I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight;
yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’
Jonah 2:4 (NIV)
As a pastor I have dealt with people over the years who have ruined themselves in various ways. Occasionally a person has chosen to involve themselves with substance abuse, or some other addictive behaviour such as gambling or pornography.
Now there is heartbreak and sorrow at a wasted life. Years have been eaten up with destructive activity and it seems that the person is too soon old and too late smart. What can be done in such a situation?
Jonah was someone who messed up his life in a big way. God had explained exactly what He desired from Jonah and in his rebellion the prophet did the opposite. He was told to travel east to Nineveh and preach but he went west to the sea and headed further west on it. His rebellion was very obvious. Because Jonah was a child of God, punishment came swiftly and he found himself in the belly of the great fish.
Jonah acknowledged that the Lord had punished him when he said, Jonah 2:3 (NIV)
“You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers swept over me.”
Also, Jonah knew his Bible and remembered the words of Moses, Numbers 32:23 (NIV)
“…you may be sure that your sin will find you out.”
Jonah’s prayer quotes several passages of Scripture. Evidently the Word of God was important to him in his distress.
Even though Jonah knew he was in a desperate situation by his own sin, he speaks of looking again to the temple of the Lord. But what does that expression mean? Well it means that Jonah was looking to the place where sacrifice was made for sin, and also to the place where the presence of the Lord was especially known.
He had created his own sinful situation but he also knew that mercy and forgiveness was what God was all about. He was crying to the Lord to forgive his sin and restore him to His fellowship. God heard Jonah’s prayer and answered with grace to restore him to the pathway of obedience.
Perhaps, like Jonah, you recognize that your difficulties in life are of your own making. Do what Jonah did. Pray to the God Who forgives sin. Call out to the One Who hears sinners. Put your entire situation in His hands and ask for grace. Turn from your own ways and come back to the God Who created you. Ask for what you do not deserve. Ask for forgiveness. Look at the cross of Christ and seek the forgiveness that is found there. If you come with the humility of Jonah you shall be heard and restored.
Come back to the Lord. Return to His house of worship. He will offer you a second opportunity just as He did for Jonah. Look again to Him. He is the God of the second opportunity.