Sunday, 12 October 2014

Second chances

I've been thinking of second chances recently. Jonah: given a second chance to obey God.  Jacob: reconciled with Esau, after tricking Esau out of his inheritance (Genesis 32 - 34). Jacob sent Esau gifts before their meetings, afraid Esau would destroy his family, but was given a second chance at a relationship. Moses: a murderer and an exile whose countrymen turned against him, given a chance as leader. Samson - got revenge on the Philistines, given another chance to defeat the enemies of Israel. Naomi - given another chance, through Ruth, to be a grandmother. Peter - given another chance to be restored in his relationship with Jesus.

Given another chance. Over and over again.

Notice what happened in these lives before God gave them their second chance:

Jonah “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble,
and he answered me.
I called to you from the land of the dead,
and Lord, you heard me!
You threw me into the ocean depths,
and I sank down to the heart of the sea.
The mighty waters engulfed me;
I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.
Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence.
Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.

“I sank beneath the waves,
and the waters closed over me.
Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.
I was imprisoned in the earth,
whose gates lock shut forever.
But you, O Lord my God,
snatched me from the jaws of death!
As my life was slipping away,
I remembered the Lord.
And my earnest prayer went out to you

in your holy Temple.
Those who worship false gods
turn their backs on all God’s mercies.
But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise,
and I will fulfill all my vows.
For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.”

Then God saved Jonah from PHYSICAL death when he 'ordered the fish to spit Jonah up onto dry land.'

Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”  (Jonah 3:1 - 2)

And Jonah did. God gave him a second chance.

Moses, too. In more than one way. A murderer, he had fled from Egypt, fearing for his life, but God took him back there again. The fugitive had become a leader who would confront the very man who had power over life and death.  Not only that, even when carrying the stone tablets, "the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets", he lost his temper so badly that he threw the work of God on the ground. The tablets broke. Nevertheless, after the Israelites suffered various punishments and consequences, God gave Moses and the people a second chance. God gave the rules all over again.  "...he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin." Then Moses, at God's direction, wrote down God's commandments. (Genesis 34:1, 28)

God gave Moses - and the people - a second chance. He gives us second chances, too.

These people experienced: all hope gone - desolation; desperation; restoration.

So what do we do, when we regret something we have done, or something we should have done, but didn't?

It's never too late. We have a God who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, loving, forgiving...

We can, like Jonah:
Remember that we have a loving and gracious God and cry out to him, as needily and humbly as small children.
Ask God, like Jacob did, to save us from the consequences of our actions, doing our best to put things right.
Be obedient, as Moses was, listening to God and doing what God tells us to, not knowing where this will take us.

With God, it's never too late. God says in the book of Joel: "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm —
my great army that I sent among you.
You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;

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