” The very God he tried so desperately to run away from now in his darkest of times he remembers. When he felt overwhelmed by his choices and overwhelmed by the sin those choices led to and overwhelmed by the experience of his sinking plight, it was as a spiritual light clicked on deep within him and he remembered the LORD. He remembered His Word. He remembered His promises. He remembered His love for His people. He remembered His faithfulness. He remembered His covenant. He remembered just how great a God he served! When he ran from God he forgot about all the wonders of God in his selfish pursuit, but now he remembers.
“My prayer came in unto thee, into thy holy temple.” When he cried out to God his very cry reached the presence of God. God was listening. Sincere prayer reaches the ears of God. Although he had many opportunities to pray prior to being in the fish, the sincerity of his heart is now more real than ever as he reaches out to God in prayer.
There’s a glorious truth that God hears, but don’t wait until your situation is so desperate that you are at the point where you have no other choice than to pray. God is available with a listening ear at all times.
Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Why is that? Because as breath is with the body, with each inhale and exhale one’s life is sustained; so is the prayer line that fosters that interpersonal relationship between God and man. It is not only life-sustaining, but it is soul-sustaining keeping that glorious love connection betwixt the two opened and flowing. And, as Jonah felt his time of the last breath was drawing nearer he then sought to reconnect with God once more through prayer and he believed his prayer was heard. When we call out to God we too can believe that our prayers are heard if we have a sincere heart.
Jonah 2:8 -9 “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”
Futile pursuits often overwhelm a life that could have been well lived for God. The words “observe lying vanities” are associated with idol worshiping. Jonah, in his reflective mind, can surely testify to the uselessness of a life lived after those false ways. Everything outside of God’s will and God’s ways are worthless things to go after. To the one who does such, they “forsake their own mercy;” they abandon the true source of hope and help. When one forsakes God’s mercy they purposely turn away from His grace, His help, His compassion, His favor, and all those wonderful attributes we come to know Him by.
“But I,” Jonah says, “will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving.” In other words Jonah is saying my heart is directed to worship God and to praise Him and Him only. To recognize His sovereignty in my life and to give Him thanks for all that He has done for me. He may have went the wrong way temporarily with the choices he made, but he recognizes who he worships; he recognizes God is his God and it is He that he will praise. Psalm 95:2 tells us, “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.” And, this is what Jonah is doing.
He declared, “I will pay that that I have vowed” (compare Psalm 50:14). Whatever promise he placed himself under to fulfill, Jonah declared he will do it. Nothing will hold him back from fulfilling his commitment to God. God is devoted to His people and to fulfill the promises of His Word and His people should feel an unshakeable obligation to do the same.
“Salvation is of the LORD” declares where Jonah and our everlasting hope lies. This is where the gist of this lesson lies. The God of the second chance (and often more) is the God of our salvation. Any deliverance we experience is due to His moving in our lives. God not only has the power to call forth the storm and to make them quiet again; God has the power to save (compare Psalm 3:8). Relying on anything or anybody else is “vain” (Jeremiah 3:23). “He that is our God is the God of salvation . . .” (Psalm 68:20).
Jonah 2:10 “And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.”
Remember, God is the one who “prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah” (Jonah 1:17), and God is the one who commands it here to “vomit out Jonah upon the dry land” as well. Jonah experienced firsthand God’s power over creation. Jonah knew God reigns, He rules, and He was in control of everything. God was in charge the whole time.
This should be a comfort to many of us today when we feel like the situation is just too hopeless or too far gone. In that, may we find the same comfort Jonah did in the belly of the fish when we realize our Sovereign God is still on His throne. “The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood, And the Lord sits as King forever,” (Psalm 29:10, NKJV). He still has His hand on the situation. He is still in control.
God is our great deliverer and the Lord of our salvation. Turn to Him today.
Standard Print PDF: God’s Love Gives Another Chance Sunday School Lesson Summary Standard Print
Below are activities that support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Word Scramble: God’s Love Gives Another Chance Word Scramble Answers: God’s Love Gives Another Chance Word Scramble Answers
Draw the Scene: God’s Love Gives Another Chance Draw the Scene
Memory Verse: God’s Love Gives Another Chance Memory Verse
Below are Activities/Links/Resources to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Ideas from the previous lesson, Jonah 1, that can be used in conjunction with this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
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